Like many USArs I like joking at the expense of Canada. But they are just jokes. On Canada Day, it is well worth celebrating a great country, and the U.S. is lucky to have such a great neighbor!
Canada is a great country. First, this blogger has a certain bias towards liberal democracies that do not systematically oppress their citizens. Such has been all to uncommon in human history and the survival and prosperity of this system (the least bad) should be celebrated wherever it occurs and not taken for granted.
But, Canada has the very mixed blessing of bordering the United States. It is a blessing, the power and prosperity of the U.S. has brought innumerable material benefits to Canada (Canada has also brought plenty of material benefits to the USA). At the same time, the U.S. is an overbearing super-power, but as overbearing super-powers go it at least tries not to be too pushy. It is easy to criticize the US, but considering the power differential between the US-Canada, which is probably comparable to say the Soviet Union and Poland or Syria and Lebanon, the Canada’s relative freedom from U.S. political influence is actually remarkable.
But countries need a certain sense of greatness or uniqueness to thrive. Even small nations develop a narrative that points to their special place in the world. For Canada this is a challenge. Australia gets to play great power (at least modestly) in East Asia. But Canada, which has a larger economy, territory, and population cannot do so overshadowed by its enormous neighbor. Nonetheless, Canada has played a role on the world stage, that the role is modest does not mean it is insignificant. Canadian troops are doing real fighting in Afghanistan. One of the Canadians celebrated at the opening of the Winter Games in Vancouver was Canadian Lt. Gen. Romeo Dallaire who strove mightily (if unsuccessfully) as UN forces commander in Rwanda to prevent genocide.
Historically too, Canadians bled in the trenches of World War I and were fighting in World War II before the Americans joined in. Canadian troops landed at Normandy and liberated a corridor of towns and cities across France and the Benelux countries. (The picture is the monument to Canadian soldiers who liberated Antwerp.) There was a particular Canadian contribution to D-Day, the failed raid on the port city of Dieppe in August 1942. Churchill initiated and ordered a poorly conceived raid in which over 3000 (mostly Canadian) soldiers were killed and nothing was accomplished. The raid caused resentment in Canada which felt its soldiers lives had been tossed away. Yet, the failure led to improved amphibious assault strategies and tactics by the Allies and German over-confidence that the allies would not try such an assault again.
Canada also shares much of its culture with the United States, further confounding their quest for national identity. But two of my favorite novelists, Robertson Davies (who wrestles with the question of developing a Canadian culture) and W.P. Kinsella, who’s book Shoeless Joe Comes to Iowa became the movie Field of Dreams were Canadian. And my knowledge of arts and literature is not deep.
Aristotle writes that in a true friendship, anything that benefits one friend benefits the other. In that spirit, “Go Canada!”