Growing up in Toronto’s east end, a landing-strip for many emigrant families, my parents’ included, playing the global game was a matter of course. In my teens, I played soccer for the local club. We couldn’t have represented the neighbourhood better. Caribbean, Italian, South Asian, Slavic, Hispanic, some Greek — a group of first-generation Canadians […]
69 years ago, on June 6, 1944 Canadians, alongside their fellow Allied soldiers, sailors, and airmen, participated in D-Day, the invasion of Normandy, France and the first step towards the liberation of continental Europe in the Second World War. Canadians performed a wide variety of tasks on D-Day. In advance of the invading force, paratroopers […]
A nation is a group of people who share the same illusions about themselves. Academics call it imagining a community. Vancouver cyberpunk novelist William Gibson calls it “consensual hallucination.” Whatever you call it, April Fools seems like a good opportunity to think about some of the illusions Canadians have about ourselves.
One illusion we share is that we don’t know enough about our own history. The arrival of Canada Day invariably brings with it another poll showing how few Canadians can name three prime ministers, or know the words to the national anthem, or some other piece of national esoterica. The implication being a) this is a bad thing and b) people in other countries know more. Both these assumptions are wrong. The same polls, with the same results, appear with regularity in the United States and I imagine in other countries as well. Canadians may not know much history, but neither does anyone else.
This week, de Havilland’s Mosquito buzzes once more, Molson makes us question our national identity, and we consider whether Leonard Cohen looks good as Al Pacino.
Last Wednesday, Canada lost its “national troubadour”, an “icon”, and “one of [its] most prolific and well-known country and folk singers”; a man who ranked 13th in CBC’s The Greatest Canadian list. Stompin’ Tom Connors is credited with writing three hundred songs, many of which are loudly and proudly Canadian. Upon his death, online tributes poured in from the CBC, politicians of all stripes, and even Sir Wilfrid Laurier’s fake Twitter account. NDP Members of Parliament paid tribute to Stompin’ Tom outside the House of Commons with their rendition of “Bud the Spud”. The Globe and Mail suggested that the mainstream media “patronized him as a novelty singer” and questioned whether he was given enough attention during his life. Everyone seemed to have a different story of their experience with Stompin’ Tom, but they were all general positive and “pro-Canadian”.
On February 15, 1965, at hundreds of ceremonies across the country and around the world, the red and white Canadian maple leaf flag was raised for the first time.
In Ottawa, 10,000 people gathered on a chilly and snow-covered Parliament Hill. At precisely noon, the guns on nearby Nepean Point sounded as the sun broke through the clouds. An RCMP constable, 26-year old Joseph Secours, hoisted the flag to the top of a specially-erected white staff, and a sudden breeze snapped the maple leaf to attention.
Early last week, the Telegraph newspaper published a playful article, saying that the new Bank of England governor, Mark Carney, is an anomaly for being both cosmopolitan and educated as well as a proud “maple syrup-drinking, poutine-loving, moose-spotting, beer-swilling ice hockey fan” from a country “affectionately known as America’s attic.” It then went on to detail Canadians’ many accomplishments, concluding that Canada is “more than a land of Mounties and maple syrup” and encouraging Canadians to be more out and proud about their country. In response, Michael Babad of the Globe and Mail published his own rebuttal, listing 15 things Britons should know about Canada. Things get interesting. Who’s passive-aggressive swipe was better? [Telegraph]
The new Heritage Minute tells the story of Richard Pierpoint, a black Loyalist and hero during the War of 1812.
After the film Argo had its world premiere at the Toronto International Festival in September, friends of Ken Taylor, Canada’s former ambassador to Iran, criticized it for minimizing Canada’s role in the real-life events that inspired the film. Critics say that the film suggests that the CIA were the real heroes of the rescue mission and that for political reasons, Canada took the credit. It also paid short shrift to Taylor’s role as the mastermind of the operation.
For the last 30 years, politicians and the media have frequently recounted the same story about the patriation of Canada’s constitution and the adoption of the Charter of Rights. Most of the credit in this version goes to Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, but three others are recognized for breaking an impasse in the negotiations in 1981: federal justice minister Jean Chrétien, Saskatchewan attorney general Roy Romanow, and Ontario attorney general Roy McMurtry. In his memoirs, Newfoundland Premier Brian Peckford argues that the key intervention came not from Romanow, Chrétien, and McMcMurtry, but from Peckford himself and the members of the Newfoundland delegation.