Two Good News Stories About Canada

6 10 2009
Canadian Lake

Canadian Lake

Canadian historians have documented Canada’s many failings as a society (Japanese internment, Chinese Head Tax, Native residential schools, sexism). They have been right to do so, because no country is perfect.  However, I think that sometimes we lose sight of all of the good things about Canada. Since 1945, Canada has evolved into a very admirable society. Foreign travel and looking at international statistical tables drive home the point that Canada has done many things correctly.

Two stories in the news today serve to remind us of Canada’s positive aspects.

United Nations Building, New York

United Nations Building, New York

The first story relates to the release of the UN quality of life rankings. According to the UN, Canada ranks fourth highest in the world. (We were beaten by Norway, Iceland, and Australia).  See here. Although Canadians should not be complacent about the future, we should give ourselves a pat on the back. More importantly, historians and other academics should initiate a debate about precisely why Canada is so high in the rankings? What do we have in common with the other top-1o countries? A number of competing explanations are possible, all of which have policy implications. This is something historians should think about.

Flag of Argentina

Flag of Argentina

One doesn’t want to gloat about the misfortune of another country, but Canadian historians should take a look at this New York Times article about Argentina’s economic history. A century ago, Argentina was wealthier than Canada. Now it is much poorer. Argentina is very similar to Canada in terms of resource base, chronology of settlement, and (broadly speaking) culture. If we want to explain why Canada has does well economically, we ought to know something about Argentina’s  history.

The second story relates to a UN agency’s report on Canadian immigration policy. Canada is a model to the rest of the world of how to accept new immigrants and migrant workers, according to a new report from the United Nations Development Programme. To read the report, click here. I’m certainly not saying that Canada’s immigration system is perfect or that the country is free of racists. However, when we compare Canadian attitudes towards newcomers with the political culture in similar countries, there is much we can feel proud of. Unlike the United States, we have no xenophobic Minutemen patrolling the borders looking for Catholic Mexicans. Unlike the United Kingdom, we have no political force analogous to the Islamophobic British National Party. Unlike France, we have no Jean-Marie Le Pen. Click here to see Le Pen discuss the “invasion of Europe” by immigrants.

The UN isn’t the only one extolling Canada’s relatively liberal approach to immigration as a role model for other countries. Philipe Legraine, a British classical liberal, praised Canada’s policy in Immigrants: Your Country Needs Them, a book designed to convince people in other industrialized countries to adopt a more welcoming policy towards immigrants.  Reading the passages in the book about Canada made me feel quite proud lucky to be Canadian.



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