Thursday, November 4, 2010

Vicki Delany on Canada

Thursday's question for Vicki Delany is from Kelli
As a Canadian writer, what are some of the things Americans tend to get wrong when they write about Canada? Any myths you care to explode?

As my friend Mary Jane Maffini says, “We’re not as nice as you think we are.”

It’s an interesting question, Kelli, but basically I can’t think off hand of any American who writes about Canada. As Giles Blunt has said, “Canada is the only county Americans don’t find exotic.”

Here’s a couple of quick facts about us: overwhelmingly (in excess of 90%) we want to keep single payer health care; we want our military to concentrate on peacekeeping, not combat. Americans may not know that Canada has had as many, perhaps more, casualties in Afghanistan, per capita, than the Americans. Some Americans, including prominent politicians, don’t seem to know that none of the 911 terrorists entered the U.S. from Canada ( For Canadians the biggest border issue isn’t terrorism or drugs but US guns coming into Canada where they are not legal.

As for myths to explode: Sadly, our beloved Mounties aren’t doing so well. The force is badly tarnished these days because of everything from political interference to the notorious Robert Dziekanski case when a confused Polish immigrant at the Vancouver airport was tasered and died. And it was all recorded on video. (

There was a commission to investigate (The Braidwood Commission) and it concluded that Mr. Dziekanski died as a result of the Taser shocks. Taser International tried to overturn that decision on the grounds that he died of natural causes (as if having 50,000 volts shot into him four times didn’t have something to do with it) but they failed.

We’re not a refuge for U.S. war resisters, although we once were. Molly Smith is the daughter of U.S. draft dodgers who settled in Canada during the Vietnam War. In real life tens of thousands of draft dodgers and deserters came to Canada back then, but the situation has changed. There are U.S. army deserters, those who don’t want to go back to Iraq, seeking sanctuary in Canada, but the times have changed, and they’re being sent back.

We’re more liberal than Americans on marijuana. British Columbia, the Kootenay area in particular (where the books are set) is the heart of the pot industry (they call it B.C. Bud). But make no mistake, it isn’t legal and getting medical marijuana can be a real hassle I have been told. Here’s an American visitor getting a surprise in Valley of the Lost the second Constable Molly Smith book:

He spat on the floor, barely missing the toe of Smith’s boot. “Fascist police state,” he said. “I’ll tell everyone back home what Canada’s really like. I thought you were supposed to be so goddamned liberal.”
Trafalgar had the reputation of being lenient on minor marijuana infractions, but the police didn’t take too well to having it flaunted in their faces.

There was a big article in the paper on the weekend saying that if California voted for legalization of marijuana it would have a devastating impact on the B.C. economy.

Oh, yes. It isn’t winter all the time! In Southern Ontario, where I live, we normally get summer temperatures in the mid 30s Centigrade (which is high 80s) and it can get so humid the humidex can be up in the mid 40s. In Nelson when I was there it was 42 degrees (107F) without any humidity for a few days over the summer. I have a swimming pool. I wonder if some of the confusion is because we might say in August, “Oh, my gosh, it is so hot, it’s 37 degrees” We use the Centigrade scale. 37 is 98 in Fahrenheit.

As well as the Constable Molly Smith books, set in a small town in the mountains of British Columbia, Vicki writes the Klondike Gold Rush books (Gold Digger, Gold Fever)from the Canadian publisher Rendezvous Crime. In that humourous historical series, Vicki attempts to hit all of the Canadian stereotypes.

The pictures show Vicki in her national costume along with Canadian mystery writers Anthony Bidulka, Barbara Fradkin, R.J. Harlick and Mary Jane Maffini


Meredith Cole said...

You make me want to visit Canada--on vacation and in your books!

And you can't fool us. We know how nice you really are. :)

Kelli Stanley said...

Vicki, thanks for that mini-lesson on the real Canada!! :)

I've been partial to Canadian beer since drinking Molson Golden in the '80s -- and grew up watching Dudley Do-Right--so it's good to get some perspective! ;)


Vicki Delany said...

I'm not a beer drinker myself, but my beer drinking friends, Canadian and American, tell me Canadian is better.

Vicki Delany said...

In the interest of fairness - had an Oregon wine last night at dinner. Much better than Canadian wine.

Robin Agnew said...

I don't know - Mary Jane seemed pretty nice when I met her!

Anonymous said...

I nominate Vicki Delaney for our next Prime Minister for her excellent synopsis about Canadians!

.....D.J. McIntosh

Vicki Delany said...

D.J. McIntosh - I accept.

Mary Jane Maffini said...

We do sound like a hotbed of something or other. Great post, Vicki, and spot on. I think everyone will want to come up and drink two-fours now.

Charlotte Adams mysteries