Oh, Canada!

Today, my husband and I return from a ten-day trip that took us out of the U.S. and—far more consequentially—much of the time, out of areas in which we had access to the internet. My blog platform allows me to schedule posts, but my ability to share those posts on Facebook was pretty hit or miss. So—apologies to readers for the lack of regularity.

It’s experiences like this that make me realize how utterly dependent I have become upon today’s technology, and how helpless I feel when I can’t immediately read and respond to emails, or consult Dr. Google to find information.

This particular trip was a long-planned cruise vacation with our younger two grandchildren, ages 12 and 14. No parents invited. We began in Boston, and ended with Quebec City and Montreal, Canada. (Along the way, I think we guaranteed the continued profitability of Gray Lines tours…)

In many ways, visiting Canada doesn’t seem different from visiting other parts of the U.S. Even in Quebec, where French is the “first” language, everyone speaks English, and the clothes and customs are familiar. Starbucks and McDonalds and Subway are ubiquitous.

But there are differences, and they reflect well on Canada. And not so well on us.

The news was full of stories about Canadians’ embrace of Syrian refugees, for example. Canadian families wanting to “adopt” a refugee family (in the sense of helping that family acclimate, find housing and employment, and willingness to function as a resource) significantly outnumber available “adoptees.” The articles provided an embarrassing contrast to so many Americans’ deeply suspicious and negative response to that same refugee population.

Then there was the contrast provided by Canada’s physical and social infrastructure.

Quebec’s sprawling historic districts were meticulously maintained. Streets everywhere we went were free of potholes, and public art was everywhere—including on the sides of buildings and on the supports for highways. In both cities, public parks, public squares and other public spaces were everywhere and filled with people. Montreal, we are told, was just named one of the globe’s “smart cities.” (We were duly grateful–we finally had  wifi!)

Canadians all seemed to approve of their Premier. Those with whom we spoke were uniformly grateful for and supportive of the country’s national health care system. Several taxi drivers bragged about the efficiency of their cities’ winter snow removal (given the amount of snow they get, it’s an obvious priority.)

And everyone with whom we interacted was so polite….albeit quite willing to share with Americans that they are appalled and repulsed by Donald Trump.

Travel is generally instructive, if only to make us look at our own cities with fresh eyes—to ask ourselves what our cities and neighborhoods would look like to someone from another country. What would we brag about? What would embarrass us?

A few days as a tourist allows only a very superficial assessment of any city or country. I have no idea what civic or governmental problems bedevil the residents of the charming places we visited, what urban challenges are unmet, what social problems remain unresolved.

Still—it’s hard not to get a bit wistful when you see all that well-maintained infrastructure…..


  1. Love, Canada!
    I posted this on my facebook wall a few weeks ago:

    I urge you to travel as far and as much as possible.

    Work ridiculous shifts to save your money. Go without the latest iphone.
    Throw yourself out of your comfort zone.
    Find out about how other people live and realize the world is a much bigger place than the town you live in.

    And when you come home, home may be the same, and yes, you may go back to the same old job, but something in your mind will have changed.

    And trust me, that changes everything.

  2. Traveling to and spending several days in Toronto and Montreal during the mid-1970’s, my husband and I found the same friendliness, orderliness, cleanliness and maintained streets and roads Sheila reported everywhere we drove. Toronto was such a beautiful, cosmopolitan city; we heard many languages but also English speaking servers and tourists. We were fortunate to be in Toronto two years during “The Mall”; several blocks of Yong Street and one block either side were closed to traffic. Signs at entrances requested “no bike riding” and all bikes were walked by owners, police patrolled but bothered no one, but no one was causing trouble, everyone was friendly. There were many arts and crafts stands, outdoor cafes, street musicians, chess tournaments and street artists. If your table had empty chairs, waiters asked if you minded sharing; you could enjoy conversations with strangers or keep to yourselves. The clean, well maintained streets were immediately obvious, prices seemed reasonable.

    Canada seems to have maintained a continuing level of public services, infrastructure maintenance and conditions to serve Canadian residents and millions of tourists for more than forty years. My trip to downtown Indianapolis on May 25th provided a trip through appalling conditions; dirty streets, some almost impassable due to gridlock traffic traveling through mazes of streets blocked off on alternating sides for construction of buildings and street repairs that never seems to get completed for years. The trash, dirt and permanent stains with several buckled areas in the bricked sidewalks and streets surrounding the City-County Building, with the scraggly pine tree in front of IMPD were embarrassing to see.

    Read Matthew Tully’s comments in the Star today regarding where too many of our tax dollars appear to be going for possible answers to some of the current conditions of our once beautiful downtown Indianapolis. Canada also maintains their sports arenas without the apparent need to let basic maintenance and service to all go undone.

  3. Sometimes going to other countries can affirm what we know about living in America: being “exceptional” can mean not so good. For sure few countries can beat us at our exceptional ability to believe that it’s patriotic to pretend the place is the best when so much is in the toilet. Narcissism isn’t pretty. Few can hold a candle to our shining arrogance.

  4. My Canada. It has been my privilege to grow up half-Canadian. My dad was born and grew up there. It informed his politics and sense of community. That, in turn, informed his family and parishioners in Florida,where he landed in the thirties. We grew up with his ideas about equality and civil responsibility, a rare thing in the South of my youth. I love returning to that country and do it as often as budget and time permit. It makes me sad to hear my friends there and relatives talk about how they have been treated by the US. How lucky they are to have such a wonderful PM. They all fear what Trump would do to their relationship with the US. We will be visiting just befor the election. I’m sure to get an earful. Smile.

  5. When the US falls completely, I hope Canada takes over. The pride in & loyalty toward our own country, the services that contribute to the common good, the honesty & integrity of our leaders, all of these are little more than a distant memory, like a fading dream in the harsh morning light.

  6. Time to tell the Queen that we appreciate the good run, but to celebrate Independence Day we’re turning it all back and asking Canada to be our guardian.

  7. I love disconnecting from technology. Were it an everyday affair I’d probably go bonkers, but for a month in summer I have to drive 27 miles, either east or west, to even get cell phone service. Internet, what’s that? Even harder to find. But this keeps my soul renewed.

  8. Love your comments, Stuart!
    I, too, have traveled to Canada and found it to be everything all of you have described. Made me decide to try to be as civil and polite in my daily life.

  9. First, congratulations on your grandparenting. First rate. Your grandchildren are still at heavy learning age and the impressions that they will always have now of diversity will build a strong foundation for eventual wisdom.

    “experiences like this that make me realize how utterly dependent I have become upon today’s technology, and how helpless I feel when I can’t immediately read and respond to emails, or consult Dr. Google to find information.”

    I hate being without the Internet though I try to take advantage of it on my time rather than at the expense of relationships. My mind is constantly wandering into unknown territory and the ability to research often and thoroughly is like sunshine to me.

    Our Florida place has a fair percentage of Canadians and they tend to be Canadian conservatives. The most common political thought that I hear from them is that their liberals will run out of money before they run out of ways to spend it. Of course they haven’t experienced what we have. The conservatives will run the country into the ground before they invest in it.

    Of course Canadians invented Trump. Back when Trump was still earning his Kardashian wings they had Robb Ford as mayor and bon vivant of Toronto. Fortunately his star burned out before he could ruin the city saving money.

    I sure that Canadians today appreciate that the pond has kept them separated from Brexit and married to NAFTA. Like with many divorces a lot of us think that England would have been better served by working on her marriage rather than becoming single in today’s world. The single life is more attractive in retrospect than it is in reality and they too suffer from the global epidemic of conservatism so they will learn the hard way what life is about.

    Vacation as lessons learned. What a concept!

  10. JoAnn, I read Tully’s article on the Colts and Irsay. Tully failed to touch the Third Rail of the Corporate Welfare the Simon’s and Pacers have received. Two new Stadiums and a yearly subsidy for the Pacers. The Pacer’s deal is similar to the Colt’s deal concerning the stadium revenues. The Simon’s also had the downtown Mall Subsidy.

    I had a volunteer job that involved me driving within a radius of about 10 miles or so of downtown. Our streets and roads resemble a Third World Country once you leave the main streets. I am sure the citizens have complained about the streets and roads but the justifiable complaining obviously falls on the deaf ears of our Mayors and City-County Elected Officials. Let’s face it our elected officials here in Indianapolis are useless, when it comes to serving the people. The list of Crony-Capitalist Deals here in Indianapolis seem nearly endless.

  11. Years ago I traveled to Victoria and Vancouver, British Columbia. Both were pristine, beautiful, and welcoming. Victoria was especially impressive with huge flowering baskets hanging from every lamp post. On entering Victoria’s harbor, “Welcome to Victoria” was spelled out in flowers on the shoreline to welcome boating visitors.

    A friend’s daughter and family were transferred to Victoria. They love it so much that they don’t want to move back to the USA. They pay higher taxes there and love the public services, the parks and the universal health care those taxes make possible.

  12. Greetings from western Canada-the City of Hope BC and Okahagan Valley west of Baniff
    where bears, wolves, deer, moose, osprey and people coexist very well.

    May this country be an inspiration to getting along.

    Oh Canada.

  13. We visited Vancouver a few years ago and we still consider that a spot to retire (if they will have us). Toronto is nice but Vancouver, wow, I’ve never seen anything so lovely. It’s just breath-taking scenery. We drove up to the Whistler’s Pass area and I was going crazy taking photos along the shoreline. I don’t think I could live in Europe if it wasn’t for the access to the internet. How else could I connect to family? Or your blog? It’s the sign of the times.

  14. Damn!!!! And to think that I have wasted my 87 years here in the U.S. when I could have been in any of these other wonderful countries. Damn!!!!

  15. Humanity has evolved through many stages. It used to be that tribes wandered to where food and water could be found. Then we stopped wandering and stayed where the weather supported growing our own food. Then we built cities on water and overland trade routes where commerce was best practiced. Now we can relocate easily to wherever we want and the overwhelming tendency has been from the country to the cities.

    It’s irrelevant whether any of this is good or bad, it just is.

    Now, woe be to us, our insatiable energy appetite we find out late in the game is changing the weather and sea levels so that more and more the good choices that we made in the past are bad choices in the future. Even the present for many.

    Packing the bags to relocate is easy enough but packing the buildings and docks and homes and farms and roads and airports and factories is not possible . We’ll have to abandon them and rebuild.

    Or remaining choices are simple. Limit the chaos or add to it.

  16. Indiana was once part of Upper Louisiana.

    You people do crack me up. Can you imagine if we had enough candidates like Sanders, perhaps we could have a comparable quality of life in the U.S. as lauded by those within this thread wrt Canada. Of course universal healthcare is lauded by the readers of this blog when practiced in Canada,however when proposed by the candidate opposing Clinton, it was deemed unpractical,impossible and just not feasible by the readers of this blog. Sanders and his ideas were rejected by the majority on this blog. His supporters were derided for believing in such unattainable developments. Golly gee,we just can’t do it. Vote for Clinton because Trump is Hitler. It’s not just Texas and Florida where the inane seems to prevail.

    Yes,Republicans are the problem. Republicans are obstructionists…..even when they leave the flagship tribe and consequently infiltrate the Democratic Party. We can never go forward because so many are too comfortable and reliant upon the status quo. Who needs navigable roads when we have expensive and opulent stadiums? Who needs universal healthcare when we have the gift of the ACA forced upon the populace on behalf of the insurance industry?

  17. Tell me Pete, have you ever traveled on a troop ship to some ugly beat up place and wondered if you were ever coming home? In my case home was the U.S. of America.

  18. Oh,I’ve been to Canada. Nice country. However,they did give the world Loverboy ,NickleBack Justin Bieber and Avril Lavigne. I can never forgive them!

  19. We have allowed our greedy, scumbag, supposed leaders to water and fertilize hate. Hate against Blacks, Latinos, Gays, Muslims, and most importantly, poor people. We have glorified wealth and the people who have wealth. We denigrate the people who get hurt as they acquire their great wealth. We organize our political and economic structure to facilitate a few people acquiring great wealth at the expense of our people, our infrastructure, our planet and everything else that might stand in the way of their greed. Wonder why we have problems?

  20. This is beside the point of Canada and the Indianapolis infrastructure but wanted to pass along something that might interest many of you. I’m sure you have seen the ads from the owner of Home Depot stores announcing his full support and donating lots of $$$’s to the Trump campaign. My son and daughter-in-law took me to Lowe’s this morning to pick out new carpet; made our selection, the clerk inserted my VISA card for payment and up popped a MILITARY DISCOUNT DUE TO MY GRANDSON WHO IS IN THE U.S. NAVY! And a very nice discount it was. So; take your business to Lowe’s even if you have no family member in the the military and stay away from Home Depot.

    Happy July 3rd – hoping for a much better Happy July 4th to celebrate.

  21. Irvin. To me life is learning. It is no surprise to me that we all have different experiences to learn from. I’ll bet you learned a lot from yours and it seems at 87 none of them were fatal.

    How great is that?

  22. Willuam1 your memories of how Bernie was treated by and on this blog are distinctly different than mine.

  23. “Travel is generally instructive, if only to make us look at our own cities with fresh eyes—to ask ourselves what our cities and neighborhoods would look like to someone from another country. What would we brag about? What would embarrass us?”
    I attended the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 this year and was truly embarrassed, appalled, and amazed at the acceptance of the amount of trash and the poor condition of the facilities. There were mountains of trash before the race even started. Recycling bins were non existent. Facilities where out of basic sanitary supplies, and many were out of order or running over with human waste. I saw several IMS employees slumped over sleeping, sleeping!!! What a missed opportunity to encourage our citizens to be clean and proud, set the bar, set an example. “The greatest spectacle in the world.”

  24. Greetings Pete, With all your philosophical statements you still did not answer my question which I posted at 12:36. And I have learned a lot from reading other ‘s statements on this column.

  25. Irvin, thanks for reminding me. The answer is no.

    My being philosophical is all about wondering and learning. What makes the Universe and life and humanity tick? Why I became an engineer I guess.

    My military age didn’t coincide with any active wars. When I got out of school the military was one alternative that I looked into but concluded that it might be too boring.

    One of those forks not taken.

  26. Greetings Pete. Thank you for your answer. My young mind was not tuned to anything but getting a job, buying a car and going to Cincinnati to meet girls. My time in the military allowed me to meet persons from far and wide and ideas that were alien to me. My horizons were expanded beyond anything I had ever experienced. I gave up old ideas and learned new things. WOW. I love my country with all its faults. Have a great 4th of July! Irvin BAA

  27. William you are right. Single Payer only works in other places not in the USA. Sanders pointed out Canada as a place where universal heath care works. Somehow many Americans could not figure that out. Sort of like the metric system it is too hard for us Americans to understand.

    So here we are Trump vs Hillary wow what a choice. No possibility of Canada here with either of them. Interesting that the Monday night before the CA Primary the AP and MSNBC (no surprise here) crowned Hillary, even though she does not have enough pledged delegates to win.

    The Clintonesque machinations, triangulating and maneuvering continues – Of all the Airports in America Bill Clinton and AG Loretta Lynch just “happen” to be at the same place at the same time in Phoenix and have a private meeting, just days before Hillary’s interview with the FBI. The FBI investigates but the AG’s Office will decide to prosecute.

    In the mini-series I Claudius there was the following dialogue Tiberius is the Roman Emperor:
    Tiberius: I will make you my successor, Gaius Caligula. Rome deserves you.
    Caligula: Is that a joke, uncle?
    Tiberius: Not yet, but it will be.

  28. Just recently moved to Tennessee from Indiana…I have never traveled abroad (jobs for husband and myself kept leaving Indy and so financially traveling abroad has not been in the cards) however we do travel around the US typically driving and Indiana by far has the worst infrastructure thus far…shoot the interstates in Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Illinois and Colorado are better. We were just in Colorado where recycle bins are every where and their roads both interstate and rural areas in good shape. Highways 65 and 75 in Kentucky are still least 3 to 4 lanes each way and are in good shape…cross into Indiana from Louisville and you are meant with construction that has been piece mealed for 17 years with no appreciative improvement. Trash and rubber tire road snakes are everywhere and Indiana’s Highways look like a crazy quilt with all the various cracks, patchwork fill ins of tar, and asphalt making driving even more treacherous with a road system too small to handle the volume. It seemed every other week 65 and 70 were shut down for hours due to severe accidents.
    I lived in Plainfield and worked at Riley and so I would take 70, or even years a big deer was hit and the body sat at the tip of a barrier. It was never picked up and I got to witness the entire decomposition process. What a sight to see when visitors came to town from the airport….blood splattered, mangled deer carcass on the shoulder between the barriers of 70 and the collectors….like I said before a few of the chief operating officers when asked to move to Indpls from merger companies did a window survey of the area and declined to move to Indpls staying the state looks like a poverty state and lacked good paying jobs.

  29. I love your country too Irvin but like most things it occasionally falls into disrepair and requires attention. Fortunately those who proceeded you and I thought about that and gave us the tools of Democracy and freedom to do the fixing.

    Also people like you did some dangerous and uncomfortable things to maintain the tools. Thank you.

    Now using the tools to fix the things that are broken requires all of us.

    I look at this forum and others like it as our on-line instruction manual.

    Let’s get to work.

  30. Louie, I’m not sure how we pay is as broken as what we’re buying no matter how we pay. Most of us simply can’t afford it because it’s designed to be for the wealthy only. The only exception is what we do and should give veterans.

    Every other country gets better results paying way less.

    I’d be in favor of any scheme that addresses that.

  31. “My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.”

    From Jack Layton’s last letter to Canadians (Jack was leader of the official opposition until he died in 2011 – he brought the New Democratic Party up from minor, perpetually hopeful, status to an unprecidented level before he died of cancer).

    The following paragraphs are from new Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s acceptance speech last fall:

    “Conservatives are not our enemies, they’re our neighbours. Leadership is about bringing people of all different perspectives together. …

    You want a Prime Minister who knows Canada is a country strong, not in spite of our differences, but because of them, a PM who never seeks to divide Canadians, but takes every single opportunity to bring us together. You want a Prime Minister who knows that if Canadians are to trust their government, their government needs to trust Canadians …

    We believe in our hearts that this country’s unique diversity is a blessing bestowed upon us by previous generations of Canadians, Canadians who stared down prejudice and fought discrimination in all its forms. We know that our enviable, inclusive society didn’t happen by accident and won’t continue without effort. I have always known this; Canadians know it too. If not, I might have spoken earlier this evening and given a very different speech. …

    Have faith in your fellow citizens, my friends. They are kind and generous. They are open-minded and optimistic. And they know in their heart of hearts that a Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian. …

    My friends, we beat fear with hope. We beat cynicism with hard work. We beat negative, divisive politics with a positive vision that brings Canadians together. Most of all, we defeated the idea that Canadians should be satisfied with less, that good enough is good enough and that better just isn’t possible. Well, my friends, this is Canada, and in Canada better is always possible.”

    I have included the remarks above – in what I hope is not toooo much detail – to give you all an idea of the sorts of ideas that removed the conservatives from power here, after ten years of what seemed to many (most as it turned out) of us as anti-Canadian governance and rhetoric. A long, emphatic sigh of relief was heard across the country when the Liberals won so decisively.

    Of course the Progressive Conservatives are disgruntled, austerity is no longer the by-word up here, neither is paranoia. Hard to know what young Trudeau can accomplish, but there is hope that the tide will never turn back to a government which attempts to create a two-tier citizenship, among other horrors.

    I have been Canadian for half my life, lived here longer, still marvel at my extreme good fortune to have ended up here. It is nice to read so many great comments about this country. I want to note, however, that there are many pockets of apparently intractable misery here – such as the Downtown East Side of Vancouver, location of the deepest poverty and greatest collection of addicts in the country, AND, the lives of many First Nations peoples living on reserves are not noticeably better. Many things here require improvement, quickly. So, Trudeau needs to be right that, “better is possible.” We’ll see, and I hope we do not forget that hope is indeed possible, important, and useful, and that action by concerned and committed individuals at all levels is both possible and necessary.

    Up here we may have one strong advantage, however, we appear to accept – and strongly support – the idea that ‘caring for the least of these…’ our neighbors, our fellow citizens, our future citizens, makes the entire world (country) better.

    None the less, I tend to quip: “Canadians and Americans are not that different. It is just that 35 million people, no matter how hard they try, simply cannot make as much mess as 350 million…”

    Thank you for your patience with this long post!

  32. It is good to see where your military ancestors fought each other for centuries into modern photographic record scenes … wherever they were at the time Benjamin Franklin was dining in Montreal BEFORE negotiations failed Earth around at the planned cities by then.

  33. Pete; I sent a thank you message earlier regarding your post about the FORMER CEO of Home Depot, no idea what happened to it. I had read 2 or 3 posts stating that so mistakenly assumed it was true. Thanks for the information.

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