Me On Canada 150   Leave a comment

Since I live in Saint-Lazare-de-Vaudreuil, Québec, Harper sort of arm-twisted me — uh, make that “sweet-talked”; I can feel Harper staring at me as I write this, and she’s across most of a continent — into writing about Canada on its sesquicentennial birthday.  I don’t know if I’m really the right person for this; I may live in Québec, but I’m not native Canadian.  (I was born in upstate New York, and then my parents moved here some years ago.)  But I’m the closest thing to a Canadian on hand, so I suppose I’m anointed.  (I was also supposed to publish this on July 1, but Second Life must wait for the RL working schedule.)

And there’s really a lot to be proud of as a citizen of a country as great as Canada is, even if I wasn’t raised on hockey and poutine.  Harper actually said a lot of good things about us last year, when she happened to write a piece in this blog for our 149th birthday.  And she got it mostly right.  But there’s always a few exceptions to quick observations, some missed at the time, some which slip in later.  For instance, our eminent publisher didn’t really catch the ambivalence of many here in Québec toward being part of a country whose original rulers kicked out the king and government that founded us years before — specifically, France.  A separatist referendum back in 1995 was defeated — by only 1.16%.  Stresses exist to this day between Québec and the other provinces, and Québec has never approved the 1982 Constitution.

And then there are the relations with the First Nations peoples, who in the US are called Native Americans or Indians.  There have been few wars of “pacification,” along the line of the Indian Wars of the American 19th century.  Great efforts have been expended in modern days to work with tribal leaders.  But there have been many rocky moments as well, with promises broken by the white man; the British and Canadian governments of the 19th and early 20th centuries did have a history of land dispossession, Indian residential schools and forced assimilation.  A “reoccupation” tent was raised on Parliament Hill by an indigenous group in the days before the Canada Day celebration in Ottawa, as a reminder of these past blots on the Canadian copybook.  In a politically shrewd move, the tent was not ejected, but moved closer to the Centre Block Peace Tower — and the celebration stage.  Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited it as a gesture.

And things like this are actually a sign that gives Canadians hope for their country.  In the long run, Canadians have tried to live up to the more noble aspects of their country and culture.  The country itself (more properly, the Dominion of Canada) was confederated in 1867 in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, on the principles of “peace, order and good government,” and the full patriation of its Constitution from British control (in 1982) included a Charter of Rights and Freedoms that codifies constitutionally Canadians’ protections — aside from one interesting “notwithstanding” section that can be invoked, but rarely is due to political costs.  Outside of, perhaps, the House of Commons and the provincial legislatures, there’s usually a real attempt to find dialogue and consensus between sides of a question.  And the old chestnut about Canadians being just plain nicer than other peoples has a lot of truth to it.  (Aside from, maybe, Stanley and Grey Cup championship games.)

So yeah, I’m glad to be a Canadian in many ways.  It’s not the perfect place to live; but what country is?  And it strives to be better than many other places are around the world.  Canadians have worked hard for 150 years now to hold their place among the other countries of the world, and we’ve made our contributions, to politics, science, medicine, economics, and entertainment.  We’re gonna keep on working hard, and we should be here in some form or another for a few more decades.  Maybe we can even help keep the rest of the world from destroying itself, if we can export a little “Canadianness” to other places around.  Our children will find that out for us.

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