THOMPSON: That good feeling you get returning to Canada from US | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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THOMPSON: That good feeling you get returning to Canada from US



I get a good feeling every time I cross the border into Canada, most recently yesterday when we got back from nearly six months in Florida.

Now, admittedly, approaching the border at Osoyoos driving a truck with a 48-foot trailer full of horses, dogs and cats after a five-and-a-half-day, 3,140-mile odyssey harkens back to the likely feeling of an explorer sighting land after three months at sea. There’s a sense of, well, relief.

But that’s not the feeling I am talking about. It’s a cluster of feelings really, the anticipated joy of seeing family and friends, the comfort of coming home and the appreciation of living life on your terms, all good feelings, indeed.

Both Bonnie - my wife of nearly 11 years - and I are grateful coming and going between our homes in two countries. We are just as excited about going to Florida as we are coming back to British Columbia. We believe our adventurous nature keeps us young at heart…if not young in chronological years.

While we love both homelands and the friends and family in each, when we cross the border into Canada, we feel things not possible in the U.S. We know - as a matter of fact - that we are safer in Canada.

The risk of being murdered with a firearm is about two-and-a-half times more likely in the U.S. than Canada. That’s not statistically insignificant…and both Bonnie and I know the threat is palpable…and ameliorate that risk by being more careful…more aware of our surroundings.

The 19,384 gun murders in the U.S. in 2020 were the most since 1968, and represented a 34 percent increase from the year before, a 49 percent increase over five years ago…and a 75 percent increase over the decade that we’ve travelled back and forth between our two homes.

Active shooter incidents in the States - defined by the FBI as “one or more individuals actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a populated area” - have grown from 11 a decade ago to 40 in 2020.

Honestly, I don’t know what it might take to convince Americans to take any sensible steps to curb gun violence beyond the tragic daily loss of life…daily mass shootings? Ask Republicans.

So, I caution my Canadian friends travelling in the States…be aware of what’s going on around you. Notice, for example, if someone is wearing a coat in warm weather…a possible hiding place for an AR-15-style rifle…and never ever engage someone who cut you off in traffic because lots of Americans carry weapons…and there’s no test for hair-trigger tempers.

Unlike the not-necessarily-visible threat of someone with a gun, there’s another feeling that we get coming back home to Canada that’s immediately noticeable…Canada is cleaner…a lot cleaner than the U.S.

Canadians seem to respect the environment more than Americans. The only way I have to gage the difference is simply observation. Roadsides are littered almost everywhere in America…even when stretches of highway are “adopted” by individuals or more likely organizations and civic groups.

I remember the first time Bonnie was in Florida with me 11 years ago…I felt compelled to apologize for the litter she noticed as we drove around looking for property. I was embarrassed. After more than a decade of living in Canada…I’m proud of our pristine waterways and highways.

There are other good reasons to be proud and feel good about Canada. Canada seems to care more about mental health than the United States…often taking pre-emptive actions to deal with what otherwise become bigger issues.

Canada’s parental leave policy, for instance, is much more generous in terms of duration, flexibility and paid benefits than any mandated in the States. Among the world’s 40 top economies, America is the only nation that doesn’t offer such critical help to moms and dads.

There is a thing called the World Happiness Report…an assessment done every three years of Gallup polling data from 149 countries that monitor performance in six categories: gross domestic product per capita, social support, healthy life expectancy, freedom to make your own life choices, generosity of the general population, and perceptions of internal and external corruption levels.

Canada finished in 15th place, the U.S. in 16th…but six years ago Canada was in 9th place and the U.S. was 24th…so Canada has fallen and the U.S. risen, substantially. Frankly, living in both nations for six months a year for the last decade…I don’t see where Americans are all that happier. Finland - for the fifth time - finished first, followed by Denmark, Iceland, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Luxembourg.

Another measure - the Democracy Index - compiled by the research division of the UK-based Economist Group and publisher of The Economist, assesses 167 countries regarding political institutions and freedoms.

The Democracy Index sees Canada as a rising star…the U.S. as a falling star. That I clearly see. Canada ranks as the 5th most vibrant democracy, and the U.S. ranks 24th. The top four are Norway, Iceland, Sweden and New Zealand

Canada has better public education and healthcare systems than the U.S., as well. But neither  Canadians nor Americans should believe all the work is done so that everyone can live the best possible life…because that chauvinism keeps both countries from being all they can be.

Poverty, for example, is virtually the same in the U.S. and Canada and both nations can and should do more to lift people…including millions of children…out of poverty.

As for good feelings about coming home - in my case to Canada and the U.S….it’s directly correlated to how much we as citizens are willing to ensure that life is good for everyone.

— Don Thompson, an American awaiting Canadian citizenship, lives in Vernon and in Florida. In a career that spans more than 40 years, Don has been a working journalist, a speechwriter and the CEO of an advertising and public relations firm. A passionate and compassionate man, he loves the written word as much as fine dinners with great wines.

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