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I'm Canadian, ehh - Now let me go back to my igloo
When I first arrived in Toronto, Canada I was not ready for the society I was to be part of. As an uninformed kid, I was expecting to literally see sky-scrapers everywhere. I suppose the few Hollywood movies I had seen created the wrong impression in my mind about North America.
Thus, when I saw the flat land and houses everywhere as the plane was landing, I did not know what to think. Where were all the bright lights, the tall buildings and the busyness I had seen in the movies? I suppose I know the answer to that question now: they are all in the movies.
Another thing that shocked me was that Canadians were not Americans. I did not know anything about beavers, I had never seen a racoon or a skunk and I never imagined them walking around a city. Nor did I imagine that millions of squirrels share cities with humans. I also did not understand why Canadians were haunted by the stereotype that they are backward people, living in igloos. What about the Canadian winter? Winter is winter, I thought to myself: there’s snow. Little did I know …
Nearly two decades have past and now as a proud Canadian, I am thinking of building an igloo, just so I can fit-in because I still stick-out as a sore thumb and some can still detect an accent. Perhaps, I do need to be more Canadian and blend-in.
My outrageous thoughts on how a society should work and what should be done to improve our lives are quite extreme for the Canadian mentality. Few people have the patience to listen to me and those who do, eye me strangely with that odd look in their eyes, like saying: “Boy, you’re trouble!”
Yes, trouble I am. I live in a city of about three million people. I am trying to imply that three million people are a lot of people. I know for someone out of New York City or Los Angeles, three million people is nothing but Toronto is not New York and is by far not comparable to Los Angeles.
New York has, I don’t know … fifteen or sixteen subway lines? We have three here and the third one consists of only four subway station stops. Our politicians put in bike lanes and every year they add more bike lanes to the city streets. I want to bang my head against the closest wall when I think of that! I think they are trying to be like Paris or Amsterdam but what they do not understand is that European cities are much smaller in the area they cover. Indeed you could cross Amsterdam on a bicycle in about a half an hour. I dare anyone to try that in Toronto.
I was watching the news the other day and saw that China is putting-in fast speed trains all over the country. We don’t talk about speed trains here though. We talk about canoeing. We talk about our failed sports teams (Raptors, Blue Jays & Maple Leafs) which we support blindly, paying outrageous prices at the box office even though they are quite worthless. All this as congestion, pollution and time wasted in gridlocks is on the increase in major cities.
About three-four years ago, a buddy and I decided we wanted to hike a trail that starts in Northwest Territories and ends in the Yukon: the Canol Heritage Trail (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canol_Heritage_Trail). When we inquired about details on how we would get from Toronto to the hiking trail in the Northwest Territories, the story changed drastically. VIA Rail only runs from east to west or vice versa, so no train could take us there; nothing going north. Our only choice was to fly from Toronto to Calgary or to Edmonton. From there we would have to take another flight to Whitehorse at which point another chartered flight would be necessary to make it to the beginning of the trail. All in all, transportation would have cost around two thousand dollars just to get to the trail and back so that did not include food drop-offs, equipment, etc. The plan crumbled to pieces as fast as it came into being; all because there was no adequate transportation.
Our speed limit on the highways is 100km/hr or 60miles/hr if you’re an American. Try talking about increasing that speed limit and you are looked at like you have escaped the mental institute. What kind of a psychotic idea was that? Forget that I even mentioned it. And by no means should we want to improve the driver’s examination test. Having accidents all over the city all day long, creating traffic jams because people get their driving license without knowing how to drive properly is of no importance.
I know Toronto well. I have lived here now for many years. This city is not doing good. It is hurting. A report done by McMasterUniversity on poverty and pollution (http://libwiki.mcmaster.ca/geo2ui3-section1/index.php/Toronto/PovertyAndIncomeInequality) in the city of Toronto published earlier this year, left me with a bad taste in my mouth. As the population has been on the increase so has poverty in the past thirty years and Toronto has a specific sad story to tell.
This city is considered the heart of the business sector and the ideal place for commerce; most people think that this is where you can cash-in and they come here in significant numbers each year. I do see Lamborghinis and Ferraris but I see even more homeless people and those who are barely staying afloat; working low paying jobs, living from pay-check to pay-check and sometimes even then, falling in debt. There are more people who “break it” in this city than those who “make it”. On the bright side if you want a job as a social worker there are lots of positions available and as more people end-up on the street more positions will open-up. We spend our money on bandages instead of cures.
How are homeless people supposed to straighten-out their life when going to a shelter to sleep at night can cost them the little possessions that they have and even their life? I think I would rather go to jail than a shelter if those were my two choices. At least in jail there is some sort of security.
We don’t talk about affordable housing much though. It is a difficult topic and it gives way to strong emotions. If you’re Canadian, you voice your strong emotions for your favourite hockey team; otherwise the government will spend two billion dollars on riot police to straighten you out like they did during the G-8 Summit this past summer. Shut-up and enjoy the rights and freedoms which you still have. If you point-out that there are many things which can be improved in this society, you are seen as a hater to put it in simple terms; one that is unthankful.
With that in mind, I want to thank our government for the initiative to spend 16 billion dollars on fighter planes (a price which is said to increase to perhaps even 25 billion by the time the delivery of the planes will be made). That’s exactly what Canadians need! I very well know that with the change in climate, more polar bears are endangering our most northern communities and with better and more efficient air-power we can blast these latest nuisances back to the North Pole in one shot. That’s all we need in Toronto, for the polar bears to start scavenging through the garbage, as if the racoons weren’t enough.
Now if you don’t mind, I got an igloo to build, ehh.