Thursday, July 1, 2010

Canada Day

I love being Canadian now, but it's only in the last few years that I fully appreciated what it means to be a Canadian. When I was younger, I wanted to be an American. I was always drawn to the take-no-prisoners, hard-charging attitude of our friends to the south.

It appealed to my own crazed power complex to be an American. I thought of Canadians as meek and mild, stepped on by others, and too socialist. The US brand of capitalism was like a magnet to my young adult idealism. I wanted to prove to the world that I could be rich and successful, and do it on my own terms.

I viewed Canada as a country of people trying to blend in; to underachieve so the individual would not stand out from the group. I wanted to stand out, so I chose to attend universities in the US, and planned to stay on in Los Angeles to make movies. Unfortunately, US immigration had other ideas, and with some intense disappointment I returned to Canada as a 20 year old who preferred to be American.

At 23, I met Jason and fell madly in love. He loves Canada, spouting off various facts about our nation with obvious pride. We would engage in long debates about the benefits of the US versus Canada. I was idealistic to the extreme, preferring to praise capitalism without any regard for the dark underbelly of homelessness, poverty, and a medical system which routinely bankrupts the middle and lower classes.

Slowly I began to develop an appreciation for Canada as I matured into my roles of wife and mother. I started to see how positive many of our national attributes are. We are internationally known for our manners, our willingness to help our fellow man, and our sharp, irreverent wit and ability to laugh at ourselves.

The 2010 Winter Olympics really solidified us as a country. We were thrust into the world spotlight, and we showed ourselves as kind and smart and worthy. I was never more proud to be a Canadian than this past winter. I have many American friends, and I love them dearly, but now when we debate politics or healthcare, I am firmly on the Canadian side of the argument.

We are blessed to live in this free nation. My kids will take it for granted, this freedom and safety they experience on a daily basis simply because of the country they were born in. It's a wonderful place to live, filled with kind and conscientious people. Happy Birthday, Canada. Thank you for this wonderful nationality that I possess. I don't take it lightly, or for granted. I am grateful.


  1. I love being Canadian too, especially when most Americans are so ignorant of anything Canadian. I mean, we Canadians know where most major cities in the States are and what most of the States are, but some Americans think Alaska is an island...

  2. When I was in University in Pennsylvania, I enjoyed asking my fellow students how many provinces they thought Canada had. I received everything from "75" to "2" as guesses. I was also asked, in all seriousness, "Do you have flush toilets and the same kind of electricity as the US? It's not third world or anything, is it?"

    Sigh. Better to laugh than cry at those moments, but I do know exactly what you are saying. I ask my friends, even now, if they can name at least five provinces, and most of them can't do it. Some can, but in general, Americans learn very little about Canada (or most other countries) in school.

  3. Americans actually take a large amount of social studies and world history in primary school! However, it tends to be in relation to countries that have/had great impact on the US. I would guess this is true for most country's education systems. I spent almost a whole year learning about Russia in first grade (this was right before the break up the USSR). In high school we spent a lot of time studying China and its impact...

    Canadians learn a lot about the US because the Canadian economy/TV etc are very linked to the US and because it's size. If the US were 1/10th of your size and was relatively a small trading partner and you didn't get the majority of your tv from them etc you would not know nearly as much as you do! I guarantee it!

    There is much great about Canada (and I feel blessed to have lived here for the last 5 years) but it's greatness should not be based on stereotypes and or bashing of another culture. My 22 years of living in the US can speak to hundreds of very educated, very amazing people. :)

  4. I couldn't agree more with you about WHY Canada knows more about the US than the US knows about Canada. I've agreed with my American friends on that point, and the size of the US vs. Canada makes a huge difference.

    My intent was not to bash the US or engage in stereotypes. The stories I related in my comment were all true, they all happened to me, and most of my US friends have told me that they didn't learn much about other, smaller countries in school and just aren't interested in how other nations work.

    I really don't mind that Americans don't know much about Canada (we know about the US because it is extensively marketed to us), but I find it interesting that they don't care to know, or even pretend to know. Generally speaking, as a culture, Canadians are embarrassed when they don't know about other countries, but Americans are not. I think it's because the US is presented as being the best, and no other country comes close, and I find that fascinating.

    I'm not trying to imply that Americans are uneducated, far from it, as I have many US friends and they are all very smart. They are patriotic in the extreme, and there is nothing wrong with that at all. Sorry if any offense was taken. :)

  5. No offense taken at all. This just happens to be a pet-peeve of mine as there seems to be this element of Anti-Americanism to how Canadian identify who they are as a nation. A lot of time seems to be spent by Canadians (generally speaking) trying to prove a separate identity to Americans. I find this interesting as it certainly undermines many of the true great elements of this country. Perhaps it comes from having to face America’s in your face nationalism on a regular basis. I have spoken to many Americans here who comment about how they have had to go “head to head” with teachers here because this attitude is so embedded that it actually subconsciously taught in school. One of my Canadian friends described it as “Big Brother/Little Brother” syndrome. Canada and the US share possibly the two closest cultures on earth, but Canadians who do have unique attributes are often casted in the US’ shadow and feel they need to fight to show the world (and possibly themselves) they are different.

    America’s governments’ way of creating an identity out of many national identities has been to adopt a very strong “American Identity”. Our size and economic/military power has created a situation where we have not had to look outwards to the extent that Canadians have. The downside of this is that it is true the we tend to focus inward and creates an unfounded sense of pride based on propaganda and a closed view of the world. The positive is that our identity is based on our history and who we believe we are as a people versus what we are not, or what other countries are.

    I would argue that patriotisms and pride of any kind to an extreme is a fault and the result of our broken humanness. This particular fault the US has excelled at due to it's lot in the world. Instead of focusing on what makes us better than our neighbor we are called to serve them and to love them.

  6. I couldn't agree more if I had typed it myself! There are many pros and cons to both of our nation's identities (or lack thereof). I do believe that the 2010 Olympics helped Canadians to solidify our identity, for ourselves and also in front of the world, and that was a good thing for a people who had been uncertain for too long.

    Living in the shadow of the US has never been easy for Canadians, and likely never will be, but I like to see us trying to figure out who we are on our own, not simply in relation to the US.

    Thanks for the mini debate!! :)