Danish tourists appalled by Canada's 'great oceans' of car parks, obesity
Karolyn Coorsh, CTVNews.ca
Published Tuesday, August 5, 2014 9:31PM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, August 5, 2014 9:34PM EDT
Canada may be a major North American tourism draw, but at least two Danish women appear to be pretty disappointed with their recent trip across the Atlantic.
Holly Chabowski recently spent five weeks travelling around Canada with her partner, but it appears their “overwhelming” takeaway was an overabundance of car parks.
So disgusted was Chabowski by Canada’s “dirty” air and “huge SUVs,” she felt compelled to pen an open letter to Canada and its politicians, urging them to take serious action toward a more “sustainable” land.
In the letter, addressed to a Canadian newspaper and the “people who hold power and responsibility in Canada,” Chabowski said when she and her partner got off their plane from Denmark, they were “horrified to see great oceans of car parks.”
“Our overwhelming memory of Canada is one of cars, traffic, parking and the related obesity and unfulfilled communities,” Chabowski wrote.
Chabowski said prior to her Canuck trip, she had the genuine impression of a clean, and sustainable country. It seems trips to major cities like Toronto, Halifax and Ottawa soon changed that.
In Toronto, the pair was struck by 12-lane highways that were apparently “rammed packed with huge SUVs.”
It wasn’t any better in Halifax, where they found “ginormous swaths of prime locations for living … concreted over as homes for an ever increasing number of SUVs.”
“As humans trying to enjoy Canada’s major cities (Toronto, Montreal, Quebec City, Ottawa and Halifax) we were treated like second class citizens compared to cars,” Chabowski wrote. “The air was dirty, the constant noise from horns and engines was unpleasant.”
The most SUVs they saw in a row, she wrote, had a single occupant and were moving through a Tim Hortons drive-thru.
Attempting to end the letter on a positive note, Chabowski said Canadians are a nation of “fantastic people” who deserve better.
“I write this letter to appeal to you to take radical steps to transform Canada into the healthy, happy and sustainable country we were expecting.”
But Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson said Canada is undeserving of such a harsh critique.
“I meet people all the time, from all over the world, that come here and are very impressed with the amount of green space, cycling facilities, the cleanliness of our cities,” Watson told CTV Ottawa.
Perhaps Canadians don’t cycle as much as the Danish, but there could be a good reason for that: Watson pointed out that Ottawa is 32 times larger than Copenhagen, the capital of Denmark.
Still, others say decision-makers should pay attention to an outsider’s observations.
“Our cities could be much nicer, and a lot of that is just having better bike paths, and nicer places and easier was to get around,” said Alex Devries, of Citizens for Safe Cycling.
Devries points out that Helsinki, which has a similar climate to Ottawa, has a better bicycling culture.
And while some might take offence to Chabowski’s obesity jab, studies show that up to 26 per cent of Canadians are obese, compared to just 18 per cent of people in Denmark.
With files from CTV Ottawa’s Eric Longley