An American’s First Canada Day as a Permanent Resident

Adults |

Katie Barnell here – Operations Director at FamilySparks, getting ready to celebrate my first Canada Day as a Canadian Permanent Resident! I was born-and-raised in California, the land of never-ending sunshine, wineries galore, and In-N-Out burger. The downside though is that it’s also a home without universal healthcare, “led” by a President who supports white supremacists, blames immigrants for political issues, and doesn’t respect many core American values the country was founded on. Though the conversation pre-2016 was to leave politics out of business, American political activity has far surpassed any “political debate” and quickly transcended the boundary of basic human rights. For these reasons, while I am deeply connected to my Yankee home culture and family there, on this Canada Day I am particularly grateful to be in my “new” Northern home. 

While there are a lot of reasons Canadians envy the American Life – I’m talking cheap gas and travel, basic consumerism at its finest (hello, no duties or import fees, and free shipping!), racial and ethnic diversity, having a gorgeous place like Hawaii as a state, and more – this Canada Day, I wanted to take a moment, as an American, to highlight and appreciate the uniquities Canada has to offer – and there are a LOT.

First things first, universal healthcare

This one is obvious – we pay some of the highest taxes in the world because we understand the value of caring for our neighbours, even if their challenges never affect us directly. The richest person in the world is only as strong as the weakest part of the health care system – and we are seeing this in action right now with the COVID-19 crisis. Canadians understand that free and accessible healthcare is a basic human right – not a privilege. We don’t have anything if we don’t have our health – and I feel immensely grateful that a simple ER visit won’t stick me with a multi-digit hospital bill that could disrupt my entire life.

A whole lot of nature and a lot less people to share it with

I’ll admit, this one might be a little selfish. Canada is nearly 10 million square kilometers, with only about 37 million people. In contrast, the US is about 60,000 square miles smaller, but with a population of nearly 330 million. Granted, much of Canada is sparsely populated with a significant amount of barely habitable land (depending on who you ask). Nevertheless, we have some of the most majestic, untouched, wild, and remote landscapes and geographical features in the world (I’m talking about natural wonders like you, British Columbia rainforests, coasts, and you too, aquamarine lakes nestled in glaciers, Moraine Lake in Alberta). I surely feel lucky to be able to explore these wonders in our own backyard – especially during a time when the rest of the world is more-or-less off-limits. 

Government assistance programs for catastrophic events like COVID-19

Though Americans received a one-time economic boost payment during the coronavirus crisis, Canadians who lost jobs due to the virus continue to receive money from the government easily and quickly. Canadians who need money to pay their bills, pay for their child costs, and essentially live – can receive continuous funds to help them with no questions asked. Of course, those who take advantage of the system and are not eligible will face consequences – but, as an American who received one payment for a crisis that has lasted nearly 6 months, I am blown away by how well the government cares for the people who need it. 

Canadian Quality-of-Life is Top-Notch

Canada is consistently ranked one of the best places to live in the world, based on factors like job and economic prosperity and the health of our education system. For the most part, we feel cared for by our country’s leaders, and feel empowered to achieve our dreams and build the life we want. Our political system is fair and democratic, and when you live in a place like the West Coast, you can surf and ski on the very same day! 

Canadians value education

Canadians spend more money on education than any other nation in the world. They are also extremely highly-educated – 51% of us are college graduates, compared to 33% in America. Post-secondary school is also affordable, pricey but still only a fraction of what most Americans typically pay to go to a 4-year college in their home states. In fact, this is a major reason I moved to British Columbia! After high school, I travelled to Vancouver, fell in love with the city and culture of the city’s major university, and its price tag. Though my yearly tuition as an international student was quadruple that of Canadians, it was still significantly cheaper than going to school in the US – which, if you ask me, is a little crazy. 

Let’s end with some fun facts!

  • We have better work-life balance than most places
  • We’re generous
  • We have the happiest retirees in the world
  • We have a vibrant indigenous music scene 
  • We have the best skiing and snowboarding in North America 
  • We’re one of the most peaceful countries in the world
  • We have tons of water – and lots of dinosaurs lived here! 

No, I will not stop saying sorry (pronounced like “sore-ree”) for just about everything. The stereotype often rings true on this one – the vast majority of Canadians in my experience are polite, hospitable, and kind. We care for others and give people the benefit of the doubt. We are slightly more collectivistic in nature, and understand that there is value for ourselves in caring for others. This Canada Day, I am going to celebrate all these wonderful things that make our home an incredible place to live. Like all places, though, we are not without our problems. Though much of the global focus regarding systemic racism is honed in on the USA, we have our own struggles with our historic oppression of BIPOC, too. We have a lot of work to do – and at the same time, we appreciate what we get to enjoy every day as Canadians.