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Canada Day Address

July 1, 2008

It’s Canada Day, and although I’m currently in England, I’ve had reason to think about Canadian-ness.

My mother’s neighbour here in Bradford, knowing that I live in Canada, invited me into his garden to read the front page story in his Daily Mail, which today just so happened to be “about” (in so far as Daily Mail “news” “stories” are about anything) Canada’s invitation to dissatisfied, credit-crunched Brits to turn off the lights and migrate across the Atlantic. This open invitation (I’m following the Mail’s version of the story here, not my own) might see an exodus of the mass migration of depressed English (Ten Pound Poms) to Australia in the post-war decades. Of course, you can be sure that when the Daily Mail goes with a front page story about a country that is actually welcoming of migrants, something’s going on — page 3 of the paper contained an “opinion” piece explaining that Canada is a terrible country with no discernible culture, no history, bad food and horrible weather.

Of course there’s no point in arguing with a newspaper as rabid and demented as the Mail. But I did have to think a bit about what exactly “Canadian culture” is. The point that the Mail missed — of course — is that Canada is so appealing to people like me exactly because it doesn’t insist on an easily defined, forcefully imposed sense of its own national identity; neither does it have a cultural history to whose bloody and boring grandeur its citizens must genuflect. That’s why a city like Toronto — my city, and other people’s city — is so vibrant with many cultures. I find that bits of Old Europe (the English portions of which the Mail constantly laments the loss of in their own land) are alive and well in Toronto — true, sometimes I have to do a bit of psychogeographical shifting to find them, but Toronto is a city that allows me to do such imagining. And parts of Asia and South America and Africa flourish there too. Or to put it more simply, the reason why Canada is so appealing is that the kind of people who move there tend not to be Daily Mail readers.

Here’s another reason why I’ve been thinking about Canadian-ness. An east coast DJ recently told me that when he played my songs on the radio, I was listed as Canadian Content. Am I Canadian Content? During the first couple years of my time in Canada, I felt so grateful to the country that had taken me in that I would have felt a little ashamed to presume belonging. Now I realise that on my own terms, I can be perfectly Canadian, at the same time as having inevitably becoming more English since leaving. I am content to be Canadian Content.

Oh, and last weekend I enjoyed being taken by friends to London’s only Canadian-themed pub.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. July 8, 2008 7:33 pm

    Ross,
    This is quite possibly one of the most eloquent tributes to Canadianism (or, more particularly, Torontoism) that I’ve read. Being one half of one place and now one half of another, I’m experiencing many of the same sentiments that you do — the carbonization, almost, of one half of my identity, while the other half is fluid and quite happy in its resistance to being moulded into one simple thing.

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