Growing up, my father told me that Canada was a place that children hated and was no fun. In retrospect, this was just a way to keep me from asking endless questions about the country, but it remains the first stereotype I held about Canada. Despite sharing a border and similar forms of government, Canada is seen as a foreign, elusive country to citizens of the United States. Americans have amassed a collection of stereotypes about the Canadian government and its people.
One of the most predominant stereotypes Americans hold about Canadians is that it is a country with a highly diverse population, with data trends predicting that by 2031, 29% to 32% of Canada’s population could belong to a visible minority group. This perceived sense of diversity leads many Americans to believe that Canada’s immigration process is simple and wholly accepting of individuals, regardless of country of origin, religious beliefs, or socioeconomic status. Many Americans also hold the belief that Canada has progressed past the racial and gender-based issues that the United States so often faces. This bias is shown through the immigration of American citizens to Canada in an effort to escape the political climate of the United States.
While many of these American perceptions of Canada are rooted in truth, they are overly simplistic. The belief that Canada has a more welcoming immigration process holds up, with 21.9% of its citizens in 2016 reporting they were or had ever been a landed immigrant or permanent resident in Canada, compared to only 13.5% of Americans. Although Canada is a world leader in immigration, the country’s diverse population is concentrated in big cities, with 91% of it’s 6.8 million immigrants in 2011 living in one of the 33 Census Metropolitan Areas (CMAs). This concentration of immigrants in large cities leaves the impression that rural Canada is a polarizing place for recent immigrants. Furthermore, according to a Foreign Credentials Report, recent immigrants across the country claim language barriers and requirements for Canadian experience on some job postings pose the biggest problems.
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Although people of colour accounted for more than one-fifth of Canada’s population in 2016, the country still faces major racial inequality issues. According to Canada’s 2016 census, 20.8% of racialized people in Canada have low-incomes compared to 12.2% of non-racialized people. To make matters worse, racialized men earned 76 cents, for every dollar a white man earned in Ontario in 2015. Racialized women earned a mere 58 cents for every dollar earned by a white man in that same year. On top of that, the average income gap between indigenous people and non-indigenous people was 33% in 2016. Even worse, the gap between indigenous women and non-indigenous men was 45% in the same year.
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Similarly, only 75 cents on average is earned by the full time working women in Canada for every dollar made by a white male. Gender-based issues in Canada are not limited to financial capital. In 2014, 553,000 women self-reported sexual assault, according to Statistics Canada’s General Social Survey on Victimization. Despite the prevalence of sexual assault in Canada, only 5% of sexual assaults were reported to police in 2014, indicating a societal shame placed on victims and a lack of trust in the legal process.
In a poll by Global News/ Ipsos Reid, 71% of survivors of sexual assault who reported the incident to the police claimed they had a negative experience with law enforcement. Indigenous women are even more likely to experience assault than non-indigenous women. In 2014, according to the 2014 General Social Survey on Victimization, the rate of sexual assault self-reported by Indigenous women was more than triple that of non-Indigenous women.
The perception that Canada is a free country whose politicians and citizens are wholly accepting of all individuals is overly simplistic. Instead of researching topics like immigration and racial inequality in Canada, many Americans opt to cling to hearsay and old stereotypes. It is paramount for Americans to understand that Canada is a country that, much like the United States, has profited off institutionalized racism and the oppression of minority groups for centuries, with black and indigenous people disproportionately overrepresented in prisons and jails.
On top of that, Canada, much like the United States, actively uses prison labor, meaning the Canadian economy relies on a continuously high number of imprisoned citizens. Americans must dig deeper and educate themselves on the history of Canada’s development to understand that despite the nation’s friendly stereotypes, the nation still has plenty of work to do to address and dismantle institutionalized racism.