Canada: The Real Story

Maybe 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.

What does 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 breaking out.

A Brief History
Briefs were invented to keep your naughty parts from chafing against cheap corduroy pants. Boxer shorts were an innovation expressly developed in order to... oh, I'm sorry. I misunderstood the topic heading.

A Brief History of Canada
Well, why didn't you say so? The area previously known as 'Upper, Upper Mexico' has been inhabited since Vikings landed on the east coast in 988 in a search for a hotel that would take pets. Canada was founded in 1759 by Americans on a package tour to Graceland when the tour went wildly off course into the Montreal area, due to their bus driver being given a map cut out of an Archie comic. Two Italian tourists named Romulus and Remus felt that this land would make an excellent spot for a hardware store and named it Canadian Tire. The countryside soon took the shortened form Kanata, which was the local Iroquois name for 'a good cold place to keep the beer.'

Canada soon 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.

While this 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
So why does Canada have problems? One problem is the fact that one province, Quebec, has never felt comfortable in Canada. This is a common result of cultural nationalism; the anguished and impassioned cry for freedom has resounded here as well as in Ireland and Spain, with the tiny exception that Ireland and Spain haven't received $863 billion in transfer payments in the last forty years. Thus Quebec has held several referendums to decide whether it wishes to stay within Canada or form its own state. A first was held in 1980, which was defeated 60-40%. A second was held in 1995, which was defeated 51-49%. A third is projected to be held in 2013, which will be defeated by the single vote of Ralf Z. Quisling, a Radio Shack clerk who lives in a mobile home on the Hull border.

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
Living in Canada in a globalized world requires patience, especially considering the powerful superpower that lies beneath us: Mexico. Yet we have much to be proud of; we won a Nobel Peace Prize in 1988 for our peacekeeping efforts (although the Americans did win in 1991 for 'Excellence in jumping into world conflicts at the last moment and then taking all the credit'). We were even declared the best country to live in by the U.N. in 1993. You just can't buy accomplishment like this, although massive public debt certainly helps.

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.

The End
No one knows what the future is for Canada. Many people claim that the Americans will eventually swallow us up, assuming that they develop an unquenchable appetite for plaid hunting jackets and Bryan Adams CDs. Other political futurists claim that we will slowly split up into economic fiefdoms. Still others emphatically ask, 'what is a bloody fiefdom?' In any case, for now we are glad to be living where we are. I can certainly say I'm glad to be where I am, here in the Rusty Anchor with a bottle of Screech in both hands.