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Real Talk

Canadian History, Only Interesting

So. Canada’s having a birthday. You may have heard. A big one, if you think Confederation is something to celebrate. I’m not going to get into that here. I think it’s possible to celebrate 150 years as a country while also acknowledging that we have a great deal of baggage that goes back much farther than 1867.

What bugs me about all the brouhaha is how relentless it’s been, since January 1 – and the tone of much of it. I take particular issue with the campaigns of two Canadian companies – companies I otherwise love. First, Chapters/Indigo, with its aggressive assertion that “The World Needs More Canada.” It was okay when Bono said it, I guess, because he represented the rest of the world. But for Canadians to take it and run with it, repeating it ad nauseam? Yeah. Nauseating. For Canada to tell the world that the world needs more of us is a kind of arrogance that doesn’t fit us very well.

The other brand is Roots, which has decided to spend this year celebrating Canada’s reputation (or self-image?) of being nice. I can think of a few populations who might have a thing or two to say about how nice we are. Also: we don’t own nice. Maybe (most) Canadians are nice. But we don’t and can’t own nice. In my experience, Americans are nice. New Zealanders are possibly the nicest. Except for those who aren’t. And the Americans who aren’t and the Canadians who aren’t. ALSO: as my besties will attest, I’ve long said that if the first word someone thinks of to describe me is ‘nice’, I have failed as a person. I’d say the same holds true for countries.

It all reminds me of a book I read a long time (15 years?!) ago – Why I Hate Canadians by Will Ferguson – and an essay/review I wrote about it for an undergrad creative writing class. It still feels relevant, all these years later – especially right now. Read on for a story about my own obnoxious Canadianism on a trip overseas, and why Canada needs to break up with the ‘Myth of Niceness’ once and for all.
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