The Myth of Canadian Niceness

The country’s public image as a nation of polite people is cracking under the weight of discrimination and violence against immigrants, indigenous people, and minorities.

June 5, 2020, Anti-racism rally in Vancouver, BC.
Photo: Creative Commons. June 5, 2020, Anti-racism rally in Vancouver, BC.

Imaan Sheikh


June 28, 2021


13 min

“Everything about Canada is pleasant. Everyone likes Canadians. Not liking Canadians is an indication of a mental problem,” said American comedian Jim Gaffigan in a standup set. So captivating is the charm of Canada, that even most stereotypes about it are harmless, if not thinly veiled praise. Even the mockery of the Canadian accent addresses Canadians’ tendency to apologize — “sore-y,” they say — painting a generally wholesome picture of the country and its people.

The last six years even saw an uptick in Americans aspiring to move to Canada. Many Americans aren’t afraid to admit that they’re embarrassed of their country, especially since reality TV star and businessman Donald Trump became president in 2016. “Canada must feel like they live in an apartment above a meth lab,” tweeted John Fritchey, a former member of the Illinois House of Representatives. To the world, Canada is America’s nicer sibling — a foil to an America that is glamorous but egotistical and unsafe, always on the brink of throwing a punch in conflicts that have nothing to do with it. In today’s America, white supremacy is rampant, police brutality continues to target minorities, and a single visit to the E.R. can put you in debt for life.

Surely, that’s not the case in Canada, right? Canada has free healthcare. It’s generally safe. College education is far less expensive. The people are polite and the landscape beautiful. Immigration processes are shorter and more forgiving. It’s also more diverse than the U.S. Plus, the world loves Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. While former President Trump was busy inciting racist violence on Twitter, the sensitive Trudeau was attempting to set a record for crying while talking about human rights violations and injustice. Who wouldn’t dream of moving to this multicultural, nurturing paradise that appears to care so profoundly about its people?

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