Canada Files | Canadian Self Identity


All sites about Canada have to have the maple leaf showing as prominently as possible, I think it's a law or something

Before I start, there is something that I feel must be said…

This is something that I learned while watching Olympic curling at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics (my friends have still not forgiven me for dragging them to that!). Let me be clear to my rabid Canadian friends… The official winter sport of Canada is CURLING… C-U-R-L-I-N-G… curling… not hockey, curling!!!

My point here is that Canadians will allow themselves collectively to believe what they want to believe – especially when the truth is so embarrassing… 🙂

Canada vs the USI have received many megabytes of mass "Canada specific" emails from a variety of sundry Canadians. After reading through enough of it, one begins to notice a set of recurring themes. The main point of many of these mails center around…

  • how much better Canadians are then Americans
  • jokes with the "stupid American" as the butt of the joke (and the Canadian who makes the punchline)
  • diatribes that talk about how Canada would never do xxx (where xxx is something that the U.S. just did)
  • lectures of why Canadians do it so much better than Americans
  • etc.

These themes all revolve around the United States and how Canada is not like it or is better than it. There are remarkably few mails about Canada that does not try to compare it with the United States.

Anyway, I find it interesting that the United States figures so closely into the way that Canadians view themselves. Canadians spend a lot of time characterizing themselves by the fact that they are *not* American. I have never seen so much energy constantly expended to maintain a lack of identity.

I think this complex with their self identity stems from, in large part, the fact that they are more like Americans then they would like to admit and yet they are terrified of being culturally drowned by them.

My wife tells me that New Zealand has a similar relationship with Australia.

On a bad day, this self identity complex manifests itself as a full blown inferiority complex…

One telling example… when I was working with a Canadian consulting company, we were negotiating with a government agency to secure funding to build 5000 houses in India as part of a special economic zone (SEZ) outside Bombay, India. This is not an insignificant project to be sure, but just the tip of the iceberg with the potential that the New Bombay SEZ offered.

However, the government officials didn’t see it that way. We received quite a bit of resistance because “the project is way too ambitious, Canada is not big enough [to take on such a project]”. I found this incredibly depressing that one’s own government would have so little confidence of the ability of its people to make a significant difference in world affairs. In the grand scheme of things, yes, India is a risky place to do business but building a town one fourth the size of Powell River should not be beyond the capabilities of one of the largest wood producing countries in the world.

On a completely separate note, this was also the meeting where, as I was taking out my Handspring Visor and external keyboard to take notes (a pretty geeky setup to be sure), someone else in the meeting reached for *his* Palm and external Palm keyboard! I felt years and years of nerdliness validated!

Canadians cling tightly to their British roots even though nobody will openly admit that Canadians have become much more "American" then I’m sure that they would care to admit.

On one hand…

  • (This truly blows my mind) Apparently her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II is the Queen of Canada and Canada’s Head of State. This means that the Queen is the formal head of Canada. The Governor General is the Queen’s representative in Canada. This not only affects the Federal government, the provinces also have representatives of the Queen, known as lieutenant governors.
  • They use the annoying British spellings
  • They say zed instead of zee

but on the other hand…

  • They call the two sports ‘soccer’ and ‘football’ NOT ‘football’ and ‘American football’
  • They don’t play cricket
  • They are not nearly as metric as they would like you to believe. Most of the people were just as, if not more, comfortable using the imperial units rather than metric (with the exception of temperature and maybe speed limit).

They’re a very divisive bunch. They’re constantly talking about seceding or expelling parts of the country or how other parts of the country shouldn’t belong.

It feels like most countries that are this fractious are either ruled by totalitarian dictators or crumbling in the ruins of civil war or severe ethnic tensions… but, hey, Canada pulls it off!

Some examples I have heard include:

  • BC wants to secede with the Pacific US states and form their own country
  • I think that everyone wants to kick the Newfies out of the country
  • The folks on the Pacific coast say that Torontonians (Ontarian’s?) aren’t *really* Canadians
  • And finally, lest we forget, the king of Canadian secession, Quebec, who has made at least two secession attempts that I can remember, maybe more

This is a fantastic story I heard… while hanging out in a nice European hotel, a friend told me of a drunk Canadian running around yelling at the top of his lungs “I am not an obnoxious American!”


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