A recent visit to my wife’s hometown of Cornwall, Ontario, left me with a new perspective about our friendly neighbor to the north.

Let’s start with a make-up Rotary Club meeting at the Ramada Inn, next to the bridge which crosses into the U.S.A. Yes, people were very friendly, Yes the food was great. But most stunning, was the homage paid to the United States in the opening ritual. I noticed two flags at the front of the room; One with the red maple leaf, the other with the stars and stripes. Then, the woman president said, “Let’s all sing the national anthems.” (Emphasis added to the plural) To my amazement, I was in another country where their citizens were singing The Star Spangled Banner, before they moved on to Oh Canada. Stunned, would best describe my reaction.

I later asked the president, why? For several reasons, she replied. The Canadians love and respect the United States. Rotary Clubs are international, but they originated in the U.S. Cornwall borders our country, and their district includes Rotary Clubs south of their border as well.

While in Canada for those few days, I asked a number of people about their health care system. Boiled down, this is what I got:

* The population feels protected by a national system where everyone is covered

* Doctors make far less money because most are on the government teat.

* Waiting lists and priorities do exist. The most serious get attention first. Less serious problems, such as the need for shoulder or knee replacements, may require many months before someone will get an MRI. Same with minor stomach aches and head colds. Cancer and heart disease goes to the front of the line.

* Much depends on the province one lives in. Health care systems are more reliable in wealthier provinces, such as Ontario and Quebec, than in more rural, such as Manitoba.

* Canadians who can afford, may still buy private health insurance as a guarantee for speedier health care no matter the illness.

* The costs are skyrocketing. Many fault the huge influx of immigration…legal and illegal, which is overloading the system.

* With the lack of domestic health care providers to meet the demand, Canada is turning to foreign doctors and nurses for their health care.

Moving on —

Friendlier people do not exist anywhere else on earth. Eh? Not only in Ontario and Montreal, Suzanne’s roots. On 9/11/01, yours truly was aboard an British Airways flight from Heahtrow when the news came about the terrorist attack. My plane was diverted to a previously unheard of town called Moncton, New Brunswick. I had to remain there for three days before the U.S. Airports reopened. The people of New Brunswick were amazing, hosting and boarding many of the 2500 passengers from the twenty-two planes that landed at that small airstrip. They did all they could to alleviate the burdens and anxiety of passengers whose lives were wrenched from a normal straight line, to a sudden spiral.

Sure, Canada has it’s problems, like anywhere else. Eh? But they have stood shoulder to shoulder with the U.S. in many conflicts, including the current war in Afghanistan. But not without a mind of their own, for their government did not feel the pre-emptive war in Iraq was justified, though they did send personnel to help with reconstruction and the training of Iraqi police.

Mind of their own, indeed. During the recent summit at the United Nations, Canada was among the first (with Israel) to lead the boycott of Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, during his address to the General Assembly. The U.S. followed suit, walking out along with several other nations, leaving the assembly half empty while the mad man of Iran blathered on with hate rhetoric. “There is no way I am going to permit any official of the government of Canada to be present and give any legitimacy to remarks by a leader like that,” said Prime Minister Stephen Harper.


Canada facts that you might find interesting:

* Canada is the second largest country in the world, with 3,883,855 square miles.

* Canada has the ninth largest economy in the world

* Canada is the home of many great inventions, including: Basketball, Lacrosse, the electric light bulb, the electric range, insulin, the electron microscope, standard time, the telephone, and the zipper.

* The baseball glove was invented in Canada in 1883.

* Canada is the second largest country in the world, with 3,883,855 square miles.

* Canada ranks number one in imported oil to the U.S. Twenty percent of our crude oil comes from Canada.

* Canada boasts such trivia as having the longest tunnel in the world (9 miles), the longest coastline, longest highway, and the world’s tallest tower (Toronto).

* Most people don’t realize that hundreds of well-known celebrities hail from Canada, including Jim Carrey, Kiefer Sutherland, Shania Twain, Michael Fox, Celine Dion and Alex Trebek. 

Most memorable, however, will be that moment I heard the Rotary Club gathering of forty-plus Canadians singing two national anthems, theirs and ours, as though we are all one. And, indeed we are. Eh?