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    Scintillating sayings about Canada

    Wonderful are the things that have been said about Canada. Also contemptuous, insulting, flattering, wise, witty, hopeful and hopeless things. Things said by Canadians, and by those who help us “see ourselves as others see us.”

    “YOU MUST COME TO CANADA. This is a wonderful place. I’m in jail and eat meat three times a day,” he tells his St. Petersburg friend. There was a long pause, and then the man in St. Petersburg asked in a surprised voice, “Meat?” Canadian convict: “Yes, three times a day.” Another pause, and then the other man, sounding almost awed, asks: “Meat and potatoes?” Canadian convict: “Yes. You should come here and commit a crime.” Overheard telephone conversation by a Russian gangster serving time in a Canadian jail for petty crime, speaking to a friend in Russia. John Duncanson and Philip Mascoll in “Russian mob crime soars in Canada,” Toronto Star, June 22, 1996.

    MY GOD, THIS IS a great country. I chose this country, it didn’t choose me. That means I am Canadian first, then Chinese… when you choose a new country, it should come first. Wanda Clute (1958- ),a native of China, on celebrating her first 20 years in Canada after overcoming initial obstacles and difficult adjustments in a new land. Interview, Toronto Star, January 24, 199.

    WORLD’S BEST. Canada is today the most successful pluralist society on the face of the globe, without any doubt in my mind… That is something unique to Canada. It is an amazing global asset. Aga Khan IV (1936- ), spiritual leader of Ismaili Muslims. Toronto Globe and Mail, February 2, 2002.

    WORLD IMAGE. There is probably no country in the world that reflects the population of the planet more fully than does Canada. Links of family, emotion, culture, religion and ideology exist between millions of Canadians and societies abroad. Ward Elcock, director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, in remarks at Senate committee hearings. Toronto Star, October 30, 1998.

    AS FOR OUR DIVERSITY, it is a tremendous asset. New Canadians who come here seeking opportunity have enriched our knowledge through their customs, cultures, contacts, and markets… Managing our contrasts and embracing our diversity leads to tremendous advantages for Canadian companies as they expand worldwide. Timothy Reid, president, Canadian Chamber of Commerce. Canadian Speeches, January 1998.

    BLESS THE GOOD PEOPLE of Halifax who did not sleep, who took strangers into their homes, who opened their hearts and shelters, who rushed in enough food and clothing to supply an army, who offered tours of their beautiful city and, above all, who listened with a simple empathy that brought this tough and fully grown man to tears, over and over again. I heard not a single harsh word, saw not the slightest gesture of frustration, and felt nothing but pure and honest welcome… we will always share this bond of your unstinting hospitality to people who descended upon you as frightened strangers, and received nothing but solace and solidarity in your embrace of goodness.

    Stephen Jay Gould (1941-2002), U.S.  paleontologist  and author, was one of  more than 25,000 U.S. passengers standed at airports across Canada, when  U.S.-bound aircraft were diverted because of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the  World Trade Centre in New York and on Washington. “Ode to human decency: bless the good people of Halifax,” Toronto Globe and Mail, September 20, 2001.

    WHAT SETS CANADIAN SOCIETY apart from others is that ours is an inclusive society… Canadian citizenship recognizes differences. It praises diversity. It is what we as Canadians choose to have in common with each other. It is a bridge between those who left somewhere to make a new home and those born here. What keeps the bridge strong is tolerance, fairness and compassion.
    Denise Chong, Canadian economist, author of “The Concubine’s Daughter,” a finalist for the 1994 Governor General’s Literary Awards, in a lecture at Vancouver, April 19,1995. “Being Canadian.” Canadian Speeches, May, 1995.

    TOO MUCH MEMORY. Canadians, like their historians, have spent too much time remembering conflicts, crises, and failures. They forgot the great, quiet continuity of life in a vast and generous land. A cautious people learns from its past; a sensible people can face its future. Canadians, on the whole, are both. Desmond Morton (1937- ), Canadian Historian. A Short History of Canada (2006).

    CANUCKISTAN. The Canadians have been defended by the United States. They pay nothing for defence. That place is a complete haven for international terrorists. Even their own retired security guys say it’s a complete haven. We… need lectures from some people, not from Soviet Canuckistan. Pat Buchanan (1938- ), U.S. writer and political commentator, reacting to Canadian criticism of U.S. law demanding photos and fingerprints from some Canadian visitors. Comments during a television talk show, Toronto Star November 1, 2002.

    CANADIAN PARADOX. Twenty-five years of public opinion polling in Canada have taught me a seemingly paradoxical truth: Canadians feel strongly about their weak attachment to Canada, its political institutions, and their fellow citizens. Michael Adams. President of Environics Research Group Ltd.  Sex In The Snow: Canadian Social Values At The End of The Millennium. Toronto (1997).

    DEAD CANADA. There is no galvanizing a corpse! Canada is dead—dead church, dead commerce, dead people. A poor, priest-ridden, politician-ridden, doctor-ridden, lawyer-ridden land. No energy, no enterprise, no snap. Toronto Leader, April 28, 1870.

    CANADA IS FINISHED. It simply cannot make it because of its taxation and left-wing politics. It can change but it will be too painful. Victor Rice, chairman of Varity Corp., an auto parts maker, on moving  its head office from Toronto to Buffalo. Financial Post, Toronto, October 27, 1994.

    CANADA HAS AVAILABLE to her the best of everything—British politics, French culture, American technology. Unfortunately she settles for French politics, American culture and British technology. Anonymous. Financial Post, May 2, 1964.

    POLITICS is not a game. It is a battle. There is the difference between us. You English, you play politics. But we French, we fight politics. Adrian Arcand (1897-1982), French-Canadian journalist and fascist. Maclean’s, April 15, 1938.

    EVEN MORE PRECIOUS than life is my native Canada. She is a funny country to love with her frozen north, her rocky barren tracks, her mountains and her lakes. She is always toddling along behind her neighbour to the south. I would love Canada if there were no people—sometimes I feel I would prefer it. Frederick Banting (1891-1941), Canadian physiologist, co-discoverer, with Charles H. Best, of insulin. Quoted by Michael Bliss in Canadian Business magazine, December 1992.

    FIT FOR QUARRELS. I wish the British Government would give you Canada at once. It is fit for nothing but to breed quarrels. Alexander Baring (1774-1848), English banker and diplomat. Letter to John Quincy Adams, U.S. Ambassador, London, 1816.

    ESCAPE. Get over the border as soon as you can; come to London or go to New York; shake the dust of Canada from your feet. Get out of a land that is willing to pay money for whisky, but wants its literature free in the shape of Ayer’s Almanac. Robert Barr (1850-1920), Canadian novelist. Canadian Magazine, November 1899.

    SQUARE. Canada is a country so square that even the female impersonators are women. Richard Benner (1936- ), screenwriter. Outrageous, film (1977).

    WE SEEK SOVEREIGNTY because it is absolutely essential. It is a necessity for Quebec, like the ripening of a fruit, like reaching adulthood, like the conclusions of a logical argument, like the discovery which crowns a voyage of exploration, like the opening of a river into the ocean. Lucien Bouchard (1938- ), Quebec politician, leader of the Boc Quebecois, later premier of Quebec. Speech, Montreal, April 7, 1995. “Quick turn in Quebec’s march to independence,” Canadian Speeches, May 1995.

    AMERICAN CANADIANS. Americans you already are by your language, your nasal accent, your common slang, your dress, your daily habits; by the Yankee literature with which your homes and clubs are flooded; by your yellow journals and their rantings; by your loud and intolerant patriotism; by your worship of gold, snobbery and titles. Henri Bourassa (1868-1951), Quebec politician, journalist, and newspaper publisher. The Spectre of Annexation and the Real Danger of National Disruption (1912).

    FAVOURITE SONS. You call your leaders favourite sons. We go all the way and say what they’re sons of. Dave Broadfoot (1925- ), Canadian actor, humourist and writer, on the difference between Canadians and Americans. Toronto Star, July 16, 2001.

    COLOUR YOUR LIFE. I sometimes wonder if the Canadian liking for bright colors isn’t the outcome of that prolonged session of white during the winter months. Lady (Evelyn) Byng (1870-1949, wife of Viscount Byng, governor general of Canada, 1921-26. Up the Stream of Time (1945).

    ONE CANADA. I’m a One Canada man and I’ve always been a One Canada man. I say the same thing from coast to coast. When I put my foot on the dog’s tail in Halifax, it barks right in Vancouver. Réal Caouette (1917-76), Quebec politician. Toronto Star, October 7, 1971.

    EMIGRATION. It was computed, after careful examination, that by 1896 at least every third able-bodied man in Canada between the ages of twenty and forty had emigrated to the United States. Richard Cartwright (1835-1912), Canadian statesman and free trade advocate. Reminiscences (1912).

    CLEAR GRIT. All sand and no dirt, clear grit all the way though. David Christy (1818-1880), Canadian politician, founding member of the Clear Grit Party, predecessor of the Liberal Party of Canada, at a Clear Grit Convention, Markham, Ontario, March, 1850.

    LINCHPIN. Canada is the linchpin of the English-speaking world. Canada, with those relations of friendly, affectionate intimacy with the United States on the one hand and with her unswerving fidelity to the British Commonwealth and the Motherland on the other, is the link which joins together these great branches of the human family, a link which, spanning the oceans, brings the continents into their true relation. Winston Churchill (1874-1965). Speech, London, England, September 4, 1941.

    WICKED TORIES. The heart of the average Tory is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. Alexander Mackenzie (1822-92), stonemason, newspaper editor, second prime minister of Canada, 1873-78 Speech, Clinton, Ontario, July 5, 1878.

    SOBS. There are less sons of bitches in the Liberal party than in the Tory. John W. Dafoe (1866-1944), editor of Winnipeg Free press and its predecessor for 43 years. Quoted by R.L. McDougall in Our Living Tradition (1962).

    TOSSED SALAD. Canada has never been a melting pot, more like a tossed salad. Arnold Edinborough (1922-2006), Canadian writer and arts critic. Canada and The World, Toronto, April, 1994.

    LOCAL FOREIGNERS. I meet English Canadians. For me, they are like Greeks or Turks. I am curious to get to know them as individuals, but I don’t belong to the same nation. Christian Gagnon, Quebec separatist politician, speaking as a Bloc Quebecois candidate for election to Parliament. Vancouver Sun, September 25, 1993.

    PATRIOTISM. I was brought up in Southwestern Ontario where we were taught that Canadian patriotism should not withstand anything more than a five-dollar-a-month wage differential. Anything more than that and you went to Detroit. John Kenneth Galbraith (1908-2006), Canadian-born Harvard University, economist, author and diplomat. Cited by Theo Cheney in “Getting the Words Right.” (Digest Books.)

    CANADA FROM SPACE. I have seen Canada from space. It’s size and beauty left me breathless. We Canadians have received much, much more than our share. Marc Garneau (1949- ), first Canadian astronaut. Toronto Globe and Mail, July 17, 1997.

    A SENATE, acting as a House of Fact, is essential, as an antidote for the poisoning of the democratic process by professional liars. Philippe Deane Gigantes (1923-2004), Greek-born Canadian journalist, public servant, and senator. The Road Ahead (1990).

    SOLUTION. Canada is the solution looking for a problem. Augustin Gomez, former Mexican ambassador to Canada. Quoted by David Kilgour, MP, in a speech, October 14, 1994.

    ALOCHOLICS. We were rather surprised that in Ontario we had to register at the local liquor store as alcoholics. Alec Guiness (1914-2000), British actor. Blessings in Disguise (1985).

    WOLVES are scarce in Canada, but they afford the finest furs in all the country. Their flesh is white, and good to eat; they pursue their prey to the tops of the tallest trees. William Guthrie. Guthrie’s Geographic Grammar (1807).

    FELLER CITIZENS, this country is goin’ to the dogs hand over hand. Thomas C. Haliburton (1796-1865), Canadian jurist and author, best known as the creator of Sam Slick, the Yankee clock peddler. Sam Slick (1853).

    THOSE FROZEN to death display on their visages a look of contentment achieved only by successful religious mystics. William Hales Hingston (1829-1907), Canadian physician and politician. The Climate of Canada and its Relation to Life and Health (1884).

    NO ONE KNOWS my country, neither the stranger nor its own sons. My country is hidden in the dark and teeming brain of youth upon the eve of its manhood. My country has not found itself nor felt its power nor learned its true place. It is all visions and doubts and hopes and dreams. It is strength and weakness, despair and joy, and the wild confusions and restless strivings of a boy who has passed his manhood but is not yet a man. Bruce Hutchison (1901-92), journalist and author.  The Unknown Country (1942).

    AS THE FRIGID TUNDRA keeps Canada’s population from spreading northward, America’s loud materialism, unruly style and social problems keep Canadians from straying south. That hundred-mile-wide belt of population from the Atlantic to the Pacific has endured as a subtly distinctive community, one that many citizens want to preserve. English and French Canadians might not mind separating from each other, but immigrants from throughout the world may demand Canada’s continued existence. For them, Canada provides unlimited freedom and economic opportunity while offering protection from the ruthless laissez-faire capitalism of the United States. Robert D. Kaplan, U.S. journalist and author. Atlantic Monthly, August 1998.

    VICHYSSOISES. In any world menu, Canada must be considered the Vichyssoises of nations—it’s cold, half French, and difficult to stir. Stuart Keate (1913-87), Canadian newspaper publisher. Maclean’s, August 8, 1994.

    TOO MUCH. If some countries have too much history, we have too much geography. William Lyon Mackenzie King (1874-1950), prime minister 1921-28; 1926-30; 1935-48. House of Commons, Debates, June 18, 1936.

    CURIOUS COUNTRY. Canada is perhaps the only country in the world held together by curiosity, the question being: can a nation, so structured and governed as Canada, endure? It would appear that through 115 years of often violent debate, no one is quite prepared to give up on her yet; as if we all have some lingering desire to see how this ongoing exercise in nation-building ends. Ralph Klein (1942- ), Canadian politician, Alberta premier. Speech,  February 10, 1982.

    BRITISH PROTECTION. If you ask me as a French-Canadian why I am deeply attached to Great Britain, it is because I find in her institutions and under her flag all the protection I need. It is because she has been in the world the nurse of liberty. She has understood better than any other nation the art of government. Rodolphe Lemieux (1866-1937), Canadian lawyer, Liberal politician and diplomat. Speech, Toronto, March 1905.

    SEPARTISTS. These overgrown children, these untrained do-it-yourselfers, these quacks who tamper with our political ideals, these peddlers of panaceas who, as dabblers, have discovered truths which escaped the knowledge of the laboratories. These people adore imitating the gestures of an adult, that is, all the gestures except one: paying the bill.

    Jean Lesage (1912-80), Quebec politician, premier 1960-66, referring to Quebec separatists. Speech to Canadian Women’s Press Club, Montreal, June 12, 1965. Translation. Quoted by Robert M. Hamilton and Dorothy Shields in The Dictionary of Canadian Quotations and Phrases (1982).


    MOOSE PEOPLE. Moose are just like some people—they are hard to train. Shane Mahoney, chief wildlife researcher for the government of Newfoundland, on the difficulty in keeping moose from being attracted by the four million pounds of salt spread on Canadian highways every winter, resulting in dangerous moose-car collision, about 500 a year just in Newfoundland. Wall Street Journal, January 16, 1995.

    MY LOVE FOR CANADA was a feeling nearly allied to that which the condemned criminal entertains for his cell—his only hope of escape being through the portals of the grave. Susanna Moodie (1803-85), English-born Canadian writer and pioneer settler. Roughing It In The Bush (1852).

    NOT LIFE, LIBERTY, and the pursuit of happiness, but peace, order, and good government are what the national government of Canada guarantees. Under these, it is assumed, life, liberty, and happiness may be achieved, but by each according to his taste. For the society of allegiance admits of a diversity, the society of compact does not, and one of the blessings of Canadian life is that there is no Canadian way of life, much less two, but a unity under the Crown admitting of a thousand diversities. W.L. Morton (1908-80), Canadian historian. The Canadian Identity (1961).

    ISN’T IT AWFUL about those loafers sitting around taking handouts and simply sponging off the taxpayers? Let’s abolish the Senate immediately. Richard J. Needham (1912-1996 ), English-born Canadian journalist, columnist and author. Quoted by Allan K. McLean in the Ontario Legislature, July 23, 1992.

    HISTORY’S TRAGEDY. I sometimes think that the tragedy of this country is that French Canadians never forget history, and English Canadians never remember. John Roberts (1933-2007), Canadian Liberal politician. Speech, Toronto, September 25, 1977.

    WE DON’T WANT to be paying 75 grand a year to knock on a door for a throne speech. Buy a doorbell. Walter Robinson, director of the Canadian Taxpayer Federation, on the appointment of Mary McLaren as the first female “Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod,” a position in the Canadian Senate that pays between $73,400 and $86,400 a year. In addition to administrative duties, the principal ceremonial function is to summon members of Parliament to the Senate chamber at the opening of Parliament by pounding on the House of Commons door with a black rod. The parliamentary tradition dates back to 14th-century England. Toronto Star, October 21, 1997.

    NO AMERICAN who has chosen to leave the United States and take another citizenship will ever be a passionate nationalist anywhere, for what has turned us away from our own country is precisely that super-patriotism that has led to so many grievous mistakes both inside and outside the country. I will never be a super-Canadian, but in that I feel at home in a country which practices modesty and self-criticism regularly. Jane Rule (1931- ) U.S.-born Canadian writer.  Toronto Globe and Mail, April 16, 1980.

    TO BE POOR in America means you are not trying very hard. To be poor in Canada means that the government is not trying hard enough. Val Sears, Canadian journalist. Toronto Star, August 13, 1977.

    WHEN GREAT BRITAIN dismantled the British Empire it gave the land back to the original owners in Africa and Asia. This was not the case in Canada. Noel Starblanket (1946- ), Canadian Indian chief. Speech at a conference in London, July 6, 1979.

    KILLER COLD. I’ve played in some cold NFL cities like Green Bay and Buffalo and I hear it can get worse up in Canada. Any player ever die in the cold weather during a game up there? Joe Toliver, U.S. quarterback on the possibility of playing in the Canadian Football League. Toronto Globe and Mail, March 15, 1995.

    WE PEER so suspiciously at each other that we cannot see that we Canadians are standing on the mountain top of human wealth, freedom and privilege. Pierre Elliott Trudeau (1919-2000), 15th prime minister.Comment in 1980, cited in Toronto Globe and Mail, December 14, 1995.

    THE MAJORITY of Quebecers are not bilingual. Just like you, most of them speak only one language. There are about five million francophones in Quebec—and three-quarters of them speak only French. Think of it: about as many Quebecers who speak only French as the combined total population of all three Prairie Provinces. Pierre Trudeau, Speech, American Association of Broadcaster, Winnipeg, April 17, 1997.

    CANADA is not a country for the cold of heart or the cold of feet. Pierre Trudeau, Toronto Globe and Mail, September 12, 1994.

    CIRCUMCISED. A fully circumcised Conservative. William Van Horne (1843-1915), U.S.-born Canadian railway builder. Quoted by John A. Macdonald in a letter to H. H. Smith, March 3, 1884, referring to the employment of Conservatives on the Canadian Pacific Railway.

    LITTLE PEOPLE. Politicians love to refer to the little people, or the common man or the small farmer or businessman. If you listen close enough, you’ll soon become aware that Canada is populated by midgets. J.S. Wild,  Speech, London, Ontario, quoted in Liberty, August, 1963. Canada,United States,Multiculturalism.

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