Canada And The USA - Simillar But Different
The other day I made some reference or other to Canada Day, Canada' s birthday, to an American and she completely missed it. So I wrote her back and said, "Canada Day, it’s a lot like your Independence Day on July fourth except less weapons are involved". And come to think of it Canada is one of the few I know of that don't celebrate with a parade of armed might for the world to see.
Of course that could be explained easily enough by the fact that we probably don't have enough equipment to parade anyway. Most of our troops are already being shot up in Afghanistan by friendly fire from American pilots who can't tell the difference between enemy and allied troops.. Can't really take that personally since during the invasion of Iraq the largest number of casualties they incurred were own kills. ( I don't know if that's true or not but I wouldn't be surprised if it was)
Anyway the fact that Canada Day, July 1st and July 4th, are so close together got me thinking about the differences between our two countries. One difference can be found in the name of our respective countries national holiday. Up to a few years ago we referred to our day as Dominion Day, in while the American national holiday is called Independence Day.
On July 1st 1867 Canada was created by an Act of the British Parliament, The British North American Act, witch also served as Canada's Constitution until the 1980s. The American's on the other hand were a bunch of dissatisfied British nobility who had grown tired of sending a tithe of their takings back to the homeland. This is what provoked the now infamous Boston Tea Party.
Its interesting to note how the two countries have such different attitudes to government and its role in society. In Canada we have no problems, in general, with government run programs that act as a social safety net. In the United States the thought of government controlled Health Care is considered a dangerous threat to liberty by more extreme factions and tantamount to socialism and communism by others.
Some where along the line in the development of America they began to consider themselves an Empire and exhibit the attitudes that come with that. The first sign of this was the Monroe Doctrine of 1810 that claimed it was the United States' Manifest destiny to rule the entire Western Hemisphere without the interference of any foreign power.
Not surprisingly they tried to invade British Canada in 1812 but were repulsed. In fact British troops landed in Washington DC and burnt down the White House and were barely repulsed in Louisiana when they landed troops there. After that the American's concentrated of expanding their interests into South America.
Unlike America Canada has only had two minor internal wars. The first took place in the 1830s when leaders in both French Canada and English Canada fought for more responsible government and sought to break the power of the few families who controlled the political power in that area. The one in English Canada lasted all a day when the leaders were allowed to march through the streets of Toronto until they met barricades manned by armed militia and trained solders. Quebec was different story as the revolt lasted for two weeks as they based themselves in the rural areas and were simply harder to hunt down.
The second major revolt took place after Canada was formed and involved Louis Riel leading the Metis and Natives of Manitoba and Saskatchewan in a desperate attempt to hold onto their land against the onslaught of settlers who were taking treaty land without offering compensation. Riel paid for having the nerve to stand up against the government with his life. (He was also used as an excuse for ensuring that Canada's national railroad was built – but that's another story for another day)
The United State on the other hand almost tore themselves apart with their civil war pitting the Northern part of the Country against the South in a vicious war that lasted nearly five years. With the North trouncing the South it was a victory of industry over agriculture and the economic path of the country was set
Not only had the war been a spur to build rail lines everywhere, it ensured the quick development of an industrial base which helped propel them to becoming the economic power they are today. It was in this time that the Americans began serious empire building and exercising their manifest destiny to the south. They had long ago stolen Texas and California from Mexico and were set to begin their economic conquest of South America.
The carrot and the stick were used to great effect throughout the region. With the carrot being bribes for political support of whatever corrupt officials they could find to endorse the American way and the stick military might to pacify any popular resistance to slave wages, exploitation of natural resources, and the theft of indigenous lands.
Sometimes it became convenient to provide an excuse to go to war, and so the American's sank a decommissioned ship called the Maine in Havana harbour and declared it an act of armed terrorism they would not stand for. They invaded Cuba, installed a puppet government who did what they were told by the Sugar and Fruit companies.
It was pretty much the same all over South and Central America until Fidel Castro and Che Guevara came along and liberated Cuba in the 1950's. Unfortunately Cuba was an anomaly and South America has only just begun to remove itself from under the heel of the American boot in the last decade. As late a the 1970's and 80's they were involved with either propping up repressive regimes who favoured their policies and doing their best to remove from power those who opposed them.
While the United States was busy setting up their empire what was Canada doing? Well, Canada was setting up its country. The biggest problem was finding people to settle the western Prairie Provinces to prevent the land from being taken by Americans and having to pitch our neophyte army against the hardened Americans to protect it. So the government sent out agents to Eastern Europe where conditions were similar, but land was less plentiful and offered the equivalent of forty acres, a cow, and plough to anybody who would take their families to a brand new country and hostile weather conditions and homestead.
Which explains to this day why there are so many Ukrainian and other Eastern European names scattered throughout the ranch land and farms of Western Canada. We were also getting caught up in the Wars of Great Britain, first the Boer War in South Africa and then the First World War. It wasn't until the 1920's that Canada was allowed control of it's own foreign affairs.
Canada's development on the world stage didn't really flower until the 1950's and the Suez Canal crises. It was Canada's minister for foreign affairs who won the Nobel Peace prize for coming up with the idea of sending in a multinational force of troops under the lead of the United Nation to serve as buffer between the warring parties. Thus were born peacekeepers thanks to Lester B. Pearson .
Canada began to excel in the role of compassionate middle power country that all sides in a dispute would trust. As a result Canadian soldiers would find themselves in some of the hottest spots of the world from the Golan Heights to Cyprus being asked to keep people from killing each other.
In my mind it is this that separates Canada and the United States. While the United States thinks of the world in terms of what it can take from it and use for itself, Canada looks to see what it can do for the world. Since the time of the 1950's we have geared our soldiers to be either rescue workers delivering care and comfort where needed. (This also explains our high casualty rate when it comes to our soldiers in Afghanistan as they are not equipped or trained for combat situations of this nature)
It wasn't until 1990 and Prime Minister Brian Mulroney wanting to look impressive sent troops to the first Gulf war that Canada's role on the world stage began to emulate the American one. We weren’t becoming empire builders, but we were being seen to be their buddies, which was bad enough.
But at the same time we still considered ourselves to have a moral obligation to help right injustices in the world and believed in the ideal the United Nations. While Canada was working to help free Nelson Mandela and supporting aid programs to the developing world, the U. S. were propping up the Afrikaner government in South Africa and not paying their dues to the UN.
They considered the U.N. to be almost an enemy, as they do to this day, because they will not act as a rubber stamp for American ambitions. The United States of America is the biggest obstacle in the road towards helping Africa pull out of it's downward spiral of poverty and disease because it is not in their best interests for it to happen.
Canada and the United States live side by side in North America, but they are miles apart when it comes to how they view their places in the world. Canada sees itself as a citizen of the world with responsibilities toward helping her fellow man. The U. S. on the other hand sees the world only in terms of what it can do for the United States.
We are most definitely two different countries