Tomorrow is Canada Day. For those of you visiting, especially those of you visiting from the United States, I'm happy to inform you it is, notwithstanding the unceremonial name, a national holiday.
Canada Day is the day Canadians celebrate their, well, Canadianess. From coast to coast to coast - with the exception of much of Quebec, who celebrated St. Jean Baptiste day a week ago, a symbolic holiday to mark the sovereigntists' collective loss of their head and subsequent desire to separate from the rest of the country - Canadians will rise and greet the day with affirmations such as, "Great to be Canadian, eh?" Or, "Woo-hoo, long weekend, eh?"
Canada Day, ironically, comes just three days before America Day, a.k.a Independence Day, the Fourth of July. Ironic because America came first, countrywise. With the exception of the big, western states, the USofA pretty much looked like itself shortly after the carpetbaggers got done rebuilding Atlanta after the country was forged from the fiery cauldron of the War Between the States, a.k.a The Civil War, a misnomer if every there was one... well, maybe not considering they call all those government workers civil servants.
Before I move on with Canada Day, this would be a good opportunity to welcome our American friends and say we, your friendly northern neighbours, join you in your own celebration of Americaness Monday. Of course, we'll be back at work and you won't but at least in Whistler, it doesn't matter because our work is all about making you feel special... again. Just like in the old days when you used to laugh at our currency and believe you owned your banks, instead of the other way around. We still love you, even if the rest of world is once again trying to make up their minds about that.
In stark contrast to the strong union forged in the fiery... etc, Canada, existing as a loose confederation of Have and Have-Not provinces, was busy trying to convince Joey Smallwood, leader of all Newfoundlanders, to join the "Great Experiment" back in 1861, when your Civil War came to a close and the slaves who hadn't escaped to Canada were "freed" to become fully-integrated members of society known affectionately as "ex-slaves" or, alternatively, "undesirable elements." Canada needed Newfoundland for both their limitless stocks of cod and to fill much the same societal role ex-slaves played in the U.S., making even the existing Have-Not provinces feel good about themselves in much the same way ex-slaves made inbred southern crackers feel superior.
But the U.S., being even at that time magnanimous at the grand gesture, let Canada celebrate first when the country finally hoodwinked Joey into joining up. It was a crafty move, or so they thought. Recently unearthed archives show the real reason the U.S. encouraged Canada to celebrate Canada Day three days before America Day was so Americans could come up to Canada on July 2 nd and stock up on cut-rate fireworks in time for the 4 th of July celebrations.
Naturally, like most magnanimous acts, it backfired. Being generally ignorant about Canadian Ways, the clever boys who thought that one up didn't realize Canada only allows "safety" fireworks in the country ever since the Great Halifax Harbour Explosion, caused by a worker dropping a careless cigarette on a fireworks barge during an earlier "Dominion Day" celebration, which was what Canada Day was called before someone decided it seemed rather subservient. Ha-Ha, good joke, eh? Took the U.S. a long time before it ever thought about free trade with Canada again.
But back to Canada Day. It's a day Canadians celebrate the sine qua non of being Canada, that which makes all true Canadians Canadian and not, for example, Germans or Chinese. And what is that special essence, that indispensable, elemental, bred-in-the-bone, ain't-no-other-in-the-world-like-it distinguishing feature mothers and fathers drill into the soft spots of their children's' heads until it becomes as much a part of them as their DNA? It can be neatly summed up thus: We are not American!
And how are we not American? That question has been the subject of intense research and debate. Enough Royal Commissions have been commissioned seeking the answer to that question to prop up all of B.C.'s aging pulp and paper mills. The CBC was formed specifically to pose that question at least once a month during Cross-Country "Chequeup." At last estimate, 40 per cent of Canada Council grants were earmarked for studies and performance art works promising at least part of the answer.
And the answer? Well, being Canadian, we're not prone to jump to conclusions when dithering will do, but here are at least some of the crucial elements.
The USofA was forged in the fiery cauldrons, blah, blah, blah. The American Revolution cast off forever the tyrannical shackles of the British Monarchy and the Civil War settled forever what, in Canada, is known simply as the Quebec Issue.
Canada, on the other hand, was forged in the smoky backrooms of genteel gentlemen's clubs. If America is exemplified by war, Canada is exemplified by such boardgames as Risk TM , Diplomacy TM , and, most especially, Monopoly TM . Whereas America was formed at the point of a gun, Canada was formed with a nod and a wink. If nothing else, it explains why we still have the Queen of England on our money.
America settled the west because settling the west was its Manifest Destiny. The teeming American masses yearned to breathe fresh air and discover the wonders of smoking meats with mesquite. Canada, on the other hand, settled the west because it was a sound business move, diversifying its portfolio and assuring it would forever have hinterlands eastern politicians could ignore, piss off, pillage and from which would spring an inconsequential political party that would miraculously come to power and shape the country, ironically, in the image of the U.S. itself.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, America knew it was bound for glory. America strode into the future with a spring in its step and a certainty not unlike that enjoyed by missionaries bringing the word of God to the Godless. America set the bar, raised the standards and had enough faith in its role as the Only Remaining Superpower, that it was comfortable sending its least qualified citizens off to the nation's capital to run things... into the ground.
Canada was just as certain of its future and therefore built all its major cities within 100 miles - converted in the late 20 th century to approximately 160 kilometres - of the U.S.-Canada border. After all, if we weren't so close and so dependent on our good friends to the south, how could we keep close tabs on what we're not and provide pointers on running a sound banking system instead of a cheap, Vegas casino?
Happy Canada Day, eh?