Thursday, March 15, 2007

Canada, Eh?

"The line which marks off the frontier from the farmstead, the wilderness from the baseland, the hinterland from the metropolis, runs through every Canadian psyche."

(Roy MacGregor of The Globe and Mail quoting historian W. L. Morton.)

Some of my posts have generated comments regarding Canadian content and the vastness of this country — our “True North Strong and Free.” (A line from Canada’s national anthem.)

Yesterday our 2006 census was released. There are 31,612,897 Canadians. More than four-fifths of us live in urban areas.

In his column, MacGregor recalls a survey conducted by The Globe and Mail in 2003. One of the questions asked what most defined and symbolized this country to those who live here.

The answer?

“They didn't choose medicare. They didn't pick hockey. They didn't say traffic snarls, Tim Hortons or minority governments. No, 89 per cent of them said it was the sheer vastness of the land.”

Despite our urban crowding, we still think this way. All we have to do is drive a few hours north to become part of that vastness, that natural beauty and wilderness. For some, such an escape is possible. For others, it is a dream.

For the majority of Canadians, it remains a cherished notion of our country and its possibilities – an integral part of our identity.


DJ Cayenne said...

A beautiful country. Other than a train ride from Vancouver to Whistler, I've only been in the Urban Areas. I'm still looking for an excuse to move to BC.

I was in Ottawa last year and there were beautiful banners on the street lamps that had the name of each province (and included the name of the capital cities of each). It was a perfect geography lesson for your neighbors to the south.

We also saw the home of the "Governor General," which led to the question - what's a Governor General?

Beth said...

dj: You had to ask...we do have a few quirks.
The Governor General (primarily a symbolic and ceremonial position) is the representative of our Head of State who happens to be Queen Elizabeth II. We are part of the Commonwealth.
Want to know more? Check out this site:

patricia said...

Sadly, I have yet to really see the vastness of my country. Never been to Banff. Haven't been to the Prairies since I was a little kid. Never been out East. I'm very much am urban traveller.

Oh, and speaking of our neighbours in the south, Beth, did you read some of the comments of the potential jurors for Conrad Black's trial? I love that some people in the US still think that we are a socialist country!

Anonymous said...

When we moved to North Carolina in 1991 the thing I missed the most about Canada wasn't Tim Hortons, OHIP or was water.

Great big, open, cold bodies of water. They just don't have lakes anywhere else in the world like we've got here.

Beth said...

patricia: Doesn't matter if you've experienced "the vastness" of our country or not - it's in your psyche!
(Bet it is...)

Re: "Lord" Conrad - He may be in big (bigger) trouble. Canada a "socialist country...anti-union?"
Of course, who ever really gets a jury of their peers?

And those were just potential jurors, right? Wonder what the "finalists" will be like?

Beth said...

trish: Welcome back! Hope your trip went well.

No wonder you ended up living by a lake here after your stint in the U.S. Your pictures always make me envious.

The Guy Who Writes This said...

I would be proud to be, and I actually hope one day to be a Canadian. Great post.

Beth said...

guy: We'd love to have you here! It's funny (as in funny/strange) - DJ Cayenne of BabyGotBooks would also like to move to Canada. (Check out his comment.)
Canada is a wonderful place to live. And I know how lucky I am.

John said...

As a self confessed Canada FAN, I loved this post! I'll have to wait until I've lived there before I can comment on the "vastness" bit.

I do want to keep my English accent, and I will keep it. However, I can't WAIT to start say "eh" at the end of everything! WAY COOL EH!

Beth said...

john: Oh, you will find it vast if you do a bit of travelling.
And, yes, do keep your English accent. I find them very charming.
As to the "eh?" Must confess - I know I probably use that expression but I'm totally unaware of doing so.

DJ Cayenne said...

Beth: This whole business with the Queen and the Monarchy will need to be cleared up (whatever that means).

I haven't seen the Lord Black trial coverage here. Never underestimate the stupidity of a jury pool down here though. The idea that the guy is a "Lord" is just strange to our ears.

Nomad said...

Yes, YES and More YES!!

I can't wait to be on home soil someday soon again (to stay), I will kiss the ground!!

I can so relate to what you are saying, I have travelled East to West and around in a few circles but am dying to go further abroad, to Baffin Island, or Yellowknife,
Labrador, Newfoundland, Queen Charlotte Islands to name just a few destinations...


Great post.

*standing up and bellowing ...


Beth said...

dj: I know, the Queen connection seems strange. Want to join the brouhaha up here as to our ties with the monarchy? To me, it's symbolic, a tradition and I'm A-OK with it - and with being part of the Commonwealth. Some aren't. I’m of the school – “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it…”
And speaking of ties with the monarchy – here we go with Lord Black. (Simple version) Press baron charged with dipping into company funds. Prior to this mess, in order to become a Lord he had to give up his Canadian citizenship. Not a popular move here. Once charged, wanted his citizenship back. Again, not a popular move. (Check out Wikipedia for more on Black.)
As for juries in U.S., I recently finished John Grisham’s "The Innocent Man" (non-fiction). Very disturbing as to juries and the judicial system in a small town in Oklahoma. Almost couldn’t finish it. I prefer my judges, Crown Attorneys (your Prosecutors), etc. appointed rather than elected.

Way too long a reply to your brief comment - sorry about that.

Beth said...

nomad: Just for you - because of where you are...
(Can you sing this version? Hope I got it right.)

O Canada!
Terre de nos aïeux,
Ton front est ceint de fleurons glorieux!
Car ton bras sait porter l'épée,
Il sait porter la croix!
Ton histoire est une épopée
Des plus brillants exploits.
Et ta valeur, de foi trempée,
Protégera nos foyers et nos droits,
Protégera nos foyers et nos droits.

oreneta said...

It is also some of what we view as necessary for comfort....that just doesn't exist in Europe, and Nomad's latest post illustrates the same yearning.

DJ Cayenne said...

It's very convoluted this business with being in the commonwealth and still having to renounce citizenship to accept the title.

On the socialist front, in the defense of my countrymen - the first thing that one is likely to hear from a boastful Canadian is about "socialized medicine." And there are many more state owned enterprises, CN, CBC, etc. than we have. So its easy to see how the feeble minded and ill informed could be led astray.

Plus we have no idea how a Parliament works.

John said...

We've got a Parliament. Big building it is. Next to a really big clock. I'm buggered if I can figure out how it works. I'm not sure they know either.

Maybe they should knock it down and make some "affordable housing".

Beth said...

oreneta: I've read Nomad's latest post and yours - you both crave space. It's what you're used to. But you're both having such great adventures where you are. (And you'll be coming back to that "vastness.")

dj: Excellent point re: the Commonwealth/title/citizenship matter.

As to our "socialism" re: medical care - it can certainly be viewed that way.
"Canada's national health insurance program, often referred to as "Medicare", is designed to ensure that all residents have reasonable access to medically necessary hospital and physician services, on a prepaid basis.

It's not perfect (I certainly have some complaints) but it's pretty darn good.

As for how Parliament works - I'm not going there!

john: Yes, and our Parliament is based on your Parliament (with some differences).

And I once saw Big Ben!

Beth said...

My aunt used to have a cabin in Canada, and I spent a summer there one time...right on a lake, and I was with my best cousin(the one who died from aids) and it was one of the best summers of my life. the only thing I can say is french is "I'm tired", and "boat"!

I think Canada is beautiful country.

Beth said...

beth: Canada is beautiful but so are many places in the United States.
Glad you have such a good memory of the time you were here.
Re: your French vocabulary. My youngest went through the French Immersion program in public and high school. One of the first expressions I ever heard him say in kindergarten (in the school yard) was, "Tais-toi."
Means "shut up." So there's a new one for you!

DJ Cayenne said...

One of the things that I loved about being in Ottawa is that my French comprehension went up 200% just by having French and English on all signs. Suddenly I was bilingual.

I took 8 years of French in school and my parents are both French (Cajun) speakers. I've never been very good at actually communicating in the language myself, however.

Dorky Dad said...

I'd hope they wouldn't say Tim Horton's. It'd be pathetic if an entire country felt that Tim Horton's was the most defining aspect of Canadian life. Plus, they don't take credit cards. That's pathetic.

Beth said...

dj: If just reading signs in French and English increased your "bilingualism" you'd do very well living here. Everything (cereal boxes, the words on a stove, etc.) comes in both French and English.
I'm surprised that with both parents speaking French, you didn't catch on. I think immersion is the only way.

dorky dad: I wonder - do Americans know who Tim Horton was? He played for the Toronto Maple Leaf hockey team - was my mom's favourite player. I remember watching him play when I was a kid.

DJ Cayenne said...

It's very strange in Louisiana (for many reasons). The French that is taught in school is Parisian. The French that has been spoken there for 200+ years is very, very different. French, at least in my family, was the "adult" language used when parents didn't want you to know what was going on.

Beth said...

dj: Ditto here. Parisian French is taught in the school system - very different from the French spoken in Quebec.
(My son is the one who can speak French in this family and not have any of us knowing what he is truly saying...)

DJ Cayenne said...

My mom is actually taking courses at LSU in Cajun French, to actually learn the grammar and how to write it (it's mostly thought of as only an oral language). She's loving it.

An interesting aside...she also attended the last Acadian World Congress (Congrès Mondial Acadien) a few years in Nova Scotia. Very cool thing to check out apparently...

Beth said...


I had no idea there was an Acadian World Congress.

And thus we get into the history of the expulsion of the Acadians - how and why that culture and language spread so far.

Strange world.

Princess Pointful said...

It bothers me how a lot of people do not appreciate this. So many people will spend years exploring other countries, but have barely gone into another province, proclaiming Canadian travel boring.
I've traveled across the country twice now, and I still feel as though I haven't got a sense of it. I adore how different places like Quebec and Nova Scotia feel from BC, yet how they still have a touch of comfort and home.

Side note- My father is actually Acadian, and I really regret how little I know about that side of my heritage.

Beth said...

princess pointful: I envy you having travelled across the country twice. Wish I'd done more travelling across Canada when I was younger (and more fit).
One of my favourite places - Quebec City - I'm not bilingual but have always been made to feel welcome there.

Mom of Three said...

Hey, thanks! I like the info. And besides, this interests me more than The Week in Beekeeping from Guy :).

We still have that vastness feeling here, except in cases where there is huge sprawl. I can go to the end of the continent here, so I'm good.

Great info!

Beth said...

mof3: For sure - wide open, vast and beautiful land in the U.S.
Canadians love to visit!

And - hurray! Guy's back with some ranting. ;)