Thursday, July 2, 2009


I am unsure about whether living in the nation's capital city for more than a quarter century is an advantage, or a disadvantage?

For sure, it's a mighty pretty city in the summer; frigidly cold in winter...thus typically Canadian I suppose. What I do know is that in the 26 years I have lived here, I have encountered an unmistakable renewal: Nay! - A rebirth of Canadian pride and patriotism. Those of my generation are too young to recall the specifics of Canada's seminal coming of age on the overseas battlefields of the two great wars of the 20Th Century. My sense though is that the current wave of patriotic fervor probably closely resembles that which led countless numbers of young people to volunteer for the life altering adventures of the World Wars I and II. Lest I digress: Not that I wish for a recurrence of, or worse a 21St Century version of either.

I am not quite sure just when this rebirth occurred, or how, and what for that matter has made it so. Surely through my teen aged years and into young adulthood - The "flower children" age from the mid-1960's through the "me generation" stages leading into the 1980's - Even with such noteworthy events as the flag debate; the country's Centennial and the Expo '67 celebrations; the Summer Olympics of 1976...surely there were elements of pride. But, hardly sentimental nor patriotic and fretful about the nation's well being.

If I had to choose a time for this mass rebirth of our patriotism it would probably involve the summer and fall of 2000...The dawn of the new millennium: Something changed I noticed in May of 2000 when tens of thousands of Canadians turned-out to welcome back unto Canadian soil the remains of the "unknown" from the bloody European battlefields of of the "war to end all wars." By September, the passing of former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau evoked the same kind of national outpouring. Hundreds of thousands mourned his loss...tens of thousands lined the railroad tracks along which travelled the funeral train from Ottawa to Montreal.

I have seen it since: On "Remembrance Day", each November 11Th, where despite the ageing of our Veterans, the crowds grow larger each year...Sadly, I see it all too frequently along the "Highway of Heroes" - Ontario's Highway #401 - from Trenton to Toronto - as the bodies of young Canadians are repatriated from that distant Afghan conflict. And - On each July 1st, the country's birthday, when ever increasing numbers of Canadians each year show-off their colours, their patriotism, their love of country from one coast, to the other, to the other!

So I am ambivalent at best each summer when polling organizations publish results of surveys declaring that Canadians are shockingly ignorant about their land. Two such polls last week: An Ipsos-Reid Poll for the Dominion Institute and a Canadian Press Harris-Decima survey heralded the headlines: "Canadians Left Guessing When Identifying Nation's Top 10 Cultural Icons"...and: "Poll Reveals Canadians' Widespread Ignorance of Canada". - Look! They're probably right: Most Canadians probably find it easier to identify Michael Jackson than Sir John A. Or; given the sunken level of Parliamentary debate in this land. It isn't surprising that just a third of us can name Paul Martin as our previous Prime-Minister.

Just as I see from my neighbours at the winter residence I am fortunate to maintain in the American south...It's really how you feel about your homeland that matters. Not necessarily what you know. And you know what? I'll bet the young people who answered the nation's call to battle in the two "Great" wars of the last century probably wouldn't have done any better than we did on those surveys.

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