Categories: Commentary

Canada in quotes

Three days from now, Canada celebrates its 150th birthday. To honour the occasion, I thought it appropriate to recall some of the quotations our fellow citizens (and others) have made about this nation.

Marshall McLuhan noted: “Canada is the only country in the world that knows how to live without an identity.” Probably explains why I never read anything written by Marshall McLuhan.

Our own Margaret Atwood commented at least twice about Canada. The first quotation was “If the mental illness of the United States is megalomania, that of Canada is paranoid schizophrenia.” Later she also noted that: “Canada was built on dead beavers.” Probably explains why I don’t read Margaret Atwood, either.

Preston Manning seems to have agreed with Margaret Atwood when he spoke: “Canada is the only country founded on the relentless pursuit of a rodent.”

American Robin Williams was more generous when he commented: “Canada is like a loft apartment over a really great party.”

John Wing once suggested that “a Canadian is merely an unarmed American with health care.” Of course, for most of us, that’s just about exactly what we want to be.

One of our most respected political leaders, Tommy Douglas, once saw fit to note that: “Canada is like an old cow. The West feeds it. Ontario and Quebec milk it. And you can well imagine what it’s doing in the Maritimes.” This feeding has gone on far too long.

British Prime Minister Winston Churchill was inspiring (as always) when he spoke about Canada: “There are no limits to the majestic future which lies before the mighty expanse of Canada with its virile, aspiring, cultured and generous-hearted people.”

Equally generous were the thoughts of the great economist, John Maynard Keynes, who observed: “Canada is a place of infinite promise. We like the people, and if one ever had to emigrate, this would be the destination, not the U.S.A. The hills, lakes and forests make it a place of peace and repose of the mind, such as one never finds in the U.S.A.”

American used furniture dealer (and gangster) Al Capone was less charitable: “I don’t even know what street Canada is on.”

Even the British can be harsh on their former colony. During the multi-year conflict in the Balkans back in the 1990s, the British commander of the Allied forces noted that “Canada has the most politically correct army in the world. The only problem is that it doesn’t know how to fight.”

My favourite Canadian quotations are ones that I cannot attribute to any specific author, despite years of trying. The first one is typical of Canada’s attitude to our cousins south of the border: “Canada is prepared to have the very best military defense that the United States can afford.” The second is longer and perhaps even more accurate: “Canada should have had the best of three worlds: British government, French culture and American know-how. Instead, we got French government, American culture and British know-how.”

But of all my favoured quotations, my heart rests with the thoughts of my grandfather. William McLeod emigrated from Scotland in 1904 and never looked back. Years later, when I asked him why he had never returned to visit Scotland, he simply said: “Brian, why would I want to go back to a country that tried to starve me? No thanks, Canada is the best place in the entire world. I love this land, and will until the day I die.” And he did.

Brian McLeod is a St. Albert resident.

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