It was Evander Kane, black member of the Winnipeg Jets NHJL hockey team, while commenting on the filing of a civil suit demanding damages for an alleged "assault" last summer, in which the Vancouver police investigated and found insufficient evidence to lay charges, who expressed his view of Canada so succinctly:
“Playing in the Canadian market, every little thing becomes a big thing,” he added Thursday. (By Canadian Press, in National Post, April 3, 2014)
While Kane's public statement may have originated from a public relations consultant, and may be little more than "fending off further questions from reporters," like jokes, it has a kernel of truth that Canadians are often unprepared to acknowledge.
We are a country of micro-managers, whose fixation on how our public servants spend their expense accounts is much more important than the decisions they make on behalf of all Canadians. We, to our collective embarrassment, consider the accounting to be sacred, while the policies and the future direction of the country pale in comparison to our collective myopic fixations.
There is truth in the adage "the devil is in the details" and this is especially true when the lawyers are involved, as they have become so predominant in the last few decades. Insurance policies that restrict coverage fill the filing cabinets of too many offices and homes, tilted toward the advantage of the insurance companies, and away from the client. Legislatures continue to pass legislation based on public complaints that are too often knee-jerk responses to some horrible even and not a reasoned and researched response to the long-term implications of specific product design and manufacture. One such example, details such an example, in the current edition of The Atlantic, in which the writer outlines the consumer protection legislation for playground equipment for children that restricts all risk-taking, preferring a sanitized and risk-free environment, including rubber flooring for climbing equipment that has not resulted in fewer injuries, but rather an increase, in spite of the "perfection" of those equipment floors.
She cites a playground in Great Britain, generated by a public campaign against this kind of sanitized "play" opportunity that generated a fenced in area complete with various cast-away items, including a fire pit in which children play unattended, with purposeful loiters hanging back to ensure that no child really does suffer injury. These attendants, however, remain very distant and as uninvolved as possible, giving the children the opportunity to swing on a rope from one side of a creek to the other bank, provided they hang on and make it, otherwise they fall into the water, without injury or danger.
The movement behind "risky" playgrounds emerged following the Second War, based on the belief that if children were going to witness the blitz, they were going to have to develop adaptive skills through play that involves risk. Imagine the outcry if such a playground movement were to find its voice in a current Canadian city! The proponents of such a movement would be immediately tabbed as criminals endangering the lives of children by their ideas.
Similarly, the rise in court cases based on the pursuit of damages, (and of course legal fees) has prompted many family practitioners in medicine to remove from their practice all deliveries of newborn babies, simply because the insurance premiums for that procedure are too high, and only ObGyn specialists can afford it.
Recently, I learned of a case of an elderly woman who purchased some new washroom facilities, hired a private contractor to install the equipment, only to learn that given the size and scope of his business, he felt he did not carry enough liability insurance for the job, sub-contracted the job to a larger plumbing company, who, upon receiving a call to repair in the mistakes made in their install, presented him with a substantial bill as well as an "emergency call fee" to the elderly woman for their fix of their own mistake.
This piece is not to say that the man pursuing Evander Kane in a civil suit was or was not injured. We do not know the answer to that question. This piece is focused on the Kane comment that every thing small becomes big in Canada, and, by inference, we too often lose sight of the "big picture"..
Recently, I was in a conversation with a local real estate broker about the urgent need for additional inventory in the condo sector in one city. We both agreed on the evidence that supports the need. He then explained that a few land-owners were holding onto their land and buildings clinging desperately to their state as owners who refuse to convert their apartment buildings to condo's thereby capping the city's development, while preserving the private interests of the hand-ful of land-owners.
When I envisaged a new way of developing a condo project, complete with self-contained and self-regenerating eco-friendly water and sewer components, and thereby not dependent on the city's existing infrastructure, he shook his head, and wondered out loud if he could risk involvement in such a project, because it so threatened the status quo, and he did not want to bruise his platinum reputation in the industry, complete with its attendant political correctness and implied conventionality. On the way out the door, he joked, "Nothing like trying to change the world!" as if to say that such a proposal, even in its incubator and discussion stage were so "big" that it would change the world, when really all it would do, while providing a new bank of condo's, would turn the city's face, head, mind-set and heart toward the future, in balance with its already deeply embedded fixation on the past, and, with the requisite brain-trust in urban development that balances the "old" with the "new"...a change with which this successful professional was dubious about becoming associated.
Evander Kane, a highly successful and respected professional hockey player has, perhaps innocently and even naively, hit the nail on the head in describing the Canadian culture, and we are all indebted to him for his off-the-cuff remark, as we continue wearing out blinkers that protect our eyes from the "big picture."