Well, it’s officially summer in our part of the world. There seems to be a bit of variation in when the summer holiday season begins around the world. In many part of the United States school ends in early June or even May. In many parts of England schools don’t finish until the middle of July. But here in Canada it’s always the same: the school year runs until just before Canada Day on July 1st and goes back the first Tuesday of September.
It’s perfect timing as far as I’m concerned. Canada Day is not only a chance to celebrate our wonderful country but it’s the official start of summer; the release from a busy school year and a big party all in one. There’s just something wonderful about seeing the flags and the parades with the knowledge that there’s two whole months of warm weather, relaxed schedules and summer travels stretching out ahead.
I’ve always been proud to be Canadian. My generation grew up in an era when Canada was sort of leaving behind the inferiority complex of earlier times and embracing our unique place in the world. I read humour books like “Canadian, Eh?” and laughed at Mike from Canmore on the CBC every Friday night. When I headed out on my first trip across Europe I proudly sewed a Canadian flag to my backpack, keen to avoid the horrors of being mistaken for an American.
Over the ensuing years my Canadian pride has matured and mellowed. I’ve recognized that while stereotypes can be funny at times, Canadian identity is a complex thing and there is no such thing as a “typical” Canadian. I’ve come to realize that while we have avoided some of the problems in other countries, Canada has plenty of things to be ashamed of, such as our history of residential schools, racist immigration policies and the current deplorable conditions on many Native reservations. Like any country, Canada has it’s own fair share of ignorance and bigotry.
And yet, despite all the problems in my own country, I can’t help but look around the world right now and just sort of shake my head in stunned amazement. To the south we have a man who talks about barring people from entering his country based on their religion, says he’ll pay the legal bills for people who punch people who disagree with him at his rallies and threatens to silence media outlets who publish stories that cast him in a negative light. I am still struggling with the fact that this man has somehow managed to become a presumptive presidential nominee instead of being laughed off the stage.
And then there’s the whole Brexit thing. Now to be perfectly honest, I really wasn’t paying as much attention to this one as I probably should have. I was aware that there was a referendum coming up in the UK about possible leaving the European Union, but most of the coverage seemed cast it as mainly an immigration issue. From my perspective, it seemed like the recent vote in Scotland about whether to leave the UK got a lot more coverage here in North America than this most recent referendum. And then one morning we woke up to find out that Britain was leaving the EU, the prime minister was stepping down and the financial markets were in disarray. Suddenly the news was filled with stories of immigrants, and even non-white Britons being harassed and being told to “go home” and people talking about “taking their country back”.
What the heck is going on here? Have these angry, exclusionist people been there all along, just waiting for a free pass to act on their true wishes? Have frustrated and confused people been led astray by leaders who prey on their worst fears in order to gain power and an impotent media who seek to rile up passions without providing any balance or insight? Are we the only sane ones here or are we just lucky that the perfect storm of factors haven’t stirred up these kinds of sentiments here in Canada?
They say that the biggest factor of whether or not you support Trump is your education level. Basically, a person who doesn’t hold a college degree is twice as likely to support him as someone who does. In Britain it seems like age was more of a factor, with older generations voting to leave and younger people choosing remain. But I can’t help but wonder what the “travel” factor is. Are people who’ve been to other countries, been in the minority themselves and interacted with strangers of all different races and religions more likely to be more accepting, more liberal and most importantly, less driven by fear?
Statistics say that only 30% of Americans hold a passport while around 70% of Canadians have one. This doesn’t exactly prove that Canadians travel more than Americans, I’ve often wondered if this has something to do with the fact that Canada seems to take a more measured and well rounded stance than some of our allies. Or maybe not. Maybe there’s some divisive issue or crazy xenophobic madman just around the corner for us too. We can only hope there isn’t.
But for now, it’s Canada Day tomorrow, it’s summer and it’s time to get out, explore new horizons and expand our perspectives. And for today, I’m happy to be Canadian and if you’re also Canadian I hope you feel the same way. If you’re not, please come visit us. There may be a lot of craziness in the world today, but Canada is still sane!