Thursday, July 1, 2010
My country tis of thee - Oops. Oh beautiful for spacious - Oh man.
Sorry! OHH CANADA!
Happy Canada Day! This is so exciting! Fireworks! Corn on the cob! Star spangled - I mean, Maple spangled banners! A Declaration of In- (What, Ei! What do you mean it's not about independence? It's July, it's a national holiday, there's a parade... And Amelia said Canadians love BBQs...
Well fine, smarty pants. What is it then?
What?! I was about to grab a coffee! I don't have time to research this!
Oh, Canada, hello again. And HAPPY BIRTHDAY! That's right, I know all about your "slightly different" national holiday. Go ahead, ask me about Canada - or should I say Dominion - Day!
Canada Day, known as Dominion Day until 1982, commemorates the day, in 1867, when two British colonies united to form: CANADA! It's similar to America's Independence Day - both celebrate documents and acts solidifying our democratic nations. However, instead of memorializing a divorce from its parents, Canada celebrates a peace-loving nativity. On the fourth of July, the states had just ended a blood-filled revolution against Britain. But on July first, Canada was on course for a less confrontational union. The British/North America act of 1867 started it all. Canada took its time - Easy does it! - parting from the Brits. Finally, in 1982, with the act that changed Dominion Day to Canada Day, Canada gained full separation from England. Ahhh. At last Canada could change its constitution without Britain's approval. And the gentle separation paid off! They're still the best of friends. In fact, this year the Queen's flying to Ottawa to celebrate!
So, what do Canadians do on their special day, you ask? Well, it's one of those vaguely distinct customary differences that make Ei and I check our sanity. (BBQs, parades, political speeches - It's just like the fourth of July - But something's different - People are less drunk, less abrasive, less red-white-and-blue - Am I home - Am I abroad - Chelsea wake up, you must be dreaming!!!) We plan on going out into the field to pinpoint Canadian pride, first hand.
And hey, Americans, in case Canada's coolness is starting to put any of you to shame, there's a dark detail I must mention. Quebec isn't a big fan of Canada Day. The Francophone province, traditionally opposed to most national movements, has long advocated its independence from Canada. Black sheep? Don't ask me! All I know is it makes me feel a little more at home to witness family drama on a holiday.
Here's to you, Canada. I hope we both have wonderful celebrations right next door to each other this year. I wish I could go to Detroit or Buffalo where they're having three-day, dual-country festivals. That's the way to do it. We're all family - no one, and no holiday, is better than the other. Let's all get loud and friendly and hot and eat something salty off a long pointy stick.
Tuesday, June 29, 2010
Canadian WORD OF THE DAY: CELSIUS
Celsius is a newfangled kind of degree. Canadians like to use it to measure heat. You might hear one say: “It’s gonna be a hot one today – 29 degrees!” Don’t worry. Most Canadians are actually very intelligent – not crazy. 29 degrees Celsius converts to 82.4 degrees Fahrenheit. Hot, indeed.
Warning: arguments over Fahrenheit/Celsius may lead to mile/kilometer, feet/meter hostility.
Sometimes Ei and I forget we live abroad. Not this week. This hit me after I called a friend from home. The summit on every Torontonian's mind this weekend almost didn’t even come up.
“Oh yeah, the G20. How was that?”
Hm. I know I already posted about the G20, but a lot has happened in the last few days. And no, Americans, this post isn’t a jab at you. Media coverage has been as unpredictable as the personal opinions I’ve encountered. Outside my (somewhat alternative) Canadian circles, I’ve seen a range of reactions to the weekend – from apathetic, to enraged, to disheartened, to oblivious.
More than 900 protesters were arrested over the course of Toronto’s G20 summit. Violence, emotion, tear gas, and vandalism changed the city atmosphere. Saturday, Ei and I kept safe on the west side of Bloor. Meanwhile, the entire city core shut down. When we walked east – just a few blocks towards downtown – we could smell smoke.
News aired the blow by blow of events – "FIRE!" "DANGER!" "VIOLENCE!" "ACTION!" It seemed evident what was happening (broken windows, police cars on fire, bomb threats), but we wanted to know why. In the aftermath, personal stories have started filling the gaps. Accounts of first-hand witnesses paint a more complex picture: protesters of all kinds (organized marchers, peaceful clowns, singing choruses), police outnumbering civilians (tear gas, rubber bullets, a horse-trampled-bystander), and over-packed, under-equipped holding cells for the detained.
Out of anger, a public inquiry into Toronto’s G20 is now under way. Police are suspected of instigating protesters, accused of trying to justify their $1 billion budget. As details surface, Canadian newspapers are telling more and more. However, the time for worldwide first-impressions has passed. U.S. news mostly glossed over the events - highlighting violent protests and arrests. American commentary is largely angry at “reckless” protesters. But they've only seen one viewpoint. Sure, officers were there to do their jobs, but civilians had a right to be there, too. They were vocalizing their beliefs. What about the peaceful citizens who were arrested, tear gassed, and trampled in the mix?
Misinformation is dangerous. Impassioned issues deserve to be seen clearly. Whose faces were behind the Black block bandannas and what was their message? Where is the coverage of Tibetan marchers, trying to fight for freedom? Why were hundreds of people arrested, and why weren’t their stories told? When protesters are labeled reckless – when police are called violent – snap judgments are perpetuated. The G20 exists to instigate change. So do protesters. Well, change starts with communication. In a continent that promotes free media and speech, every voice has the right to be heard.
(Hey, Ei - Hello! I'm just talkin' to ya! Bla bla blaa...)