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Canada: Top Ten Things To Love and Hate

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- Chandrasekhar Sankurathri, or Dr. Chandra, the Ottawa man who, after losing his wife and children in the Air India bombing, has gone on to found a charity that not only educates poor children in India, but also helps thousands regain their eyesight by offering free cataract operations;

See the Manjari Sankurathri Memorial Foundation website here.

6. Quebec: How does Quebec make Canada a better place? Let me count the ways: a) Regardless of whatever the anti-French bigots, particularly out here in the West, may think, Quebec has given our country a distinct and unique character; b) When it comes to just about every single social issue, poll after poll has shown the Quebecois to be more progressive and open-minded than their anglophone counterparts across the country (part of the reason the anti-French bigots don't like them, I'm sure); c) Over the past few years Quebec (along with Toronto and Vancouver) has kept Stephen Harper and his Conservatives from forming a majority government in this country; d) Quebec City is one of the most beautiful cities not just in North America, but in the world; e) Montreal is so all about culture that the city actually shuts down downtown for two weeks each year for the Jazz Festival; f) Quebec has given us the likes of Mario Lemieux, Guy Lafleur, Martin Brodeur, Rocket Richard, Roberto Luongo and Patrick Roy, to name just a few of the hockey legends the province has produced over the years; and, finally, g) Quebec gave us poet, novelist, songwriter, hipster, Buddhist monk, and living legend, Leonard Cohen.

5. Education system: Contrary to what conservatives may want you to believe, our education system does not, in fact, need lots more math, science and standardized testing. Our system is one of the best there is for the simple reason that it creates, breeds and encourages a free-thinking, creative-thinking populace and that's far more important than science and math will ever be for the good of the country (though, of course, it is good if our doctors, scientists, engineers, etc, do master their science and math... which they do with ease. We've certainly had no shortage of talented people in all of those fields over the years).

4. The lack of influence by religious wackos - and religion itself - in our political system: The wacko Christian Right may have huge influence south of the border in America, but up here things like rational thought, science and reasoned debate almost always prevail, though money and lobby groups often unfortunately dominate as well. But at least its not religious money and lobbies pushing the political agenda here in Canada. We may, sadly, have a constitution that states that our country was founded "under the supremacy of God", but the reality of modern-day Canadian politics is, to Prime Minister Stephen Harper's great chagrin I'm sure, remarkably secular and reason-based. Well, "remarkable" at least when you consider the reality down south, but quite normal I suppose when you look at just about every other Western democracy.

3. A relatively progressive political culture: No capital punishment, strong opposition to the Iraq War, legalized gay marriage (and who would have thought two decades ago that by 2007 70% of Canadians would decide to go with equality over bigotry and support gay marriage?), public support for the Kyoto Treaty (even if the politicians from both major parties failed to implement it while in power), etc., etc.

Most obvious example of this political reality: Top local, provincial and federal politicians out celebrating Gay Pride Day in places like Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver each year. Now that's a progressive political culture!

2. Universal Health Care system and other universal social programs: It's certainly not perfect, but our system of medicine and our ideal of universal coverage for all, regardless of means, is a bedrock foundation of what makes Canada the society it is. Unlike a certain Richest Nation In The World to the south, we don't leave the poor to fend for themselves uninsured.

Read more here: The Great Anti-Canadian-Healthcare Fraudster Joins The Great American Healthcare Debate

And here: The Tale of Two Sickos Rant 'n' Rave (Michael Moore, Grandpa and the Glorious Soapdown).

1. Multiculturalism: To me the greatest single thing about living in Canada is the incredible mix of peoples and cultures we have here and, specifically, the way people of all ethnic and racial backgrounds mingle freely, peacefully and happily throughout the country. At the core of all this is the continual arrival of new immigrants from all parts of the world and the cultural diversity and fine cuisine, among other things, that they bring with them. This is particularly apparent in places like Toronto and Vancouver, but you can also see it these days in smaller towns and cities as well.

The key word in the above paragraph is "peacefully". Anyone who knows anything about the horrific sectarian violence that is all too common in parts of Europe (particularly the Balkans) and especially India and Africa knows just how much we should cherish such peaceful coexistence.

No, screw that, we don't "peacefully coexist", we thrive! And that to me is the thing that makes this country especially wonderful.

Yes, there are exceptions and some rare racist incidents or attacks, and, yes, of course there are still some unrepentant redneck racist pricks out there, but the fact is they're rapidly becoming a smaller and smaller minority and the vast majority of people in Canada today live harmoniously with all sorts of other Canadians of different ethnic, racial and religious backgrounds.

A Long Way

For those who forget or honestly don't know what a racist recent past we come from in this country, let me just tell you a quick story from my own family that highlights just what sort of country this used to be: It wasn't that many years ago now - the early-1960s to be exact - that my grandparents, on the purchase of a new house in The British Properties in West Vancouver, had to sign a contract that forbid them from selling to any "Jews or Asians". And at that same time Natives in this country weren't even allowed to vote. Oh, and we were kidnapping their children and putting them into rape camps, I mean residential schools.

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Mike Cowie is a 42-year-old freelance writer, who lives together with his wife and son just outside of Vancouver, B.C. After spending 15 years living, travelling and working overseas Mike returned to live in Canada back in 2004. His final trip, (more...)
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