We’re not saints, we’re susceptible
By Cazzy Lewchuk, Opinions Editor
Being smug about our superiority and tolerance is part of the Canadian national identity.
We pride ourselves on not being like our American neighbours. We’re more tolerant, diverse, and open-minded. We’ve got a hip, socially-liberal Prime Minister! We’d certainly never elect a megalomaniac racist pussy-grabbing moron, and damned if we aren’t better people for it.
It is true that some of the ugliest social problems in the US are significantly better in Canada. LGBTQ+ individuals are protected by law and generally better accepted. Refugees and immigrants are usually greeted warmly, instead of finding swastikas painted on their garages. Our culture is naturally more diverse than our neighbours, and we encourage a “mosaic” blend of society, instead of the “melting pot” variety.
But despicable behaviour exists across Canadian society, even if it isn’t obvious. Prejudice and bigotry exist in every country, and in every area. Literally any LGBTQ+ person can speak to their experiences of discrimination. You may not interact with racists, but they’re still out there. Systematic racism is very real, and is continuously enabled by the government and power structures of society. Perhaps the most prevalent example is Canada’s treatment of Aboriginal peoples in the past and today, including the denial of basic human rights, like access to clean water. Distrust of foreign cultures and people still exists in our collective mindset. Read the comments on CBC articles or letters published in any city newspaper.
On a less specific level, the mindsets that contribute to America’s less-desirable elements are still common in Canadian society. Conservative MP Kellie Leitch, who plans to run as leader of the party, wrote an article praising Trump’s victory and “anti-elite” message. Ruthless billionaire Kevin O’Leary has also considered a run for the leadership. When we say “it can’t happen here,” we are ignoring the factors that are happening all around us.
Generalized and normalized hatred is a human trait. There are cultural differences, but societies in Canada, the US, and around the world have much more in common than we’d like to admit. Canadians need to get off their high horse and admit that our problems still need to be solved. When we get too smug about how perfect we are, we’re erasing the very real struggles of millions of Canadian minorities.
Our federal and provincial governments may be more liberal compared to the US. Our minimum wage is higher, our taxes are more balanced, and our economy is less reckless in its free-market allowances. Nevertheless, we continue to have serious economic inequality issues. Twenty-one per cent of children in the US live under the poverty line. In BC, it’s 19.8 per cent, and 18.5 per cent nationally. We have subsidized healthcare, but we still have children suffering from malnourishment and hunger because our society has left them behind. It’s not just children: 14.5 per cent of Americans live in poverty, compared to about 10 per cent of Canadians. This figure gets significantly higher with marginalized groups, such as women and POC.
Canadians definitely do better than the US in many areas, and we should be proud. But we still have a lot of catching up to do, and we’re not a perfect country. We don’t even come close to the standards of some countries with regards to taking care of our citizens, and we need to stop pretending otherwise.