Ever since I can remember I've heard the comment that there is "no difference" between Canadians and Americans. I respectfully beg to differ as there is a difference on so many levels! We have unique Canadian culture consisting of Canadianisms, a Canadian perspective on world events, Canadian cuisine as well as products and foods only available in Canada. This blog is dedicated to celebrating all things Canadian from "my perspective" as a Canadian. Please enjoy your visit and be sure to visit often.

Garden Gnome
Americans should never underestimate the constant pressure on Canada which the mere presence of the United States has produced. We're different people from you and we're different people because of you. Living next to you is in some ways like sleeping with an elephant. No matter how friendly and even-tempered is the beast, if I can call it that, one is effected by every twitch and grunt. It should not therefore be expected that this kind of nation, this Canada, should project itself as a mirror image of the United States.
- Pierre Trudeau

Sunday, September 26, 2010

A Tribute to Pierre Elliot Trudeau

Pierre Elliott Trudeau was the 15th Prime Minister of Canada from 20 April 1968 to 4 June 1979.  He served again from 3 March 1980 to 30 June 1984.  He was one of the best Prime Ministers Canada has ever had.  He is know for establishing the Charter of Rights and Freedoms under the Canadian constitution.  Here is a wonderful tribute to some of his many, many achievements!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Melting Pot verses A Mosaic

Many Americans feel there is little difference between Canada and the United States.  That simple is not the case.  Canadian societal beliefs are significantly different from Americas and that can easily be demonstrated by the way both countries treat immigrants.  This is a fundamental difference between the two countries.  It shapes the way Canadians view the world, how we interact as a society and how the world views Canada as a nation.

The American way for immigration is often referred to as the great melting pot.  This idealism is well engrained into American society.  New immigrants are expected to blend in by adapting the culture and language of the USA.  Assimilation is key!  There is one official language and that is English although by some standards that can be debated.  Many areas in the US speak one of a number of English slang dialects.  In many ways being unique and keeping the homeland culture is discourage.  This is typically unsuccessful in the home environment but to succeed in the USA you need to learn the language and adapt.  Once you are fully immigrated the homeland identity is lost by the addition of American to just about every nationality possible.  Let's say you immigrated from China, the correct term after becoming a legalized American is American Chinese.  The American addition to the homeland identity serves as a reminder that you are now American not Chinese.

The Canadian approach to immigration is often referred to as a mosaic.  New immigrants are expected to embrace what Canada has to offer, become good citizens yet are encouraged to keep their ethnicity. In many ways Canada can be seen as a huge quilt made up of many pieces (cultures) and stronger than the sum of its parts.  Native peoples in Canada are not referred to as Canadian Indians, they are called First Nations, Innuit or Métis depending on which Aboriginal group they belong to.  Those immigrating to Canada often move to established cluster communities of a similar culture (eg. Chinatown, Greektown, Little Italy) usually because it is familiar and they more than likely have family or friends there.  It's normal to see shop signs in that ethnic language as well.  Canada has two official languages, English and French.  While learning one of the two official languages is a huge asset to new immigrants some do not.  Children of immigrants are classified as ESL (English as a Second Language) so they will learn English in the school system but at home communicate in the native language.  Quite often if an extended family immigrates together (eg. grandparents, parents, children) or even if elderly parents immigrate later to join their families they may never learn to speak English or French.  The various ethnicities in Canada are often celebrated by festivals that embrace that culture and its foods but is open for anyone to enjoy.

Which immigration method is better - melting pot or mosaic?  Each have their strengths and weaknesses.  The melting pot idealism is that we are strong because we are united as one.   Differences are less tolerated and if you want to be a good American then you act like a good American by leaving your ethnicity at the door.  The end result is there is less tolerance for those who are different (eg. racially, ethnically) in general and for new immigrants.  It also encourages blatant racism especially towards those who do not conform to the American way.  The mosaic idealism is that we are strong because we are many with many different perspectives all moving towards a common goal.  If you want to be a good Canadian then be a good citizen and good neighbour.  Contribute to your community and society in general.  There is a greater tolerance of ethnic diversity.  At the same time racism while it does exist in Canada is quieter, not so much of an in your face type of thing but more like snide comments usually amongst family, friends and occasionally co-workers.

In this Canadian's perspective having a fair amount of experience traveling through the US and owning property in the US, I am still partial to the Canadian mosaic idealism.  Neither system is perfect.  Both face the issue of racism and whether blatant or somewhat hidden it is still there.  Both are opening their countries doors to those hoping for a better life with an expectation that the new immigrant is going to contribute to society.  So quite honestly I don't feel one immigration ideal is better than the other.  They each perform their intended function.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A Bit More Information on Official Canadian Travel Advisories

Yesterday I gave the information on an official travel advisory issued by Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada advising against Canadians traveling in the northern border region between Mexico and the United States.  When an official travel advisory is issued there are several things to consider for any travel to the area or country noted in the travel advisory. It is best to avoid traveling to the area or country noted if at all possible.   Some considerations:

  • You are putting yourself at risk for personal harm possibly resulting in death.
  • You may be detained and denied the rights and freedoms you take for granted in Canada.
  • You are putting your personal belongings including your personal identification at risk.
  • Once an official travel advisory has been issued any out of country insurance you may have becomes null and void.  That means you have no emergency medical health coverage and if your personal effects or vehicle are stolen you will not be covered under your vehicle insurance policy.
  • If your personal identification is stolen you may have considerable troubles getting back into Canada as well as any countries you may have to travel through to get back into Canada.
  • The Government of Canada may not be able to help you.
Last night we had a very interesting discussion on official travel advisories.  One of our friends is in the insurance business.  He told a rather chilling story about four business men who were sent to Mexico on behalf of their company.  The actual facility they were working at was under 24 armed guard protection.  The guys were told under no circumstances to leave the compound after dark.  However, they decided it wouldn't be a problem to slip out for a quick bite to eat.  They were ambushed less than 10 minutes from the compound.  Shots were fired.  Their vehicle was stolen along with their identification and money.  They were extremely lucky to have gotten away with their lives.  They had to walk back to the compound while fearing another ambush then when they got to the compound the guards wouldn't let them in because they had no identification.  It was a nightmare to get everything straightened out!  Without photo identification they could not even report the crime to the Agencia del Ministerio Público although they could report the theft of their identification to the Mexican authorities and the Embassy of Canada.

This whole incident could have turned out considerably worse than it did but this is the very reason official travel advisories are issued in the first place!  The Government of Canada does what it can to protect its citizens.  It cannot protect citizens from themselves if they choose not to heed the advisory or fail to listen to warnings once at their destination.  Any type of travel even within Canada has a risk element but that increases when traveling outside of Canada.  Be an informed traveller especially when traveling outside of Canada.  Pay particular attention to advisories and warnings.  Educate yourself on the laws where you will be staying as well.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Travel Advisory Issued - Canadians Should Avoid Crossing Mexico's Northern Border

Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada has issued an official travel advisory for Canadians to avoid crossing Mexico’s northern border (between US and Mexico) by land, as shootouts, attacks, and illegal roadblocks may occur at any time.  This region is experiencing a high level of violence linked to drug trafficking.  There have been reports of carjackings targeting SUVs and full-sized pickup trucks along highways in the bordering Mexican states.  The full travel advisory goes into greater detail and there is a link on that page to register when traveling abroad to be notified in the event of other travel advisories or emergency evacuation notices.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Recent CRTC Rulings of Interest

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) has recently made two important rulings.   First the phone companies in Canada must pay back about $310 million to urban customers who were overcharged between 2002 and 2006.  This will result in rebates between $25 and $90 per customer.  Second the CRTC approved expanding broadband internet to 287 rural and remote communities.  This will take place over the next four years at a cost $421 million.  Doesn't this all sound rosy for Canadian consumers?  It does until you start digging into things.

In 2002, the CRTC ruled that phone companies could charge extra to allow new competitors entering the home phone market to undercut them.  These extra charges were put into deferral accounts that at one time amounted to $1.6 billion.  Since phone companies were allowed to draw on the accounts to reduce whole sale rates charged to competitors the funds had decreased to $650 million by 2008 when the CRTC ruled the phone companies spend $350 million of that on expanding rural broadband and improving services for disabled persons with the remaining $300 million being returned to urban customers who had originally been overcharged.  However, phone companies and consumer groups objected to the original splitting of the deferral accounts so a battle has been raging and went as far as the Supreme Court in 2009 which supported the CRTC's ruling.   The current amount in the deferral accounts is $770 million.  The CRTC further rejected Bell's suggestion to use HSPA wireless technology  for the rural broadband expansion by saying they must use DSL wired connections.  DSL wired connections will give rural customers the same usage as urban subscribers.

How does this decision affect us as Canadians living in rural Ontario?  It doesn't.  First our little rural community is not on the list of 112 communities in Ontario where DSL broadband will be expanded to.  Despite the fact that Bell was given a grant to provide high speed internet service to our area, it remains a problem area that according to Bell they just can't fix so apparently we are out of luck.  We can get satellite internet but thanks to the CRTC's ruling satellite providers can continue throttling service under the Fair Access Policy (FAP) and satellite providers while promising certain speeds really only have to provide 40% of that even though we pay full price at the 100% speed rate.  The second problem with satellite internet is if a mosquito so much as flies through the beam our internet service goes down.  It is very unpredictable at best even though we pay through the nose for it and thanks to Dalton McGuinty's HST we get to pay an additional 8% for the crappy service! In case you are wondering the only alternative to satellite internet service here is dial-up.

The second problem is anyone who lived in a urban location between 2002 and the passing of the CRTC ruling that moved from that urban location to another urban or rural one is likely out of luck for any type of a rebate even though they were over charged.  The CRTC has not said how this problem.  One would assume the phone companies would make some type of effort to get the refunds to those who deserve them but from experience that likely is not going to happen.  So there will be a number of individuals entitled to a rebate that end up with nothing. 

Once again kudos to the CRTC for doing a job half-way!