Saturday, July 1, 2017

A Reflection On Canada Day

Most people who have lived in this country for any amount of time, I suspect, would agree that Canada is the best place in the world to be a citizen. While we often take much for granted, I am sure that, like me, the majority have a deep and abiding respect and love for the land that we call home. It's just that we are a quiet people, content in the knowledge of our strengths (and well-aware of our weaknesses), without a deep compulsion to brag about our good fortune.

Rick Salutin, reflecting on our country while watching people waiting for appointments or loved ones in the atrium of Toronto Western Hospital, observes a core value that makes us what we are:
What unites people there, waiting for their appointments, or for those they’ve brought to appointments? Neither health nor sickness, though most don’t look too fit. It’s something else: none is worried about how they’ll pay for it.

Absence of money anxieties is the unifying factor. Could this also be what unifies the country, as it does the atrium? Frank Graves of EKOS research found it so recently: far atop a list of sources of Canadian identity, leaving the anthem, the flag, and Mounties in the shade, was medicare.
While flag-waving and other patriotic gestures and symbols are on the decline, there is something deep and abiding that unites us as a country.
Nation states were always at their best a way for humans to embrace their common destiny: that we are social beings despite pretensions to splendid individualism (“I’m a loner, eh?”). Boiling the solution down till little but medicare remains at the bottom of the pan, reduces the concoction to a bold, unique minimum.

Which brings me back to the people hanging in the atrium at the Western, looking ethnically and multiculturally diverse but not particularly feeling the diversity because they’re all Canadians brought together by the Canadian way of dealing with the basic stuff of life and death, and forestalling the latter, as much as possible, for the former: Not through some abstraction like Canadian niceness, but by their commitment to pay their taxes, assuring that everyone else there needn’t worry about money while awaiting the good, or bad, news.
Americans are great at waving the flag and boasting that they are "the greatest country on earth." Yet they are now in the process, should the Senate bill pass, of ultimately removing over 35 million of their fellow citizens from health care coverage while the same bill also cuts a tax on investment income for people earning $200,000 or more. One could perhaps draw an inverse relationship between mindless jingoism and quality of life.

We, on the other hand, are a proud but quiet, even subdued nation. And for some very, very good reasons....


  1. Being quiet is not a sign of weakness, Lorne.

    1. A quiet confidence is something that helps define us, I think, Owen.

  2. I emailed some American friends today asking if, as a present to Canada, Trump couldn't put up a wall along the 49th parallel and, perhaps, even get the Mexicans to pay for it. If we can wall them in from the north and the south we might be able to contain the contagion, quarantine the U.S. until their fever breaks.

    1. A capital suggestion, Mound. We need some kind of inoculation and separation from the madness of our American neighbours.