Sunday, July 28, 2013

How Do You Know You're Canadian?

We were biding time at our annual Canada Day gathering while two of the husbands, one gay, one straight, cooked up a 15-course South-Asian/East-Asian feast.  Some of us were teachers, so we felt compelled to prepare a group activity to keep everyone from running amuck.  We decided to write Canada Day questions on slips of paper and put the questions in a bag.  At various points in the meal, guests would pick a question out of the bag and answer it or offer it to the group for discussion.

1.           What reminds you that you are Canadian?
2.           When you are out of the country, what do you miss most about Canada?
3.           What do you wish –– for Canada?
4.           What movie, literary work, or art piece is most Canadian for you?
5.            If you went to grade school in Canada, what were you taught about being Canadian?
6.           What single word would you use to describe Canada
7.           What is your earliest awareness that you are Canadian?
8.           What is the most Canadian moment of your life?
9.           Canadians are not known for their nationalism. How grateful are you for that?
10.        Decide who gets the next Order of Canada.

So between the dim sum and the dal, we asked questions.  The group included Canadians by choice, 2nd and 3rd generation Canadians, and de facto Canadians – landed, long-time, non-citizen residents.  The answers were unique and personal, but for question #2, we all missed Coffee Crisp chocolate bars when out of the country.  One member of the group carried ketchup chips with her when visiting the US.  Another happily reported that he no longer had to bring his own Clamato to the US to make bloody Caesars.  Americans finally seemed to get it about Clamato.

11.        If you could be any hyphenated Canadian, what would you be?
12.        If I were to say, “That smells Canadian,” what would it smell like?
13.        You are driving outside your home province.  You turn the radio dial, searching for the CBC.  You immediately know when you’ve found it.  What clues you in?
14.        Is there a story your parents or grandparents tell you that feels very Canadian?
15.        Where would you put “Canadian” on your list of self-description words?  (In other words, how important is “Canadian” to your sense of identity?)
16.       What do you feel you have in common with other Canadians?
17.        Is there a specific Canadian landscape that moved you, shocked you, or shaped your life?
18.        How are you connected to the land?
19.       Dead or alive, real or fictional, who is the most fiercely Canadian person you know?
         (Note: This person need not actually be Canadian.)
20.       How are you quietly (or noisily) nationalistic?

Many of us had crossed the country.  To question #17, the landscape question, we talked in awe of driving through the vast empty prairies, looking for whales off the Cape Breton shores, and camping in Clayoquot Sound during the 1993 “Battle in the Forest.”  I spoke of my wide-eyed speechlessness upon finding an alpine lake atop Mount Garibaldi – after climbing 3000 feet up a nine-kilometre trail.  (Using a mix of metric and imperial measures in my description felt very Canadian.)

In discussing our quiet nationalism, we felt grateful to be in Canada.  We believed that Canadians shared a concern for others around the world and for the planet, although most of us expressed anger at a government who pulled out of Kyoto, denied the impact of the tar sands on climate change, and perhaps didn’t even recognize that climate change existed.
We shook the bag and answered more questions with sentimentality, irreverence, and an occasional raised eyebrow.

21.        Canada is considered bilingual, bicultural, and bisexual. Which are you?
22.        You are going to get a Canadian tattoo. What is on the tattoo and where on your body would you put it?
23.        Canadians are defined as people who have sex in canoes. How would you define Canadians?
24.        Trudeau said, “The state has no place in the bedrooms of the nation.” What are the top three things that DO have a place in the Canadian bedroom?
25.        If you could sprinkle Canada dust anywhere in the world, where would you sprinkle it? What would happen?
26.        We sing “O Canada,” proclaiming that “We stand on guard for thee.”  How do you stand on guard for Canada?
27.        You’ve been asked to augment the Canadian Studies curriculum. What book, film, art work, or field trip would you insist on including?
28.        You’ve just won the Miss Canada contest. Give us your thank-you speech which might include how you will represent Canada.
29.        Preston Manning started the Reform Party to focus on Western values. If you could start a new party in Canada, what would you call it and what would it stand for?
30.        Sing a song that feels Canadian. We’ll sing along.
We sang, Mon pays, ce n’est pas un pays, c’est l’hiver,” but we could only remember the first line.  We sang “The Black Fly Song,” “Farewell to Nova Scotia,” and “Four Strong Winds” as the sun fell into a Canadian lake and night spread over the pink and orange sky.                                                     

1 comment: