Canada, really? The true north strong and free is a hurdle? Well, Sgt. Kanada on the forums suggested we do an episode where we explain Canada to non-Canadians. Well, we recorded this episode instead where we explain nothing.
But Canada really can be a hurdle sometimes. Or at least the Canada made up of polite Mounties playing hockey with sticks made of old Tim Horton’s cups glued together with maple syrup and pucks made of beaver pelts sure is.
It’s a hurdle because it’s all lies.
By and large, Canadians are not particularly friendly or respectful or polite. We’re not all that progressive in our thinking and our environmental record isn’t too shiny either. As for our cuddly Mounties, just ask the protesters who attended the G20 protests last summer what they think (hint: they traded in their red coats for black riot gear). Any time we manage to be respectful towards other human beings or uphold our humanitarian/socialist ideals, it’s done out of a knee-jerk reaction to not being American.
For instance we’re not a melting pot of cultures, we’re a cultural mosaic. The idea being that we value diversity over assimilation. I’m not convinced this approach actually works on a pragmatic level and might be the root of the lack of social cohesion in our cities or a true national identity. But it is a big part of what makes Canada a Canadian country. Specifically that, when talking about socio-political issues, we take the moral high-ground over our neighbours to the south who prefer a homogenous and, theoretically, more easily controlled society.
And that’s the crux of it. We’re a country defined by not being another country. That’s our whole national identity. Yet somehow we delude ourselves that this is a legitimate source of self-worth. We’re those nerdy kids relegated to the corner of the high school cafeteria who take pride in at least not being jocks.
And it’s a shitty corner of the cafeteria, let me tell you. The reason the jocks don’t sit up here is because the windows leak, there’s a freezing draft eight months of the year, and in the summer the heater gets cranked up to 11 so everything becomes a sweltering sauna.
Oh, by the way, I’m only talking about Central Canada. You see, there’s actually four Canadas and only one that really matters.
There’s the Maritime provinces on the East Coast, there’s Western Canada and then there’s Central Canada which is the provinces of Ontario and Quebec. And that’s the only true Canada. This is where most Canadians live. Or, at least, the only Canadians the Federal government considers the needs of when making policy.
Notice I didn’t mention the fourth Canada? Most Canadians wouldn’t either. That’s Northern Canada which only exists to be forgotten and sometimes get screwed over by the rest of us.
The weirdest thing about Central Canada is half of it wants to leave. Quebec has had a separatist movement since the 1800’s. This has something to do with speaking French. Most of Canada wants them to stay. Though if pressed for a reason why, they’d probably just tell you something about as eloquent and considered as “Because” or “Well, they’re part of Canada. They can’t leave.”
Mostly, no one wants the poutine pipeline to dry up. That’s not a euphemism for anal porn, we just like having a douchie name for cheese and gravy on fries.
Really, Canada is too big and under-populated to work as a nation. Only a country with this small a gene-pool would offer up Chad Kroeger as one of our best and brightest. I’m a patriot and all, but I can certainly sympathize with another province wanting to distance itself from Alberta.
Typical line up of Canadian idiots hankering for puddle water with two creams and two sugars.
Growing up in British Columbia—which has about as much to do with Canada as Britain or Columbia—I was a big proponent of the Cascadian Independence Movement. Like any Utopian dream, to believe it would actually work is pretty naive. But, hey, I was young and still believed people weren’t all bastards and could set aside self-interest long enough to work together to make a better world. Foolish, I know.
Cascadia could really only be viable economically if California, the Yukon and Alaska were, however unlikely, also a part of it. But the general idea of breaking the continent up into smaller, European-style parcels makes a lot of sense. Decisions made in Ottawa, no matter how well-intentioned, generally only end up giving the shaft to people in Victoria or Halifax.
By this point in the article I suspect you’re probably wondering how I can seriously claim to be a patriot. I have just suggested the country fracture into a series of smaller states, in some cases uniting with The Great Satan. Well, that’s just how patriotism roles up here.
Canadians are known for our humility and self-deprecating humour. In reality, we’re closer to self-loathing. We look at Texas and say “At least we’re not like that” but we know Alberta really is and it hurts. We make fun of Tennessee and Alabama rednecks, but we’ve all seen Trailer Park Boys and know there’s a little bit of that American stereotype in everyone’s backyard. We all know Montreal is just a crappy, cut-rate version of Paris and Toronto is a bargain-basement New York knock off.
But Canada is still the best country in the world to live.
We’re a country where the downtrodden aren’t left out to dry, where the sick aren’t doomed to financial ruin, and people have control over their bodies and the right to marry who they wish. Even if Prime Minister Stephen Harper cuts most of the social programs that define Canada, or erodes the personal liberties that separate us from less free states, the next government will probably reinstate them. Though, individually, Canadians are kind of assholes, there’s just a sense in this country of collectively doing the right thing. You can screw your neighbour on your own time, but as a country we’ve got each others’ backs.
Where the real hurdle about so-called Canadian Culture comes in is when it’s implied that finding hockey remotely interesting is somehow tied into these greater ideals. Or that desperate isolation in barren landscapes is the Canadian experience for the average citizen. Reading Can-Lit and watching National Film Board movies might make you think so, but only a small percentage of Canadians actually live this bleak, desperate lifestyle. Most of us live in suburban developments and shop at box-stores. Which is another kind of bleak, desperate lifestyle.
I’m truly proud of Canada and to call myself Canadian. I’m proud to live in a country with the kind of Medicare program we’ve developed, but please don’t paint any more murals of beavers and farmers in the style of the Group of Seven.
The Group of Seven brings me to my next point.
Due to out proximity to the United States of Media Domination, the Canadian arts & entertainment scene is a bit of an odd bird. To combat the proliferation of American movies, TV shows and music, our government is dedicated to promoting that dubious entity called Canadian Culture. This means certain artists who are deemed worthy (meaning they know how to write a grant proposal) get funding from the government. In effect, all Canadian publishers and record companies survive on grants.
On one hand, Canada Council funding means the arts actually exist in Canada. On the other, it means only a certain “Canadian” aesthetic is given bias. This isn’t intentional, the “Canadian bias” didn’t exist until the Canada Council created it. What I mean is, artists and producers know what’s going to get a green light from the Canada Council and what isn’t. This is how Canadian Culture has been insidiously steered in a certain direction for a little over 50 years. Ultimately, is this really a bad thing? No, of course not. I just, personally, don’t care much for the flavour the Council curates.
Top 2000 Album Chart – Album Sales in Canada by Artist Nationality (Thousand Units)
We also have something up here called Can-Con which is a CRTC requirement that a certain percentage of Canadian music gets played on the airwaves. This is important because otherwise new Canadian bands wouldn’t get any exposure (on radio stations no one listens to anymore anyway?) in favour of Lady Gaga or The Vaccines.
Also Rush wouldn’t get played 20 times a day on the classic rock stations. Sacre bleu! Without this regulation, bands like Barenaked Ladies, Beduin Soundclash, Metric, Glass Tiger, or pretty much anyone else on this list would never have gotten any attention from the general public. The same goes for international superstars like Bryan Adams, Nickleback and Celine Dion (make of that what you will).
When Can-Con and the Canada Council work, they give a leg-up to deserving Canadian talent. The rest of the time they’re perpetuating a culture of mediocrity. How else do you explain Kim Mitchell‘s career?
In a lot of ways, our Canadian Culture is as entirely a fabricated charade as the Molson’s I Am Canadian ad campaign.
Apparently Lloyd Robertson (the real-life Kent Brockman) was neither dead nor retired at the time of recording this episode. He retired just today and will be on air until September. Hey, we didn’t know, we don’t own a TV. Which means we don’t have to watch the horrible Canadian comedy institution Royal Canadian Air Farce.
Which, since 1970, was the worst comedy this country ever produced until Russell Peters and Ron James got invented. Really, I think all my problems with Canadian Culture can be summed up with these two guys.
If you want to know more about Canada. I suggest perusing Filibuster Cartoons. Their article on Canadian Stereotypes expands on a lot of what I’ve said here. There’s also a Guide to Canada.