It was a sad day for Vancouver and for hockey fans when the Canucks lost the final game in the Stanley Cup. The sadness was not from losing but from the violence and looting that followed.
We were in England at the time. The reaction in the media there was bemusement. How could a hockey game provoke such strong emotions? And were these really mild mannered, polite Canadians rioting. I think it was this disconnect between the image of Canada and the violence that made this story of such interest world wide.
The next day we were on a flight to Dublin and the man sitting next to me was reading about the riots in the Irish Times. When we got talking he said that the reason he’d been reading the article was because it just wasn’t what he expected of Canadians.
So the perception of Canadians as polite, well-mannered people isn’t entirely true. Such broad generalizations never are true. Hey, even pigeons don’t live in pigeon holes!
Canadians are more complex. Our views of them are to some extent a reflection of what we want to see. If you think they are polite, you’ll notice that. If you think they lack a sense of humour then you’ll find that too.
I noticed that the reaction to the riots was another demonstration of this. People found the cause of the riots where they wanted to. Whether it was alcohol, poor policing, out of town yobs, gang members, or “young people today”. None of these is true – nor completely false.
The reaction I noticed in people in Ireland and England was a shrug. The riots were a blip in an otherwise peaceful and gentle nation. I doubt that many people’s perceptions of Canada have changed.
What about your perceptions?