I like talking to folks here in Canada. When they find out I’m from So Cal, the first thing they inevitably say to me is why would I leave that wonderful So Cal weather to move to Toronto! I notice that they have very fantastical images of California in their minds (and who doesn’t, really?).
But the other thing I’ve begun to pick up on is what the Canadians seem to be proud of, particularly over and against America.
1. Their health care system
I had a feeling Canadians would feel superior here, and they really, really do. It is a difference of value to them. They feel that health care is an inalienable human right, regardless of one’s ability to afford it. They hold this point with a polite, but firm righteous pride.
Some younger folks are under the misconception that they personally never pay anything for their health care – to which I point out that they pay through their taxes And, I keep reading how Canadian health care debt is careening out of control. Nevertheless, I have not heard one Canadian complain at all about their health care system. In fact, most will defend it strongly to the end.
It’s so interesting, because back home, I hear a lot of horror stories about Canadian health care, particularly about outrageous wait periods or the ineptitude of doctors. But here, it’s the other way around: folks talk about American health care likes it’s the worst thing in the world and nod at me knowingly, like they’re sure that I must agree with them from personal experience. They’re so sure of their system’s superiority that instead of indignance, I experience a lot of pity from them!
The odd thing is that, so far we’ve found very little difference between the two systems personally. There’s always a bureaucracy to deal with, and their forms and numbers and such. An emergency room experience still involves a lot of waiting and wondering. And, because we’re here under an international student study permit, we have to pay for our health insurance pretty much what we paid back home.
I was hoping that my experience in Canada would give me greater first-hand insight into the whole debate. But, frankly, it’s just left me realizing that all the systems have their pros and cons, and that the perfect health care will continue to allude us all for a long time.
(Oh! But it is true that Canada’s prescription drugs seem to be much less expensive!)
2. Their diversity
America used to be incredibly proud of its diversity. But lately, there’s been more concern about how to control our immigration issues than championing our strength in our different cultures.
Canada trumpets its diversity in a way that I kind of remember from when I was a youth in America. It’s so much easier to emigrate into Canada, so folks do. Toronto claims to be the most diverse city in the world, and even in my short amount of time here, I believe it. The countries represented in my apartment building alone boggle my mind. I find all this really cool, actually, and miss the days when America really did want to welcome in “your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free.” That place now is Canada, and they’re very, very proud of this.
I’ve now run into to two, shall we say, white Canadians, who upon hearing about the area where I live, remarked with scorn that it is becoming more and more an “ethnic” area.
Hmmm….. So pride only exists if its NIMBY?
3. Their statutory holidays
This one I don’t understand at all. At least 3 times, Canadian folks have talked to me with great pride about their statutory holidays or “stat” holidays. In Canada, they have a series of holidays legislated on a federal, provincial and local level where people get various days off of work throughout the year.
Generally, I find Canadians have a really good understanding of America and what we’re about. But this one just baffles me. Do they think we don’t have holidays in the States? Do they think we work 365 days a year?
I thought that maybe they think they just have more holidays than we do, but looking at the list, I see 11 Canadian holidays (in Ontario), and 10 American federal holidays. And, most of the time they even sync up, even if they have different reasons for the holiday.
So, if someone wants to explain this unusual pride to me, I’d love to hear it.
I had one wonderful guy tell me about his experience tree-planting one summer. He asked us if we’d ever heard about tree-planting in Canada. When we replied no, he said that taking time each summer to volunteer to go out and plant trees in the boonies is more of a Canadian tradition than hockey.
Hmmm…. I’m not sure I believe him on this one.