A few weeks ago, I read a post criticizing Canada for not adequately providing for its retirees, and depicting Canadians as not willing to speak out for themselves. As these comments were not made by a Canadian, and only referenced a single news report, I could intellectually dismiss them as not being the whole story. Still, it surprised me just how much this judgment bothered me.
Was it national pride? Perhaps. I am very proud to be Canadian and am immensely grateful for all that we have in our country. Was there more to it? Absolutely.
As a country widely recognized for respecting diversity, we have met with the following criticism, “Accommodating a new culture is the national pastime, while intolerance is the national sin.” (Botha, 2016).
Okay, so the terminology is a little extreme, but the premise does hit home. The assumptive judgment regarding Canadian retirees, by a non-Canadian (without showing evidence of exploring all sides of the argument) is what really got to me.
Setting the record straight, what is it like to be a retired Canadian? The retirement experience is as diverse as our country itself.
The average age that Canadians retire is currently 63 (Statistics Canada, 2015). And although figures vary depending on the source, Statistics Canada reports that in 2014/15 just under 13% of Canadians who were 65 years and older remained in the workforce (Government of Canada) (CBC, 2016). All Canadians in this age group are qualified to receive Old Age Security Pension (the starting age will be raised to 67 in 2029). In addition, Canadians who have worked as an employee in Canada receive Canada Pension, which they and their employer contributed to during their work life (it’s the law) (CBC, 2013). On top of this, our health care system ensures coverage for ALL Canadian citizens (UBC, 2013).
The good news behind these statistics is that improvements in life expectancy (currently 81.5 years), health status and education for older citizens are factors that are cited as heavily contributing to our steadily rising age for retirement. Does this mean that everything is rosy for all Canadian retirees? Absolutely not. Retirement is a definite struggle for many (Canadians and otherwise) (Geoba.se, 2016) (Statistics Canada, 2013).
According to the Financial Post article “Whose Retirement Grass is Greener” (February 2015), “While the U.S. is a better place to become truly wealthy, Canada is superior for those who will have limited financial prospects or encounter costly health issues.”. This is encouraging news for many Canadian retirees.
In addition, Canada repeatedly receives high ranking on studies evaluating ‘best countries’ and ‘overall quality of life’. For example, in January 2016, the US News Best Countries Ranking (which evaluated 16000 global citizens) placed Canada second overall and first for ‘Quality of Life’. Contributing to Canada’s top score on Quality of Life were the following factors:
• Strong job market
• Well-developed public education system
• Political stability
• Economic stability
• Well-developed public health system
Our strengths in stability and safety lead to a form of predictability which is an important factor for retirees. Before yawning here, this stability is sharply contrasted with Canada’s multifarious and vibrant culture. Throughout Canada, ethnic diversity, arts, culture, sports and humour abound. Throw in plentiful natural resources (including 60% of the world’s lakes) and you have an incredible place to call home, especially in retirement.
Ironically, when reviewing statistics on Canadian retirement, and Canadian pride, “freedom of expression” was one of the attributes of which Canadians are most proud (Globe and Mail, 2014). This was underscored by a comment in the Huffington Post stating, “Known globally as a polite, apologetic people, Canadians shouldn’t be perceived as meek — in fact, quite the opposite. Their strong values and wide borders encompass a population that is willing to stand up for what it believes in.”
Does the above give Canadians a sense of superiority? Shudder here. As a ‘country of immigrants’ with over 200 countries represented (and celebrated) within Canada, we recognize ourselves in others and others in ourselves.
There is indeed much to be proud of for all Canadians, including our retirees. Being able to retire in a country recognized as having genuine respect for all human dignity, and that considers diversity an asset (Huffington Post, 2015)–well, nothing could make me more proud!
Thank you, Canada and Happy Birthday!
Feature Photo: Victoria, BC