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Canadian, Eh?

by Stephen Lautens


June 29, 2001

The Canada Day weekend is usually spent by most of us hanging around parks, cottages and backyards. There's fireworks and face painting for the kids and beer for the dads. Not to mention the million Canuck trivia contests, sports events and parades.

Even as we goof off on a well-deserved long weekend, everyone tries to capture the essence of what it means to be Canadian.

There's all the obvious ones - hockey, maple syrup, finding Mike Myers movies hilarious, hating Toronto even if you live there. But there are some subtle things about what it means to be Canadian.

Like our irrational love for convertibles and summer homes, especially crazy since we really only get five good weekends a year.

Or demanding tax cuts, but whining about how bad government services have become.

It's part of the Canadian character to loudly proclaim that if you lived in the States your cost of living would be so much cheaper, but delighting in telling everyone about the time you made a wrong turn into a bad neighborhood in Detroit and almost got murdered.

It's also so Canadian that we have a 'national' newspaper that almost daily demands we merge with the United States, use Yankee greenbacks instead of the loonie, and makes a career out of telling the wealthiest people in this country how badly off they are.

By the way, it also tickles us when we meet someone in a different country and they don't automatically assume we're American.

If you're Canadian you sometimes get to say 'hello' to a former Prime Minister on the street. It's happened to me twice. I walked by John Turner in downtown Toronto and Joe Clark in Ottawa. Each of them were walking alone, and both gave me a warm 'hi' back. No bodyguards or Mounties. No one ready to wrestle me to the ground. We may not treat our leaders with respect when they're in office, but on the street we remember our manners.

It's Canadian to look forward every year to strawberry season - the whole week of it.

If you're in my neighbourhood, Blue Rodeo's Jim Cuddy shops at the same Loblaws as you do, and is genuinely pleased when you tell him you enjoy his music.

And you can lose your wallet in this country, and stand a good chance of someone turning it in - with all your money still in it.

We're still basically an honest and caring people in a world that increasingly thinks the law of the jungle is good enough for us humans, and "me first" is something to be proud of. Even though we're a small country, we want to take care of people, inside our borders as well as around the world.

Pregnant women and the elderly still get offered a seat on the bus. Or if some able-bodied person is ignoring them behind an newspaper, you can guarantee there will be a good number of people staring at them, silently willing the lout's head to explode.

Canadians believe in order, like 'stand right, walk left' on escalators, and the principle of 'first come, first served' is almost enshrined in the Charter.

And the debate about Canada's immigration policies is instantly left at home when going out for Chinese, Italian or Indian food.

Yep. Every day is a good day to be a Canadian.

© Stephen Lautens 2001

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