Let’s not be smug, Canada

With everyone still reeling from Trump’s win, the response from across the world and across the political spectrum has been diverse. Some are excited about Trump’s win and what it’ll mean for business and political correctness (I’m looking at you Uncle Greg), while others are forecasting the death of tolerance and the decline of the Western world. But the most common response I’ve seen from family and friends and across social media has been comments like “At least we live in Canada” or “This election proves Canada is better than the States!”

I’m guilty of this as well: I spent election night at Dewey’s drunkenly yelling about how glad I was Canada wasn’t electing a fascist. However, in the weeks since that night, I’ve realized that smugly saying Canada is better than the U.S. is frankly unproductive.

For Liberals, Canada is likeable because of its policies on universal health care, firm gun control, and gay marriage, to name a few. But Canada still has much that can be improved upon.

For one, Canada needs to improve its relationship with its Aboriginal peoples. The U.S. may have the Trail of Tears and Standing Rock but Canada has residential schools — the 150-year-old program that sought to “kill the Indian in the child,” causing physical, sexual, psychological, and cultural harm in the process. While the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and Trudeau’s public inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women are good, important steps, there’s still much work to be done. The reserve water crisis going on right now is a good example.

As well, Canada needs better environmental policies. The country remains largely reliant on fossil fuels and is struggling to address climate change. Pipeline expansion continues to happen in Canada at a steady pace and Trudeau is faltering to oppose Kinder Morgan. While the U.S. and China may pollute far more than Canada does, we’re in the top 10 for pollution despite having a dramatically smaller population than many of the other top countries. Trudeau’s carbon tax plan is a positive step forward, but Canada seriously needs to improve its environmental policy.

The U.S. may have Trump but the rise of the alt-right or similarly far-right movements in Canada reflects how we aren’t much more progressive. The movement that loudly opposes immigration, multiculturalism, and political correctness has seen a surge in Canada in recent years and especially since Trump’s victory. “The Trump effect” is as real in Canada as it is in the U.S. with incidents of hate starting to increasingly creep across the border. Anti-turban posters appeared at the U of A even before Trump’s victory.   

Kellie Leitch, one of the conservative leadership candidates, reflects the far-right rise in Canada as well. Her praise of Trump following his election win is frankly scary and her call for “screening immigrants for anti-Canadian values” has been called dog-whistle politics by even her fellow conservatives. Actually, while we’re here, let me set the record straight: Canada screens its immigrants and does so quite thoroughly. Leitch’s comments seem more like divisive politics and attempts to confuse the electorate than actual policy to me.

I’m not trying to put Canada down. I love Canada. The thing, though, is I try to love Canada enough to see it in its entirety; see the flaws and virtues. Listing these examples are to highlight that Canada still has things to be worked on. It’s because there’s still a lot of room for growth that makes smugly saying Canada is better than the U.S. so unproductive.

The moment you start arguing that we’re just better than the U.S. is the moment nothing gets done. “America-bashing” is really nothing more than unproductive masturbation. It feels good to point to someone else who’s worse off than us, but that doesn’t make us better — that makes us a bully.

Putting down the U.S. doesn’t encourage Canada to work hard and be better. In these times of nativism, isolationism, and at worse xenophobia, it’s important for Canada to step up and show that the values of tolerance and multiculturalism are still important and should be fought for. We should lead by example, not belittle those who are struggling.

So let’s not be smug Canada, we’ve got our problems here, too. Instead, let’s get back to work.

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