I’d never thought of canons in that way. I always thought of a canon as a “strictly repeat the leader”. But no, it’s far more than that. There are many types of canons, the most interesting to me is Piano Phase for how the canon works.
Thus, now I can see it. It’s not just “imitate these notes” but “imitate according to these rules” and those rules are from outside of the system but also govern the system and how it unfolds.