Celebrating Canada’s unassuming qualities

Canadians have an interesting way of looking at ourselves that often has more to do with what we are not than what we are.  Certainly our proximity to the United States and its huge cultural influence on the English speaking world lies at the heart of this.  Lost in that exercise can be a focus on what we are – which is quite a lot.

It can be seen in the little things such as someone holding a door for a stranger at a coffee shop which ensures that person is ahead of them in line at the same time.  This small act of kindness is an example of the kind of consideration we display on a consistent basis.   Visitors to Canada often call this politeness, but it is an acknowledgement of our commitment to community as well.

Perhaps the phenomenon grows out of the hard work and group efforts that were necessary to carve our country out of rugged terrain.  It could also speak to the way a small population has to hang together to be able to maintain itself against a larger and more economically powerful neighbor – again the United States.  Whatever the reason it is true that Canadians are generally polite and helpful which are qualities that are not appropriately celebrated in an era that seems to reward outrageous attention seeking behavior and is too focused on celebrity and scandal.

Consider the popularity of hockey as well.  It is a team sport that values sacrifice for the greater good over individual accomplishments.  Is this a reflection of our character, or has it defined it?  I would argue the former.   Our history is full of stories with a central theme of working together to meet adversity headlong.  It has shaped our image internationally with the heroics of our soldiers who punched well above their weight in World Wars or domestically where events like the Winnipeg General Strike set the tone for our commitment to ensuring that a just society is more than a platitude.

Hand in hand with a strong sense of community is the ability to value fair play and honesty.   This could be why we will not tolerate political shell games that line pockets with precious public dollars.  Witness the public outrage at the Senate living expense scandal and the calls for an inquiry into the affair.  This is based in past public investigations – or the ongoing one in Quebec to expose the links between politicians, the building industry, and organized crime – that have tackled these problems headlong rather than coming to accept them.   Remember, there are countries where bribery is matter of fact and seen as unchangeable.

Certainly placing a premium on kindness, group effort, and a strong sense of fair play aren’t unique to Canada, but have helped shape us into a country that can brag about national accomplishments like publicly funded medicare.  Politically we aspire to peace, order, and good government as opposed to the American axiom of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.   The difference in those statements highlights our deep sense of community, whether it is national or local, and deserves to be celebrated.

Happy Canada Day!