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Carnett: Moving in with the neighbours, eh?

November 04, 2013|By Jim Carnett

"I can't tell you Aussies and Kiwis apart," I once confessed to a New Zealander.

I'm pretty sure I insulted him.

"There are huge differences, mate," the Kiwi corrected, "just as there are big differences between Americans and Canadians. If I said you lot were alike, you'd be offended."

Obviously, he took exception to being mistaken for an Aussie.

Ask a Hungarian in Budapest to pull a Canadian from a crowd of Americans and he wouldn't be able to do it. The rest of the world sees us as Siamese twins, but we know our differences. My Kiwi friend's comments speak volumes about personal and geopolitics Down Under — and in North America.

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Americans and Canadians are different and proud of it, but we get along for the most part. The longest undefended border in the world — 3,987 miles — once sat between us. It's been militarized since the 9/11 attacks.

"When I have been in Canada, I have never heard a Canadian refer to an American as a 'foreigner.' He's just an 'American.'" Franklin D. Roosevelt once said. "And in the same way in the United States, Canadians are not 'foreigners.' They are 'Canadians.' That simple distinction illustrates to me better than anything else the relationship between our two countries."

I've visited British Columbia a dozen times. Six weeks ago my wife, Hedy, and I made our second foray into eastern Canada, visiting Montreal, Quebec City, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.

O Canada, we love you! You're so different, yet so familiar to us Americans.

The people elect to spell things strangely up there, however, like "neighbour," "centre" and "favourite." And they play football with only three downs. Their national obsession is ice hockey (that's roller hockey on ice skates. How quaint!).

Still, we're more alike than not, eh? (Eh — a ubiquitous Canadian term meaning "don't you think?")

I recently finished reading a controversial new book by award-winning journalist Diane Francis. Francis, an American-born dual citizen, is stirring contentious debate on both sides of the border with her book: "Merger of the Century: Why Canada and America Should Become One Country."

To be honest, it's set off a firestorm.

The author says we're both melting-pot nations, but Canada is significantly more Anglo-Saxon than we are. Francis opines that the U.S. has a "decidedly Germanic sensibility." More than 50 million Americans claim German ancestry.

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