Benns’ Belief: We must resist the U.S. cultural assault

By Roderick Benns

Roderick Benns is the publisher of The Advocate. An award-winning author and journalist who grew up in Lindsay, he has written several books including Basic Income: How a Canadian Movement Could Change the World.

One of the most irritating things I used to come across regularly in magazines was ads for U.S.-based products with fine print at the bottom that read “Canadian and foreign orders” should add “x” amount of money to cover shipping.

I was never irked at the extra cost; I was dismayed that we were listed separately from foreign orders — as if we were some Puerto Rico-like territory of the U.S.

Roderick Benns, publisher.

Every day I make a conscious effort to limit my consumption of news or entertainment about the U.S. and I largely ignore news from the U.S.

I instead turn to the Globe and Mail, Toronto Star and National Post, and CBC in print and online — with a touch of BBC thrown in.

This attitude is not being anti-American. This is actually what being a citizen of an independent nation usually looks like.

It’s just that in Canada we must work harder to find Canadian shows to watch, pinpoint Canadian books to read, and ignore the dominance of U.S. news outlets.

The U.S. pull on our country is enormous. We must make an extra effort through our own actions — and our own policies — to resist the magnetic pull of a country that sees entertainment, consumerism and political rule (usually entwined) as the three tenets of nationhood.

When we don’t insist that labour or colour be spelled with a u; when we don’t monitor the level of our own consumption of foreign (U.S.) news and entertainment; when we travel repeatedly to the U.S. and have next to no understanding of other parts of Canada; when we know more about how the U.S. political system works than our own; then we lose a little bit of our Canadian soul each time.

It is both an act of neglect toward our own country and political and cultural neglect by politicians.

There are things we must do immediately.

We should require Netflix, Amazon, Apple and other major content creators to spend 30 per cent of their gross revenue on making original Canadian content, as Richard Stursberg, the former deputy minister of culture and broadcasting for Canada, suggests.

We must make movies that reflect our experience as a people, not have Toronto stand in for Chicago to further U.S. expectations for all-American entertainment.

Stursberg also suggests dedicated tax credits to support the production, promotion and export of true Canadian content.

The widespread prevalence and availability of U.S. entertainment is akin to a permissible assault on Canadian culture – and the permissibility lies at the feet of the federal government (both past and current.)

The federal Liberal government made a lot of noise about addressing this issue when it was first elected but has done little to prove it is genuinely interested. Our local MP, Jamie Schmale, should hold them accountable on that note.

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