Canadians across the country have poems in their pockets, from a pretty little haiku to historical epics to the latest pop earworm. Every year new poets give us wonderful and engaging works. But we can’t forget the strong Canadian poetic tradition captured by, among others, Bliss Carman’s romantic odes to landscape, Stephen Leacock’s biting satire, [...]
On April 4, 1949, the foreign ministers of Canada, the US, the UK, France and eight other countries signed the North Atlantic Treaty. An armed attack on one member would be an armed attack on them all.
The editor in chief of the Canadian Encyclopedia, James H. Marsh, will retire after 33 years of dedication and leadership. He remembers his journey from bookish kid to what he calls “the best job in the country.”
George Orton, Canada’s first Olympic medallist. Credit: public domain.
George Orton is known as Canada’s first Olympic gold medal winner. On the official Olympic Games website, there are two records concerning George Orton at the 1900 Paris Olympics. The records show that he won a bronze medal in the 400 m men’s hurdles and a gold medal in the 3000 m steeplechase. The records note his country as Canada, making George Orton the first Canadian to win at the Olympic Games. The Canadian Olympic Association supports that record; it regards Orton as the first Canadian Olympic medalist. But Canada did not send a team to the Olympics in 1900; Canada had no Olympic team until 1904 at the St. Louis games. Orton, a student, competed as part of the University of Pennsylvania team. Because he was entered as an American athlete, it was not until years later that anyone even realized that a Canadian had won an Olympic competition.
Le 22 mai dernier à Québec, lors du diner-conférence donné en l’honneur de Jacques Rogge, président du Comité international olympique, les dirigeants de l’équipe canadienne ont clairement indiqué leur objectif en vue des Jeux de Londres : terminer parmi les douze premiers pays au tableau des médailles pour les Jeux olympiques de 2012.
The Amabile Youth Singers sing “O Canada” (courtesy Amabile Choir).
Canada’s national anthem was first heard one fine June evening in 1880, on the campus of Laval University in Quebec City. Joseph Keaney Foran and some fellow law students were relaxing in one of the buildings when they heard a commotion at the front door. They saw Father Pierre Rouselle, the university secretary, and three other men enter the building and head straight for the piano. In the lead was a small man with a halo of black hair around his balding dome. “He was very excited,” Foran later wrote of the little man, “and kept tapping his hands and saying ‘I’ve got it! I’ve finally found it; I’ve succeeded; come, listen.” He arranged himself at the piano and the others perched on a nearby dais. “Throwing back his head he played for us, for the first time, the masterpiece of his genius – it was Calixa Lavallée; he played O Canada.”
Naming a country is no small task. The name should evoke feelings of pride and strength and reflect the character of the land and its people. The explorer Jacques Cartier generally gets the credit for naming Canada; he documented the name in his journal, describing the “Kingdom of Canada” and noting that the entrance to the St. Lawrence River “is the way to and the beginning of…the route to Canada.” However, the story of the country’s naming is not his alone.
On July 1, 1867, Canadians gathered in public squares to hear the reading of the Queen’s Proclamation announcing the birth of their country. This photo was taken in Kingston, Ontario (Courtesy of Queen’s University Archives)
There were celebrations that first day, July 1, 1867, for the new “Dominion of Canada.” But neither the date, nor the name nor the designation was a sure thing even a few months before. The celebrations were hardly a spontaneous public outpouring.
After all, confederation had been strictly a political process that took place in the backrooms of Quebec City and Charlottetown, with the colonial politicians being urged on by their distant masters in London. “Here in this house,” wrote Agnes Macdonald, the new prime minister’s wife, “the atmosphere is so awfully political that sometimes I think that the very flies hold Parliament on the kitchen tablecloths.”
Sarah Polley’s second feature as writer/director, Take This Waltz, starring Michelle Williams, Seth Rogen and Luke Kirby, will be released at the end of the month. Polley, who is 33 and has been acting since the age of four – landing her first part in the Canadian movie One Magic Christmas and starring in Terry Gilliam’s The Adventures of Baron Munchausen at the age of eight – has become one of the most respected directors in Canada, a remarkable achievement for a high school dropout.
Drapeau Carillon Sacré-Coeur: A Carillon flag waved by people on Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day from its creation in 1902 until 1948. The current Flag of Quebec is based on this design, and was adopted in 1948. (Creative Commons)
Every year, French Canadians celebrate their cultural pride and heritage through parades and parties on June 24 marking, Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day. These festivities combine the ancient rites of the summer solstice with traditional celebrations in honour of the Patron Saint of French Canadians, Saint John the Baptist. How did Saint John come to be the patron saint of French Canada? The Canadian Encyclopedia offers some clues:
June 15 kicked off the city of Toronto’s War of 1812 celebrations, with an abundance of free and lively events around town in conjunction with the Luminato Festival. The Canadian Encyclopedia attended a handful of events, one of which was a unique art installation called The Encampment at Fort York.
Portrait of Sir George Prevost, attributed to Robert Field, circa 1808-11. (courtesy McCord Museum/McGill University).
On September 13, 1811, Lieutenant-General Sir George Prevost arrived at Quebec to take up the duties of Captain General and Governor-in-Chief of British North America. Prevost, an officer with considerable military and colonial experience, was appointed the task of readying British North America for a war with the United States.
The Prince Regent and the government gave Prevost specific guidance that limited his military and diplomatic authority. He could not undertake offensive action into the United States or declare war on his own. Most importantly, as Britain was pre-occupied with the war against Bonaparte, he could not expect any large-scale reinforcements.
In Eugene Forsey, Canada’s Maverick Sage (Dundern Press), Helen Forsey talks about hearing her father’s typewriter as he banged away on it in his study. Eugene Forsey was a prolific writer—the sound of that typewriter must have comprised the background noise of Helen’s childhood. It is also something of a keystone for her current awareness of her father, for it is through his writing that she explored his life to produce this book, which is not exactly a biography, though it tells the story of a life. It is much more—a book about Canadian history and public policy and what Ms. Forsey calls “a kit filled with the tools that he left us”—a manual for pursuing a true state of democracy.
A beautiful silk painting gifted to The Canadian Encyclopedia from the President of The Chinese Encyclopedia, Gong Li.
<<L’Encyclopédie canadienne est une réussite d’envergure. Nous pouvons tellement apprendre de vous>> (Gong Li, présidente de l’Encyclopédie chinoise).
Même si les Chinois n’ont pas compilé la première encyclopédie, qu’ils ont quand même fait selon plusieurs critères, ils sont cependant parvenus à créer la plus imposante. Le Siku Quanshu, ouvrage du 18e siècle, en est à 2.3 millions de pages et comprend plus de 36 000 volumes qui ont nécessité le travail et la collaboration de 300 éditeurs et de plus de 4 000 rédacteurs. On le décrit comme étant le <<plus ambitieux projet d’écriture et de publication dans toute l’histoire du monde>>. Notre Encyclopédie canadienne est de beaucoup plus jeune (et plus réduite !) mais c’était un grand honneur pour nous d’accueillir une délégation des membres de l’équipe de l’Encyclopédie chinoise, qui comprend à ce jour 93 volumes.
A silk painting gifted to The Canadian Encyclopedia from the President of The Chinese Encyclopedia, Gong Li.
“The Canadian Encyclopedia is an overwhelming accomplishment. We can learn so much from you.” – Gong Li, president of the Chinese Encyclopedia.
If the Chinese did not compile the first encyclopedia, as they did by some accounts, they did create the biggest. The 18th-century Siku Quanshu, a at is 2.3 million pages long, consists of over 36,000 volumes, required 300 editors and more than 4000 scribes, and has been described as “probably the most ambitious editorial enterprise in the history of the world.” Our Canadian Encyclopedia is so much younger (and smaller!) to it was a great honour for us to host a delegation from the current, 93-volume Chinese Encyclopedia.
Internationally renowned poet Ken Babstock has had his work translated into several languages and he has participated in numerous poetry festivals throughout the world (photo by Danielle Schaub).
Congratulations to Ken Babstock , who last evening won the 2012 Griffin Poetry Prize for a Canadian poet, for his fourth collection, Methodist Hatchet. Babstock was in the running with much-respected poets Jan Zwicky (for Forge, and whose Songs for Relinquishing the Earth won the 1999 Governor General’s Literary Award for poetry) and Phil Hall (for Killdeer, which won the 2011 Governor General’s Literary Award for poetry).
Selected words used to describe Babstock and Methodist Hatchet: “jolting” “space between” “rattle” “stillness” “to find the world again.” “this guy’s one ferocious logophile.”
In my callow youth, I once shared a tavern table with Babstock and Adam Sol, and talked about poetry. There was a motorcycle half-deconstructed on the stage behind us. It was a great moment for me, even if the rest of the universe was indifferent. Ken Babstock deserves every accolade in the dictionary.
Queen Victoria's Friday 13th June 1851 journal entry: Prince Albert, Queen Victoria and Prince Charles of Leiningen(?)
Yippee ki-yay! Summer is upon us, and in Canada that means festivals, parades, cabin dwelling, hiking, biking, barbecues, cool lemonade and outdoors sporting events like the Calgary Stampede, which turns 100 this year! Although the stampede may seem quintessentially Canadian, it was conceived by an American vaudeville performer, Guy Weadick, who convinced four wealthy Calgarians to invest in the “Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth.” And here’s his dream realized and going strong 100 years later! [Toronto Star]
Leonard Cohen was awarded the Glenn Gould Prize on May 14, an honour that has been called “the Nobel Prize of the Arts.” The prize confirmed what the world already knows: that he is a beloved and respected performer, a Canadian whose fame and reach are global. His words and his music are a part of our lives.