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Pique n Your Interest

Centre of the Universe

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Canada may be the most multicultural country on the planet, and Canadians the world’s most tolerant people. Virtually every race, culture and language can be found in our cities and towns in one form or another, and each and every culture in the dominion can thrive thanks to a constitution which guarantees freedom of speech, belief and assembly.

The bottom line is that every person, regardless of their origins, is equal and accepted. Unless of course you come from Toronto – then you’re worse than the plague.

I was unfortunate enough to be brought up in Toronto, Ontario, otherwise known as the "Centre of the Universe" and "On-terrible" to Vancouver morning radio personalities. According to them, Toronto is nothing but traffic, pollution, and limousine liberals who rule the country with an iron fist. Our greed is unsurpassed, and we believe that we’re better than everyone else. Our sports teams are pathetic, and the only reason I can watch Leaf games in B.C. is because Toronto rules the airwaves – if it didn’t happen in Toronto, it didn’t happen. It’s also very flat, which is perhaps the most egregious offence of them all.

Like a lot of other flat-landers I left Toronto for the hills of British Columbia. We came in waves, a motley crew of rag-tag immigrants flooding the borders in search of a better life, a better view, and some of that legendary Canadian acceptance. We didn’t find it.

We are constantly reminded that we come from the worst place on earth, and when we tell people who were born here where we’re from, they generally turn up their noses and make some comment about traffic, liberals, how many Toronto people are moving here (presumably bringing down the property value). I’m not making this up.

I stopped listening to CFOX, primarily because I could never get through in time to win Pearl Jam tickets, but also because of their incessant bashing of my hometown.

CBC radio also got into it recently, asking people on the street if they would be following the Leafs now that the Vancouver Canucks, Edmonton Oilers, and Ottawa Senators are eliminated. The answers were vitriolic:

"Never! Toronto is not Canada’s team, no matter what they say. I root for the Canucks and whoever is playing against Toronto!"

"I’m a proud Canadian, but I just can’t bring myself to vote for Toronto. I can’t!"

For a while there I told people I was from Peterborough, a town just far enough outside of Toronto to dodge the inevitable comment – even though my family lived there for less than two years, and I was there for less than half that time.

Deep down I knew I was betraying my heritage. I still have family and friends living there… should I be ashamed of them? If they came to Whistler wearing their Toronto Rock tee shirts and I bumped into them in the village, would I pretend not to know them? Of course not. Turning your back on your culture, your history, your race, your friends and your family is not the Canadian way.

So I started once again to tell people, loudly and proudly, that I was from Toronto – but only when they asked. It probably only fuelled the assumption that we’re all arrogant bastards but nonetheless it eased my troubled mind. I don’t see what the big deal is. I grew up in Toronto, went to University in Halifax, lived in Banff for a year, and tree-planted across Alberta and B.C. before moving to Whistler. It sounds cliché, but I’ve discovered that people are pretty much the same wherever you go.

And I want to get a few things straight: I’m here for the mountains, the snow, the fresh air and the kind lifestyle I wanted. I’m not here for the political stability, the oppressive taxes, a health care system that charges me an additional $36 a month for basic services, the draconian liquor laws, or the endless picket lines. The mountains and the Pacific are beautiful, but the people of B.C. can hardly take credit for either of these things – they’ve just lived here longer.

People from Toronto do not think of their city as the centre of the universe, and our morning DJs don’t feel it’s necessary to bash Vancouver, Montreal or Saskatoon every morning – they bash Toronto, too. We all do. We’re not all rich, contrary to popular belief – we’re not even all middle-class. It’s a city like any other city, not an attitude or a state of mind.

Some people who missed the point of all this will probably tell me "if you like Toronto so much, then go back. Leave!"

I love it here, and I have no intention of leaving without some extraordinary circumstances – even then I will always find reasons to come back. Like an immigrant who can appreciate the freedom, health and wealth of Canada far more than the people who have lived here all along, I can appreciate B.C. so much precisely because I’m from Toronto, Ontario – the centre of your universe, maybe, not mine. Go Leafs go.

— Andrew Mitchell

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