O Canada

Another Long Suffering Group Within Canada

paintingI like today's editorial cartoon by Patrick Corrigan that appeared in the Toronto Star.

Nation Defined

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Louis Riel's Poem for Robert Gordon

canadaWhen I had to write my final essay for Michael Bliss' Canadian History course at U of T, choosing a topic was easy. There isn't a figure more intriguing in all of Canadian history than Louis Riel.

To steal a line from Wikipedia, "he led two resistance movements against the Canadian government that sought to preserve M├ętis rights and culture as their homelands in the Northwest Territories came progressively under the Canadian sphere of influence." 121 years ago this week, Louis Riel was hanged for high treason.

I'm telling you, this guy was fascinating. To many he was a hero, to others he was a traitor, and to some he was just plain nuts.

A poem he wrote for his jailer, Robert Gordon, three weeks before his death in Regina, has been donated to the University of Saskatchewan. Here it is:

The snow,
Which renders the ground all white,
From heaven, comes here below:
Its pine frozen drops invite us all
To white -- keep our thoughts and our acts,
So that when our bodies do fall,
Our merits, before God, be facts.

How many who, with good desires,
Have died and lost their souls to fires?
Good desires kept unpractic'd
Stand, before God, unnotic'd.

O Robert, let us be fond
Of virtue! Virtues abound
In every sort of good,
Let virtue be our soul's food.

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It's Our Job To Never Forget

poppyAs I mentioned earlier in the week, so many brave Canadians have sacrificed everything to preserve our freedoms. If you stop and think about what we asked (and ask) these young soldiers to do, it blows your mind. Back in 2003 I took a closer look at the participation and casualties. So many lost their child, brother, husband or friend. So many lost their lives.

My favourite Canadian military accomplishment took place on Easter Monday, April 9, 1917. A couple of years ago, I revisited Vimy Ridge in some detail. It was one of the key massive offensives launched by the Allies in WWI and our forces played a very significant role. When we captured Vimy Ridge, it was the moment that solidified a very young country. Here's a picture from the battle and the Canadian National Vimy Memorial.

The Battle of Vimy Ridge Canadian National Vimy Memorial

Many Canadians paid the ultimate price in war. It's our job to never forget.

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Canadian Design

canadaLet's talk design for a moment, if that's okay. Did you know there's a Canadian Design Resource? Neither did I until I learned about it earlier today. It's a neat collection of Canadian designs and definitely worth a visit.

Here are a few of my favourites.

They're threatening to introduce an open resource section where you and I can submit samples of Canadian design. That would be neat-o.

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Essentially Canadian

canadaThe weekend was such a blur, I'm only getting to Saturday's paper now. In honour of Canada Day, the Star listed ten essential Canadian songs. I did something similar last September, listing what I thought were ten essential Canadian tracks.

Here's the Toronto Star's list:

  • Huron Carol - Jean de Brebeuf (1643)
  • Hymn To Freedom - Oscar Peterson (1962)
  • Four Strong Winds - Ian Tyson (1964)
  • Mon Pays - Gilles Vigneault (1964)
  • Suzanne - Leonard Cohen (1966)
  • Canadian Railroad Trilogy - Gordon Lightfoot (1967)
  • Both Sides, Now - Joni Mitchell (1968)
  • American Woman - The Guess Who (1970)
  • Big Yellow Taxi - Joni Mitchell (1970)
  • Hallelujah - Leonard Cohen (1985)

When it comes to Canadian music, you can't go wrong with the holy trinity of Neil Young, Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchell. It's a shame Young didn't make the Star's list, I don't know how he could have been completely excluded. As for Gordon Lightfoot and the Guess Who, you'll never catch me saying a bad word about either.

Did the Star's panel stop listening to music in 1985?

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Happy Canada Day!

canadaOn March 29, 1867, Queen Victoria signed the British North America Act. This beauty came into effect on July 1 of that year, creating "one dominion under the name of Canada". That was 139 years ago today.

Initially there was just Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick. The Red River Rebellion led to the creation of Manitoba in 1870, British Columbia joined a year later and Prince Edward Island joined in 1873. Alberta and Saskatchewan were formed in 1905 and in 1949 Newfoundland joined Confederation as Canada's tenth province. Ten provinces from ocean to ocean and each unique yet unified under a single flag. No other country on this planet is as diverse. 23.2% of Canadians consider French their mother language, and 85% of this francophone population lives in one province. There's also a great cultural difference from province to province with English, French, Irish, Scottish and Aboriginal cultures comprising the fabric of this nation.

From British Columbia to Newfoundland, we're so damn different but there's a definite bond. We're Canadian and we're proud of it. I've written about it before, but it's worth mentioning again. We've fought valiantly for just causes in the world, we're proudly progressive, the envy of others and just plain cool. There was Vimy Ridge, Terry Fox and The Maple Music Revolution. There's been 139 brilliant years from sea to sea and I'd bet the next 139 will be even better.

Sing it loud, sing it proud. O Canada!

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Statement To Morrissey

DocumentTo protest our seal murdering policies, Morrissey is taking a stand by refusing to take his tour to Canada. He's also asking all his fans to boycott Canadian goods. In his statement, he compares the act to the Nazi's construction of gas chambers and pins us alongside China as "the cruelest and most self-serving nation".

I'm not about to defend the clubbing of seals, I too am uncomfortable with the practice, but I am also uncomfortable with Morrissey's statment. On a global scale, Canada is, for the most part, a culturally diverse and peaceful nation, with equal rights for all. There's this less-than-ideal seal issue on the East coast that's being permitted because it provides jobs for local communities that desperately need them. Now, a rich rock star is refusing to play Canada and urging a boycott of all things Canadian. The Nazi and China comparisons are just over the top. If Morrissey will only play countries that are completely without questionable practices, it will be a very, very short tour.

Is the United States without sin? Is Turkey a utopian state? Do they not wear leather in England?

I've never liked Morrissey anyway, and his refusal to play a Toronto date on his tour doesn't effect me in the least, but his dramatic statement deserved a reply. We're not a nation without flaws, and whether this seal cull is economically and environmentally justified is debatable, but putting us alongside China as twin human/animal rights abusers in this big, bad world is a little more than I can stomach this morning.

I don't owe you anything.

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Canadians Are Known For...

CanadaCheck out The Prejudice Map. It displays what, according to Google, people in the world are known for.

The map tells you Canadians are known for cultural diversity, humility and kindness, liking their beer and being tolerant. Throw in an obsession with hockey and they've pretty much nailed us.

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Copyright Infringement?

CanadaNorfolk Island is an island in the Pacific Ocean between Australia, New Zealand and New Caledonia. Take a peek at their official flag.

Does it remind you of anything?

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Great New CanCon

CanadaI'm so damn proud of the new music I hear coming from this country. This week I've been heavily spinning the tracks from The New Pornographers' Twin Cinema, Metric's Live It Out and Broken Social Scene's Broken Social Scene. All three albums are fantastic. They're a joy to listen to and they're Canadian.

It's a great time for CanCon. My favourite disc all year has been 2004's Funeral from Arcade Fire. Throw in personal favourites from Feist, Hot Hot Heat and Stars and we're really rockin'. No less than seven Canadian tracks will be appearing on SLS14, due to launch this week.

The Maple Music Revolution continues...

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