Courtesy Reuters

Canadians Are Different

AMERICANS, or as some Canadians choose to call them, Usonians, are sometimes surprised when they come to visit or to live in Canada that Canadians are so different from themselves. They expect French Canadians to be foreign. But English Canadians? They look like Americans, they speak English much as they do, but they neither act nor think in precisely the same way. Why not? There are good historical and contemporary reasons. Those same reasons occasionally lead to differences in domestic and foreign policy which astonish and even irritate Americans.

For one thing, Canada is a country that cherishes diversity, not conformity. It contains a great variety of people, very few of whom are Indians or Nelson Eddys in red coats. Canada applies far less pressure on people to live like their neighbors than does American society, probably because it has been divided from the start between two big national groups, and there has been room in the interstices for other groups like the Gaels of Cape Breton, the Jerseymen of the Gaspé, the Ukrainians of Saskatchewan and the native Indians to retain something of their original characteristics. The circumstance that there are many kinds of Canadian is not a barrier to nationhood, but an enrichment of it. In the next ten years Canada expects to take in 2,000,000 immigrants, who will help build a new nation.

The factors that have gone to shape Canada vary in importance from province to province, but they operate to some extent in all. First comes the French struggle for recognition as an equal partner within a bi-national state, equal in language rights, in wages, in political power. There is the English tradition of law and order, of civil rights, of loyalty to the Crown without subservience. There is the frontier to the north, forbidding yet tempting to the adventurous and greedy. And there is the presence of another nation with far greater wealth and power along 3,000 miles of boundary. No such influences permeate the United States.

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