Recently, an indigenous American, ah, Indian, ah, Native American, ah, First Nations poster on a website I frequent called out a peer for being a “Pretendian”–a fake Aborigine. In response, a Canadian poster felt the need to “correct” said poster by suggesting the term for the Aboriginal group in question is “First Nations” not “Native American.” Rightfully, the first poster put said Canadian in his/her place by pointing out that the name made no difference.
And, from this perspective, I will start my critique of Canada.
The Canadian poster, intentionally or not, perfectly exemplifies what I frequently refer to as “Canadian pretentiousness,” defined largely in part by dislike for the United States, but also by Canadian myth–those beliefs that many Canadians hold as truth or self-evident about the nation/notion of Canada. Among these myths are: Canadian democracy, Canada’s lack of racism, Canada’s non-colonial/slavery past, Canadian politeness, generosity and compassion and the big one, Canadian culture.
They’re many things that bug me about Canada, but before I get to them, let me say that Canada is a good country. It has the potential to become better if not great, but, its faults are masked by its complacency, which in turn, is created by its myths and pretentiousness. In other words, Canadians believe that Canada is perfect and therefore doesn’t need fixing. The consequence of this belief is that things that are broken, outdated or inefficient are swept under the rug or ignored.
Case in point: the British Monarchy, which is the non-democratic Head of the Canadian state. Despite the fact that 2/3s of Canadians believe Canada should cut its ties from the British Monarchy, there is no debate in Canadian politics about carrying out such a reform; furthermore, many Canadians seem to believe the lie that the British Monarch and her de facto representative, the Governor General, is nothing more than a figurehead or symbolic representative. This is misleading, of course. According to section III of the Constitution Act of Canada, 1867, the British Monarchy, represented in Canada by the Governor General and Lieutenant Governors, is the most politically powerful figure in Canadian politics. Evidence of this truth was revealed in January of 2009 when the current Governor General (Michaelle Jean) shut down parliament and “saved” the Conservative government from an early election. But if this isn’t exemplary of the power of the non-democratically elected GG, how about the Australia case of 1975? In that case, the GG “fired” the Prime Minister, a democratically elected leader.
Even sadder is that many Canadians claim to be an exemplary democracy. I expect the Canadian myth-building from Monarchists (supporters of the British Monarchy in Canada), but the Monarchists (Loyalists) rely heavily on the ignorance of the Canadian populace to maintain their agenda. Monarchists spin the tale that a Monarchy-headed, parliamentary style democracy is more democratic than a presidential one (see the U.S., since it factors heavily into this opinion). However, what many disregard is that 2/3 of the Canadian political system (including the Queen/GG) is non-democratic. The Senate is likely the most glaring example of how non-democratic and inefficient the Canadian system is. It’s second only to the GG and LGs when it comes to mocking Canadian ‘democracy.’ The Senate is styled after the British House of Lords, and Senators are chosen by the Canadian Prime Minister, based on “merit” to “oversee” policy initiatives. Like the PM’s cabinet and party members, the Senate is essentially comprised of puppets, whose loyalty is with the one who selected them rather than the Canadian people.
The Canadian people not only have no say over who their head of state is (and 2/3s of Canadians want a say), but the Constitution Act is worded in a way that makes it impossible to replace the British Monarchy and the GG with representatives elected by Canadian citizens. So, whether or not the majority of Canadians want the burdensome Monarchy and the dead weights of the GG, LGs and Senate, they don’t have a choice. The idea that Canadians get to decide is a joke. Long live Canadian democracy!
We also have no history of colonialism. So we have all of the things that many people admire about the great powers but none of the things that threaten or bother them.”
When the current PM, Stephen Harper, told the recently gathered G20 summit that Canada never had colonialism many people were shocked. I don’t know why, exactly. Canada also claimed it had no slavery. Now of course, the First Nations people and the descendants of slaves held in Quebec and Ontario may disagree, but like Africville, Nova Scotia, their history was buried under the debris, ah, Canada’s monolithic, whitebread, Anglo-Saxon Protestant culture. The flag of the British Monarchy, still being waved in Canada by Monarchists and their supporters, carries the same message as the Confederate flag waved by southern white Americans, but of course, the British Monarchy is sophisticated and globally revered. Never mind the fact that the supporters of the Monarchy in Canada use it as a symbol of WASP pride and privilege and as a counterculture to Canada’s 1971 official multicultural policy; in other words, the same use as the Confederate flag.
But of course, Canada blindly believes that it is a multicultural society even as it waves the banner of British Monarchy, spreading the message that unless you’re WASP, you’re not really Canadian; to be Canadian is to be British. The First Nations are conquered people to be kept on reservations, the French-Canadians are losers of a long-over war and the non-whites are just visitors. Canadians like to say that their society, which is 16% non-white, is truly multicultural while America’s society (35-40% non-white)is really made up of ‘assimilated’ groups, but of course this claim is bogus and belongs to the Canadian myth. Not only is the U.S. more diverse and multicultural, it’s less pretentious about it. It is what is is. Americans are patriotic and they have reasons to be: their ethnic groups have contributed largely to the American identity, while Canada doesn’t know what a culture is. Take a look at any Victoria Day celebration, any military show or political tradition in Canada and you’ll feel as if you’ve taken a trip back in time to Victorian England.
In its history, Canada spent so much time myth-building so that it could snub its white nose at those ‘troublesome’ Americans, that it failed to contribute anything remotely original to its identity. But of course, the Monarchists in Canada have been chiefly responsible for this truth and wouldn’t have it any other way. They much rather Canadians put their collective energy into hating and looking down on Americans than wake-up and cast-off the inefficient and burdensome British Monarchy that has been dwarfing its independence and preventing it from contributing anything real/original to the country’s culture. Instead, Canadians spend their time “correcting” people for saying things like “Native-American” instead of First nations and insisting that “lieutenant” should be pronounced ‘left-tenant’ instead of ‘loo-tenant.’ How pretentious.
As far as Canadian politeness and generosity? Please, it’s the same as all other people’s. It’s there, it’s not, it’s there.