Tuesday, July 01, 2014

North of the 49th Parallel

By Rick Blechta

Up here in Canada, it’s our national holiday, Canada Day. Clever name, eh? Canadians say “eh” a lot. It’s the equivalent of Americans saying “huh”. There are a lot of other things Canucks do differently than their close cousins south of the border.

Problem is, it’s sort of like the problem with sheep. Those from the outside can’t often tell the difference. With this long, long border between the two countries, and the porous nature of it due to electronic media, we know a lot of the same things, buy the same products (albeit with different packaging), and watch the same TV programs. Americans, when they come up here to visit for the first time, often proclaim, “It’s just like the US!”

Well, yes and no. There are a lot of differences. Problem is, you have to learn to distinguish between the sheep.

First and foremost, Canada didn’t separate from the motherland (England) and that is probably the heart of the matter. Up here, those who didn’t support the US revolution and moved to what was then called Upper and Lower Canada (now Ontario and Quebec with the Maritime provinces) are called Loyalists. Down south they were “Tories” at best, and “traitors” at worst. We still have a Queen.

Our system of government is completely different. Canada does the parliamentary thing, while the US has a more “republican” model. As a result, Americans have a hard time understanding Canadian politics. We don’t elect the leader of our country. We elect parties (Conservative, Liberal, New Democratic, Rhinoceros) and the head of the party that garners the most votes becomes our leader. Canada doesn’t have states, it has provinces, and they can sometimes gang up on the Canadian (federal) government of the day and force it to change its mind. (Always exciting when that happens!)

I spend a lot of time trying to explain Canada to my American friends and relatives when we return “home” for a visit. It’s tough. Canadians around the world, but especially in the US are viewed as polite and a bit boring.

They’re anything but. However, that’s a hard paradigm to break through. Years ago, I heard a joke from Don Herron, a Canadian comedic icon, and it explains Canadians perfectly. It goes as follows:

There was an exclusive private school in Europe for the children of diplomats. In one class, there were four students: one from England, one from France, one from the US and one from Canada. Their teacher asked them to write an essay on elephants.

The next day, the students read their essays aloud in class.

The British student went first. He wrote an essay called “Elephants and the Foundations of the British Empire”.

Then the French student read his, “Elephants and Love”.

The American student went next. His essay was “Building Bigger and Better Elephants”.

And finally the Canadian student read his. It was titled “Elephants: A Federal or Provincial Problem?”

So now you know. Happy Canada Day! And to add to the Canadianfulness, here’s a great Canadian commercial for our special day.


Donis Casey said...

Years ago I returned to the Western Hemisphere after a year in Europe by sailing across the wide wide sea and landing in Montreal on Canada Day. I hold Canada Day ever in my heart for the lovely welcome home parades and fireworks.
p.s. we crossed into the States on July 4. More parades and fireworks for the returning prodigals, but the thunder was already stolen.

Catsongea said...

Hi Rick, Happy Canada day to you in the middle of summer for New Zealand another British Colony! I doubt very many of us could sing the national anthem, maybe 'Pokarekare Ana' instead... :)

Rick Blechta said...


In Quebec (where Montreal is located), it's more about Jean Baptiste Day (June 24th) than Canada Day (especially depending on the government of the day), so if you were in Ontario or other provinces, you would have seen even more.


Why thank you! I'll have to listen to New Zealand's national anthem. I don't believe I've ever heard it.


Rick Blechta said...

Lastly to the day, we went to our local park as we do every year. A lot of people from the area drop in with their collection of fireworks and we all set them off, sharing and because of the, enjoying ourselves vastly. It's sort of a community feeling and really quite lovely. And they allow some BIG fireworks here in Ontario!

Eileen Goudge said...

I lived in Vancouver, B.C. for a brief time in the early seventies. Back then, the bars in town still had separate entrances for ladies and men. No singles scene in the old days! Times have changed. Still miss the majestic scenery of Canada with all its unspoiled lakes and mountains.

Rick Blechta said...

Actually, we've managed to spoil quite a few lakes and mountains. But we have so many, it doesn't really show. When I first came to Canada, in Quebec they still had Tavernes where women weren't even allowed! Women could only go into Brasseries. Thankfully, those men-only places have died out!

Eileen Goudge said...

Amen to that!