What are the major sociological differences between America and Canada?

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jameadows eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The U.S. is a far more violent country than Canada, with about five times the rate of violent crime than in Canada (see the link below). This is in part a result of looser gun ownership laws in the United States. In addition, the greater crime rate in the United States has been blamed on the American culture of individualism, which places great importance on the rights and liberties of the individual. Some argue that Canada is more communitarian, though a recent University of British Columbia study (see the link below) found that Americans and Canadians in reality are more similar than many people think.

The other differences in Canada stem from its longer association with Great Britain and its continued association with the British monarchy, while the U.S. long ago severed its political ties to Great Britain. Americans, while perhaps interested in the royal family as celebrities, are not subjects of the crown.

Canadians have often had to define themselves in opposition to the behemoth to the south, while Americans do not often define themselves with regard to Canadians. It can be argued that Americans see themselves as distinctive in the world, the beneficiaries of what has been called "American exceptionalism." Whether or not these views are valid, they have led the U.S. to be more bilateral or unilateral in approaching world affairs, while Canada is more multilateral.

user6819264 | Student

1) In America, the role of government is seen as enabling/not getting in the way of:
"Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness"

In Canada, the role is often described as:
"Peace, Order and Good Government"

This doesn't always happen, in either nation, but that is the mentality. The difference says a lot about how differently citizens view the government and what they expect it to do.

2) In Canada, liberal isn't a bad word. One of the main parties is called Liberal and you can't attack someone by saying they are 'too liberal'. To a Canadian, too liberal means too much in the center and not going out on a limb in either a conservative or progressive direction.

3) In Canada, our politicians don't talk about their religious beliefs...ever. It is seen as bad form and completely irrelevant. We've had quite a few Prime Ministers over the last 30 years who were Catholic, even devoutly Catholic all during the time we legalized abortion and gay marriage.


And even more information:   Canada is a soft power nation - influence on the world is a product of respect for politics and principles. Canada can't really MAKE anyone do anything, but nations often consider Canada's opinion, because we seem to do a pretty good job setting a decent example for how to run a country, and we've done some nice things in the past (including peacekeeping, and playing a key role in the establishment of the United Nations).

America is a hard power nation, in fact, THE hard power nation. While there are many advantages the USA has, the first is that the government has been long willing to put military and intelligence forces into maintaining economic power and political interests. In short, people do what the US wants because you need to have them on your side. If countries do not do what the US wants, regimes are toppled, wars are started, allies are turned against you.

This mindset informs how the populace thinks. Combative vs Persuasive. Multiculturalism vs Assimilation. Canada is somewhat inherently focused on the collective, both as a nation, and as part of the world. We see ourselves as part of a vast cooperative. America sees itself, from the outside, at least, as a singular nation that is responsible for controlling and shaping the world. Scaled down, the prototypical US citizen is driven by self-interest, and what benefits them / their family the most.

(This is also why most Canadians see universal healthcare as an obvious thing that any civilized nation would have, while many Americans seem to see it as a mechanism for have-nots to leech off society.)