January 06, 2004
I have always been a Canadian, though, in a sense, it is my adopted country. My earliest memories are of Red Deer, Alberta, and Montreal, Quebec. However, before that I was born in West Germany, and shortly after those memories, my family moved to the United States, where I grew up, graduated high-school and attended a year of University. I didn't return to live in Canada until a few months after my 20th birthday.
And the return has become permanent. In time I gave up my coveted US Green Card--an object I'd fastidiously protected until my late 20's--without so much as batting an eye. I had long before that realised I was now living in a country that fit. Not to say Canada's perfect, but it's more suitable than all the other places I've been.
Of late, the country of my birthright has been taking it on the chin from the country of my childhood. Raw deals on raw softwood. Mad cow hypocrisy. Salmon wars. And the whole with-us-or-against-us Iraq bit. Lest we forget that the best friends say yes when it is best to say yes, and no when it is best to say, no, regardless of what the other friend wishes, or demands. Like a hurt, angry friend sometimes does, our neighbour to the south has forgotten all the times Canadians have unflinchingly said yes. And it appears to not understand that, sometimes, the most courageous act of friendship is to say, I disagree; I cannot go along with that.
From: James Armstrong
Sent: Monday, April 29, 2002 9:53 AM
Subject: Fwd: RE: Proud to be Canadian!
A friend forwarded this to me, I found it to be quite good, thought you might enjoy it and hey that's what the Internet is for!. - Jim
The maple leaves must be budding ? the following was forwarded by a British friend just today.
I was browsing an English broadsheet and came across this article. I thought I'd relay it to you chaps, to let you know that Canadian efforts are not going completed unnoticed in the rest of the world, outside of the US. I know that some of you are pretty enthusiastic armchair historians/politicians, so this might be of interest. Having spent a year here, now, I can, to some extent, relate to this, even though, as you may know, I'm far from being a jingoistic flag waver...
LONDON - Until the deaths last week of four Canadian soldiers accidentally killed by a U.S. warplane in Afghanistan, probably almost no one outside their home country had been aware that Canadian troops were deployed in the region. And as always, Canada will now bury its dead, just as the rest of the world as always will forget its sacrifice, just as it always forgets nearly everything Canada ever does.
It seems that Canada's historic mission is to come to the selfless aid both of its friends and of complete strangers, and then, once the crisis is over, to be well and truly ignored. Canada is the perpetual wallflower that stands on the edge of the hall, waiting for someone to come and ask her for a dance. A fire breaks out, she risks life and limb to rescue her fellow dance-goers, and suffers serious injuries. But when the hall is repaired and the dancing resumes, there is Canada, the wallflower still, while those she once helped glamorously cavort across the floor, blithely neglecting her yet again.
That is the price Canada pays for sharing the North American continent with the United States, and for being a selfless friend of Britain in two global conflicts. For much of the 20th century, Canada was torn in two different directions: It seemed to be a part of the old world, yet had an address in the new one, and that divided identity ensured that it never fully got the gratitude it deserved.
Yet its purely voluntary contribution to the cause of freedom in two world wars was perhaps the greatest of any democracy. Almost 10% of Canada's entire population of seven million people served in the armed forces during the First World War, and nearly 60,000 died. The great Allied victories of 1918 were spearheaded by Canadian troops, perhaps the most capable soldiers in the entire British order of battle.
Canada was repaid for its enormous sacrifice by downright neglect, its unique contribution to victory being absorbed into the popular memory as somehow or other the work of the "British." The Second World War provided a re-run. The Canadian navy began the war with a half dozen vessels, and ended up policing nearly half of the Atlantic against U-boat attack.
More than 120 Canadian warships participated in the Normandy landings, during which 15,000 Canadian soldiers went ashore on D-Day alone. Canada finished the war with the third-largest navy and the fourth-largest air force in the world.
The world thanked Canada with the same sublime indifference as it had the previous time. Canadian participation in the war was acknowledged in film only if it was necessary to give an American actor a part in a campaign in which the United States had clearly not participated -- a touching scrupulousness which, of course, Hollywood has since abandoned, as it has any notion of a separate Canadian identity.
So it is a general rule that actors and filmmakers arriving in Hollywood keep their nationality -- unless, that is, they are Canadian. Thus Mary Pickford, Walter Huston, Donald Sutherland, Michael J. Fox, William Shatner, Norman Jewison, David Cronenberg and Dan Aykroyd have in the popular perception become American, and Christopher Plummer, British. It is as if, in the very act of becoming famous, a Canadian ceases to be Canadian, unless she is Margaret Atwood, who is as unshakably Canadian as a moose, or Celine Dion, for whom Canada has proved quite unable to find any takers.
Moreover, Canada is every bit as querulously alert to the achievements of its sons and daughters as the rest of the world is completely unaware of them. The Canadians proudly say of themselves -- and are unheard by anyone else -- that 1% of the world's population has provided 10% of the world's peacekeeping forces. Canadian soldiers in the past half century have been the greatest peacekeepers on Earth -- in 39 missions on UN mandates, and six on non-UN peacekeeping duties, from Vietnam to East Timor, from Sinai to Bosnia.
Yet the only foreign engagement that has entered the popular non-Canadian imagination was the sorry affair in Somalia, in which out-of-control paratroopers murdered two Somali infiltrators. Their regiment was then disbanded in disgrace -- a uniquely Canadian act of self-abasement for which, naturally, the Canadians received no international credit.
So who today in the United States knows about the stoic and selfless friendship its northern neighbour has given it in Afghanistan?
Rather like Cyrano de Bergerac, Canada repeatedly does honourable things for honourable motives, but instead of being thanked for it, it remains something of a figure of fun.
It is the Canadian way, for which Canadians should be proud, yet such honour comes at a high cost.
This week, four more grieving Canadian families knew that cost all too tragically well.