We’ve all heard the comments about Canada being a safe haven for Americans. We’ve seen Americans flee their country after electing President Donald Trump to avoid the heated political climate or deportation. Given our close proximity, comparisons are continuously made between the United States and Canada in terms of our politics, economy, healthcare, news industry and even entertainment. In most cases these days, Canada seems to come out on top.
Statistically speaking, Canada seems better than the United States on many fronts. According to Maclean’s, Canadians live 2.5 years longer than Americans; we’re also six times less likely to be incarcerated. In the United States, 46 per cent of the population obtains a college degree, whereas 59 per cent of Canadians have one.
The World Economic Forum ranks Canadians as the sixth happiest people in the world, whereas Americans rank 13th. The Cato Institute’s Human Freedom Index claims Canadians to be the sixth freest people in the world, and Americans are 23rd—even though they boast being the “land of the free.”
When considering these factors, it’s hard not to argue that Canadians are living a better life than their southern neighbours. Yet this mentality can often result in Canada’s problems—of which there are many—being taken less seriously or even ignored.
Take Indigenous issues for example. Canadians and Americans alike closely followed coverage of the Standing Rock protests against the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, which threatened Indigenous land and water supplies. Yet when was the last time we checked up on the progress of Canada’s national public inquiry into the murders and disappearances of Indigenous women and girls? How often do we read news stories about the numerous Indigenous communities in Canada living without access to clean drinking water, adequate healthcare or accessible education?
Similarly, from the Ferguson riots in 2014 to the recent comments made by President Donald Trump about “shithole” countries, news stories about racism seem to pour out of the United States, diluting any incidents happening here in Canada. This does not mean the treatment of marginalized groups in our country is any better.
As journalist Desmond Cole once said, “People in Canada generally will do anything to avoid talking about race.” But we need to talk about the fact that, between 2005 and 2015, the number of black inmates in Canadian prisons jumped by 69 per cent, according to The Guardian. In Toronto, 41 per cent of youth in the child welfare services are black, despite representing only eight per cent of the city’s youth population. In 2015, Canadian police recorded 159 hate crimes against Muslims, according to Global News. This was up from 45 in 2012—a 253 per cent increase.
So while Canada may seem better than the United States by comparison, that in no way absolves us of our many shortcomings as a progressive society. We must peel our eyes away from the car crash on the other side of the border, and focus on the road in front of us. We are so caught up in what’s happening on the other side of the highway that we’re creating traffic in our own lane.
Graphic by Alexa Hawksworth