What is it about the U.S. and Canada that makes us so alike yet so different? Did the heat of the Deep South fry the brains of Americans? Did frigid cold cause Canadians to become passive because it takes too much energy to fight? I believe part of the answer lies in our histories and how we reacted to them.
We were both conquered by France and Britain, but our responses were different. Canada chose to be led and nurtured by the hand of the British Monarchy. The U.S. was the rebellious son, choosing instead to go to war with his father and fight for his own republic.
The result explains a lot about the different cultures. Canadians are peaceful, retain many British and French tastes and traditions, and they see themselves as a part of the larger world–perhaps due to their participation in the Commonwealth of Nations that was once the Empire.
Americans fought hard for independence and that independent spirit has caused the country to disassociate itself from the rest of the world on occasion. When other countries frown on what they’re doing, they’ll damn well show them and forge ahead with their plan.
But the greatest contrast between the two cultures is our systems of government. Canada is a constitutional monarchy and the United States is a republic. Yet, the ties to Britain do not affect Canada’s sovereignty in any way. It can be hard to understand for a cut-and-dried American like me. But I recently read a CBC News article about Canada’s Monarchists League that explained it well:
Canada is one of 54 independent states, many of them former British colonies, that have come together to form the Commonwealth of Nations. In Canada’s case, it is also one of 16 “realms” within the Commonwealth in which the Queen is the monarch and head of state.
“We don’t think of her as Queen of Great Britain,” said Jonathan Brickwood, 31, who has been a member of the Monarchists League for 11 years. ”She is the Queen of Canada and people tend to forget that.”
Although the Queen hails from Britain, the monarchy also helps foster an identity for Canada that is unique, according to the group. Constitutional monarchy is one of the key institutions that separates Canada from the U.S., for example.
Eugene Berezovsky, 25, works for Elections Ontario and has been a member of the league for 10 years.
He doesn’t believe there is anything wrong with the fact that Canada’s Queen and the country’s system of governance have roots in another country.
“Well, we all come from another place and that’s part of it,” Berezovsky said. ”We’re a large country, federation and unit, and a kind of regionalism is part of our identity. That’s just a given.”
“One of the advantages of the monarchy is unification. It’s an institution that draws people together, keeps the country glued together,” he added.
So, Canada decided to play nice with the mother country while the U.S. was willing to take a risk and cut the umbilical cord. In the end, both countries enjoy freedoms that are the envy of the world. And that’s a good thing.