Wednesday, June 30, 2010

A love letter to Canada

Dear Canada,

Happy 143rd birthday! Although, let's be honest, we both know you're much older than the 143 years the European settlers pretend you are. You may not have been a country in the legal sense of the word but people have called your land home for more than 20,000 years. Dinosaurs roamed across your plains long before we ever did.

The 143-year-old ruse reminds me of the way my mom continues to celebrate her 29th birthday 30 years running. But whatever. Today is not a day to point out your flaws. Today is a day to celebrate all of the wonderful and wacky things that make you so special.

You are so much more than maple syrup, hockey and poutine. You are not just snowshoes, canoes and barbeques. You are the rock beneath our feet. O Canada, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways . . .

1. Freedom: We are free to be whoever we want to be, say whatever we want to say, and wear whatever we want to wear. Other countries have burqas, bombs, and bullets. We have gay marriage, universal health care, and beer.

2. Diversity: We are a country of immigrants. We have different cultures, different religions, and different ideas but we all somehow manage to get along. We don't throw rocks at each other. We don't plant bombs outside busy markets. We don't believe in blowing each other up. We believe in human rights. We believe in tolerance. We believe a new citizen is every bit as Canadian as someone whose family has been here for five generations. Jamaican, Chinese, African, Indian, Australian . . . we are all Canadian.

3. Tim Hortons: A double-double and a chocolate dip to go, please.

4. Food: We can eat a burrito for breakfast, sushi for lunch, and souvlaki for dinner. A walk around the block is like a gastronomic trip around the world. But food from our own backyard is the best food of all. Blueberries, apples, pears, blackberries, corn, rhubarb, strawberries, potatoes, carrots, cherries, fiddleheads, and tomatoes. Just to name a few.

5. Wilderness: We have real wilderness in Canada. These vast, uninhabited areas are among the last remaining tracts of wilderness in the world. This is our national treasure and we should guard it with our lives. Canada does not just belong to us. It belongs to bears, moose, and caribou too.

6. The CBC: George Stroumboulopoulos, Claire Marin, Rick Mercer, Peter Mansbridge, Jian Ghomeshi, Anna Maria Tremonti, and good old Stuart McLean. The Hour, As it Happens, Definitely not the Opera, Vinyl Tap, A Propos, and The Current. The CBC is intelligent, funny, thoughtful, provincial, original, folksy, and fun. Sophisticated but not sleek. Polished but still a little amateurish. Just like us.

7. Manners: We are polite. We are friendly. We are humble. We are modest. We are unobtrusive. We say "sorry" a lot. We say sorry when you tell us to stop saying sorry all the time. (Sorry! We can’t help it.)

8. The four seasons: Lake swimming in summer, cross-country skiing in winter, walking under a canopy of red maple leaves in fall, and watching cherry trees bloom in spring.

9. Film and TV: FUBAR and Exotica. Degrassi and the Trailer Park Boys. We turn low budgets into brilliant art. Just giv'r!

10. Space: We are a big country with a small population. We can drive for days and still be in the same province. We can walk into the woods and not see another person for months. We live in towns so remote you can only get there by boat or plane. Our biggest cities aren't big at all. Thirty-four million people live in Canada. Thirty-four million people live in the Greater Tokyo Area.

Happy Birthday, Canada! You ancient, rocky, sexy hunk of land you!