So, I live in Canada, which to most readers means I’m your neighbor (or, as I would spell it, “neighbour”) to the North. As most of you are surely aware, the Royal Couple, Will and Kate (a.k.a. the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge), were up in these parts last week for a royal tour of the country. While here, the newlyweds played hockey, donned cowboy hats, rowed dragon boats, took a cooking class, and posed for photos with an actress dressed up as Anne of Green Gables. Watching the numerous news montages (and believe me, if there’s anything that the Canadian media do well, it’s making self-aggrandizing video montages), I was struck with a mixture of pride and annoyance: we came off like such a civilized people, a calm people, and just really freakin’ twee. Did we really show our figurehead monarchs a slice of Canada or just an amusement park fantasy of what we think people think we should be?
During my various adventures on the Internets, I’ve come across many American opinions of what Canadians are all about. The general consensus seems to be that we’re cute. Adorable, even. While this might seem like a light-hearted compliment, the truth is it’s awfully patronizing. When you call us adorable, we feel like an administrative assistant who just got called “sweetheart” by her boss. I’m putting my foot down – we Canadians can be just as badass as the rest of the world. Here are a few of the myths I’ve seen about our country:
1. Canada is a haven for lefties. Every time there’s an American election that skews in favor of the Republicans, my Twitter feed lights up with “I’m moving to Canada!” Granted, we have universal healthcare, and same-sex marriage is legal in every corner of the country. But did you know that our Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, is a staunch conservative whose personal values mirror those of many of your most reviled Tea Party candidates? Sure, he hasn’t made any steps to outlaw abortion yet and keeps his religious views to himself, but he did campaign on a strict crime and punishment platform (more jails!) as well as a promise to dial back gun control (more guns!).
2. We’re quaint. Yeah, yeah, that Will and Kate coverage would have you thinking that we all spend our time riding in canoes on our way to lobster bakes while thumbing through the great works of Lucy Maude Montgomery. We have social problems just like you. There is poverty, racism, exploitation, and every other unsavory -ism you can think of on the streets of our fair towns and cities. As much as Michael Moore would like you to think that people don’t have to lock their doors at night in Toronto, there is crime here, even gun crime.
3. Our media is kind of funny. Okay, I’ll give you this one. MTV Canada is a half-baked and less glamorous version of MTV America. Degrassi is our most successful attempt at serious television drama. Our news obsesses over connecting world events to Canada. The United States elects President Obama? The headlines were not about how he is the first African-American president, but that he’s the first to have a Canadian brother-in-law. A Canadian connection!
4. We talk funny. I have never said “aboot,” or even “eh.” In my life. Like the U.S., Canada is a large country with many different accents. Some people from the East coast sound a little bit Irish. Me, I kind of sound a bit like I’m from the American midwest. Most Canadians I know sound like the Americans you see on TV.
So yes, we may label our whole milk as “homo” and prefer Smarties to M&Ms, but for the most part, we’re just like you, only much more self-conscious. So, please stop calling us adorable.
P.S. People in Calgary do not walk around in giant cowboy hats and Western shirts all the time. For the most part, those costumes are reserved for Stampede week, which is kind of the Calgary version of Mardi Gras. Go ahead and mock the disregard for animal rights and the drunken assholes that take over the streets. Do not mock the hats.