A brief history of the Canadian identity.


November 19th 2017

On the world stage, Canada’s identity is notably tied to three things: maple syrup, hockey, and being kind, at least according to popular perception. While Canadians embrace this reputation of being nice, is the cliché really true?

The source of this popular stereotype is unclear, but it most likely involved being compared to the United States.  In one anecdote from a history professor, the creation of the United States of America was one of violence in the 1776 American Revolution, when it forcibly split from British values. Our independence from Britain transpired more peacefully and as a result, the British value of politeness remains in our everyday interactions.

According to a Huffington Post study on social media usage, Canadians are more likely to use kinder words such as ‘great’, ‘awesome’, and ‘good’, while Americans tend towards the opposite. Culture also influences this popular belief, most notably, the idea of a melting pot (the US) versus mosaic (Canada) tradition. It is believed that Americans preserve a strong mainstream culture, while comparatively, Canadians emphasize diversity. Thus we are assumed to be more generous and altruistic. Americans are widely considered rude, selfish, and more individualistic, so we “decided” to become the exact opposite.

The media certainly plays a role in assigning Canada this reputation.  The modern world’s understanding of foreign countries and current affairs is rooted in the consumption of mass media, and they seems to portray Canada as a land of igloos, untouched nature, and apologizers.

According to the World Giving Index, an index comprised of data based on survey responses to questions about volunteering and donations to charities, the US actually ranks higher than Canada, although we do rank in the top 10. However, there is more to kindness than giving. There is also the ‘considerate’ part of being kind, to be good and benevolent. If we look at crime rates, the murder rate in the US is twice that of Canada, and although we have more crimes in general, the US has a much higher violent crime rate.

While Canada is not flawless, it seems that we really are pretty nice as a whole. Personally, I think there is a grain of truth in every stereotype, Canadians are just very polite and like to say “sorry”, and really, there’s nothing wrong with that.