It’s a cliché that Canadians don't brag, at least not as floridly as their southern neighbors, but they are to be thanked for many gifts. Here is my own quick list. To start with the west, the media world has brought us Alex Smith’s “Radio Ecoshock” (specializing in climate change), New Society Publishers (books including social criticism), and Adbusters (a magazine that also had a hand in Occupy Wall Street).
My life has been graced by visiting a college roommate’s sister’s family in Victoria, and by knowing Michael Cecil, who used to live on a ranch in (and has family in) British Columbia. Outlanders drawn to Canada from the U.K., they each exude a spirit of peacefulness.
Even for a long-time resident of the San Francisco Bay Area, Vancouver stands out for its beauty. At the University there, I was startled by the powerful art of Bill Reid, including his sculpture called “Raven and the First Men.” Based on a Haida myth, the bird stands on a barely opened clam shell that must have allowed a look, from the inside, at a strip of reality like a brightly lit horizon between an overcast sky and a dark sea on the inland passage between Seattle and Juneau.
Shifting to eastern Canada: a member of my men’s group fled to Toronto during the war in Vietnam and taught yoga there instead of being ordered to kill people. As a student of literature, I of course benefitted from the novels of Margaret Atwood and writings of Northrup Frye; as a political observer, from the wisdom of Naomi Klein, author of The Shock Doctrine; as a student of meditation, from the words of Pema Chodrun (who lives now in Nova Scotia); and a as a fan of singer-songwriters, from the verve of Leonard Cohen(“Everybody knows…”).
Perhaps most valuable have been the examples offered by Canada in the fields of health care, of peace-making, and of refugee-absorbing. These are complex areas, but it is helpful to have alternatives to consider.
Some indigenous people such as the Iroquois call North America “turtle island.” My country is richer because of sharing this island with Canada (and Mexico).