Opinion Column

Canada is great because we don't brag about it

Angelina Chapin

Whitecourt Town Council is planning on ordering a massive flag for the town's celebration of Canada Day (File photo).

Whitecourt Town Council is planning on ordering a massive flag for the town's celebration of Canada Day (File photo).

Last week cemented Canada's status as an international darling. Our country topped the New York Times' list of the "52 places to go in 2017" and was lauded in the Guardian for being one of the few nations that touts diversity over nativism.

In 2016, the media fawned over Justin Trudeau. The Economist ran a cover story titled: "Liberty moves north: Canada's example to the world" and our immigration website became so popular it crashed on the night of the U.S. election.

For a country that's historically been known as a wallflower, the attention is long overdue.

But we shouldn't let our national ego inflate. In short, we shouldn't become American. Canada has become so popular internationally precisely because of its humility.

For the past year and a half, I've been living in New York City. It's an exciting and beautiful place, but so many of the people are obsessed with status. At parties I've had Americans tell me their Ivy League credentials before asking my name.

While it's impossible to generalize about an entire country, we've all witnessed the American who cuts in line at an airport or loudly sends their food back at a restaurant. The United States is a place with clearly defined values -- individualism, capitalism, success -- that have helped make it the world's most powerful country. But those values have also made America a place with unaffordable health care, one of the highest levels of income inequality on Earth and president-elect Donald Trump.

By contrast, one of the greatest Canadian qualities is self-deprecation. Mocking ourselves makes us more accessible and our self-doubt is a sign of intelligence. The brightest people know they have big knowledge gaps. As a country, it means we strive to improve instead of thumping our chests.

As an angsty, insecure Canadian teen, I hated our country's muted personality. While my Italian relatives spoke with wild gesticulations and ate a distinct cuisine, I came from a place known for apologizing and beavertails, a food eaten only by tourists and children.

But our country's fluid identity and trademark humility have positively shaped Canadian policy. We accept a large number of immigrants and generally don't force a value system down their throats. We welcome diversity instead of pretending there's only one right way to live.

Of course, Canada is not perfect. The government grossly mistreats indigenous people, politicians in Quebec tried to ban Muslim headscarves for public employees, and Kellie Leitch, who is running for the Conservative Party leadership, wants to screen immigrants for "Canadian values."

But Canada's openness is regularly on display. Last year we welcomed an estimated 300,000 newcomers and almost 39,000 Syrian refugees (The U.S. by contrast, admitted 10,000.)

The Greater Toronto Area is the "most diverse city on the planet," according to the Guardian, "with half its residents born outside the country." Canadians elected a leader who greets refugees at the airport, not one who boasts about building a wall to keep out illegal immigrants.

To think of Canada as the best nation on Earth is unCanadian. And our collective lack of arrogance has led us to pursue progressive policies that benefit the entire population.

Canada has universal health care, a higher minimum wage than in the U.S., no laws restricting abortion and a gender-equal cabinet. We aim to be more inclusive because we don't consider ourselves exceptional.

Canada has become a great country because it's the kind of place that doesn't boast about being great. Let's hope all the recent attention doesn't go to our heads.

Angelina Chapin is an editor for Huffington Post



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