Wednesday, January 17, 2018

The Canadian Dream

Our Nation

“It has been our experience that American houses insist on very comprehensive editing; that English houses as a rule require little or none and are inclined to go along with the author's script almost without query. The Canadian practice is just what you would expect--a middle-of-the-road course. We think the Americans edit too heavily and interfere with the author's rights. We think that the English publishers don't take enough editorial responsibility. Naturally, then, we consider our editing to be just about perfect. There's no doubt about it, we Canadians are a superior breed!” 

Jack McClelland [1922–2004], 
in a letter to author Margaret Laurence dated May 1960
Imagining Canadian Literature: The Selected Letters (2002)

I have never heard of the expression, “The Canadian Dream.” When I did an Internet search, I came across this article (“The American Dream has Moved to Canada;” February 28, 2017), published in one of Canada’s news magazines, Maclean's. The thoughts are by Scott Gilmore, a former Canadian diplomat and a social entrepreneur, who writes:
Every aspect of the American dream is now more easily found in Canada. In the United States, 46 per cent of the population has been able to obtain a college degree—in Canada it’s 59 per cent. After graduation, Canadians are more likely to find work, with an employment rate four points better. You are more likely to afford a house with a white picket fence in Canada, where home ownership rates are five per cent higher. Canadians also have more time to enjoy their homes, as they work over 80 hours fewer per year—and they take an extra three days vacation.
It might seem like a good argument, but I doubt that it will work for most Americans, whom Gilmore seems to be addressing in this article—suggesting that Canada has become the home of their nation’s economic dream. While it is true that the idea of property or home ownership has become more important in Canada over the years, it has also become more unreachable in major cities like Toronto and Vancouver.

Except for the success of our sports teams, and the athletes of our Olympic teams, we Canadians are loathe to toot our own horn. For as long as I could remember, we Canadians have been reticent to brag about our nation. chiefly because we are north of one that is large and does enough bragging for the both of us. Yet, quietly and consistently, Canada has been attracting some attention from the more quieter and thoughtful persons south of the border.

I really do not see many (if any) established Americans crossing the border into Canada (perhaps our winters act as a natural deterrent)—for example, fewer than a million American expats live in Canada—a tiny percentage (approx 0.2%) A great majority of Americans love their nation, and even if they loudly complain about it, would never consider living elsewhere. They do like knowing, however, that there exists a nation north of them that seems a little like them.

Even so, Canada can never become the United States, even if it wanted to, which for the most part it does not. The history of a nation always informs its thinking and its ways. A glaring example, and an important one, too, one that Gilmore fails to mention in his Maclean’s article is that Canada has significantly much less guns, much less gun violence and much less violent crime and, equally important, that we openly welcome gun laws restricting their ownership and use.

Such measures not only make us feel more safe, but have actually made us more safe and with less fear and paranoia. This is a glaring difference between us, one that was noticeable when I lived for a few years in the U.S. It is hard for us Canadians to understand how allowing free and unrestricted access to guns makes society safer. This is a logic that escapes us; and on this we’ll have to agree to disagree. There is no middle ground on this issue, it seems.

As for “The Canadian Dream,” this term is not really part of our vocabulary or thinking, but if it does exist I think it contains some of the economic aspirations of the American one, but without the strong language or loud determination. Middle-of-the-road describes us well, and I think that for the most part this is a good thing. There is something to be said about too much passion fanning the flames of inequality.

We can admire America, at least the parts that we like, but this does not suggest that we want to be American. We are after all Canadian, with our own history and ideas of how to live, which is not as ruthless and hyper-capitalist as it is in the U.S. We also have differing views on the role of government and what it ought to do to build a fair, just and equitable society. To understand a nation requires reading its literature, watching its TV shows and viewing its films.

We Canadians, especially in the midst of winter, often forget what a treasure we have before us.

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