In this year of celebrating Canada’s 150th anniversary as a Confederation, we’ve been thinking of all the things we love about this great land. We are proud of our country for so many reasons, and one that resonates especially strongly here at Compassion is Canadians’—you guessed it—compassion!
In the 2016 World Giving Report, which surveys people on whether they have given money to a good cause, helped a stranger or volunteered, Canada was ranked sixth in the world.
In another recent global study, Canada was ranked the twelfth most empathetic country when researchers asked individuals questions that reflect one’s ability to empathize and connect with others.
The queen herself sees our compassion, saying in her address on the 150th anniversary of confederation, “You have earned a reputation as a welcoming, respectful and compassionate country.”
And many of us have experienced this compassion firsthand—in the response to flooding in Ottawa, fire in Fort McMurray, and countless other everyday encounters.
But what is it that makes Canadians compassionate? We went straight to the source and asked our fellow Canadians this question.
Here are a few of their answers.
“I think there is something inherent to living here that makes us compassionate. Maybe it’s the broad open swaths of land that make us more appreciative of others. Or maybe it’s the way our winters force us to come together (for warmth and company!). But I think it’s probably because so many Canadians, or their parents, or their parents’ parents, came here because of hardships in other places and the promise of something better here. Thankfulness breeds compassion.” Dylan Richards, Edmonton, Alberta
“I think Canadians are compassionate because of our history as a mosaic nation. Mosaics are known for their beauty because of the diversity within. When a country welcomes people from all over the world, it creates an environment where differences are seen as a positive thing. We’re not perfect, but when we do life with people of all cultures, walls begin to break down and the seed of compassion is planted in the heart of a nation.” Raquel Meza, London, Ontario
“This question reminds me of a friend of mine who was driving with a Ugandan in her car. Uganda was all he knew, and this was his first time in a foreign country. She stopped at a crosswalk to let someone go through and he turned to her and said, ‘Oh, how you love your people.’ It made my friend laugh. But when you stop and think about it, we do love our people. We are compassionate to the elderly who need places to cross the road, to the sick who need medical attention at an affordable price, to the young who need affordable and quality education. We are sensitive to rights people have—by no means perfect, but it’s definitely there. We have many organizations at work for the vulnerable. Our country has the markings of a people group who have a conscience and show care for the marginalized.” Ron Abarbanel, Halifax, Nova Scotia
“I think Canadians are compassionate because, as it says in our national anthem, we live in a country that is ‘glorious and free.’ Many people came to Canada to find freedom—some out of choice and some out of necessity. To me, our country has always been marked by this, a diverse mixture of people from all different life backgrounds and circumstances. Some of us have been here for generations and some of us are brand new to this land, but I think many have a sense of wanting to ‘give back’ in some way because many have been touched by a circumstance where they needed compassion.” Rebecca Trask, Edmonton, Alberta
“I think Canadians are compassionate because historically our forefathers realized that in settling this vast land they needed each other to survive. This concept of ‘one another’ breeds respect and caring. Being compassionate is in our DNA. Its part of our national identity.” Barry Slauenwhite, London, Ontario
“There are three attributes I think help make Canadians compassionate: 1) A desire for social justice—we want the world to be fair and right, even when we are not sure what exactly that looks like. We are motivated to work to make the world better for others as well as for ourselves. 2) The belief that change is possible—we believe people, society and circumstances can change. We think we can play a part in bringing about this change. 3) A thankful spirit—we appreciate the blessings we have been given and take pleasure in sharing them with others.” Halina Rose, Candiac, Quebec
“Despite being a nation spread across so much landmass, we have a sense of togetherness that makes us look out for our neighbours and care for the less fortunate. We are a cultural mosaic of people and attributes, and I think this sense of cohesion is what makes us such a welcoming place. Also hooray for poutine.” Alie Rielly, Kingston, Ontario
“I think Canadians are compassionate because we realize how blessed we are. We want others to be blessed too. Our many diverse cultures make us equal but unique, accepted and therefore united.” Elaine Toonders, London, Ontario
Whatever the reason for your compassion, we know that when we show love and care to others, we are reflecting the very heart of God—the Author of compassion: “The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.” —Psalm 103:8