Why Is It Great To Be Canadian Essay

Donald Sutherland writes passionate essay on being Canadian

If there was any doubt regarding Donald Sutherland’s heritage, the actor has dispelled any misconceptions by penning an honest and light-hearted opinion piece for the Globe and Mail. “My name is Donald Sutherland. My wife’s name is Francine Racette. We are Canadians. We each hold one passport. A Canadian passport,” writes the 80-year old, who is speaking out against federal voting restrictions for ex-pats.

Donald believes that just because he doesn't live in Canada full-time doesn't mean he should be forbidden to vote in Federal elections. Photo: © Getty Images

The iconic actor and his French-Canadian wife of 43 years spend most of their time in the United States but “live in Canada all the time we can,” adds Donald. “They ask me at the border why I don’t take American citizenship. I could still be Canadian, they say. You could have dual citizenship. But I say no, I’m not dual anything. I’m Canadian.”

The Hunger Games’ star jokes that he is so patriotic that, “There’s a maple leaf in my underwear somewhere. There used to be a beaver there, too, but I’m 80 now and beavers are known to take off when you’re in your 80s.” And perhaps most importantly, “My sense of humour is Canadian.”

The actor has passed on his love for Canada (and acting!) to his sons, Rossif (L) and Kiefer. Photo: © Getty Images


Born in Saint John, N.B., Donald has had a bit of a nomadic lifestyle since heading to Great Britain to study theatre after completing a degree in engineering at the University of Toronto. Hollywood soon came calling and the formidable star found himself filming movies and television shows around the globe. His son Rossif was born in Vancouver and although his eldest children, Kiefer and Rachel, were born in the UK, the twin siblings were raised in the Great White North. Donald also maintains a family home in Quebec.

In his essay, Donald goes on to note that Americans who live abroad are permitted to vote in national elections and can’t fathom why the same allowance isn’t offered in Canada. “Ask any journalist that’s ever interviewed me what nationality I proudly proclaim to have. Ask them. They’ll tell you. I am a Canadian. But I’m an expatriate and the government won’t let expatriates participate in Canadian elections.” The actor is set to return home in September for TIFF, where he will premiere his latest flick Forsaken, in which he stars alongside his son Kiefer.

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Being patriotic in Canada is sort of like knowing how to skate. Most Canadians do it, most people enjoy it, and most people don’t really know why or how. It’s just a good time, something we start at a young age and carry with us for the majority of our lives. Maybe it’s the competitive nature of Canadians, the fact that we feel like we need to boost ourselves up that much higher in order to stand out from elephant on the continent (Psst, that’s a reference to America). While I may be ashamed to be Canadian on occasion, it usually is for good reason; however, there’s countless reasons to be proud to be a Canadian. And no, it’s not just our beer.

Need your brain checked? That's free in Canada!

The Canadian Healthcare System

In 1984 a large piece of federal legislation was adopted by the true north strong & free. This legislation in short said “Hey insurance people, hospitals, doctors, it’s time to heal those that are sick, injured, or that require medical assistance. By the way they don’t have to pay you. If you don’t abide we’re coming for you. Boom!” While universal health care may not be perfect, it’s still a success story in most eyes. Canadians have access to free, high quality health care, it’s pretty tough to complain about the price. At the end of the day we’re strides ahead of other countries in terms of quality of life. I can’t imagine what life in Canada would be like without this perk. While Canadian health care is fantastic, we’re still encouraged to have travel insurance when leaving the country. C’est la vie!

Need some video explanation on the Canadian Healthcare System? Check out Real Canadians Talking Real Healthcare, or if your feeling like something a little more polished with a bit of humour check out Michael Moores Documentary Sicko. 

Same-sex marriage

I like to think Canadians have a good grasp on human rights. While there’s clearly been some hiccups in the past, we’re a pretty progressive country that’s happy to face the ridiculous claims of “1 man + 1 women = true family” and drop the gloves all over that craziness. In July 2005, Canada became the fourth country in the world to legalize the sanctity of marriage between same sex couples. LGBT rights in Canada are still the most advanced in the western hemisphere. So neighbouring countries and such, maybe come stop by the Village in Toronto, or Le Village in Montreal and see for yourself it’s all about love! It’s been almost seven years since the same-sex marriage legislation passed, and the world still spins.

Bilingualism

Throughout Canadian history, the French language has been there for nearly every step it. Over 22% of Canadians call french their mother tongue. While officially, Canadian language comprises itself of English and French there’s still a lot of work to be done in order to perfect the bilinguality of the citizens of Canada. I was fortunate enough to have parents who enrolled me in the French Immersion program, which means that from Kindergarten onwards, all subjects were taught in French. I have that program to thank for my french skills. While I clearly don’t use those acquired skills often enough, french immersion is the main reason I’m a huge supporter of the french language and culture in Canada. Being raised in that environment makes it easy to be proud of the bilingual aspect of Canada.

Mosaic of cultures

I remember being taught by a teacher at a young age one of the key differences between Canada and America. She preached that America was a melting pot, where languages and cultures are encouraged to assimilate and become “Americans”. Canada, on the other hand, is a mosaic of cultures. While each person becomes a Canadian, they are still encouraged to maintain ties with their mother land. They’re encouraged to hang on to their familial ties, keep their traditions and culture, and ultimately enjoy the freedom in Canada. It’s sometimes hard to find this “mosaic” in smaller anglophone communities (but I assure you it’s there). If you want it to hit you in the face, a weekend in Toronto exploring the different neighbourhoods will prove that no matter what your background is, we can all get along.

Underground Railroad

In the 19th century, Canadians from all walks of life helped enslaved african-americans escape to the northern parts of the United States as well as Canada. Estimates indicated that anywhere between 30,000 and 100,000 slaves successfully made it to Canada through the secret network of stations. Stations were said to have been as far west as British Columbia, and as far east as Nova Scotia. Survival on the railroad was hard, and on many occasions had it not been for the help of the Native Americans along the trail, many people wouldn’t have survived. While freed slaves found safety all over Canada, the majority settled in the Ontario area where they formed their own communities and pioneered their own farmland.

As it turned out many of the new arrivals to the “promise land” found the weather to be cold, the life to be hard, and when civil war erupted in the United States, some chose to fight with the Union and help rebuild the United States from the ground up. While many African-Americans headed home in search of family and friends, some stayed and formed communities. Men like Josiah Henson began to purchase land in Ontario and formed communities around what is now Dresdon Ontario, such as the famous Dawn Settlement. Josiah Henson is/was the inspiration behind the famous abolitionist tale, Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Hariet Beecher Stowe. This book is said to have been one of the books Abraham Lincoln read which encouraged him to pass the Emancipation Proclamation.

While the most of the credit needs go to the brave souls of the african-americans who made that journey, I couldn’t be more proud that Canadians helped people find their own freedom.

Peaceful country

According to the 2011 Global Peace Index, Canada scores an in the Top 10, at the relatively charming number of 8, just behind Finland (7) and Austria (6). This index looks at up to 23 different measures, including military spending, percentage of violent crime, possibility of violent demonstrations, deaths from conflicts with neighbouring countries, along with the political terror scale, which apparently we didn’t score too high in due to the G20 Protests in Toronto. But to most Canadians, you don’t need a fancy number to know we’re a pretty peaceful bunch.

This is Canada, the land of everlasting sorry’s, a free country built on a strong foundation of coffee and donuts. The majority of our violence is kept on the ice, one of the few places the majority of Canadians can agree is a completely acceptable place to air your frustrations with another through the use of hard body-checks and taking a break in the game to drop the gloves and punch the crap out of another human being. We do not have a nuclear program, despite being one of the largest providers of uranium in the world. Gun crime is crazy low, so the chances of getting shot are pretty minimal unless you’re chasing illicit drugs. We’re raised in a country where health-care is free, where you accept your neighbour regardless of race, creed, or sexuality. We have flaws like any other country, but spending any amount of time in this country, it becomes easy to see that Canada is ultimately a peaceful country. One that I’m proud to live in.

The Canadian Pride

Canadians are a proud people, not the obnoxious type of proud but the “grateful for what we have” proud. This feeling has been building over the years, heck, even Molson Canadian tried monetizing it (see “My Name Is Joe“). What started off as a quiet type of pride evolved. The notion of “keep your love of Canada, inside Canada” was more or less obliterated after the recent Winter Olympics in Vancouver, British Columbia. There was a call to arms to cheer loud, embrace our differences and show the world how proud we are to live in a country where you can be gay, straight, french, english, sick without worry, practice any religion you choose, and hail from any background and not have to worry about persecution. Canada’s not perfect, but it’s trying to get there.

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