Canada’s No Utopia Either

In this grand country of ours we tend to define ourselves largely based on our differences from the cultural behemoth to the south. But in the last four years, since the rise to power of the Bush/Cheney administration, something has changed. We don’t just see ourselves as different and better, but we seem to hate them (or at least, strongly dislike). We don’t just hate “G-Dubya”, but the people who elected him. And be forewarned, they are going to do it again. The Republicans are going to win this election, and we will hate America even more.

The title of this article might suggest that the USA is better than Canada. This is not what I’m trying to say. What I am trying to say is that our country is not necessarily any better. In recent years we have propped up a belief that Canadians are so much smarter and more ethical and honest than Americans. It would seem that some people have taken so far as to express a hatred for Americans. I am suggesting that if you have to judge someone because of their beliefs and what their country does, maybe you should look at your neighbors (or yourself) instead.

I’ve already mentioned that the Republicans are going to be re-elected, and I’m sure we’ll act shocked and appalled. But were you shocked and appalled when we re-elected the Liberals this past summer? No you weren’t, you voted for them. You (or at least your neighbors) re-elected a government that was guilty of the biggest Canadian political scandal of our lifetime. Why did we put them back in power? Because we, like the Americans, are only interested in maintaining the status quo, in other words, our comfortable lifestyles. The alternatives to the Liberals are not proposing drastic changes to our system of government, but are interested in some form of change one way or the other. The citizens of Canada appear not to be, nor are they interested in ousting corrupt officials.
Leadership is an important issue for people. We direct our criticism of American culture directly at their current leader – as if he were the one determining values and policy. Educated people should know that the president does not make the decisions. Others write the speeches he delivers, and the content of those speeches are determined by scores of policymakers and advisors. But the President makes such an easy scapegoat. Blaming him for the ills of the modern world is a way to not look at our part in the negative impacts of global capitalism. And it is the values of capitalism, not the Republican Party, that create the climate were an Iraq war is possible. But ask yourself this before you blame Bush: Where does the money for your tuition come from, and in turn, what part do you play in the game of global capitalism?

Another major criticism of Bush is that of seeing him as a new age imperialist. We accuse him of ushering in a new era of colonialism. However, the old era of colonialism never ended. We pay homage to our colonial, imperial history every day. We still have the Queen of England on our money (she’s our Queen too, after all). Whereas the Americans have the original G.W. on their greenback, we remain attached to our colonial master. I f we reject colonialism as a positive force in history, then its time we break those ties, in order to have a symbol of something we do value.

On the topic of colonialism, it is important to discuss the way armed forces play a role in our imagined Canada/America dichotomy. This is one place where a dichotomy holds true, but is it for the right reasons? Yes, the American army is killing innocent and guilty people in Iraq. I will not defend those actions. I will say this though, our inaction in Sudan is going to cost more lives than the Iraq conflict will. And all of those lives are innocent. We haven’t even sent troops back to Haiti since the hurricanes hit. So what are our soldiers doing?

Speaking of moral atrocity, consider this – Our country is founded on the genocide committed against the “First Nations” peoples. This is not merely a historical fact – it is an ongoing reality. Most of the reserve land in this country is to the far north, in what many would consider an uninhabitable climate. Beyond the factor of climate is that of condition. Many of these reserve towns exist in Third World conditions, with disturbingly high levels of poverty, unemployment and low ‘standard of living.’ Third World conditions in Canada for our First Nations peoples – do I need to say it again before it sinks in?
Quebec. The francophone nationalism that exists in the province of Quebec scares the shit out of me. If socio-economic and political realities were to change, which they can, the separatist situation could explode into a potential Canadian version of Chechnya. It’s been a long time since the ‘FLQ crisis’, but don’t think it couldn’t happen again.

Since we are talking about things that compose part of our national identity, lets say something about multiculturalism. Statistically, Canada is one of the most multicultural countries in the world. But, have you ever been to Winnipeg? Outside of Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal – this level of multiculturalism is not the reality. Of course, there are exceptions to this generalization, but take for example Mississauga or Markham. Not white, is not the same as multicultural. Multicultural implies a level of integration, sharing and understanding that we as a country are growing farther away from. If you don’t believe me simply look at the series of articles in the Star during the last couple of weeks about education in the GTA. Day after day there have been reports about how schools and neighborhoods are becoming less multicultural and of how education itself is starting to break down along racial and ethnic lines. And that’s Toronto they’re talking about – (arguably) the most multicultural city in the world – and its becoming more and more segregated everyday.

Ok, so I’ve thoroughly trashed some of our Canadian symbols and institutions. Let me say this, I am a patriot; I have a maple leaf tattooed on my left arm. I am not saying America is a better country than ours. What I am saying is that our incessant America bashing is allowing us to not deal with our own problems. And we have some serious ones. Luckily, they are for the most part, things that can be rectified so long as we see that they come to the forefront of the Canadian consciousness.