Canada: The Real Story
you are a Canadian, or maybe you're from another country, but it's important
for the bitter Gen-X'er to reflect on feelings of national identity sometimes,
and for bitter old cranks like me to warn you: ask not what your country
can do for you; ask what you can do to get your country's collection
agencies to stop bugging you now that you've left to find a job. To me belonging to one country just makes
it difficult to visit another one without ten forms and a passport,
so I don't see the benefit. Nevertheless, I'm going to talk about the issue of national identity.
it mean to be a Canadian? Canadians are known throughout the rest of
the world as pleasant, somewhat boring individuals who eat moose meat
and listen to Anne Murray. Famous Canadians include Dudley Dooright
and a bunch of figure skaters. However, within Canada, what it means
to be Canadian is a much more complex question. If you ask ten different
people, you will likely receive twelve different answers and two fights
A Brief History of Canada
began to take on a multicultural flavor as eastern Europeans streamed
in as a result of the Prussian anti-accordion laws of the nineteenth century,
and as Frenchmen began to arrive in an effort to find parts for their
Citroens. This linguistic and cultural dichotomy led to the creation of
two provinces, Ontario (Huron for 'place of self-important newspapers')
and Quebec (Algonkian for 'place where the waiters won't speak to you').
The atlantic provinces soon also joined so that they would have something
to eat besides potatoes.
In the west,
brave canoers paved their way into the wild rivers to trade supplies for
furs, armed only with their wits, their strength, and their Evinrude motors.
Soon, missionaries arrived to urge the natives to dedicate their lives
to God, and merchants arrived to urge the natives to dedicate their lives
to Microsoft. Eventually, the west became peopled and settled, and in
the true spirit of democracy and fairness, the land and its inhabitants
were sold by the Hudson's Bay Company to the Canadian government in 1869
for $36.42 and a couple of Jenna Jameson videotapes. It was a bittersweet
moment for the locals - one of the movies had been sitting on someone's dashboard in the
sunshine too long and wouldn't play.
was happening, a western resident named Louis Riel became incensed over
the sale, as he would no longer have title over a cool little parcel of
land near Saskatoon where he was intending to build a grunge nightclub.
Riel organized a rebellion and set siege to the city until he made the
fatal mistake of burning down the Tim Horton's. Enraged police quickly
suppressed the rebellion and captured Riel, who was later executed on
the charge of Non Compis Donutus.
Quebecers never forgave Ottawa because Riel was Catholic. Westerners never forgave Ottawa and cried 'remember Riel!' Everyone else never forgave Ottawa because of the atrocious CBC documentary. These were the factors which led to the forging of modern Canada.
Problems in Modern Canada
Canadians love referendums.
They held one to decide constitutional amendments. They held one to approve
daylight savings time. They held one to decide whether the plural of referendum
was referenda. Canadians vote so much they have donut shops set up at
the polling stations. It's all legal as long as the shops have no banners
saying, 'remember Riel!'
Many people say that
Canada is just too geographically spread out and isolated to remain one
country. I wonder what a Hawaiian would make of this argument. Oh, well;
you could always rattle him by asking, "Why are your highways called
interstates?" I'm not sure I agree with this too-spread-out business.
I'm an Albertan and I've felt pretty much at home wherever I've been in
Canada. No matter where I've travelled, it's always been the same in the
end; Canada Post has lost my postcards.
When I went to Vancouver,
no one made me feel like an outsider, except perhaps for the sign on the
city limits which read, 'Welcome to Vancouver, you raw-meat eating snow-shoed
Albertans, to a place where you can golf eleven months a year, nyaah,
nyaah!.' The same applied to Ontarians, except for that nasty business
when I disputed the sun revolving around Toronto. Even in Newfoundland,
everyone was perfectly willing to talk with me, dine with me, and drink
with me. Um, especially the drinking part. Newfies would begin the conversation
with something like, "Of course we're all Newf– I mean, Canadians!". They would usually
end their conversations, after three bottles of Screech, with "So den
I shez to da guy, you tink you're sho tough".
But Newfoundlanders around the bay are different people, probably the friendliest people on Earth. If Hitler showed up in Brigus Junction with a Panzer division, he would probably get asked in for a drink before he resumed levelling the town. Within half an hour, someone would have him on the Karaoke machine singing 'These boots were made for walking.'
Canada and the World
How do you identify a Canadian in your country? Don't worry-- he or she will tell you within the first minute. We used to be known for being polite and being subtler tourists abroad than Americans. Nowadays I think most of that cachet is being used up when I see Canadian tourists telling the locals, "Hey! Look at me! I'm a Canadian! I'm more polite and a subtler tourist than Americans are! Hey! You! Notice how humble and polite I am! You over there! Feeeel my humility and politeness!"
Despite claims to the contrary, Canadians have good relations with the Americans. We call them warmongers, and then they answer, "It's easy for you to say when we're protecting you and your army consists of three guys named Dave with hunting rifles." Then we call their culture crass and cheap. And then the western part of our country completely absorbs that culture. The relationship has in the past been called a 'big brother-little brother' one. Perhaps nowadays it would be better termed a 'two elderly sisters living together who argue about who left tea stains on the patio furniture' relationship.