Canada is a great country with a lot to be proud of, but for some reason we need to hear it from the rest of the world before we start to believe it.
This national insecurity manifests itself in a lot of ways, but one of the most common is whenever a celebrity visits one of our cities and gets cornered by local reporters. Instead of asking their reasons for being here, the reporters always turn their interviews towards Canada itself — “So how do you like filming in / playing in Vancouver/Toronto/Montreal?”
It’s a genuinely stupid question, and one that visiting celebrities always gamely answer with some variation of, “It’s been great, the people are great, Canada is great.” What else are they going to say?
The reporters then walk away smiling smugly, hearing what they came to hear, and use that quote to lead off their story the next day, like it’s news that Ben Affleck enjoyed filming in Vancouver. If it’s a big enough celebrity pandering to our national pride, the story goes on Page One.
In a way it’s understandable. Why go to all the trouble of keeping our sidewalks clean if the rest of the world doesn’t notice?
But it’s also kind of sad. I personally feel that Canada would be a lot more impressive if we didn’t worry so much about impressing everybody. I want to be the cool country that doesn’t care what other countries think.
It’s high time we grew out of our national adolescent awkward stage, and started acting like a real nation. As of July 1, our democracy is 140 years old. We’re in the G8 of industrialized nations, and one of the few developed countries anywhere that currently has a balanced budget and trade surplus.
We have one of the highest standards of living of any nation in the world. All indicators of development — from literacy to life expectancy to the number of people with post-secondary degrees — usually rank in the top-10 for the world. Our cities are generally recognized as the most livable on the planet. We also have some of the most beautiful countryside in the world, a lot of it protected in provincial and national parks.
Despite our relatively small population, we punch way above our weight class on the world stage. We have international respect.
We’re also a successful cultural exporter, which is something I feel we should be extremely proud of. We export literature that people read, actors people pay to see, musicians people pay to hear. I admit that we’re probably better known around the world these days for the Trailer Park Boys, Fubar, Corner Gas, Kids in the Hall, and Bob and Doug McKenzie than we are for author Michael Ondaatje, but then I’m also proud to be from a country with a sense of humour.