How the world sees Canada

As Canada celebrates its national birthday, people around the world give their views on on Canada's image abroad.

People from 11 countries give their views, in part 2 of our series

This is the second page of contributions, after CBC News asked people knowledgeable about Canada but outside North America to give us their views on Canada's image abroad.

The responses — from 11 countries — touch on a range of emotions, from humour to love, joy and distress.

Here's Page 2 of our series. (Click here for Page 1)

Tracie Lea Scott, United Arab Emirates

Tracie Scott

When I was working on my PhD in law in the U.K., I heard Canada called parochial, somehow a quaint offshoot of British culture that had not really emerged as a meaningful nation.

When I joined the British Association for Canadian Studies, I began to understand how Canada really does exert its influence. At one conference I listened to an Italian legal scholar describe how the harm principle, and other aspects of our charter law would be beneficial for the ethnic tensions in Italy. This is only one small example of how I saw Canadian domestic and foreign policy discussed as a way forward for the world. I believe I became much more proud of being Canadian by seeing how the world viewed us.

We now live in the United Arab Emirates, where one thing being Canadian is good for is that if you tell a taxi driver you are from Canada they don't want to debate American politics. More than one of my American friends have become Canadian, at least during their cab ride.

Lawyer Tracie Lea Scott lives in Abu Dhabi, U.A.E.

Joy Porter, U.K.

Joy Porter, Hull University, U.K.

Canada seems to have lost its desire for positive self-promotion on the world stage at the very time when the nation needs to shore up its reputation most. Not so long ago, the Canadian government made funds available so that I might teach students about "the better America." It also gave money for books and paid for research into Canadian themes. Not any more.

My students, so obsessed these days with environmental themes, revered Canada as a country with more enlightened ideas about preserving the planet. Not any more. Now they talk of oil extraction, of the despoilation of the Arctic North and of Canada's characterization of its environmentalists as subversive.

At one time, Canada could be usefully contrasted with the United States as a country that has placed less emphasis upon the more brutal forms of assimilation of First Nations peoples and more upon indigenous potential. Now, despite political apologies over the cruelties of an assimilative school system, Canada's indigenous suffer analogous levels of endemic poverty, poor health and addiction to that of so many of America's urban and reservation Indians.

We Europeans know that the extent to which a nation protects its indigenous, its environment and its global reputation is a clear indicator of its likely future.

Joy Porter is a professor of indigenous history at the University of Hull in Hull, U.K.

Gabriel Barton, U.K.

Gabriel Barton

The position of the British and the fiscally prudent Canadian governments, that continental Europeans must sort out their own Eurozone mess, is popular in the U.K. Prime ministers Stephen Harper and David Cameron are considered obviously right to focus on supporting domestic enterprises trading in emerging markets, rather than sloshing yet more cash into the euro banking abyss.  

However, Brits are concerned that Canada's gaze doesn't turn fully towards Asia. The U.K. needs the engagement of Canada, its closest ally and a global beacon of tolerance, to counter the growing wave of European political extremism.  

Gabriel Barton is a British-Canadian historian currently resident in London, U.K. 

Mahesh K. Dey, India

Mahesh K. Dey, V.N.S.G. University, India.

Canada to me is another motherland away from my own motherland. I came to know about it deeply after I chose my research topic on native-Canadian novelists.

After my first visit to Canada in 2006, my impressions about its wide roads, Prairies, lakes, Niagara Falls, parks and the beauty of the Acadia are still unforgettable.

On subsequent visits, I met authors, including Thomas King in Guelph, Maria Campbell and Louise Halfe in Saskatchewan, Beatrice Culleton in Manitoba, and Cyril Dabydeen (born in Guyana) in Ottawa.

I feel that I can migrate with my family to this wonderful country after retirement to settle down amidst natural landscape and peace-loving neighbourhoods.

Mahesh K. Dey is an associate professor of English at Veer Narmad South Gujarat University, Surat in Gujarat, India.

Kamala Gopalan, India

I fell in love with Canadian writing in 1996 while I read Margaret Atwood's Edible Woman and there was never any looking back. Since then, I've worked on scores of Canadian writers. I've always wanted to visit Canada since six years of my life went into actively researching Canadian writing, but even when I visited the U.S., I didn't get there.

Tweets about #CBCCanadaDay

Stephen Murray @stephemurray

Every Nov., Knokke in Belgium line the streets with 1000's of CAN flags & host soldiers in thx 4 WW2 freedom.

4:47 PM - 28 Jun 12

scott macphail @scottymac769

Unfortunately sided with the US too often, and we've become greedy, no longer a peaceful society, we kill people in the third world.

11:06 AM - 29 Jun 12

Joh @johsocrates

A country that cares so little about the rights of refugees that it denies them health care and declares them false claimants.

11:49 AM - 29 Jun 12


Better internet infrastructure, cheaper, people who stay up late consistently and never go to bed. There you go.

4:16 PM - 29 Jun 12


Oh right, I'm an Australian and your Summer is the same temperature as our winter last we checked.

7:19 PM - 29 Jun 12

My love for Canada continues unabated. I perceive Canada as being consciously different from neighbour Uncle Sam in every possible way. I teach and I always tell my students how Marshall McLuhan was one of the first to write about the world as becoming a global village and it's the reality we live in.

Canadians are seen as more sensitive to other cultures and their love for planet Earth is known. However, despite multiculturalism, racism is known to raise its ugly head from time to time.

Overall I think it is a positive image that Canada and Canadians enjoy, especially since they are seen as minus the arrogance of their neighbours.

Kamala Gopalan wrote her PhD thesis in literature on "(Re)Presentations of the Female Body in the Works of Canadian Women Writers."

D.K. Pabby, India

In my opinion, Canada is viewed as one of the brightest stars of the modern developed world, mainly due to its open-ended democratic policies and practices.

The uniqueness of Canada lies in being the first to officially announce a multicultural policy and following it up with enactment of a Multicultural Act for empowering various ethnic, linguistic, cultural and religious immigrant communities.

D.K. Pabby is principal (Retd.) of Ram Lal Anand College, University of Delhi in New Delhi, India and the author of Discourse of Alienation: Fiction of Margaret Laurence and Anita Desai.

Félix Wing Solís, Panama

Felix Wing Solis

Over the past four decades, Canada had consistently built an international reputation. The Canadian government was known for its leadership in multilateral affairs, thanks to its role in the Stockholm Conference, the creation of the UN Environment Program, the Montreal Protocol on the ozone layer, and the Earth Summit.

Regrettably, Canada has made a 180-degree turn. The Canadian government actively promotes mining all over Latin America, and signs Free Trade Agreements to protect their investment at all cost. Canadian companies are known for their terrible environmental and social practices. They harm entire peasant and indigenous populations by destroying primary forests and polluting rivers and water wells on which their survival depends.

But Canadian companies would not stop there. They go as far as suing El Salvador before international arbitration bodies, seeking multimillion-dollar compensation when they try to enforce their own environmental and social standards, which are usually lower than Canadian standards.

Félix Wing Solís is the executive director of the Environmental Advocacy Center in Panama.

Malcolm Fairbrother, U.K.

Malcolm Fairbrother

In Britain, Canada is probably most closely associated with its spectacular wilderness. The winter Olympics in Vancouver were viewed as a very successful event. Unusually well-informed Britons also know that the Canadian economy has come through the international financial crisis relatively unscathed, and that immigration is an uncontroversial issue in Canada —unlike in Britain and continental Europe. Not many Britons, however, really give much thought to Canada overall.

Unfortunately, when they do now think of it, many Britons associate Canada with environmental exploitation, inadequate regulation, and in particular a strikingly neglectful approach to climate change. Canadians' per capita greenhouse gas emissions are among the highest in the world — comparable to those of the U.S. and Australia, and about twice those of Europeans.

Largely because of inaction by recent federal governments, Canada's per capita emissions are not even declining, as they have been in the U.S. This neglect of an issue of such potentially huge consequences, particularly for poor people, is undoing the previously positive view of Canada in Europe.

Malcolm Fairbrother teaches geographical sciences at the University of Bristol in Bristol, U.K.

Jatinder Mann, United Kingdom

Jatinder Mann of the the Menzies Centre for Australian Studies, King's College London. (Greg Funnell/Courtesy Jatinder Mann)

The Canada Day celebrations held in Trafalgar Square, London, U.K. (the largest outside Canada) since 2005, however, have done a lot to educate British people about Canada, I feel. Those that attend realise that Canada is not just a 'better' version of the U.S. but is a unique, diverse, exciting, welcoming country in its own right.

I always look forward to the celebrations because they bring a bit of Canada to the U.K. and I am always amazed by how many Canadians there actually are over here. They are usually quite quiet and unassuming during the year, but boy, do they come out of their shell on Canada Day!

Ever since I was a child, I wanted to learn as much as I possibly could about this vast country in the north. But it was really when I visited Toronto for the first time some years later that my love affair with Canada began.

I have been back several times, including to Vancouver (which is my favourite city in the world) and Montreal. A common theme to all of my visits and stays in Canada is a feeling of being at ease. I do not think I have ever felt as comfortable as when I have been in Canada.

And I have been born and raised in the UK and lived in Australia for some years. The way I usually explain it to people is that in my opinion you can be whatever you want to be in Canada and that is totally fine.

Jatinder Mann is a research associate at the Menzies Centre for Australian Studies, King's College London.

H. Kalpana Rao, India

H. Kalpana Rao teaches English at Pondicherry University in India.

'What is the image of Canada abroad' seems to be answerable to my own query of why Canada is not familiar territory, especially for people in Pondicherry, who live in what was once a French colony.

Sadly, today many are not very aware of Canada or its rich cultural, social and literary heritage. The main reason for this downfall is that Canada has stopped promoting studies in arts and humanities.

If Canada at any point makes a mark in the region of Pondicherry, it is only for its connections to French culture and language. As already hinted, Canada's image is not very vibrant and pulsating, at least in my part of the world. To have greater visibility, Canada must improve collaborations through colleges and universities.

I look forward to a day where I could proudly feel that Canada is not just a known location to our people but also a platform for mutual exchanges and collaborations. 

H. Kalpana Rao teaches English at Pondicherry University in India.

Chandra Mohan, India

Chandra Mohan, Central University of Gujarat, India.

Canada intensely lives in India’s imagination as strong and deep-rooted as India exists within Canada's psyche. Both countries embrace diversity, both are multicultural. Canada has adopted this virtue by an act of Parliament, while in the case of India, it comes to it as naturally as the petals sprout in a rose flower, in view of its long multilingual tradition.

Yet, both the countries share one common weak point: they suffer from the habit of 'diffidence' and 'ambivalence' in facing their contemporary realities.

Canada's image in India, especially in the field of higher education and research, seems to have gained an indelible imprint on its current educational engagements. It is significant that the outflow of students to Canadian universities from India occupies the third rank after the U.S. and U.K. in the fray, and the collaborative linkages between the two countries have reached a record number in the realm of educational partnerships. 

Chandra Mohan is an adviser on international higher education at Central University of Gujarat in Gandhinagar, India.

Andrew Smith, U.K.

Andrew Smith, Coventry University, U.K.

As a historian, I’m struck by how little coverage of Canada there is in the British media.

I’m currently writing a book about the Anglo-Canadian relationship just before WWI. At that time, there was tonnes of coverage of Canada in British newspapers, largely because Canada was part of the British Empire. I’m talking front-page coverage here.

This lasted until the 1960s, when the Commonwealth became much less meaningful to both countries. Since then, British people have paid attention to Canada only whenever there was a referendum in Quebec or Canada was hosting an Olympic games.

Thanks to Facebook, millions of people in the U.K. saw a picture of a couple lying on a street kissing in the middle of the Vancouver hockey riot. It was a big hit and I was certainly asked about it on a number of occasions.

There is much less truly astonishing ignorance of Canada than there was a few decades ago. In say, the 1950s and 1960s, some British people thought of Canada as an essentially unsettled area. I think that television, which allowed them to see that there were tall buildings and so forth, ended this romantic view.

British people are aware that Canadians dislike being confused with Americans. That’s the one thing they know about Canada.

Andrew Smith teaches history at Coventry University in Coventry, U.K.

(This is page two of How the world sees CanadaClick here for the first page.)


  • Tracie Lea Scott from the U.A.E. had stated in her contribution above that the Canadian embassy office in Abu Dhabi had closed. We have removed that reference. Embassy offices are in the Abu Dhabi Trade Towers.
    Jul 07, 2012 1:33 AM ET