This land is not your land. This land is not my land. It's all sacred unceded indigenous territory.

Or so the current thinking seems to go. I may have been born and raised right here in Ottawa, but nowadays it almost seems I have to apologize for being a Canadian!

On Saturday, July 1, tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of people descended on downtown Ottawa hoping to get to Parliament Hill or at least one of the nearby sites to enjoy the festivities, only to be met with four- and five-hour lineups for security screening. Worse than the airport, for sure. The main difference being that if you go through all the indignities and freedom-losses of airport security screening, you at least have a reasonable hope of getting to some far-flung exotic place you've never seen before, whereas in this case, people were bravely enduring all this just to get to their own backyard. Oh, wait - we mustn't consider it our backyard any more, because it's all contested land! Then, on Sunday July 2, thousands of hardy souls did it all over again to be able to say "Oui!" to We-Day.

Luckily I stayed home both days but those who did make it to the Hill were met by a cacophony of conflicting national and cultural and celebratory symbols and personae: a teepee, Charles and Camilla, Gordon Lightfoot, Gord Downie, fireworks, weather (including thunderstorms and summer downpours), and so forth. Shards of broken glass making up the vertical mosaic?

But according to one letter to the editor in today's paper, the national anthem was not sung once during all those hours the letter-writer was on the hill for the festivities. Of course, maybe that's because no one is sure any more what the words are to "O Canada". Maybe some thought it might be more appropriate to sing "God Save the Queen", given that the heir to the throne was on the Hill - but didn't know for sure what the protocol was and didn't want to offend anyone or risk getting kicked off their hard-earned spot on the Hill.

Maybe we should forget about our current national anthem and go with "Land of the Silver Birch" instead?
As mentioned before in this space, I was the youngest of four children. So understandably, I tended to be the last to achieve the various landmarks in life - finishing school, getting my first job, and so on. But there was one significant landmark I reached before any of my siblings (or even my parents), at the moment of my birth. I was born here, so I have always been Canadian.

I remember when I was about six, being picked up from school and heading downtown so that the others in my family could "get" their citizenship. I don't remember anything about what citizenship ceremonies involved in those days, or what people had to know about their adopted country to pass the citizenship test (if there was one), or much of anything else about the whole process. If they distributed flags back then, it would have been the red ensign, not our current maple leaf flag. I don't know when the red ensign supplanted the plain old union jack as the usual flag of Canada (in older pictures of post-Confederation Canada, it does seem to be that the union jack was the usual occupant of the flagpole), but I do vividly remember the spirited debate over the "Pearson pennant" in the 1960s - which was originally going to have blue bars at the sides and three red maple leaves rather than one in the middle.

I grew up in a time of burgeoning Canadian nationalism. Quebec nationalism too, but that probably should have been a topic for last weekend, when the province celebrated St-Jean Baptiste Day. I remember the Bilingualism and Biculturalism (B&B) Commission, the growth of Canadian content regulations in the mass media, the growth of bilingualism in the federal public service. I remember going to Expo '67 with my class and again in the summer with my mother. That period from the mid-sixties to the mid-seventies was an era of optimism, nationalism and prosperity. Then came the first wave of oil-price shocks (with the threat that we would all be "freezing in the dark") and stagflation followed by the recession of the early 1980s.

In an open economy, an era of free trade and common currencies, is there still a legitimate role for national pride? I hope so.

One thing I have noticed over the past few years is that it's becoming increasingly difficult to buy Canadian. It used to be, for example, that if you bought a pair of jeans, whether its label was Howick, Levi, Wrangler or Lee, the garment itself was almost ALWAYS marked "Made in Canada" and often had the union label. Nowadays, most jeans sold in Canada seem to be made in China, or occasionally Vietnam or Bangladesh. I now gravitate towards the Lois label because most (though not all) of their jeans are made in Canada.

I get particularly annoyed when I see products with labels I think of as Canadian icons - like Roots - only to scrounge inside for the fine print and find that they were made in China. That's not true of all Roots products, mind you, but you have to be careful. There's also a popular line of camera bags which sports a maple leaf on the outside - implying, no doubt intentionally, that they are made in Canada - but inside, most have labels indicating that they are in fact made in China.

What's a poor Canadian patriot to do?



October 2017



RSS Atom

Most Popular Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Page generated Oct. 24th, 2017 09:39 am
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios