I’ve stated before that I live in Canada but I don’t think that I’ve ever mentioned if I’m Canadian.
Well, I am. I was born here — not that far from the longitudinal center of the country. It’s probably a good thing that I’m native-born because I’m not sure that I could pass the exam to become a True Canadian. I mean, I wear a toque when it’s cold out, I play hockey even when it’s warm out and I have that passive-aggressive thing pretty much down pat. (I say ‘eh’ a fair bit too.) On the other hand, I don’t drink beer, I’m not particularly polite and I’d probably fail any exam that Pierre Berton invigilated.
On a related subject, July 1st was Canada Day — the nation’s birthday, so to speak. It commemorates (or so said Mr. A, my grade nine history teacher) the signing of the BNA act, an event that united several (three? Mr. A’s class was over forty years ago) British colonies into a (mostly) sovereign country. (Mr. A went on to discuss at some length the 1931 Statute of Westminster and how it was, in some ways, equally important. But that is, as they say, another story. Where was I? Oh, yah — Canada Day.)
Over the years, Canada Day has been the subject of controversy — not the holiday itself (everyone loves holidays) as much as the name. The holiday originated many years ago (1879 says Wikipedia) and was called Dominion Day for over a century. As time went by, though, this name generated increasing amounts of… heat. The objection — as near as I can remember — mostly surrounded the word ‘Dominion‘. To some, ‘Dominion’ was a remnant of a proud history. To them, it meant dignity. It meant respect. It meant independence. To others, of course, ‘Dominion’ was a slap in the face, a galling reminder of imperialist subjugation (I won’t even try to imagine the feelings in French Canada). To most people, of course, ‘Dominion‘ was a chain of supermarkets and ‘Dominion Day’ was a holiday in July and who the hell cares what a holiday is called — it’s an effing HOLIDAY.
Bickering continued until, in 1982, Pierre Elliot Trudeau’s Liberal government sabotaged [a century’s worth of tradition] in a matter of minutes. (Not my words — they’re taken from an opinion piece from earlier this week in the Prince Arthur Herald so you can tell that, three decades later, some people are still bitter.) Whatever. It’s a holiday. This year it fell on a Tuesday.
I could tell it was Canada Day (or Dominion Day or That Holiday In July or whatever). How could I tell?
Perhaps I could tell because it was Putting-In-The-Dock Day. After all, nothing says ‘birthday of one’s country’ like wading neck-deep in a lake, eating four pies (with help, I hasten to add) and watching the sun go down and the fireworks go up (it’s a little like Festive Dismemberment: celebrate the birthday of your country by blowing up part of it).
But that’s not how I knew it was Canada Day. Putting in the dock is an iconic Canadians-in-summer sort of thing, but it’s got nothing to do with the birthday of one’s country. It’s got more to do with the weather than with celebrating history.
Maybe it was the parade. Earlier in the day Ms. Rose and I had breakfast at the Insomniac Capriform Cafe while crowds of people dressed in red and white (including a woman in a very red, very striking cocktail dress) gathered on the sidewalk outside. After finishing our toast we went outside and joined a group containing a programmer and three microprogrammers that used to call me Shrek. Of course, I was wearing black, not red (because I said I would).
The parade was something that someone had decided to call a “people parade” — I’ve never heard that term before but it beat overweight ‘dignitaries’ sitting in gas-guzzling convertibles. It was nice and I was surprised that that many people owned that much red clothing, but that’s not how I knew it was Canada Day.
No, I knew it was Canada Day because that morning we turned on the radio. The radio in the bedroom is set to the CBC because the CBC is the glue that holds the country together. (‘They‘ say. Poutine probably helps — it’s stickier.) When the radio came on they were doing the weather. The very first thing I heard was the weather forecast for Wawa.
And that’s how I knew it was Canada Day.