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My Impressions of Canada

by Tim Bartoo
Vancouver Monthly Meeting (Quakers)
Vancouver, British Columbia

I am another of the transplanted Yankees who now call Canada my home. I moved here in 1982, just after my marriage to Torontonian Ruth Walmsley. About three years ago, I applied for and subsequently was granted Canadian citizenship.

I didn't really expect citizenship to change the way I felt about Canada. The process itself was simple (though slow, of course) and did not require a large investment of my time. I had already lived here long enough to feel that this is my home. The tangible deepening of what I can only call love for Canada did surprise me.

These days I am often surprised how strongly I feel about this country. I left the U.S. in large part so that I would not be living in a country with such a long and bitter history of military intervention around the world, a country with increasing crime and violence, and with a diminishing sense of community, of caring for the ones in need.

Canada shone brightly as a viable alternative. From its health care system, its "safety net" programs, its viable mass transit, to its less tangible but unmistakable reputation as a kind and caring society, Canada was truly different in many very positive ways. I know that for many people throughout the world, and certainly amongst many of my contemporaries when I was living in the U.S., the existence of a country such as Canada made a real difference - a cause for hope that this kind of society is possible.

It is the rampant Americanisation of Canada that disturbs me so much in these days. It is the systematic destruction of the very things that distinguish us in the name of "global competitiveness" and "free trade". It is the unchecked rise in the power of the transnational corporations which ties the hands of the few remaining politicians who would try to protect the fragile structures for caring for the social fabric that we built up over the years through the agencies of our government. It is the obsessive concern over national debt at a time of historically low interest rates, used as an excuse for the wholesale dismantling of health, education, and welfare systems.

In the midst of this assault on what we are as a country has arisen Quebec's quest for sovereignty. Like so many other Canadians, I can find no easy answer, no clarity as to what I think should happen. Instinctively I want to protect this country and keep it together and intact. It is easy for me to fear that should Quebec separate, Canada would splinter into regions, none of which would be as strong as Canada now is to hold our own against the onslaught of corporate globalisation. I sometimes perceive ugly, self-serving politics behind the actions and motivations of some of the leaders and spokespersons of the sovereignty movement. There are times I wish they would all just go away.

And at the same time I would not stand in the way of the aspirations of a people. There is a sound that can sometimes be heard in the voices of the Québecois that makes clear the dreams and visions they carry, a pure expression of their love for who they are, so clearly a distinct society from the rest of Canada.