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by Gabrielle Taylor

May 28, 2000

Americans are benevolently ignorant about Canada, while Canadians are malevolently well informed about the United States. - John Bartlett Brebner

I remember the outcry when the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation decided to go all Canadian in mid-1998. No American content whatsoever. That included "All My Children". "All My Children" is, or was, a big hit in rural Saskatchewan.

Saskatchewan is in the Canadian midwest, roughly above Montana and/or North Dakota.

Middle-aged ladies and Saskatchewan mayors urged the Canadian public to send faxes and letters to the CBC describing what a cultural wasteland was going to result if they didn't get to find out who died carrying what baby. CBC is often the only major station that the rural quotient of our 11.5 million teevee sets (as of 1983) can receive, so when it pulled American programming off the airwaves, many Canadians no longer got any.

When asked what they did while the soaps weren't on, one Saskatchewan mayor replied, "I went outside."

We all (yes, all 31 million of us, we all think alike and we all know each other by first name, except Joe) figured it was pretty funny when George "Dubya" "There ought to be limits to, ah, to freedom" Bush earnestly thanked Canadian Prime Minister Jean Poutine for his support. We were vaguely disgruntled in early 1995 when Disney took over management of licensing agreements for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. We all claimed, in 1988, that we didn't want Free Trade with the US but we gave a massive majority to Brian Mulroney so that he could implement it.

That's Canada; nation of dichotomy. We elect our archons for ten years when we feel Eupatridic - or one year when we feel Ephetaic. For 40 out of the last 50 years our prime minister has been Quebec born. Yet in 1995, when Quebec held its most recent sovereignty referendum, it was defeated - 50.58% No to 49.4% Yes - with 93.5% voter turnout. By the way, voter turnout for the 1996 US presidential election was a mere 49%, or a little less than one in two people.

Last time we went to war with America we burned D.C. Most Canadians that I've discussed that incident with have a quiet idea that, if we needed to, we could do it again. After all, if Grand Fenwick could capture the Q-bomb with nothing more than longbowmen and chain mail.... Or was that a movie? Reality and fantasy blur so easily this close to the US border.

It's hard to talk about how Canada relates to America without becoming strident and defensive. America hangs over the balcony, big, flashy, attractive, purring "Come up sometime and see me" at our wallets. It's hard to resist, but it's hard to imagine a stable, long-term relationship coming from Canadian surrender to that glamour. Is America ready to settle down and take care of the kids? Or does it just expect Canada to pay off the Bloomingdale's credit card, sit home Saturday nights, and keep the lawn mowed?

What is it about the Canadian character that makes us so willing to sacrifice our finest moments to America? Why is the country the United Nations has put at the top of the charts so many times even considering moving in with a country the UN ranks as adequate, but strictly middle of the road? And, in the "Have you stopped beating your wife?" category of questions, is it coincidental that use of food banks in Canada has more than doubled since we entered into Free Trade with the United States?

In short, what is it about being Canadian that makes us answer the question "What is it to be Canadian?" with "Not having to be American"?

I'll be addressing this issue in columns to come, from the folly of a united North American currency to Canada's role in UFO sightings to why Canada is such a great place to live if you like to blow people up. In the meantime, will somebody please let CNN know that the first North Americans to celebrate the millennium were in Newfoundland, then Atlantic Canada, not New York or Boston?

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