Trick or Treat?

Which Halloween costume best reflects Canada’s year? Steve Saideman considers the possibilities.

By: /
29 October, 2013
Stephen Saideman
By: Stephen Saideman

Paterson Chair in International Affairs, Norman Paterson School of International Affairs

The most important question at this time of year is, of course, what costume one will wear for Halloween.  Last year, I combined my Mickey Mouse ears (Canadian version) with my Jedi Robe as this most important holiday took place shortly after Disney purchased Lucasfilm and kick-started the making of many Star Wars movies to come. 

But enough about me.  What should Canada dress up as this year?  Something that plays on its role in the world, on recent events, or on some basic Canadian traits.  My American friends could only offer up the lamest of clichés – hockey players or Mounties – but I think we can do better than that.

The most obvious one in the aftermath of the CETA agreement is for Canada to go trick-or-treating as a cheese maker.  The amount of attention that this one dimension of the agreement has received illustrates nicely the frustration with supply management, and that one set of policies really does seem like a trick to most, treat to a few.

Canada could go door to door dressed in a nice suit with a bunch of checks hanging out the pockets to show that the Senate scandal is far more amusing and far less scary than the semi-annual Congressional shutdown in the U.S.

Or Canada could wear a Congress costume with a “closed” sign on the doors to better demonstrate how Canada’s various legislative interruptions are inconsequential for the day-to-day governing, even if they tend to interrupt holding governments to account.

How about dressing up as a Tim Hortons lineup. Because Canadians are such a patient people, they wait in long lines for coffee and doughnuts that are, um, ok. 

As it is football season, the scariest thing I see on TV these days are the incredibly tired, overplayed Canadian Tire commercials.  So how about Canada goes out as the same commercial we see about five to eight times every half hour?  Commercials in Canada are almost entirely tricks with very few treats.

Canada could go out as a puppet – any puppet will do – as the folks in the centre of the government prefer to do all of the speaking for the rest of the government. 

Maybe Canada could dress as a phone with Uncle Sam attached to the earpiece?

How about going as a half-built ship, helicopter, or plane?  Busted procurement processes are like most Halloween movies – kind of tired but they can still be pretty scary.

A friend suggested that Canada should go out wearing as many religious symbols as possible at the same time – kipa, hijab, turban, kirpan, ostentatious cross, Jedi robe, etc. – singing songs from a dozen religious traditions as well as My Sweet Lord, Hallelujah, Hava Nagilia, Jesus is Just Alright, and the like to celebrate the diversity that defines Canada.

This list may seem kind of negative, but many Halloween costumes are supposed to be scary.  Anyone can go as a responsible Mountie, a productive lumberjack, or a dashing hockey player.  But the best costumes are either funny, as I think a Tim Horton’s lineup might be, or very scary, like a defence procurement mess.

The important thing is that my neighbourhood is very enthusiastic about Halloween.  I once lived in a neighbourhood in West Texas that tried its best to ignore Halloween.  Now that was a scary place.  This is my 12th Halloween in Canada, and I have had far more treats than tricks.  So, embrace the silliness and enjoy the candy, Canada.  Trick or treat!

Before you click away, we’d like to ask you for a favour … 


Open Canada is published by the Canadian International Council, but that’s only the beginning of what the CIC does. Through its research and live events hosted by its 18 branches across the country, the CIC is dedicated to engaging Canadians from all walks of life in an ongoing conversation about Canada’s place in the world.

By becoming a member, you’ll be joining a community of Canadians who seek to shape Canada’s role in the world, and you’ll help Open Canada continue to publish thoughtful and provocative reporting and analysis.

Join us