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Posts Tagged ‘Stephen Harper’

Party Boat, 2011, from Sarah Anne Johnson's "Arctic Wonderland" series.

Party Boat, 2011, from Sarah Anne Johnson’s “Arctic Wonderland” series.

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

Last year an archaeological discovery was announced from the northernmost region of the world, one that could change the way we think about history – and it all started with a yarn. (more…)

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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 Hon. James Moore, talking about... something.

The Hon. James Moore, talking about… something.

As plans for the Canadian Museum of History continue to ramp up, I find myself wondering exactly whose Canada will be presented behind the glass displays of our new national museum. Our current government has taken a peculiar interest in Canadian history and national narratives – most notably, in the 1812 Bicentennial celebrations, and, now, in their unfolding plans for Canada’s 150th anniversary in 2017.

If you have been following this blog for a while, you will know that one of my motivations in writing it is my belief that talking about our history is important. The way we perceive the past influences the decisions we make in the present. That old adage rings true, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

There is no doubt that the Harper government’s policies have gotten Canadians talking about the past. Who beforehand had even heard of the War of 1812? The question that lingers in my mind is what histories are we still not talking about, and how do they inform our present actions? (more…)

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What is this, a pipeline for ants?

A pipeline for ants?

As the Northern Gateway Joint Review Panel continues to snake its away across British Columbia, it is difficult not to reflect that this is a hard time to be an environmentalist.

When plans were launched to build a pipeline to carry Albertan oil through Nebraska’s sensitive wetlands, it took an unprecedented amount of criticism and activism to convince President Obama to reject the application. While that decision may soon be reversed, it didn’t take long before some bright entrepreneur suggested an alternative option: why not build a pipeline some place where environmental integrity won’t be an obstacle… say, British Columbia!

…oh joy. (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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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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