Book Review

By Rita Button

William L. Seavey, an American whose ancestors landed in New England in 1632, likes Canada. He’s spent a lot of time in James Bay—maybe that’s why he likes Canada so much! Living in California with his wife who retains her Canadian citizenship, he wishes that Canadians and Americans could find ways of understanding and appreciating one another more easily and more authentically. To that end, he has written this book in which he identifies positive and negative aspects of both countries and their citizens while advocating for some kind of co-operative agreements that would allow all of us to enjoy our lives in a healthier, safer, happier and even more powerful way.

Although Seavey would welcome a political and economic union of some sort between the two countries, he realizes it’s currently impossible. However, he sees no reason why countries that share a language, enjoy similar cultural events, and have the longest unprotected border in the world couldn’t find a way to move goods and people across the border more efficiently, create a stronger feeling of friendship between the two, and rid Canadians of their negative feelings about Americans.

“My goal with this book,” he states, “has been to reveal truths and realities (as I see them) about both Canadians and Americans—and shine a spotlight on both in the context of the current geopolitical scene.” (p. 126) He comments on Canada’s working health care system which he envies in spite of some of its cracks. On the other hand, he sees that Canada’s attitude toward defense is to depend on America to protect us. Yet he sees Canadians as more rational than Americans, using as proof the statistic that 61% of Canadians believe in evolution while only 30% of Americans do.

Homicide rates vary for both countries; the rate in the USA is 4.7% while the rate in Canada is 1.7%, yet 30% of Canadians travel to the USA while only 4% of Americans travel to Canada. Part of this difference can be connected to the differences in winter climates when many Canadians prefer to bask in the sun instead of shoveling snow off their sidewalks and driveways. As well, goods and services are less expensive in the USA than in Canada. The cost of fuel, groceries and basic needs are more cost effective in the US.

Both countries have work to do regarding respect; Seavey has noticed that First Nations people in Canada and black people in America seem to lack esteem from much of the population. Both countries struggle with drug addictions while simultaneously trying to find the right attitude toward legalizing marijuana. Yet both countries share an interest in events such as sports, theatre, movies, and concerts.

Although Seavey explores the idea of merging the two countries, he usually reverts to the idea of more co-operation between the two. He disagrees with the current American policy of slapping tariffs on Canadian exports to create a fair trade environment. According to John Mueller and Lewis Lehman who collaborated on an article in the Wall Street Journal, they suggested the solution is to “ ‘establish a level playing field with a system of stable exchange rates among the nations of the G-20, or at least the G-7 to which emerging countries will conform.’ ” (p.104)

The theme of the book is that it is incumbent upon Americans to “try to understand a country that is far different from (yet in some ways quite similar to) its own and to eventually become a cross border ambassador who will encourage more understanding and co-operation between our two countries.” (p. 114) In laying the groundwork for this basic idea in humanity, Seavey has looked at both countries honestly. 

I learned a few things about Canada and Victoria as a result of reading this book: the border dispute of 1859 resulted in two deaths—one American cow and one Canadian pig; Jackie Robinson got his start in Montreal; Francis Rattenbury designed not only our provincial legislative buildings but also Victoria High School! And so, I see that it’s always possible to discover something new no matter the nationality of the person creating the illumination!

The humour in the book contributes to an understanding of the writer and his goal of beginning the conversation. You can participate in the conversation by joining the blog

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