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Posts Tagged ‘nationalism’

Henry Sandham's "The Coming of the Loyalists" (1910) reveals a romanticized conception of Canadian history common in his day.

Henry Sandham’s “The Coming of the Loyalists” (1910) reveals a romanticized conception of Canadian history that was common in his day.

(For the introduction to this series on national narratives click here.)

It’s the 4th of July. The skies of America are lit up by a bouquet of colours as fireworks announce another year of that country’s independence from Britain. With the Stars & Stripes on full display, crowds waft between watermelon picnics and baseball games, stopping now and then to listen to a marching band play “Yankee Doodle.” Magically, amidst all its political gaffs and global blunders, the sentimental face of the “Home of the Brave” reveals itself with an unabashed blend of pride and kitsch. It gets to you.

Just a little ways North of the border in a dingy but well-loved campus bar in Halifax, Nova Scotia an altogether different sort of celebration is taking place. Instead of the Stars & Stripes, you find the old “loyalist” flag of Britain tacked to the wall, while in some place of prominence – in front of an old speaker, perhaps – an image of Canada’s reigning monarch, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, smiles down upon the revelries as undergraduates hoist their drinks in the air and stumble their way the lyrics to “God Save the Queen.” (more…)

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Detail from BC artist Jin-Me Yoon's "A Group of Sixty-Seven."

Detail from BC artist Jin-Me Yoon’s “A Group of Sixty-Seven,” 1996.

Last year, Canadian cinephiles were treated to a wonderfully curious documentary in Sarah Polley’s Stories We Tell. Moved to uncover her own family’s murky history, Polley sets about interviewing close friends, old acquaintances, and key players in order to dig into the rich strata of her past. The film’s brilliance arises from a peculiar curatorial decision on the director’s behalf: rather than sort through the often conflicting stories of her interviewees to find a narrative that most closely approximates “fact,” Polley chooses to let each story speak for itself amidst the voices of the others, thereby allowing each perspective to take a shape of its own. Though the juxtaposition of these would-be narratives, Stories We Tell rises far above a typical family drama to say something truly profound about the stories from which truth, like a mirage, appears to emerge.

The stories we tell help define and give meaning to every aspect of our lives, from personal relationships – as Stories We Tell so deftly illustrates – to the places we inhabit. Long before the first Europeans arrived in the land now commonly referred to as Canada, the original inhabitants of the country had fostered a great number of rich story telling traditions as a way of understanding and being in this place, and you can bet that new stories were fostered and cultivated from the moment that Leif Ericsson laid his Viking eyes on the vast forests of Newfoundland. In the many centuries since that fateful encounter, historians, artists and politicians alike have spent a great deal of time and energy try to pin down the elusive nature of this country. It would seem that Canada is ever in question, and has been so since well before there was a “Canada” to speak of. (more…)

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The Canadian government’s decision to spend some $28 million on War of 1812 commemorations in a time of apparent fiscal crisis elicited all manner of responses.  For some it represents a baffling use of resources. Others question the prudence of commemorating a forgotten war given the concurrent milestone anniversaries of institutions like Parks Canada, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, CBC Radio and Medicare. There are also those who herald the 1812 commemorations as a long overdue investment into our country’s history.

There is some truth in each of those responses, but what strikes me above all is a sense that we have lost an opportunity here. (more…)

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John “Angry Beaver” Baird

My post today concerns a comment made by Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird on the latest outbreak of violence between Israel and Gaza. In his speech to a Jewish community gala, Baird refers to “the phoenix-like rising of the modern state of Israel, from a barren desert to the dynamic country we see today.” (For the full speech, click here.)

Now, I’m not sure that it’s possible to make a comment about Israel/Palestine without offending someone. I’m not sure that it’s desirable, either. But that’s not the fray I want to walk into today. Instead, I’d like to consider Baird’s comments from a standpoint somewhat (but not completely) outside the current conflict. (more…)

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Candy wrappers litter the floor. Pumpkins are splayed out across the road. The costumes have been hung up until next year. Another Halloween has come and gone.

But every Halloween has it’s monster, and they rarely retreat so readily. Last Tuesday, on a stormy Hallow’s Eve Eve, the Parti Québecois – that most Canadian of bogeymen – opened the National Assembly of Quebec’s fall session. Despite the dire warnings, the effect was hardly befitting the seasonal timing.

As with other bogeymen, we’ve been taught to fear separatists as constitutional home wreckers, hell bent on splitting up the country and eradicating the English language. Such parables tainted rumours of an opposition coalition in 2008, and helped to keep Charest’s Liberals in power for nine years. After Wednesday’s Inaugural Speech, however, those warnings are looking rather lackluster. Owe it to the state of the sovereignty movement, or the realities of minority governance, but the Marois under the bed is no monster. (more…)

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Canadian Stereotype Comics, Kate Beaton

Well, after writing three or four posts in week, I’ve slogged off. Typical, isn’t it: another idealistic graduate embraces the blogging world to seek an audience with unbridled optimism, learns quickly that he is in the company of tens of thousands of more articulate bloggers, realizes that his friends have jobs and relationships and lives and other inconveniences that prevent them from hanging on to every painfully selected word, and abandons the enterprise, jaded, slightly embarrassed, hoping nobody mentions the whole thing.

If only that were the case. Unfortunately, the blame lies more upon the technological hiccups of a geriatric macbook than upon blows to my idealism. Good news for my emotional well-being; bad news for my wallet. Hence I find myself using a computer on my old university campus, riding that unsettling wave of stress and nostalgia.

Which conveniently – if clumsily – brings me to the topic for the day. My first post made reference to an amusing phenomena that has arisen over the last five years: nostalgia for an older Canada that many of us grew up with, but which somehow differs from the country we seem to have inherited. Call it Canostalgiada, if you will. (more…)

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C’est quoi, là?

This is a blog about what it means to be Canadian in the 21st century. Not that I expect to arrive at any conclusions. 145 years in, that discovery appears to remain as elusive as the northern passage to the Orient.

You see, once upon a time a bunch of Europeans were trying to find China, but instead they ended up in places like Trois-Rivières and Miramichi. With no disrespect to those towns, it seems like the folks that followed Jacques Cartier got mired along the way – perhaps by a particularly nasty winter – and we are still working out where that leaves us today. What does it mean to be in this place? (more…)

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