Studying here in Europe, when people hear my accent they often ask me what state I’m from. And when I tell them I’m Canadian, they either get excited (and usually want to talk about hockey- that’s something that Canada and Sweden have in common) or say, “aren’t Canada and America pretty much the same thing?”
The answer is no. While we definitely love our neighbours to the South and watch/shop/eat “American,” I really think the different lies in our values. Canadians have been raised to always think of other first, which is why we suck up our high taxes and put such emphasis on healthcare, education, and social welfare. We don’t support private prisons, we don’t spend very much on our military, and, for the most part, we trust our police officers. We’re also a mosaic, not a melting pot- immigration is actively encouraged and a lack of empathy for/ignorance of other cultures is not socially acceptable.
That’s why I have such a hard time understanding the events in Ferguson. Whenever I visit the U.S., people are nothing but kind to me. Southern hospitality really is wonderful- but I’m white. I never realized how strong racism still is in America because as a non-citizen I don’t see that part. I feel like I’m reading newsflashes from the civil rights movement in the mid 20th century…not allowing black people to eat at a restaurant but allowing white customers to enter? Are you kidding me? America has a much higher population of African-Americans than Canada (just 3% of our population compared to roughly 13% of the US population), so why can my country for the most part embrace diversity when some U.S. states are still struggling?
Canada is by no means perfect- especially up North and among older people, there is horrible racism directed at Aboriginal people. But what’s happening in Missouri right now is something I’m trying and failing to understand, and the revelation that racism still runs so deep is very scary.