Project Proposal

Definding Canada – A Multimedia Project Proposal

Definding Canada Brochure 2019

The Mother of All Road Trips – to find and define an inclusive Canadian identity for the twenty-first century.

By Melanie Graham (Lt(Navy) (ret’d) BA, MA, DStG


The project will be accomplished by exploring, through historical research, interviews, surveys, imagery and narrative, the defining relationship between the land and the diverse people of Canada. The project will involve more than eighteen months of research, travel and proactive use of social media. The objective, for late 2019 or early 2020, is to publish an appealing book that summarizes the evolution of an inclusive and representative Canadian national identity for the twenty-first century. The eighteen developmental months will be shared with Canadians through interactive social media, with good potential for television and film.

2018 focused on background research, with plans for a 2019 on-line survey to ask Canadians, in the context of their geography and heritage, what it means to them to be Canadian, and a quest for project funding.

2019 will involve a long deferred road trip to Canada’s north with the launch of the publication anticipated for late 2019 or early 2020.

I will self publish through


The population of Canada is as diverse and complex as our geography. Part of the research will explore the historical and contemporary relationship between the land and the people of Canada as it influenced early immigration choices and evolving individual, community, and national values and priorities that underlie contemporary identity.

The diverse geography and wealth of natural resources that we call home today have influenced the social, political and economic fabric of what we now call Canada since people first began to populate the continent over 12,000 years ago. The influx of diverse cultures that began less than 500 years ago, through colonization and immigration, have added to the complexity and rich diversity of our socio-economic fabric. Do the distinctive regional geographies and their unique natural resources continue to influence preferences and priorities specific to each region?

Canada is the second largest country in the world by total area and the fourth largest by land area. Our border with the United States is the world’s longest land border. We are also blessed with tremendous geographic and cultural diversity. Through much of our history, flanked by three oceans and a friendly neighbour, we have also enjoyed the relative national security of continental isolation. Globalization, accessible and rapid international transportation and a growing virtual community, however, suggest that we are overdue for a rethink of our assumed national security.

Canadians have also long struggled to come up with a national identity beyond the oft repeated claim that “we’re not American”. Perhaps an exploration and analysis of the relationship between the diverse peoples of Canada and the distinctive regions they call home will help to identify enough shared preferences and priorities to provide the basis for a clearer understanding of Canadian national identity in a turbulent twenty-first century. This exploration is particularly relevant as we approach the 150th anniversary of Canada with an increasingly fragmented national identity and chronically ill-defined defence and foreign policies.

There will be two phases to the project with the first developmental phase commencing in the late spring of this year. The second phase will commence in the early spring of 2016 with publication of the print and electronic book planned to coincide with the 150th anniversary of Canadian Confederation in 2017.

Phase One involved a series of road trips throughout British Columbia and Alberta to determine the best approach to travel and to conduct and film test interviews with Canadians of all ages to develop and fine tune a survey for use in Phase Two. It is hoped that the survey will be bilingual before September 2016, pending funding for translation. The objective of the project and the survey is to discover what people perceive as either a threat to or an opportunity for their immediate, mid-term and long term well-being, as individuals, as members of a community and as Canadians. The inquiry will be framed to a large extent in the context of their relationship with their distinctive regional environment.

Phase Two was supposed to involve an extended road trip, ideally in a well-equipped and self-contained camper van, throughout the provinces and territories of Canada, photographing the land and the people and filming interviews, in French and English, based on the survey developed in Phase One. Didn’t happen. Instead, having driven across much of Canada on several occasions, it’s time to go north. I plan to meander up Vancouver Island to Port Hardy for the ferry to Prince Rupert. From there yet another ferry to Haida Gwaii then back to Rupert. I’ll drive across to Prince George, up to Whitehorse and finally Dawson City. Still undecided on whether to brave the Dempster Highway to Inuvik. May catch a flight to Tuktoyaktuk instead. Really want to stand on the shores of the Arctic. If finances permit I may even book passage on a late summer cruise of the Northwest Passage that includes a little kayaking in the Arctic Ocean!

Subject interviews and remarks that are cited in the book will be included in the language of the original interview or survey response. There is real potential in Phase Two to share the interviews with Canadians through social media and either a reality TV show or a web based television series. This would also provide Canadians with an opportunity to engage with the project and watch the book grow. There should also be sufficient film footage to produce a documentary on the project for release concurrent with the publication of the book.

Proposed Book Length

200 to 300 pages hard copy, paper back and e-book.

Social Media

Definding Canada will maintain a web site as well as a Face Book page in order to more readily reach out to Canadians and Canadian communities not only to solicit their participation in a research survey but to allow them to follow and interact with Canadians from across the country.


There is good potential for a reality Television show or web series as the tour makes its way across Canada. It should not be difficult to produce fifteen to twenty minutes of interesting and even lively content comprised of interviews, group discussions and explorations of regionally specific industries and the people who count on them for their livelihood.


The video footage gathered over the entire eighteen months of the project will provide ample material from which to compile a sixty-minute documentary, not only on the Strategic Security Culture of Canada, but on the process of gathering the information for the book.


Definding Canada is relevant on many levels.

Environmental Stewardship: Raising awareness of the relationship, historical and current, that people have with their environment will help to depoliticize environmental concerns and encourage a stronger sense of stewardship for the land.

Strengthening Canadian National Identity: Beyond the Crown imposed identity as lovers of Peace Order and Good Governance or a steadfast attachment to the 1956 identity of Peacekeeper, Canadians lack a clear national identity. We’re also a country inclined to vague defence and foreign policies and a tendency in international forums to follow the lead of either our neighbour to the south or the UK with a resultant dwindling relevance in international decision making. Yet we sit on a wealth of natural resources and underpopulated arable land. We have the potential to make a significant difference in the world, but I have long contended that our national gesture is the shrug and we govern ourselves as though we were still a colony.

Celebrating Canadian Cultural Diversity: I believe there is great benefit to undertake a quest to find and define what it means to be a Canadian today and celebrate our geographical and cultural diversity as a part of that identity. An exploration of the relationship between the distinctive geographical regions of Canada and the security preferences of the people who choose to live in them may produce a better appreciation of a multifaceted national identity that overcomes the conflict of difference and instead embraces and celebrates diversity as a strength.

Canadians as Better Global Citizens: Finding common threads of preferences and priorities across all Canadians will also help to develop a clearer vision, not only of what it is to be Canadian, but of what we, as individuals and as a nation can contribute to the peace and stability of the larger global community. It will also provide a foundation for a shared national identity that respects and even thrives on our cultural and geographic diversity.

Potential Sponsors

Ford Canada – the tour would provide a wonderful showcase for my little Class C RV on a Ford E350 Super Duty chassis. They have an extensive network of dealerships across Canada well set up to ensure a mechanically safe journey.

Canadian Auto Association (CAA) – the tour would provide and excellent showcase for the pan-Canadian travel and insurance services available through CAA membership as well as advocate for road trips as a vacation of choice for Canadians.

Tim Horton’s – Using Tim Horton’s outlets across Canada as pre-arranged and promoted meeting points for interviews, exchanges and press opportunities in a quest to define an inclusive Canadian identity would solidly reaffirm the Canadian origins and deep Canadian loyalty of Tim Hortons.

Molson’s Breweries – Defindng Canada would be an excellent tie-in with the long standing and very successful Molson’s “I AM CANADIAN” campaign and participating beverage resellers could promote and host interviews, exchanges and press opportunities across Canada.

Canadian Tire – The fact that the tour will involve a self-contained camper as well as a range of camping products will provide a strong showcase for Canadian Tire products and services available across Canada.

Petro Canada – Any Canadian supplier of automotive fuels would benefit from this opportunity to show case the quality and wide distribution of service centres across Canada.

Canadian Broadcaster – Broadcaster participation in Definding Canada would have a wide audience appeal, allowing Canadians to both connect with one another through the journey and participate in a lively debate on what it is to be a “Canadian” in the twenty-first century. This would apply to the reality TV series concept as well as the release of a documentary “Definding Canada” concurrent with the release of the print and e-version of the book in 2017.

My Qualifications:

I am well equipped to take on a project of this scope – as a writer, as a photographer, as a publicist and as a camper and lover of road trips.

First published as a Canadian author in 1991, (Melanie Graham’s Short Kutz – White Cap Books) I also come from a military career as a Public Affairs Officer and have driven across the country several times, most recently from Victoria, BC to St. Johns, Nfld and back again in 2013. I love exploring Canada by car and have a BC Class II driver’s license with a clean driving history.

I was the project co-founder, coordinator, editor, formatter and designer for “Afghanistan: A Canadian Story” a book of the stories and photos of 150 of the men and women who served Canada in Afghanistan from 2001 to 2014. The book was launched in 2014 and all proceeds go to military charities.

Graduate research for my MA in International Relations focused on the concept of Strategic Culture, or the influence of the strategic and biophysical environment on a societies security preferences.

Retirement from the military in 2012 provided an opportunity to pursue continuing studies in digital media, a nice complement to military training in photography and videography.

I am a Dame of the Order of St George of Canada so have access to a growing network of accomplished Canadians noted for their contributions to Canada and intent on continuing to advance their good works.


Definding Canada will have reasonably broad appeal. The content alone will appeal to politicians, military leaders and corporate planners as it will provide a means by which they can achieve a clearer understanding, through Strategic Security Culture analysis, of what makes our fascinating but seriously understated country tick.

The use of social media and broadcast media as a means of engaging Canadians in both the survey and the project overall will encourage public interest in the final publication as well as a follow-up documentary. Anyone who has been interviewed or posted to the social media will be want to have a copy of the book that may have their name and face in it.

Definding Canada will also appeal to Canadian high schools and universities as an analysis of the country that works well as a complement to texts on Canadian history and geography.

Project Needs:

A prosumer video camera with tripod, sound kit and light kit. Approximately $8500.

Funding for food, fuel, ferries, flights and campsites for two months. Approximately $3000 a month (trip north will take about 2 months).

Northwest Passage Cruise – $20,000 – and wouldn’t that be a sweet adventure!

Very Rough Sample Foreword

Canada is a vast and diverse country, both in terms of geography and culture. This diversity makes it difficult for us to agree on a unifying national identity. Given the environmental, economic and security challenges facing an increasingly connected global community, it’s important for Canadians to come together with a clearer sense of what it means to be Canadians. I believe that with a stronger sense of national identity we would have greater confidence and clearer vision as a nation and make a more positive difference in the world. Understanding our Strategic Paradigm could help us, as a people and as a nation to do just that.

But what is a Strategic Paradigm? When I first began graduate research into the concept in 2007 it was regarded by political theorists as a compelling but poorly defined theory. Early attempts at definition could not stand up to operational application making it difficult to move forward from theory to concept to useful and reliable analytic tool. My graduate thesis set about to redefine the concept.

I contended in my thesis that Strategic Culture, or what I have since come to recognize should  more aptly be called Strategic Paradigm, is the shared, social, economic, and political values and priorities of a people, relevant to identity and security preferences, as historically shaped and embedded by repeated interaction with and adaptation to their prevailing strategic and bio-physical environment.

I also contend that Strategic Paradigm analysis has to be applied reflectively, or as self-analysis, before it can be effectively applied to others. It benefits from a multidisciplinary approach, drawing on anthropology, geography and sociology as well as political theory.

So, with all that in mind, I will set out on a voyage of discovery and analysis to explore this amazing country, and to meet and engage with the people who call themselves Canadians in order to find and define what it is to be Canadian.

Tentative Chapter Headings:

  1. Identity and Canada
  2. Canada: The Land
  3. Canada: The People
  4. Strategic Security Culture: What is it and why it’s important to Canadians
  5. Strategic Security Culture of the Geographic Regions
  6. Human History of the Regions
  7. Connections: The Influence of the land on the people and colonization and immigration patterns
  8. Canadians Today: Survey Results and analysis
  9. Canada in the World: Yesterday, today, and tomorrow
  10. Summary and Conclusion
  11. Notes and References