Up north, a different patriotism

There were fireworks and celebrations on Canada Day, but no zealous nationalism.

During the Independence Day season, when the United States lets loose its rowdy patriotic side, celebrating its bold disavowal of the British so many years ago, our neighbors to the north celebrate their own national holiday in their own rightfully chilly way. July 1 is Canada Day, in case you didnâÄôt know it, marking the day in 1867 when the British allowed their Canadian colonies self-governance âÄî internally that is. Control of foreign affairs was not allowed until 1931, and the constitution of Canada wasnâÄôt bloody patriated by the Monarch until 1982. When I went to the Canada Day celebrations in Thunder Bay last week there were fireworks and concerts and funny maple-leaf hats and thousands of people out to celebrate. Though for many Canadians I spoke with, the holiday was less nationally focused. Many were excited to be out there singing âÄúO Canada,âÄù yet many were more nonchalant about celebrating their national day. Many of us are guilty of thinking of Canada as a big, friendly, maple-smelling hat that, for all intents and purposes, could be just another Alaska, not different at all from the rest of America. Though that is partially true, Canada is a land that has many differences, both political and cultural, from the United States that shapes the collective Canadian identity. Canada is a country divided by different political, social and language groups. Though the United States has these groups as well âÄî California, Texas and much of the southwest have significant Spanish-speaking communities âÄî the difference in Canada is that these groups are better established within government. The prime example within Canada is Quebec, the French-speaking and notoriously succession-bent province in CanadaâÄôs southeast. Quebec has its own identity, distinct from the rest of Canada. Its inhabitants are disdainful of English speakers, and many Canadians feel alienated from the province, the largest in the country. Quebec actually has its own âÄúnationalâÄù holiday âÄî Quebec Day on June 24 âÄî and has been known to cheekily schedule its own holidays on Canada Day in the past. Another significant segment of the Canadian population is the people of the First Nations, the indigenous to Canada. The First Nations in Canada are given even more rights and respect than their American counterparts, though considerable discord still exists between the First Nations and Canadian government. Canada Day protests and refusals to celebrate create even more tension within the country. Canada may have less of a cohesive national identity, but which country has the better kind of patriotism: Canada or the United States? A Canuck I talked to said that both systems have their ups and downs. The American system brings with it a more confident foreign policy and a stronger single national identity, though it lends well to xenophobia and ignorance. The Canadian system on the other hand is a bit easier to intellectually swallow, though it comes with a less assertive foreign policy, which can either be good or bad. One of the most important things influencing Canadian national identity is that it is seen in reference to the United States. When you live with one of the most notorious patriotic superpowers in the world, having a strong national policy might not be that important. Canadians do not have to worry as much about protecting the continent from war or asserting itself economically, and thatâÄôs just fine. There are proud Canadians, and there are proud Americans, but let them each keep their holiday in their own ways. Thomas Q. Johnson welcomes comments at [email protected]