There isn’t a lot said about Canada outside of our own country. We’re not an “In your face” kind of people, so we don’t get a lot of attention, even when it’s due.
With the Teen being interested in the military – and how far into it she will venture, we just don’t know yet – as a Canadian Sea Cadet, I find my awareness of all things related has been dramatically increased. Every time a Canadian solider is senselessly killed overseas, which has happened at an alarming rate these last few years, I get angry, and a little frightened at what our future might hold.
Rather than make this a post that will be quickly covered up by the day to day minutiae of my blogging life, I thought I’d make these thoughts a page unto themselves, where my blogging friends and passers-by could find them if they so choose.
While I have nothing against Americans – indeed, many of my friends are American and I’d venture to say 70% of my regular readers are as well – I don’t want to be an American. I am very proud to state, anywhere in the world I may travel, that I am Canadian. I patiently correct the flawed beliefs – even in the southern US – that we travel by dog sled, live in igloos, and have snow year round. Not true; only the Inuit people and Santa Claus in the far northern realms of our great country have that sort of life style. Maybe even just Santa. Yes Virginia, Santa Claus is Canadian.
I live outside of Toronto, Ontario, and contrary to popular belief, we get 4 seasons! Moderate to somewhat cold winters, mild to crisp autumns, rainy springs, and hot and humid summers. I have never been on a dogsled, or even seen a real igloo in person. We have real money, and it’s quite pretty in comparison to the drab green of our neighbours to the immediate south. No offense. ;)
In Canada, we’re a little different. We go out of our way to make you feel welcome, and when driving, even in the worst traffic on the 401 through the GTA (greater Toronto area) we’ll let you in ahead of us. It’s true! The “thank you!” wave is expected and appreciated, by the way. It makes us happy.
I could go into great detail about the Canadian military, often the brunt of jokes, but the following article sums it up in a way that I never could…
Salute to a brave and modest nation – Kevin Myers, ‘The Sunday Telegraph’ LONDON :
Until the deaths of Canadian soldiers killed in Afghanistan , probably almost no one outside their home country had been aware that Canadian troops are deployed in the region.
And as always, Canada will bury its dead, just as the rest of the world, as always will forget its sacrifice, just as it always forgets nearly everything Canada ever does.. It seems that Canada ‘s historic mission is to come to the selfless aid both of its friends and of complete strangers, and then, once the crisis is over, to be well and truly ignored.
Canada is the perpetual wallflower that stands on the edge of the hall, waiting for someone to come and ask her for a dance. A fire breaks out, she risks life and limb to rescue her fellow dance-goers, and suffers serious injuries. But when the hall is repaired and the dancing resumes, there is Canada, the wallflower still, while those she once helped glamorously cavort across the floor, blithely neglecting her yet again.
That is the price Canada pays for sharing the North American continent with the United States , and for being a selfless friend of Britain in two global conflicts.
For much of the 20th century, Canada was torn in two different directions: It seemed to be a part of the old world, yet had an address in the new one, and that divided identity ensured that it never fully got the gratitude it deserved.
Yet it’s purely voluntary contribution to the cause of freedom in two world wars was perhaps the greatest of any democracy. Almost 10% of Canada ‘s entire population of seven million people served in the armed forces during the First World War, and nearly 60,000 died. The great Allied victories of 1918 were spearheaded by Canadian troops, perhaps the most capable soldiers in the entire British order of battle.
Canada was repaid for its enormous sacrifice by downright neglect, it’s unique contribution to victory being absorbed into the popular memory as somehow or other the work of the ‘British.’
The Second World War provided a re-run. The Canadian navy began the war with a half dozen vessels, and ended up policing nearly half of the Atlantic against U-boat attack. More than 120 Canadian warships participated in the Normandy landings, during which 15,000 Canadian soldiers went ashore on D-Day alone.
Canada finished the war with the third-largest navy and the fourth largest air force in the world. The world thanked Canada with the same sublime indifference as it had the previous time.
Canadian participation in the war was acknowledged in film only if it was necessary to give an American actor a part in a campaign in which the United States had clearly not participated – a touching scrupulousness which, of course, Hollywood has since abandoned, as it has any notion of a separate Canadian identity.
So it is a general rule that actors and filmmakers arriving in Hollywood keep their nationality – unless, that is, they are Canadian. Thus Mary Pickford, Walter Huston, Donald Sutherland, Michael J. Fox, William Shatner, Norman Jewison, David Cronenberg, Alex Trebek, Art Linkletter and Dan Aykroyd have in the popular perception become American, and Christopher Plummer, British.
It is as if, in the very act of becoming famous, a Canadian ceases to be Canadian, unless she is Margaret Atwood, who is as unshakably Canadian as a moose, or Celine Dion, for whom Canada has proved quite unable to find any takers.
Moreover, Canada is every bit as querulously alert to the achievements of its sons and daughters as the rest of the world is completely unaware of them. The Canadians proudly say of themselves – and are unheard by anyone else – that 1% of the world’s population has provided 10% of the world’s peacekeeping forces.
Canadian soldiers in the past half century have been the greatest peacekeepers on Earth – in 39 missions on UN mandates, and six on non-UN peacekeeping duties, from Vietnam to East Timor, from Sinai to Bosnia.
Yet the only foreign engagement that has entered the popular non-Canadian imagination was the sorry affair in Somalia , in which out-of-control paratroopers murdered two Somali infiltrators. Their regiment was then disbanded in disgrace – a uniquely Canadian act of self-abasement for which, naturally, the Canadians received no international credit.
So who today in the United States knows about the stoic and selfless friendship its northern neighbour has given it in Afghanistan?
Rather like Cyrano de Bergerac , Canada repeatedly does honourable things for honourable motives, but instead of being thanked for it, it remains something of a figure of fun. It is the Canadian way, for which Canadians should be proud, yet such honour comes at a high cost. This past year more grieving Canadian families knew that cost all too tragically well.
Lest we forget.
If you leave my blog today with a new understanding and respect for Canada, then I have done my job here.
I am proud to be Canadian!