Canadian Nationalism: United North America, Part 2

June 10, 2008 at 2:58 pm 8 comments

I recently made a post asking readers to share their opinion on Canada, within the framework of ‘Being Canadian mean not being American’. So far the responses have been excellent, and I want to thank everyone for the time and effort in making their comments. I recommend checking out the comments, and feel free to leave your own, I’d love to read what you have to say on the topic.

Without meaning to minimize the contributions, I think I can sum-up the entries by saying that the general consensus is that Canadians do define themselves to a large extent as not being American. As fellow Canadian, Paulmct from Bloggin’ Off, points out, much of this attitude stems from the Loyalists moving to the future Canadian territories after the American revolution, to avoid further persecution. This is a fair point, and I’ve written a little about it one of my early posts at Canadian Fermentation called United North America: Part 1.

Somehow, I had forgotten to write a Part 2. Typical.

In Part 1 I talk about the organization, United North America (see link in side bar). Basically this is a fringe organization which seeks to ‘repatriate’ Canada into the American fold. Now, personally, I’m all for dismantling borders while creating a greater sense of community between all peoples of the world, but I can’t support the idea that Canada should return to America, as if Canada is a sub-species of that country.

Daranee from The Implied Observer, a Seattlite, made this comment, “You are right that to a certain extent Canada is defined by what makes it different than America – at least to Americans, because that is what we will notice. I think of Canada as a quirky alternate universe to America”

Americans do see Canada as (thank you Homer Simpson) ‘America Junior’. Personally I don’t take offense to this, our cultures are very similar. Yet, at the same time, this also minimizes Canada’s contribution to the North American culture as it exists. I believe that for a country with a relatively low population that Canada has, we have contributed a great deal to North American culture.

I recently purchased the book, Why I Hate Canadians, by Will Ferguson. Ferguson is the same authour who wrote Canadian History for Dummies. The book is a collection of essays Ferguson wrote when he returned to Canada fafter living in Japan for five years. Although Ferguson has no problems explaining what he doesn’t like about Canada and Canadians, the title is mostly ironic, and Ferguson is a patriot of his country, and, I think, proudly so.

The chapter titled Loyalists and Other Losers discusses the American Revolution and how the aftermath of that war affected Canada. He takes a very scathing look at the Patriots, and makes some interesting points that the Loyalists were just as Loyal to the idea of freedom as the Patriots were, but they didn’t agree with the Patriot concept of freedom.

The Loyalists were the minority, and included minority groups, as well as farmers and craftsmen–basically normal people and not the aristocrats who are commonly associated with Loyalists– who didn’t see a good reason to violently rise up against one oppressor and replace it with another. When the war was over repercussions were severe. The Loyalists had no choice but to look for somewhere else to live. Many of them moved north to the territories that would eventually become Canada.

Canada is the land of second chances. We are people who have avoided conflict as much as possible and although we may be slow to change, we are in constant, resolute movement towards change. Canadians just like to do things in their own time and prefer not to make a big fuss about it. We search for consensus and try to please everyone – which Americans would say is a silly way to run a country, but it has worked, and it has worked well enough for long enough.

What Ferguson’s essay made clear to me is that the folks at United North American are wrong. They promote the theory that Canadians are Americans separated by a border because most of early Canadian settlement was by Loyalists from American territories. I found it hard to argue with this logic.

Now, though, I would argue that Canadians are actually the true inheritors of European settlement while Americans are the mutated offspring of violent revolution. Canada has developed naturally whereas American evolution was forced. Revolutionists are the insolent offspring from the true North Americans, and not the other way around.

For a long time I’ve been sitting on the fence, mulling over their proposition and have come to the conclusion that it is misguided and wrong. If anything, America should come back into the Canadian fold. Canada is the true inheritor of the North American, European legacy. As Ferguson states, “Americans are just Canadians in a hurry”.

Ferguson reasonably sums up major differences between American and Canadian philosophies, “As the heirs of the Loyalists, we are a society not founded on ideology, noble or otherwise, but on principles of fair play and on the notion that whatever the issue and whatever the problem, taking up arms should be the last resort, not the first. These two world views–one ideological and the other pragmatic, one American and the other Canadian–exist today as opposing sides of a border that is as subtle and profound as these distinctions.”

I think this is a fair place to begin as well as end.

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Entry filed under: canadian, Canadian/American relations, culture, discussion, history, nationalism, opinion, politics. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

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8 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Sun Warrior  |  June 12, 2008 at 12:24 pm

    I think both countries are extremes.

    America is suffering from the extremes of the imposed Revolution, and act out.

    Whereas I find the Canadian soul more like a fetus that never formed into a real human being. It doesn’t know how to grow up.

    America has a scorched soul, whereas Canada hasn’t really found its soul. It hasn’t been tested.

    Where America killed its Bobby Kennedy, we elected ours, Trudeau, and imposed a new, rational national identity, because we didn’t want to feel like colonials anymore.

    I’m descended from Loyalists, grew up in the middle of the Quiet Revolution, and have ancestors that settled the prairies and founded the CCF. Yet Canadians are stuck in their minds. You have to go to the States to feel the opposite.

    Reply
    • 2. Anonymous  |  December 22, 2011 at 12:44 am

      So killing a president proves you have grown up? I don’t get it. We teach out children to grow up to good people, to be kind and curtious. I think us Canadians grew up pretty good. Co-operation and patience also traits of a well developed Adult.

      Reply
  • 3. virgomonkey  |  June 12, 2008 at 8:10 pm

    Americans do see Canada as (thank you Homer Simpson) ‘America Junior’. Personally I don’t take offense to this, our cultures are very similar. Yet, at the same time, this also minimizes Canada’s contribution to the North American culture as it exists. I believe that for a country with a relatively low population that Canada has, we have contributed a great deal to North American culture.

    This is an excellent argument! While I understand that you don’t take offense to this “America Junior” phrase, I personally would see it as a bit of a kick in the stomach (for me at least). Think about it as two siblings where the parents favor one child over the other. “What about all the good things that I did mom – how come you never see that. Why do you forget about me?”

    So long as we are human beings, we will always want to be recognized for our uniqueness and achievements. Canada is all too often smudged together with the US unnecessarily. This is what I meant by my last comment that this is more a reason to not let loose the borders.

    We could be you – you could be us. I’ve never really though about this. It really doesn’t matter at the end of the day, does it? We are alike in many ways as we are different. We are still two separate countries. And we can continue or not (depending on the people) to get along even so.

    Reply
  • 4. virgomonkey  |  June 13, 2008 at 11:07 am

    Now, though, I would argue that Canadians are actually the true inheritors of European settlement while Americans are the mutated offspring of violent revolution. Canada has developed naturally whereas American evolution was forced. Revolutionists are the insolent offspring from the true North Americans, and not the other way around.

    I also wanted to mention another thing. Why would this be a good reason for us to join Canada? No matter how Americans came about or Canadians came about – we are both a people (human beings). And to think of myself as a “mutated offspring of a violent revolution” doesn’t sit too well with me as I’m obviously one of “them”. Statements like that can make anybody feel less of a person. Wouldn’t you think? It’s almost as if you are saying that you are a higher grade of beings by nature as opposed to Americans!

    Reply
  • 5. C. Fraser  |  June 13, 2008 at 2:50 pm

    Sun Warrior: You said, “Yet Canadians are stuck in their minds. You have to go to the States to feel the opposite.” I agree. In this sense Americans and Canadians are two sides of the same coin. I would disagree that Canadians are like a fetus that doesn’t know how to grow up. I think we are evolving well enough, but it’s just slow evolution. We’re much more introspective than Americans are, whereas Americans are much more comfortable with their place in the world, and aren’t afraid to let people know it.

    Virgomonkey: Canadians are well aware of the good things we do and are more than happy to hype it to whoever might listen. Ultimately, who really cares if other nations don’t recognize our achievements? The most important thing is to be comfortable in ones own skin.

    As for your second comment. I mainly made that statement to be provocative and to make a point. What I wrote is the mirror to what the people at UNA wrote. What is written there is something that most Americans would, if they gave any thought to it, probably agree with. I wanted to make the point that it can easily be argued that the Canadian has every right to claim inheritance to this culture as any other nation.

    Calling the Patriots a ‘mutated offspring’ was, again being provocative. Most people look at the rebels with diamonds in their eyes. I think people should take another look.

    Reply
  • 6. Sun Warrior  |  June 17, 2008 at 11:04 am

    Well, in a sense, I like being in Afghanistan for one reason, the army gets to be an army, and we can act like adults instead of effete academics who don’t want to get their hands dirty.

    I think it’s the first step in the thaw from the paralyzing rationalism of the Trudeau era where we liked the concept, but couldn’t go any further.

    But Harper doesn’t inspire me. But if we let our politicians do that, we get massive instability. So we’re content in our suburbs, stuffing the RRSPs, and not having to worry too much, just as long as we have a job.

    We’re showing the Americans you don’t have to dominate the world to have a placid life.

    Reply
  • 7. AWCheney  |  September 9, 2008 at 2:22 am

    “Without meaning to minimize the contributions, I think I can sum-up the entries by saying that the general consensus is that Canadians do define themselves to a large extent as not being American.”

    …Which is as it should be! Sovereignty is, or should be, as important to the Americans (defined U.S.) as it is to the Canadians. It is the friendship between our two nations which should be important to our politicians, and not the consolidation of them…particularly at a time when insanity and ignorance seem to reign supreme here.

    The very nature of the American character is under attack. More Americans than you could imagine are talking about expatriating to other countries, who could never have conceived of such a notion a mere decade ago. The citizens and legal residents of our country have become the servants of the government, who have become the servants of the multi-national corporations…hardly what the Founding Fathers originally had in mind. If Canadians and Americans should unite, they should unite in a fight to regain our rights and freedom…along with our sovereignty.

    Reply
  • 8. C. Fraser  |  September 9, 2008 at 2:13 pm

    AWCheney: Thanks for the comments. You make very good points, and I agree, we should be united in our struggle to promote and maintain (regain) our rights, freedoms and sovereignty. America has brought so much good to the world that it would be a shame if the nation became just a shill to other (corporate?) interests.

    But, I do think that Canadians should define themselves first and foremost as Canadians, rather than as not American. There is an important distinction between the two approaches.

    Thanks again for your comment.

    Reply

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