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April 29, 2009


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Well, I think part of this is that Canadians have a tendency to define their national identity in relation to the U.S., seeing the U.S. as their dark shadow. It leads to things like Canadians discussing their health care in terms of contrast to the U.S. with no mention of the U.K.'s NHS and UKian influence on a lot of Canadian policy. It's why I joke that if Obama makes health care available to the uninsured then Canada will have no national identity.

In reference to Canadian health care, I think their greatest success is keeping costs down--you would never see a hospital billing OHIP $300.00 for a gauze pad. Medicare, Medicaid, and insurers, by contrast, seem happy to just pay out whatever folks ask for. If we're going to add more gummit health care, we seriously need to figure out how the True North Strong and Free keeps its costs down and emulate that.

In this case, it doesn't really seem to be a case of "Canadians defining their national identity in relation to the United States". Instead it seems to be, as Noel noted, simply a case of some Canadians getting angry because one American made a silly mistake, which is supposedly a further testimony of the fact that people in the United States still don't know anything about their very close northern neighbors even though they really, really should (or at least the Canadians think that they should).

I suppose everyone has a right to get sensitive, but frankly, I could easily imagine a Canadian politician making a similar SNAFU about the United States.

Anyway. This reminds me of a recent survey conducted in Norway, Denmark and Sweden, asking how many of the locals would be interested in moving to Finland. The numbers were rather dismal. Only 4% of the Swedes were willing to consider living in Finland; of the Norwegians, 2%; and of the Danes, 1%.

The reasons for this reluctance were based mostly on old stereotypes; "They drink too much, they're too violent, everyone has a knife, and the language is difficult".

I'm cool with it, because the feeling is mutual. Ask any random Finn what he/she thinks of our Nordic neighbours. I'll guarantee that Denmark is still mostly associated with prostitutes and drugs, Sweden with homosexuals and drugs, and Norway with lutefisk and drugs.

Of course, this is nothing compared to Estonians, 68% of whom now believe that we're constantly sucking up to the Russians and ready to sell them down the river (again). Which is kinda interesting, considering that meanwhile, an average Russian is probably predisposed to think that we're all a bunch of Nazis, anyway.

But, to put it short: it's getting lonely and isolated up here in Fortress Finlandia. I'd venture to suggest that Canadians and Americans should consider themselves lucky that they have each others.

As for those humiliating security measures, the last time that I had to take off my shoes was at the Vilnius airport, just because there were some metal rivets. But hey, I didn't complain.


J. J.

"It's why I joke that if Obama makes health care available to the uninsured then Canada will have no national identity."

We'd have to offer the Shadows basing rights in Nunavut or something, yeah.

My irritation stems from the fact that it's fairly thoroughly disproven--all the 9/11 hijackers came from the United States after long stays in said country--and it's being treated as common wisdom even by people who should know much better. Part of it seems to be a way to displace the 2001-era failings of the American system onto Canada, which is annoying, but most of it is because of the label that it applies to the Canadian system for no good reason. Which further inflames Canadian sensitivities beyond most reason, I'll agree.

On the topic of border controls, Canadians tend to see themselves as very different from the Mexicans: _Our_ period of mass migration to the States ended a century ago! (Well, mostly.) I've had the skeletal outline of a blog post on Canada's relations with Mexico in my head for a while, but I think I'd be safe in saying that Canadians don't feel very much sense of identification with Mexico. For obvious reasons, Canada hasn't interacted with Mexico nearly as much as the United States did. (I've been told, frex, that there isn't a good affordable Mexican restaurant in Toronto.) From an American perspective, it makes sense that American continental policy would have to take both Canadian and Mexican sensibilities into account, but from a Canadian perspective the US is the only portion of note. There's a reason why the Canamerican flag that I photographed some weeks ago on Yonge Street featured the Stars and Stripes and the Maple Leaf but not the Mexican green-white-red.

"The Canadian constitution is rather better designed than the American one, other than not having a popularly-elected governor-general."

As a Canadian who is rather underwhelmed by the system of government with which we've been saddled, I'd have to say that the notwithstanding clause disagrees with your sentiment. I can only imagine what might have been done in the States if the government had had that power - but I don't really want to.

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