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Musician Robbie Robertson poses after he was awarded the rank of Member in the Order of Canada at Rideau Hall in Ottawa, May 27, 2011.

Blair Gable/Reuters

Robbie Robertson, the songwriter and celebrated lead guitarist of the iconic group The Band, remarked on the spirit he feels here in Canada.

"There's a thing that has happened in the U.S. where the spirit has been beaten so badly and so you feel no unity in the voice of the country," he observed in an interview with The Globe and Mail.

In the United States, where he lives, he said, people are fragmented and torn apart. Referring to Republican Sarah Palin and what he characterizes as the "crackpot parade," he called the situation kind of "scary."

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Mr. Robertson, 67, was born in Toronto to a Mohawk mother and a Jewish father. He grew up, in part, on the Six Nations reserve. In Ottawa on Friday, he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada by Governor-General David Johnston in honour of his music and other projects in which he transcends "cultural and geographical barriers" as a model to both aboriginal and non-aboriginal artists.

About the plight of aboriginal Canadians, Mr. Robertson said, "it's a work in progress." He said he feels positive "that something is happening" and that it will improve. Native Americans are simply dismissed in the United States, he said.

"The direction is going the right way for respect for aboriginal people in North America, and all we can do is stand up and say 'please do it faster,'" he said.

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About the Author
Ontario politics reporter

Jane Taber is a reporter at Queen’s Park. After spending three years reporting from the Atlantic, she has returned to Ontario and back to writing about her passion, politics. She spent 25 years covering Parliament Hill for the Ottawa Citizen, the National Post and the Globe and Mail. More

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