It is difficult to think of another group in Canada in the particular and peculiar situation of Americans
— J.M. Bumsted
“U.S. persons” in Canada face difficulties that are encountered nowhere else on earth — at least not to the same degree, due to numbers and history and geographic location. A lengthy academic encyclopedia article touches on many strands of the complex web that ensnares American-Canadians. Brief excerpts from most of the ten sections are provided in the appendix below. The existence of that article in that collection was a landmark — a recognition that Americans are in fact one of Canada’s peoples! (By the way, nobody ever refers to an American-Canadian in the routine multicultural obeisances, do they?)
No Isaac Brock discussion thus far has touched on, much less dealt with, the key factor of anti-Americanism in Canada. (Most pertinent in the encyclopedia article is the section treating intergroup relations.) There are multiple reasons for the existence and persistence of anti-Americanism in Canada. (1) It doesn’t seem polite to contest it and we fear not belonging. (2) Many of us are Americans who disidentify with the United States and see Canada as our safe haven and better option, and it is hard for such a self-conflicted class to perceive and to disagree with the anti-Americanism that it itself must face. (3) Passage of time and a desire to get along blunt personal recollections of anti-American experience. (4) The Harper Canada is not the Canada of Trudeau or even of Chrétien. (4) We assume that we can take care of ourselves, which may evidence arrogance. (5) Proximities in language and culture can be much harder to deal with than distances, because distance is apparent to all, and gets factored into exchanges and understandings. (6) Powerful disincentives to the formation of “American” interest groups of any kind permeate the Canadian social context. (7) Would discrimination against an American — an invisible and in some ways privileged minority — ever be given standing by a Canadian human rights tribunal?
Nowhere else on earth would a supposedly sovereign nation feel as threatened by physical adjacency and internal quantity of U.S. persons. There is a reason that Canadian Brockers are standing in the forefront of the present situation. There is a second reason, other than the beady eye of Uncle Sam, that almost all Canadian Brockers choose to remain half-ostrich anonymous.
Canadian media coverage of the plight of U.S. persons — and its glaring lacks — inevitably reflects a deep and largely tacit anti-Americanism. Couple that with the overriding desire of a Harper government for rapprochement with the United States. Factor in a U.S. government that could care less about its extraterritorial citizens, except as defenseless revenue sources.
Brockers will forevermore have a hard row to hoe — especially in Canada, where cabinet minister Flaherty now confirms that we are left to be second-class citizens. Lobby the Canadian government as you will, but do so with full understanding of the undeserved silent stigma that your origins or associations have inevitably encumbered you with.
• • • • • •
Below are brief relevant extracts taken from:
J.M. Bumsted, “Americans”
Encyclopedia of Canada’s Peoples
Canadians have frequently defined themselves in terms of the perceived differences between their values and American ones. Thus American culture is often regarded by Canadians as chauvinistic, inward-looking, boastful, aggressive, and violent — whereas Canadians are somehow “nicer.”
Arrival and Settlement
Virulent anti-Americanism was characteristic mainly of Upper Canada. … [Freed blacks and fugitive slaves] also suffered from the same anti-Americanism that characterized attitudes towards white settlers, with considerable fears expressed that they would exhibit disloyalty to Canada in times of crisis with the United States. … In the cities, Americans have integrated into the overall population, and there are no “American districts.”
Americans in Canada have always enjoyed a relatively high socio-economic status, the product of their levels of education, skills, and wealth.
Family and Kinship
Americans have also been less likely than members of almost any other national group to marry within it, thus further undermining the already limited nature of their cultural distinctiveness.
Culture and Community Life
Although there are some geographical, social, and occupational patterns for the American-born in Canada, their most common characteristic is to blend as much as possible into the host society.
Historically, Americans have on the whole been less active in Canadian politics than their numbers might indicate, at least partly because of anti-Americanism on the part of Canadians.
Americans in Canada have experienced some degree of hostility, ranging from subtle suspicion to outright prejudice. Some of the hostility has come from British newcomers who found American cultural values in newly settled districts different from their own, while more has come from native-born Canadians whose suspicion of the territorial and imperial pretensions of the United States has extended to its citizens. In many cases cultural and political suspicion have been inextricably mixed and combined with senses of Canadian dependency and insecurity relative to the United States. Unlike most immigrants to Canada, who are allowed to become fully committed Canadian citizens upon naturalization, the American immigrant is often unable to escape a residual Canadian belief that his or her naturalization somehow cannot ever overcome American origins.
Group Maintenance and Ethnic Commitment
It is difficult to think of another group in Canada in the particular and peculiar situation of Americans.
Culture and Community Life
The Americans are thus an ethnic group without an easily definable identity. They do not establish distinctive organizations or associations.
Bernard Chazelle, Professor at Princeton, born in France
Author of a short essay: Anti-Americanism: A Clinical Study
A good read. Extract below.
“In popular US anthropology, humans come in two varieties: the lucky folks who are American and the unfortunate ones who wish they were. Sticklers for logic will point to a third category: foreigners with no aspiration to join in the American dream. These wretched souls bear the cardinal sin of anti-Americanism, which is to deny the Homo Americanus his self-perception as the unique final destination of human civilization. (Francophobia is the opprobrium leveled at the chief sinner.) This nation’s tortuous relationship with the Other (ie, the 6 billion people trapped in foreign lands) goes back to the roots of the American experience. To the immigrant newly arrived on Ellis Island, who, looking back upon the ocean, thought of the ones left behind, the Isle of Hope was just as often the Isle of Tears. Touched by residual survivor’s guilt, Americans easily see in the Other reminders of their own good luck—that most fragile of blessings. The same fragility is evident in the phrase American dream. For, from a dream, must one not eventually awake? “
I didn’t experience any anti-Americanism in my albeit limited experiences in France (Paris, and Lille on our way to Amsterdam) we were 3 twenty-three year old American’s with a French girl, and a Dutch guy who had done exchange semesters to our high school. We only really met and hung around with people our age but they all really liked American things, we didn’t really talk politics.
As for Canadian, I have from time to time browsed CBC.ca and read incredibly anti-American statements in the comments just ridiculousness, so now if I’m looking at a Canadian story I look at CTV.ca which is a little better.
@steve, those who experience the most problem are those who insist on speaking English. If you were with a French girl, even if you couldn’t speak French, then you would be ok. I’ve always found service with a smile. Then, I only visit France after having learnt French.
There is a certain what I call “golly-gee-whizness” that both Canadians and Americans have. Sort of a lack of cynicism. Canadians seem to have it to a greater degree than Americans, especially lately, as Americans are afraid of their own shadows. It always seems to me that Canadians on the whole tend to have a sunnier disposition anyway (the ones I know, at least.)
There is a lot less cynicism in the New World than there is on this side of the pond.
I am always asked first, though, whether I am Canadian, because the asker is usually trying not to cause offence. (But then Kiwis get upset in the same way if you ask them if they are Australian.)
I often (in humour) borrow Scott Thompson’s line as the Queen addressing Canada: “If it wasn’t for me and the French, you’d be Americans.” Which is what this whole conversation is reminding me of.
As for anti-Americanism, we had quite a lot of it here throughout the noughties, and credit to Obama, his presidency has softened our image a bit, but ironically finds many Brits actively questioning the “special” relationship because of Obama’s anti-Britishness.
I certainly have more good-natured japes at my accent and turns of phrase lately than ill-natured pi**-takes (trust me, one can tell the difference after a while.) We are like that big dog in the middle of the room wagging its tail, and there is a certain appreciation of it, and trepidation, as well.
Thought I was going to go dark for a while, but could not resist adding my tuppence worth.
@A Gentleman’s Rapier:
“The dream of Tory origins/Is full of lies and blanks/But what remains, when it is gone/To show that we’re not Yanks?”
This will be a subject of “Wall of Shame” post tonight but what makes a certain group of Brits so attracted to the US. One of most annoying things I find is someone with a British accent going on and on about how great America is. Especially those actually living in the US(typically NYC). I often feel it is a class/monarchy issue.
Hint: I am thinking of Felix Salmon, Martin Bashir, and Simon Johnson. Andy Bell(living in Canada) of BNN news tends to drift into this category of going on about how much better the US is than Canada/UK.
There is something which is both admirable and a bit of a liability about Brits. They are always ready to take someone down a peg if they are getting too big for their britches (to mix metaphors). They do not celebrate success in the way that Americans do, so many smart and talented Brits will end up in the US being celebrated, when, if they had stayed at home, their fellow countrymen would be roasting them to keep their heads from getting too big.
One can never set oneself apart; it could be why many celebrities end up living in London, as they are generally treated like normal people most of the time (if they are the types that don’t require body guards.)
@ Calgary. “I have been in Canada since 1969 and it is interesting for me, personally, that the number of others I know in Canada from the US (except for, now, Isaac Brockers) is very, very low.”
That’s my experience, too. You can work with, or be quite well acquainted with, someone for 5 or 10 years before it happens to come out in conversation that they’re from the US and you go, “Really? Me, too.”
US-born persons do not tend to cluster together in Canada. I think that’s one reason why we were shocked to suddenly learn of the series of US laws affecting us … we don’t live an “ex-pat” lifestyle where people keep each other up to date on developments in the country of birth. (and of course upon relinquishing years ago, one had no logical reason to keep themself apprised of developments in US law).
Also as you mentioned, I, too, have not felt anti-Americanism directed towards me. I’ve never felt like an “outsider,” it’s a very comfortable country that way. Anyway, by this point, I’ve been here so long that most people don’t know where I’m from (it’s not that relevant to me). And a lot of those that do probably have forgotten (it’s not that relevant to them either).
I’ve always considered myself an unhyphenated-Canadian as so many of us do. You just disappear into mainstream society here, completely undistiguishable. Therefore, if you have no or minimal ties to the US, it can just fade out of your life pretty quick, as it did in my life. I think that not only US persons in the US, but even many US-born persons living in other countries may be surprised by this.
@Rivka: Agree. I’ve never felt like a foreigner in Canada in over 40 years. When I return to US for a visit, I feel like an alien from another planet. I always feel like I just don’t fit there and am relieved to get back across the border into Canada.
I often have thought I must have lived in Canada in a past life because I felt so comfortable here from the time I arrived. Maybe my Brock uniform really was mine in another life!
Oops! That should have been @Pacifica, not @Rivka. Sorry. I think all this talk of the IRS has fried my brain.
@A Gentleman’s Rapier, I agree with you about Brits not celebrating success the way Americans do.
I once represented a division of GE that was based in the UK but the regional manager who hired me to represent them was an American working out of the Boston area.
The Brits that worked out of the UK were a petty and envious bunch. The American who was an a–h— in every other way did one thing right. He never ever complained about all the money I was making. Every month he had to sign off on my commission checks. I made 3 to 4 times as much as he did even though I reported to him. I was 29, he was almost 60. In America, they celebrate excellence among athletes and great businessmen. It’s a part of their DNA (maybe with the exception of Schumer who could outdo the Brits in a pettiness contest).
The Brits were constantly nagging me about how much I made and what did they get for it. I said I generate the sales that make it possible for you to collect a salary. If you want more grow some balls and start your own company and live without an income for 2 years like I did.
Interesting comments from all of us transplants.
Right, badger, “The nature of those representations to our non-US elected officials, family and friends are now forever altered – and not in the best interests of the US. They are now firsthand witnesses.”
@Pacifica and Blaze and outraged,
I’m so glad we feel that way — comfortable in our skin and our country, Canada.
I agree with Blaze, visiting the ‘States’ last summer felt quite strange. After living in Canada for nearly 40 years, that was my first visit in 10 years. I felt like an alien.
I would also like to clarify something else, I have never been an ‘American/Canadian’ or an ‘American’ living in Canada. I’ve always been a Canadian who just happen to have dual US citizenship.
As for the Anti-American sentiment, I now join in where I think it’s warranted. But there is no need to be mean spirited. Also, I know that there’s huge difference between the ‘average’ American and those folks in Washington DC.
My official anti-American stance is that we should refine our own oil and make ‘them’ pay full price for gas and diesel. There is no reason that we as Canadians should be selling our resources below world prices for ‘American’ national security.
Canada is first for me and I make no apology for that. I apologize if that sounded American, doh!
“My official anti-American stance is that we should refine our own oil and make ‘them’ pay full price for gas and diesel. There is no reason that we as Canadians should be selling our resources below world prices for ‘American’ national security.”
I agree but we’d have to renegotiate NAFTA first because by that treaty Canada has to export oil and gas to the USA even if we are experiencing shortages. Perhaps we should hire the Mexican negotiators because Mexico managed to get an exemption on that.
This large and multi-faceted topic of anti-Americanism has inspired expansive and informative comment so far. Many of the perceptions resonate. Let me toss in a few further thoughts.
Persons established and of considerable tenure rarely experience any direct effects, in part because of having done a very good job of learning to “hide.”
Report of any persistent enclave or deliberate U.S. circle of acquaintance would be surprising.
The hinterlands of Canada tend to resent the metropolis, in particular the power nexus of Upper Canada. It is within that singular metropolis that ressentiment mostly directs its lively energies southward — and onto hapless handy immigrants.
Many years ago I concluded that the essential character of Canada has been determined by an uncreative class that has lived quite well by skimming a decent margin from the extraction and export of mere natural resources, and cares to do little else. Up to a point, so do we all, in fact. Consider the ratio of population to land base. Only geographic isolation and climate has sustained this peculiar situation. The intermediate outlook is parlous, considering the lack of isolation along the southern border.
What the government of Canada in the end does with the uniquely troublesome 2% to 3% of its population (U.S. persons) will have far less to do with fairness and human rights than with tradeoffs and the interests of the elites who will seek at any costs to maintain the position described in the preceding paragraph. The primary counterbalance is prospect of economic damage incurred from direct asset extraction, coupled with resulting dependence of the affected class on increased government support. Do the math. I wish I could feel more sanguine.
My husband told me when I moved here that it was “not much different from the US” but it felt very different to me. The healthcare system seemed very foreign (mind you I was a public employee in the States and had great insurance) and Alberta, aside from Edmonton and Calgary, is very small town, and I was born and raised in Iowa, so for me to say that is ironic.
The truth is that Americans have a stereotype view of Canada and Canadians have an equally stereotypical view of the States. Most of it stems from a lack of first hand information and the misinformation fed to the public by their media and politicians.
I am forever correcting the misinformation my daughter learns about “life in America” from her teachers at school. She is such a Canadian now that she will argue with me about it until I remind her that I am an American and yes, I do know better than Mr. S about life down there.
Being American never comes up though when it does, I usually hear, “Oh, I thought you had an accent.” Which I do. I twang like most folks in southern Iowa (way to close to Missouri to escape a drawl) though not as much as I used to. Unlike my daughter, I haven’t picked up the curious vowel sounds that many, but not all, Canadians employ.
Is there anti-Americanism though? Canadians feel morally superior on many subjects and rightfully so especially when it comes to some aspects (but not all) of the health care system, Charter Rights and a valuing of the individual and personal freedom that I really don’t think many Americans really feel or understand. They are also don’t pay lip service to “freedom of religion” like Americans do. Canadians are vehement about religion being a personal thing and not a matter for the political arena.
I haven’t been farther east than Manitoba though so I can’t speak for how things are in the eastern provinces. I only really know western Canada. There is some condescension towards the stereotype of America and Americans but you don’t see people looking down on people from the States on a personal level. They take people as they are and judge on merit rather than birthplace, but I will say that people from other places who aren’t actively assimilating aren’t viewed well, which is something Canadians have very much in common with Americans.
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Here’s what I think. It is the fault of the US Government for marginalizing 6 million US Citizens who live abroad. What we think of Americans, in Canada, is largely based stereotyped because that works. It doesn’t mean it’s right though. So you travel throughout the US and you find out that most Americans are like most Canadians. The main difference is Citizenship based Taxation and the Obama administration with its angry, petty democrats.
The following are the three main conflicts that all Canadian’s will encounter while holding Dual US Citizenship and the main reason I renounced. Other than I am Canadian first and I want to be fully engaged in Canadian Society. These are significant limitations imposed on Americans who chose to live in Canada.
1. Signature Authority – I was asked by my Church to assume the role of Chairman of the Board. As such I would have signature authority over certain accounts. I refused based on the FBAR. After explaining that no US citizen should have signature authority in the Church since all the Church’s financial information would have to reported to a foreign state, US.
2. Business Partnerships – as I’ve informed my business associates I cannot have a partnership with a Canadian, not even my wife, again because of the FBAR. All of their finances would have to be transmitted to a foreign State, US.
3. Holding Elected Office – I’ve considered this several times. I asked a friend recently if he would vote for a candidate running as a Member of Parliament if he knew that person held dual US Citizenship. That individual hesitated to answer the question. After some discussion we concluded that there are Canadians who are uncomfortable with this situation. There is a general attitude that because of the US connection, decisions made by a person with dual US Citizenship might be influenced by other factors than Canadian interests.
The fact is these reasons affect all Americans living in Canada. As a result all Canadian’s need to understand that if they are involved with any American they will eventually be exposed to the IRS. Not to mention limitations to TFSA, RRSP and ESP, This is not the fault of American citizens this is the fault of the US Government.