We are just about to encounter Canada Day. It’s the 1960’s revision of the first of July – Dominion Day – that allows Canadians to make slightly sad cultural asses of themselves throughout the world…or throughout the world that actually notices. This would be about 0.08% of humanity…
Shorn of its fun features – picnics on the shores of freezing lakes, fireworks, and a couple of months off school – Dominion …Oops…Canada day is a time of wild celebration for Canadians overseas. All through Kenya ice hockey and curling is breaking out. The mountains of Holland echo to the sound of gunshots as Canadians open fire on moose. The Indians dedicate another temple to Justin Trudeau and then flush it…
Just kidding. We go out a buy a carton of Molsons or a bottle of rye and some ginger ale and scuff round the kitchen to see if that recipe for butter tarts has turned up. And we contemplate poutine.
I say contemplate, because I do not know any Canadian overseas who has eaten the stuff. Indeed, I passed a childhood and youth in the Dominion of Canada without ever seeing it, and I lived in Montreal and Chicoutimi for years. I did see strawberry pie in Quebec, but my parents were wise not to let any of it get on me.
Poitine would seem to be French fries with cheese and gravy. I should like to hear the Canadian Heart Association’s take on the dish, as it seems to be comprised of equal quantities of cholesterol, oxidants, and toxins. I am surprised it is not linked to Donald Trump. In an age that views anything other than salad as sin, how has poutine become a star dish? Is it because it is French Canadian, and is therefore excused from any goodness? Is it the culinary version of the Cirque du Soleil?
Well, for me, I shall celebrate Dominion Day with the aforementioned rye highball and something else Canadian enough to do the trick. I am going to get a pound of small fish, split them and roll them in cornmeal, and fry them in Crisco like Fraser River Smelt. Add some PEI potatoes and creamed corn and it will be as close to the True North Strong And Free as you can get in Western Australia. Unless I can gun down an elk on St Georges Terrace.
I may even put up a picture of the current Prime Minister, if I can find the dartboard, eh?
I suppose I should be grateful to the people of Quebec. I might not have felt so in 1957 when I lived in Montreal and had to endure the indignities of Grade 5. The school system was split between English-speaking teachers and French-speaking ones and there were times when the kids were the football between the teams. Thankfully they had to teach English literature in English and mathematics in numbers and the odd intrusion en Francais could be endured.
Later, the pressure to teach every school child in Canada some French extended out as far as Alberta and British Columbia and I got at least two years of basic grammar in the early 60’s. I can fumble my way through a French magazine if there are pictures with short captions. If there are girlie pictures I fumble slower.
But they did contribute enough political whining and pressure to raise a great debate about ” Bi-culturalism ” and we school kids got onto the gravy train. We wrote essays, made speeches, and in some cases collected free trips to Ottawa to pretend that we were the future of the country. We were overwhelmingly snot-nosed, mealy-mouthed, and cynical, and I guess that if we had pursued that course over the time one of us could be Prime Minister of Canada right now. Come to think of it…
I didn’t win the Ottawa trip on the strength of my speech, but I won a job at the local newspaper doing anything that no-one else wanted to do. I loved it, and it has given me a taste for writing, photography, and cynicism ever since.
Secede? Oh the political pundits sometimes come out with the business of Quebec seceding from Canada and becoming an independent nation. They toy with it every few years…just long enough to get more federal money. The awkward thing is that the rest of Canada may see it as a good idea one day and take them up on it.
On one condition. Quebec gets Trudeau. All the Trudeaus…
Have you ever noticed that whenever Hollywood movies play ” The Battle Hymn Of The Republic ” someone is going to get a well-deserved pasting?
The rest of the movie might have been occupied with the Americans getting slaughtered in great numbers – tanks, planes, and ships blowing up and all – but when the chips are finally down the old Civil War song comes on and business starts to pick up. This has been the case ever since it was written, and I hope it continues in the future.
Make no mistake about it – I am on the side of the US in past and future wars. It was a point of polite contention when I was a guest of the old Confederate Historical Society here in Western Australia, and it is bound to be a factor when in social gatherings in the future. People who point out that I was raised in Canada and am a naturalised Australian citizen and thereby hope to change my mind can go and get knotted – and I am prepared to buy them a Boy Scout manual to assist them at it. I still admire the US and the US military.
It’s not a popular view – at least not in the trendy pink-tinged circles I frequent. Contempt for the American military is a basic tenet of the locals – and I have learned to largely ignore it. For my part I have developed my own assessment of foreign claims to military or historical fame…but have kept them to myself. I shall continue to do so – I prefer to live on speaking terms with my friends.
I also keep my opinion about political figures in the USA to myself – aware that it would be as pointless to air them as it is to listen to others. We in Australia are…to put it bluntly…in Australia…and would do well to concern ourselves with our own governance. We’ll need all our wits about us to remain on good terms with the Asians now that the price of iron ore has fallen and the price of apartments in Sydney has risen…
I wonder – is there any other piece of music – save the ” Marseillaise ” – that is so evocative in a motion picture? I can’t imagine Canadians turning steely at ” O Canada ” though I must say that whenever I heard ” The Maple Leaf Forever ” I experienced an overwhelming desire to beat up on a Quebequois. To be fair, I felt that way when I heard a doorbell. French-Canadians’ll do that you ya.