‘If some countries have too much history, Canada has too much geography.”
Former Prime Minister Mackenzie King.
On being Canadian …
“They” keep telling us there’s no such thing as Canadian culture, Canadian identity is a myth, and you have to dig deep to find Canadian heroes and heroines, there’s just … just all that geography!
“They” are like the Sasquatch — elusive.
These naysayers pop up every now and then, make snide remarks about our identity, culture and the like, then disappear before anyone can grab them.
We may have more than our share of geography, though almost half of it is north of the 60th parallel, which doesn’t seem to count all that much if we measure it by the attention span and interest up here.
After all, it’s got more dogs than people, two seasons — this winter and next winter — it’s cold enough that brass monkeys won’t live here, and they’ve got about 39 square kilometres each to wander in alone, so there’s more than enough lonely to go around, which seems to frighten the life out of most folks south of 60. Solitude heals!
Choosing to live where tomatoes won’t makes us seem not so wise as those southern guys, like that well-known fellow who said, “A Canadian is someone who knows how to make love in a canoe.”
Oh, no, Mr. Berton, we aren’t buying that one. A Canadian, at least a northern Canadian, is someone who knows enough not to make love in a canoe.
Then there’s the 135th meridian. Canada Games visitors are competing right on top of that meridian of longitude. A significant one it is too; if you trace it south to where it crosses the 49th parallel you’d need a boat.
You’d find yourself about a few hundred kilometres west of Victoria in the Pacific Ocean. This means Whitehorse is Canada’s most westerly city, and explains why Yukoners call BC the Near East, the Prairies the Middle East, Ontario and Quebec, the Far East, the Maritimes and Newfoundland as the Far, Far East.
Just having a little Canadian geographical one-upmanship fun. Oh, did you know the highest mountains in Canada are just 160 kilometres west of Whitehorse … sorry, enough already.
What’s this place all about then?
Well, my version is people. We were in the Far, Far East, in a tiny restaurant on Prince Edward Island on a day with more wet and wind than we’d ever met. We sought refuge and lunch.
“What are you doing out on a day not even fit for ducks?” the waitress asked.
“Never been out in the tail end of a hurricane before, thought we’d see what it was like.”
“Where are you from?”
“I worked in Faro for awhile, do you happen to know…?”
Our common friend brought us together; no more customers came, she and the cook joined us for lunch.
The lousy weather and our vast geography disappeared. Four Canadians shared food and friends; our roots dug deeper into this large and friendly land.
That’s what my Canada is about — the people. Their door is open, their hand of welcome is out, tea is on, the table’s set and you’re as welcome as a chinook in mid-winter.
Someone threw a new one at me last week. Some thoughts dig deeper into our roots than others, and this one did: “You can always tell when you meet a Newfie in heaven. He’s the one who wants to go home.” A lot of Canadians will empathize with that one, eh?
Rub shoulders with Canadians anywhere in our magnificent and varied geography and we find we have a lot more in common than in differences, and distance and geography disappear when we meet one-on-one in tiny restaurants, homes or during major events, such as the Canada Winter Games.
If there’s a fly in the ointment, as there often is, ours seems to be the people are leading the leaders.
As the song says in My Fair Lady: “Why can’t they be more like us?” From sea to sea to sea, hard-working, honest Canadians get along, work together, get it done and care for their legacy. Follow them!
A tip of the hat to Canadians, who were, this week, chosen in a BBC poll of 28,000 people in other countries of the world as the country which gets a gold medal for having the most positive influence on the world.
Not only Canada Games athletes get to take home medals and kudos. We all do!