Today is Canada Day, the celebration of Canadian independence on July 1st, 1867. More or less, that is, because Canada became a nation slowly over the next 115 years. It was a peaceful and orderly transition that fit with a people that are generally … peaceful and orderly. We should celebrate by all rising for their national song:
Dum da-Dum da-Dum!
Dum da-Dum da-Dum!
Dum da-Dum da-Dum!
Dum da-Dum da-Dum! …
Whoops! That’s their second national song. But they get tired of people from the USofA singing “O Canada”, and only that part of the lyrics, as just about the only thing from this great nation. It’s time we give them their due as a people that are more than just the very nice people who live next door. No, once they lace on the skates, they aren’t usually very nice at all.
I’ve found over the years that Canadians like well-crafted jokes about them for one simple reason – about the worst thing you can say is, “You’re just like us, aren’t you?” Taking the time to make a good joke points out that they are different, which is actually a compliment. So if you know or work with a Canadian try to poke fun of them on this “Metric 4th of July” and see what happens.
The gradual independence of this great nation is very different from the experience of their older two bothers here in North America. In 1867 what they achieved was organization into one “Dominion” of the British Empire, except for Newfoundland which didn’t join until 1949 (give or take a half an hour). By this time the USofA had fought a Revolution and a Civil War, while Mexico had its own Revolution and fended off a French invasion (and had been beaten up by its older brother, the USofA). Canada is our introspective younger brother, but a North American all the same.
The most curious thing I find about Canada is what it takes to rile them to the point of Righteous Indignation, something at which they excel like no other nation. They have the wanderlust and toughness that defines North America, but their lingering Britishness includes a strong belief in decency and fairness. When things do not seem decent or fair you can expect a Canadian to rise to the challenge immediately. It’s what I admire most about their culture.
It’s not a nation known for flag waving and nationalism, but they have their moments. If nothing else, it’s a very striking and pretty flag. The work of Stan Rogers is full of nationalism and love for his homeland, but rendered in a thoughtful and personal Canadian kind of way. There is also the famous Molson Canadian ad of a few years ago which many in the USofA have not even seen.
Canada is also known for its Francophone population, which true to Canadian form doesn’t exactly “assimilate“. There is a general belief here that all Canadians speak French, but it doesn’t take long to realize that most of what they learned came from staring at a bilingual cereal box on a bleary schoolkid morning. This “Cereal Box French” allows some Anglophones to fake l’languate du Québec well enough to fool us, which is to say it’s pretty lame. Actual Francophones are often a bit more wary of the rest of the nation, but when it came time to consider independence they didn’t start shooting but took a vote. The rest of Canada didn’t shoot back but said, “Please don’t leave” and that was pretty much the end of it – except for some occasional loathing. If you wish to judge a nation by its most difficult and trying moments, Canada looks especially good.
What most in the USofA know Canada for is their national health system, something which even the most conservative Canadians I’ve met are quite proud of. The less said of this, the better, if only because I am very jealous.
The motto of Canada really is “Peace, Order, and Good Government”, a fact that stuns most in the USofA. It’s been peaceful, except for how bravely their troops fought in World War I, World War II, and Korea. They’re still pretty orderly, at least when Vancouver hasn’t lost the Stanley Cup. And as for Good Government … well, it’s been a decent 144 years all the same, eh? There’s really not a lot to be righteously indignant about as they gradually agreed their way nationhood.
Canada Day is a time for all of North America to celebrate because our younger brother nation has a lot to teach us. There is a time for a good sense of humor and a time to be indignant, but mostly there is a time to get things done well and get along. Why not, eh? Just remember to make the jokes about them intelligent and they’ll laugh along with you.