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Why I Hate Canadians

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Why I Hate Canadians by Will Ferguson. I’ve wanted a copy of this ever since I saw the title in the “About the Author” blurb on Hokkaido Highway Blues. A quick bookstore run on the last day of our visit to Montreal finally provided the opportunity to get one.

The book is a rambling collection of essays about various aspects of Canadian identity, and some of the inherent absurdities of Canadian life (most notably the fact that they allow the continued existence of a political party whose stated goal is the dissolution of Canada). The combative title (and a few harsh remarks about various Quebecois leaders) aside, it’s actually a fairly positive book. What Ferguson hates about his fellow Canadians is largely the fact that they’ve failed to be quite everything they could be– he vehemently denounces the treatment of Native Canadians, and some of the sillier excesses of his countrymen, but doesn’t hesitate to point out the positive bits, as well. He rants and raves about Canada and Canadians because, deep down, he loves the place, and would like to see it be even better than it is. (I’m not psychoanalyzing the author here– he basically says this outright in the last chapter…)

Some bits of his rants, particularly those about Natives and multi-cultural issues, could apply equally well to the US, and, indeed, I was a little surprised that he passed up the opportunity. But then this is an unapologetically Canadian book, and not one interested in taking pot-shots at the United States. It makes for a slightly odd reading experience for an American– while many things seemed familiar, a large number of the political and pop-culture references flew over my head.

The bits that I did get included some delightful broadsides, like this:

The three great themes of Canadian history are as follows:

  1. keeping the Americans out
  2. keeping the French in, and
  3. trying to get the Natives to somehow disappear.

These three themes represent the political/social mission of Canadians. Americans: out. French in. Natives: invisible. If Canada were a hockey team, this would be our chant.


There are other minor themes as well: Sucking Up to the Royal Family; Waxing Poetic About Nature While Huddling Inside Shopping Malls; Electing Boneheads; Trusting Authority; Avoiding Extremes; and Resenting Success. All of which are played out against the larger Myth of Niceness.

and this:

Our feelings toward America are complex, but they can be summed up in the following five (5) axiomatic propositions of Canadian Nationalism vis-a-vis the Americans:

  1. Boy, we hate Americans.
  2. We really do.
  3. Really.
  4. I’m not kidding. We really hate them.
  5. So how come they never pay us any attention?

I’m sure that reading this would be a vastly different experience for an actual Canadian, as opposed to merely an American who happens to know a number of Canadians. Still, even if you don’t get all the references, this is a fun read in the same way that, say, Bill Bryson or Joe Queenan is a fun read. It’s a snappily written collection of slightly over-the-top cultural criticism, with a fairly serious point at the core. If you like that sort of thing, you’ll probably enjoy this book, even if you don’t know who Farley Mowat is.

(Previously posted on The Library of Babel.)

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About Chad Orzel

  • Marcia L. Neil

    It’s 2005 now — why are computer viruses inter-fering with efforts to connect with Canadian web-sites?

  • anna

    3. trying to get the Natives to somehow disappear.
    I take it the author isn’t multicultural: not willing to love other cultures equally. At the moment we are using his book as class material and I was very surprised to see his comments about natives because its a native high school requiring us to read his book now I am not sure if I want to read this garbage aimed at racism. I maybe native and I love all colours of the world and I thought society was overcoming prejudice against natives not every native is looking for a handout from the government there are some out there trying to get a n education that pay taxes while trying to maintain our native culture. I hope there are some writers out there that are proud of Canada and will point out the finer things about Canada

  • S.T.M

    Gee, some of that seems REALLY familiar …. sounds a lot like a cold-weather version of Australia, without the obsession for sport, which in a similar dissertation about Down Under would take up three-quarters of the book.

    Much of the rest is the same. Except, as a direct consequence of our Irish heritage we have inherited a healthy disrepect both for authority and the British, and from our Anglo background a healthy wariness of the French and a paradoxical desire to remain part of the British family and to remain under the umbrella of its institutions.

    Americans, being a long way off on the other side of the Pacific, don’t figure too much in our thinking, but generally, because we are a lot like them, we think we like them. But sometimes we think we don’t.

    Work all that out if you can (we’ve all but given up ourselves).

  • James

    Anna, your comment doesn’t make sense. If you’re reading the book you’d be aware that he is fiercely critical of the way Natives have been treated in Canada, and is remarking upon how Canadians have used the gov’t to keep Natives down. Because they’ve tried to assimilate Natives for generations, attempting to destroy their culture, he lists as one of the great themes (where great means important, not good!) of Canadian history ‘trying to get the Natives to disappear’. I think you’ve simply misunderstood the text.

  • Martin

    Wow, Canadians being self-reflective? That’s amazing!

  • meh

    whats this all aboot?

  • Why can’t a Canadian book BE a Canadian book without taking pot-shots at the US? Most of guys are always slinging mud at Americans. I find it quite refreshing that someone FINALLY takes a breather and focuses inward for a change. I’m getting tired of this ‘compare and contrast’ crap. Canadians are perhaps the only people in the world who define themselves by what they are not instead of what they are: American. Can’t Canadians just have confidence and pride in themselves without having to use Americans to do it? If Michael Moore can do it, so can you.

  • Lance

    HAHAHAHA wow all you americans are exactly the same. It’s no wonder why no other country likes americans. Im proud to wear candian colors going to other countries and the people treat me with respect because they RESPECT canadians. Name one other country that loves americans.

  • Ireland.

  • peacekeeper

    why i hate or dislike americans. Because they are self centered individuals who collect disability watch there judge judy and eat mcdonalds then off course get fat because the majority of the population is overweight in the united states of america. Canada and America are neighbors and the border is the most unprotected border in the world. Canadians are bright smart first inventing the telephone, now americans cant go without there cells like it all originates in canada. Ya we do have free health care and are very fortunate to have this and the reason we have free health care is because we have brilliant poeple in our country who have put together a plan so everyone is treated equaally. Not only canadians live in canada but also ppl from all over but we classify everyone in our country as a canadian. unlike the states who is against multiculturism. Americans hate canadians because there jealous, we have a beautiful country with the population the size of california. We respect one another, have a good goverment. FREE healht care, better wages, oil, healthy individuals, education we dont carry guns. Unforutnaly america would rather collect welfare, smoke cigarettes, get fat, shoot poeple cause guns are such a good idea to carry around. Living next to the american border i get to travel there and i notice how people are treated tehy dont no im canadian but they treat the people around me like they treat me awful, rude, ignorant, dirty over there to, i am happy to live next to america because, they need us to keep peace with other countries and it would be a shame to classify rude ignorant americans as a whole, because not everyone is ignorant in the states well the majority but not all. Its competition thats all it is, i m proud to be canadian and hate is an awful way to discrimanate between neighbors. We are stuck together and if it wasnt for the canadian government sucking up to the UK the whole world would be against teh americans. Without canada, america wouldnt have no guidance than what would happen?? eventually america will learn that it is possible to have free health care in there country they just have yet to figure that out. well tehy need to figure lots out.

  • duane

    Yes, yes, of course. On the other hand, Americans avoid run-on sentences, know the basics of subject-verb agreement, are able to distinguish “they’re,” “there,” and “their,” find little need for redundant punctuation marks, know when to use apostrophes, understand when to use adverbs instead of adjectives, and are much, much better at spelling.

    One thing that I’ve always admired about Canada, however, is that it’s close to the U.S. That’s pretty cool! Lucky Canadians!

    Now, excuse me. I have to go buy a pack of smokes, grab a Big Mac, and get back home in time for American Idol, maybe shoot a couple of random pedestrians on the way — or just run them over. We’ll just have to wait and see what kind of mood I’m in, if I can get my fat butt out of this recliner, that is.

  • Amy

    I have just recently discovered that Canadians hate Americans. I have a friend from Montreal that is constantly taking potshots at America/Americans despite the fact that she has lived in The US for ten years. I always listened and ignored the negativity thinking it was just her brash personality. I honestly had no idea that Canada held The States in such ill regard. That would explain my treatment at the border during several visits-which I again wrote off as rudeness of the individual. Frankly this makes me upset. There is plenty to dislike about the US, but there is also plenty to love. I wholeheartedly agree with the five (5) axiomatic propositions of Canadian Nationalism vis-a-vis the Americans.

  • jes

    i only hate Canada because of the dirty natives.

  • sarah

    reading through the comments made me realize that, while i have also shown dislike to the US at times, they aren’t as crazy as they are made out to be. from watching American television i thought that Americans were either; fat, rude, crazy, or nice. some shows make Americans look awful and since the US has a great source of movie making and media, people around the world think that it’s black and white, the US is awful or they don’t really care. i’ve been to the US and mind you i was in New York, but most of the people there are the same as in Canada, or in the UK. they can be nice and i do enjoy the US. i think that one of the main reasons people dislike Americans is because they are ignorant about the rest of the world. they only really cover news that has to do with America. i know that when i read the Ottawa Citizen, that there is information from around the world, but while i was in America it really was centred on them. some Americans just don’t know about the rest of the world. which is sad on their part.
    p.s. while paying high taxes sucks, i love having free health care. was hit by a car when i was 11 and didn’t have to worry about payment.

  • Mark

    Canadians? I’ve lived with and interacted with Canadians all my life and I have to say that they are actually quite self-centered and overly nationalistic. It’s funny. They say the same thing about us in America but most Americans I talk with about Canadians are quite supportive and complimentary about Canadians mostly due, in my opinion, of their ignorance about the real Canadian mentality which seems to be:

    ~We like to play with ourselves (I mean, we like OUR hockey)

    ~We hate everything American (except for their ideas about such things as music, literature, movie making, constitutional democracy, etc)

    ~We hate Americans because they don’t pay enough attention us (as if that’s excuse enough to treat us like assholes that Canadians pride themselves on)

    ~We are really better then anyone– especially Americans

    ~We’re polite, we really are–when it suites us

    Canadians, like Americans, like most nations I’ve traveled too, take themselves way to seriously and think THEIR nation is the best.

    Grow up Canada. Take a look in the mirror first and before you point the fingers (or give the finger) to anyone else. In the end, we are all in this together.

  • Basil Crawford

    Canada doent need the United States. We hate all of you Americans stay home !
    [Personal contact info deleted]

  • James

    As long as Canada treats people differently based on race, color or creed Canada will be a Racist nation with Racist policies.

    I can’t wait for the day that Canada stands up and denounces racism and declares all men equal. And follows through by treating all men equal.

  • American

    You wanna know why we hate Canadians…because:
    1. You worship a dead Queen
    2. Your healthcare system sucks, so much.
    3. It’s cold there and you guys are boring.
    4. You guys actually think you are important…incorrect
    Sorry, but the truth hurts. I have a squash racket produced in Canada. It sucks, I am getting rid of it I want to burn it.

  • American Sarah

    Another thing on the health care
    so obama wants to do something similar to Canada. It is a messed up system.
    So if I am an old person who needs to go to the emergency room, some 20 year old kid who needs to go too will go first because he has a better chance of living. SO looks like we are picking who will die or live.
    Also when I was in Canada my friend broke his leg skiing. It took 6 hours to be picked up by an ambulance because of your stupid health care system. Thats just not right.

  • After reading this piece, I’m moving…To Canada.
    The generalizations here are to say the least, embarrassing. And, if you are able to, go visit Canada for a while, then get to know an actual Canadian, instead of taking this poorly-written book for gospel-truth.

    Listen to Shane Koyzan He describes the Canada, that most of us wish America was.

    Canada, a fully-functional national-heath-care-system, without these fictitious death-panels Americans are being told exist, that is a right of every Canadian citizen, a better standard of living, and the treatment of all of her citizens with respect, pretty bloody awful, ay?

  • Thomas J.


    “Americans are jealous of Canadians”.

    “Americans don’t know anything about Canada”.

    How could someone be jealous of something they know nothing about?

  • Homer

    Duh i’m the captain! My son is Bart.

  • Steve

    What an oaf!

  • susan

    Most Americans are totally unaware that many Canadians have considerable hostility toward them. I’ve seen it rising over the years, but the hundreds of Canadians chanting “Fuck USA” on the streets of Vancouver during the Olympics (see Youtube) reached a new level.

  • Bev

    It’s interesting that a book written for Canadians, by a Canadian experiencing re-entry culture shock after five years in Asia, is attracting so much negative criticism from American article commentators.

    After all, the review you just read is only that–a review, not the book itself. And the reviewer himself says, “But then this is an unapologetically Canadian book, and not one interested in taking pot-shots at the United States.”

    So if the American reviewer who read this book does not think the author takes “pot-shots” at the United States (and by implication, Americans), what exactly is all the fuss about?

  • kristen

    I am native and this country sucks and no i dont live on a rez and never did.I dont expect free hand outs from the government either,but all my life i had to put up with racism about being native as in we are all Drunks,drug addicts,bums who live off the government,and simply we are all Dumb.Most of are treaty rights are taken away anyways

  • beautifulprincess09

    i am a American and i would rather live in Canada then America first of all and why are you putting a forum about this it show the stereo type thing in America and some are not like that so please take it off

  • KayKay

    I am actually a little jealous of Americans, because at least they can admit their faults. They also don’t care what others think. Canada is all about “what do you think of me” a completely self indulgent place where everyone thinks alike, and those that don’t agree with the mass are always the ones that end up leaving the country.
    Every effort to keep Native people down is so true. The more I look into it the more I cannot believe that a country so “great” could have done this to people. But of course they don’t want the rest of the world to know, otherwise we won’t be seen as an “awesome” place to live anymore, and we will be ridiculed, and have to admit to our mistakes. 😮 Just like the states, and Canada has always been “better” than the states in morals, and values right?
    -sigh- Canada, don’t come here, and don’t live here.

  • Duds

    Cannot stand the socialist canadian bastards. Stay there and keep your dirty STD’s to yourselves and leave us capitalists alone. You cannot change us and we will never change you so don’t even try. Would i go for some canadian second rate loser. Never.

  • Confused

    Its very funny to sit here and read these comments. America saying they are better Canada saying no we’re better. Isn’t it every individuals responsibility to be a kind well mannered citizen? If we’re not acting kind or well mannered does it really have to do with the country we live in or more to do with our lack of morals, values and respect for others ? Are you seriously saying a Canadian is a jerk because our health care system sucks or an American is a moron because the majority of them are over weight? It’s funny we teach our children to be kind and accepting of one another but yet as adults we sit and post comments on the Internet as if we go to some giant elementary school called North America. I think people should pride themselves less on where they come from and more on who they are as individuals!

  • Wow!

    Hmm well I remember that next time one of our Canadian soldiers come home in a casket because they fought for YOUR COUNTRY America. I’ll keep in mind they needlessly died so you can hate us.

  • thebruins

    Lance, regardless of what you wear, everyone will still think you’re a useless, ignorant loser who fails at everything in life.

  • Jack

    To hate Canada is to hate the USA because we’re the same. This article is a joke.

  • Reeva

    at jes #13 comment:
    That is generalizing at it’s best. Most native people are nice, they let you guys move in without a lot of hesitation, and look what you’re race has done to them. Cut off women’s breasts for cigarette sacks, cut off skin for leggings, blame them for low supply of fish (they take every part of the fish, not just the meat), and wiped out 90-94% out of greed. I don’t think we’re to blame here.

  • Cal Shneider

    I am a canadian citizen (not really at heart). Canadians in reality are kind of weird. Not weird in a snuggly, cute kind of way but in a smug, juvenille, unconfident masking sort of way. I have lived most of my life here, and there is definitely a pervasive sense of moral, ethical superiority which is complete nonsense in reality. Our health care is not free, in reality it is an inefficient behemoth, that has even led a few of my fellow citizens to yell at me reminding me to put my seatbelt on or my bicycle helmet on. Those example are secondary consequences of loss of individual freedoms lost to a collective mentality spawned by a universal healthcare system. No, i’m not wrong. Regarding hockey and how we proudly announce to americans that it’s our game. Thats like a brit proudly announcing to a canadian that cricket is our(brits) game. Most don’t care yet we want to believe they do. Canadians i believe live in a sort of state of never ending denial of our true culture, which is essentially american with a dash of loser denial complex. News flash people. We are not special. We are not gods special children here to grace the rest of the world with our superior qualities. No wonder 75% of canadians like obama.

  • mick

    oh, Canada and America, as someone that has spent time on both countries, I say these two countries do admire and respect each other – albeit for different reasons – and that at the heart , actions speak louder that words anyway, their relationship is like a bro-mance full on if you forgive the neologism.

  • GladImNotAmerican

    I’d say Canadians are just sick of dealing with smug self serving Americans. Very trashy people generally.