It is difficult to think of another group in Canada in the particular and peculiar situation of Americans
— J.M. Bumsted
“U.S. persons” in Canada face difficulties that are encountered nowhere else on earth — at least not to the same degree, due to numbers and history and geographic location. A lengthy academic encyclopedia article touches on many strands of the complex web that ensnares American-Canadians. Brief excerpts from most of the ten sections are provided in the appendix below. The existence of that article in that collection was a landmark — a recognition that Americans are in fact one of Canada’s peoples! (By the way, nobody ever refers to an American-Canadian in the routine multicultural obeisances, do they?)
No Isaac Brock discussion thus far has touched on, much less dealt with, the key factor of anti-Americanism in Canada. (Most pertinent in the encyclopedia article is the section treating intergroup relations.) There are multiple reasons for the existence and persistence of anti-Americanism in Canada. (1) It doesn’t seem polite to contest it and we fear not belonging. (2) Many of us are Americans who disidentify with the United States and see Canada as our safe haven and better option, and it is hard for such a self-conflicted class to perceive and to disagree with the anti-Americanism that it itself must face. (3) Passage of time and a desire to get along blunt personal recollections of anti-American experience. (4) The Harper Canada is not the Canada of Trudeau or even of Chrétien. (4) We assume that we can take care of ourselves, which may evidence arrogance. (5) Proximities in language and culture can be much harder to deal with than distances, because distance is apparent to all, and gets factored into exchanges and understandings. (6) Powerful disincentives to the formation of “American” interest groups of any kind permeate the Canadian social context. (7) Would discrimination against an American — an invisible and in some ways privileged minority — ever be given standing by a Canadian human rights tribunal?
Nowhere else on earth would a supposedly sovereign nation feel as threatened by physical adjacency and internal quantity of U.S. persons. There is a reason that Canadian Brockers are standing in the forefront of the present situation. There is a second reason, other than the beady eye of Uncle Sam, that almost all Canadian Brockers choose to remain half-ostrich anonymous.
Canadian media coverage of the plight of U.S. persons — and its glaring lacks — inevitably reflects a deep and largely tacit anti-Americanism. Couple that with the overriding desire of a Harper government for rapprochement with the United States. Factor in a U.S. government that could care less about its extraterritorial citizens, except as defenseless revenue sources.
Brockers will forevermore have a hard row to hoe — especially in Canada, where cabinet minister Flaherty now confirms that we are left to be second-class citizens. Lobby the Canadian government as you will, but do so with full understanding of the undeserved silent stigma that your origins or associations have inevitably encumbered you with.
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Below are brief relevant extracts taken from:
J.M. Bumsted, “Americans”
Encyclopedia of Canada’s Peoples
Canadians have frequently defined themselves in terms of the perceived differences between their values and American ones. Thus American culture is often regarded by Canadians as chauvinistic, inward-looking, boastful, aggressive, and violent — whereas Canadians are somehow “nicer.”
Arrival and Settlement
Virulent anti-Americanism was characteristic mainly of Upper Canada. … [Freed blacks and fugitive slaves] also suffered from the same anti-Americanism that characterized attitudes towards white settlers, with considerable fears expressed that they would exhibit disloyalty to Canada in times of crisis with the United States. … In the cities, Americans have integrated into the overall population, and there are no “American districts.”
Americans in Canada have always enjoyed a relatively high socio-economic status, the product of their levels of education, skills, and wealth.
Family and Kinship
Americans have also been less likely than members of almost any other national group to marry within it, thus further undermining the already limited nature of their cultural distinctiveness.
Culture and Community Life
Although there are some geographical, social, and occupational patterns for the American-born in Canada, their most common characteristic is to blend as much as possible into the host society.
Historically, Americans have on the whole been less active in Canadian politics than their numbers might indicate, at least partly because of anti-Americanism on the part of Canadians.
Americans in Canada have experienced some degree of hostility, ranging from subtle suspicion to outright prejudice. Some of the hostility has come from British newcomers who found American cultural values in newly settled districts different from their own, while more has come from native-born Canadians whose suspicion of the territorial and imperial pretensions of the United States has extended to its citizens. In many cases cultural and political suspicion have been inextricably mixed and combined with senses of Canadian dependency and insecurity relative to the United States. Unlike most immigrants to Canada, who are allowed to become fully committed Canadian citizens upon naturalization, the American immigrant is often unable to escape a residual Canadian belief that his or her naturalization somehow cannot ever overcome American origins.
Group Maintenance and Ethnic Commitment
It is difficult to think of another group in Canada in the particular and peculiar situation of Americans.
Culture and Community Life
The Americans are thus an ethnic group without an easily definable identity. They do not establish distinctive organizations or associations.