While the 60th Grammy Awards won’t elicit more photos of Drake drinking from the phonograph of his trophy, Canadian audiences may have another reason to celebrate when the ceremony airs on Sunday.Read More
By: Jacklyn Gilmor
Sparkling colours splashed the sky this year as fireworks rained down over every city. A sea of red and white clothing flooded the streets on July 1, and figure eights cut the Parliament Hill ice rink as families skated together in honour of Canada 150.
Although Canada Day usually looks this whimsical, 150 seemed to bring about a deeper undercurrent of tension, resistance, and discontent with the way things are celebrated.
2017 was a mosaic of mixed feelings about an anniversary that evokes largely contrasting opinions and feelings among Canadians. Some felt that recognizing 150 years since confederation was overlooking the much longer history of Indigenous people on this land, while other felt that a country’s anniversary is to be celebrated with joy. 150 - also known as a sesquicentennial - is certainly a significant number. However, the number didn’t leave everyone smiling with sparklers in hand.
The year’s celebrations were met with a counter-movement called ‘Resistance 150’, which can be found on Twitter, as well as in the many Indigenous-minded activities including demonstrations and cultural events. In one demonstration, protesters gathered on Parliament Hill before Canada Day, setting up a teepee beside the stage where main celebrations were to be held.
Other ways to resist have included setting up a camp in Ontario for Indigenous youth to learn about and celebrate their culture. It was created by the group who created the #Resistance150 movement.
Others have shown their resistance not just through social involvement, but in writing.
Nickita Longman is a member of the George Gordon First Nation, and works in Treaty 4 Territory in Regina. She writes for a non-profit writing organization and focuses on Indigenous literature. As an Indigenous woman, Longman feels that 150 celebrations have been ignorant of the struggles of her people.
“Canada 150 has left a bad taste in my mouth,” she said in an email. She said that the 150 celebrations are another form of erasure of Indigenous peoples and culture.
“How can we opt for millions of dollars spent on fireworks and cake when many of our own go without drinkable water?” she said. According to Health Canada as of November this year, there are at least 95 long-term drinking water advisories for First Nations across the country, excluding British Columbia.
Longman also noted that the anniversary aligns with the Era of Reconciliation.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) released its Calls to Action in 2015, with 52 of its recommendations falling under ‘Reconciliation’. Indigenous peoples and the rest of Canada. Number 45, section iv. says to “reconcile Aboriginal and Crown constitutional and legal orders to ensure that Aboriginal peoples are full partners in Confederation, including the recognition and integration of Indigenous laws and legal traditions in negotiation and implementation processes involving Treaties, land claims, and other constructive agreements.”
Despite the many calls that have yet to be implemented by the federal government, Reconciliation was actually one of the themes of this year’s celebrations. (The other themes were diversity and inclusion, and youth and the environment.)
The federal government also promoted National Aboriginal Day on June 21 as part of Celebrate Canada, creating opportunities for annual community events. It also emphasized a ‘nation to nation relationship’ between the Crown and Indigenous peoples in its events, which was recommended by the TRC.
In the prime minister’s Canada Day statement, Justin Trudeau recognized the celebrations as well as the history of Indigenous peoples on the land.
“As we mark Canada 150, we also recognize that for many, today is not an occasion for celebration,” he said. “Indigenous Peoples in this country have faced oppression for centuries. As a society, we must acknowledge and apologize for past wrongs, and chart a path forward for the next 150 years – one in which we continue to build our nation-to-nation, Inuit-Crown, and government-to-government relationship with the First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Nation.”
Celebrating in solidarity
Some Canadians decided to celebrate Canada Day this year, while also acknowledging that it isn’t for everyone. Cheyenne Bholla, a first year journalism student at Ryerson University in Toronto, said that she thinks Canada 150 should be celebrated, but that it makes sense why some people are angry about it. She described watching fireworks in July and feeling excited at the time. However, she said she realized after doing some research, and through her courses at school, that 150 was more complicated than she’d originally thought.
“Canada Day in general is kind of undermining the struggle that Indigenous people went through. Obviously they’re mad about [a celebration of] 150 years [since] the beginning of Canada, because they’ve been here for longer,” Bholla said.
She believes Canadians would benefit from educating themselves about Indigenous history in Canada, especially regarding residential schools. That way, people would understand where Indigenous people are coming from, she said.
What do we have to celebrate?
Canadian Heritage’s senior executive director of Canada 150, Andrew Campbell, believes that despite any tension, Canadians had plenty to celebrate this year. He emphasized the diversity of the events and projects that took place this year to illustrate Canada 150: some celebrating the anniversary, and some critiquing it. He discussed the many artistic achievements that were put out, including the Toronto International Film Festival’s (TIFF) showing of Canadian films, and the “sesquies” featured by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra (TSO). “Sesquies” are short pieces that were featured this year as part of TSO’s Canada Mosaic project. The 150 Years Young project, created by Apathy is Boring, was another key art project for the anniversary. The organization gathered photos and captions to demonstrate the impact millennials can have, and projected them onto buildings in major cities across the country.
Among those that took a more critical stance on the mile stone were Mary Walsh’s comedy show Canada, It’s Complicated—which features a song called The Foundation of Our Nation is a Big Fat Lie— and The Walrus Talks National Tour, hosted by The Walrus, which touched on such topics as sitting for the national anthem.
Campbell said that some of his favourite moments this year were participating in a canoe racing ceremony, dancing on Multiculturalism Day to Celtic music, and watching TIFF’s Canadian films. He said that Canada has a lot to work on when it comes to Indigenous relations, but that the community-building, the environmental and youth-oriented initiatives (like Participaction’s 150 playlist, which was compiled to motivate physical activity) were worth celebrating.
Over the course of a year filled with celebrations, a wide variety of opinions, events, and discussions took place. Some supported 150 with glowing hearts. Others felt we have a much longer way to go before we can light the sparklers.
Campbell said that the ability for Canadians to have those discussions amid celebrations, while still respecting different views, is “the greatness of Canada.”
“We do have a lot of elements to be extremely proud of, and we do have a lot of elements that are extremely complicated,” he said. “150 was a time where we were able to look at all of them, but then look with hope towards the future.”
By: Madi Wong
As long and dreary as winter can be, Canada is a diverse country where Canadians can engage in a variety of indoor and outdoor activities to make the most out of the season.
There are many holidays being celebrated at this time of the year, as well as a flurry of seasonal traditions and activities.
“We are a multicultural country. Some people like Christmas, some do not celebrate and some have other holidays. But it is a beautiful country and we have multiculturalism everywhere,” said Jim Ghimery, a commercial real-estate worker in Toronto.
Ghimery said that no matter what people decide to do in the winter that they should “enjoy it and live in the moment.”
He described how he and his family make the most out of the season. “We go out to Blue Mountain and spend a week there. It’s a family tradition. There’s snowboarding and skiing, a lot of shopping places and [it's] somewhere where you can enjoy a nice glass of apple cider,” he said.
In addition to Blue Mountain Resort, located in Collingwood, Ont., some well-known ski destinations in Canada include Whistler Blackcomb in Vancouver, and Mont Tremblant Ski Resort in Que. They are immensely popular among Canadians and travellers from outside of Canada.
With the weather cooling down and the arrival of December, skating rinks around Toronto have opened up. The most recent are Nathan Phillips Square and the Harbourfront Centre, which are two of the many skating rinks in Toronto that are known to be family friendly and a huge attraction for Toronto citizens.
Tyrese Gregg, a community leadership worker, favours skating and comes from a family of self-taught skaters. He started skating at the age of 12 and said that since then, it has become a family tradition.
“Skating is a big Canadian thing. Like if you’re Canadian, you skate. There’s a lot of friendship and family-like feeling to being around an ice rink,” he said.
There are also a variety of other sports that Canadians participate in during this time of the year, especially while in the spirit of the upcoming 2018 Winter Olympic Games. For beginners who are eager to learn, or those have been playing a certain winter sport their entire life, there are great opportunities available across Canada.
Christine Smith is a member of a curling club located in Stayner, Ont. She says that not only is curling fun but it is an inexpensive sport for people of all ages.
“Curling often offers programs for new people that are coming in. So, [for example] you can pay for a 10-week trial program instead of joining for the year, which might get someone’s interest,” Smith explained.
Smith also raved about her wish to try dog-sled racing.
“I like the outdoors, and Canadian-type activities. It’s something I haven’t done yet in my life and is definitely on my bucket list,” she said.
There are also dozens of winter and holiday markets across Canada such as the Vancouver Christmas Market and Toronto Christmas Market. Here, visitors can shop, enjoy authentic food from different vendors, view galleries and take pictures in the sparkling displays.
Raphaela Mandel, a Torchia Communications representative, shared the enjoyable aspects behind the Toronto Christmas Market, as well as the takeaways that the market hopes visitors will have.
“Every individual has a unique experience at the Toronto Christmas Market; they experience the Market differently depending [on] who they are with, what they are interested in, and what speaks to them emotionally,” Mandel said.
“Our hope is that everyone will rediscover the magic and romance of Christmas, and feel about the holidays the way they once did as a child.”
There are also ways to enjoy the winter indoors, whether it be engaging in an interesting read, doing an at-home workout or even baking some treats with company.
Victoria Salituro doesn't like winter. However, the second-year RTA student at Ryerson University said there are some activities of the season that just make her smile, having a snowball fight.
“It’s something that I’ve always enjoyed. It’s super fun and by running around you’re keeping warm. The best part is when you come back inside, you can warm yourself up by the fire, make hot chocolate and watch Christmas movies, which makes me really happy,” she said.
There are endless ways to make the most out of a Canadian winter, especially as we approach the end of 2017 and become closer to the beginning of 2018. Like Ghimery said, Canada has so much to offer and there are so many things that we can enjoy, despite the cold. From skiing at Blue Mountain to cutting a figure eight on the rink to sipping cocoa while watching Elf for the fifteenth time... Canadians can find plenty of ways to embrace the cold.
Whether someone has lived in Canada their whole life or for a short amount of time, there seems to be a positive perception of the atmosphere of the country.
David Sheehan, a veterinarian, who just moved to Toronto in September from Ireland, is ecstatic to be living here. “I have heard nothing but good things about Toronto, and it’s been pretty good here so far,” Sheehan said.
Coming from Ireland, he does have one thing in particular he can’t wait for, “I’m so excited for snow,” he said, “There’s not much snow in Ireland. If anything, it’s really little, just a powder.”
Like Sheehan, Vishal Kuman has just arrived in Toronto as an international college student from India. Kuman is a first-year hospitality and tourism student at Humber College.
Kuman shared his passion for playing cricket. “It is a marvellous game and I enjoy playing it in the winter. When I was in India, there was a region to play, so when I saw that people play it here in Canada, I felt good and energetic,” he said.
Along with Canada’s newest citizens, there are many visitors from around the world who travel here, whether it be for sightseeing or to experience what a Canadian winter is like.
Robin Bennison and Charlotte Woodcock are an engaged couple from England. They talked about what they’ve observed from their time in Canada, as well as their winter traditions in the U.K.
“I’m from quite a big family. We usually make an effort to get together. We’re quite fond of the winter time and we always watch a Christmas move on Christmas eve,” Woodcock explained.
Bennison and Woodcock have already visited the Toronto Christmas Market and Nathan Phillips Square while on their vacation.
Bennison described how Canada is a very vibrant and diverse city. In addition, he has noticed how “the holiday times in the UK are more driven by shopping, like ‘You must get this for all of your family members,’ whereas in Canada it is much more about a happy celebration and spirit.”
Being the multicultural and vibrant country that Canada is, there is so much to explore, celebrate and engage ourselves in during winter and ultimately, year-round.
Our main mission here at CanCulture is to write about anything that relates to or helps define Canadian culture. But what exactly is Canadian culture? How do we define what is Canadian and what is not? In his new book Canada, Mike Myers grapples with these questions. While exploring his own relationship with Canada Myers writes about this country’s constant desire to define itself. Mike Myers book is cleverly written in a way that satisfies two literary genres: autobiography and nonfiction pop-culture. From the start, Mike Myers dives into the fundamental questions of ‘what are we?’ and ‘who are we?.’ Myers elaborates on the typical Canadian stereotypes of ‘politeness’ and how as a country, with relatively little history when compared to our ‘brother’ America or our ‘mother’ the UK, we consistently feel we need to apologize for well… just being. Our polite and apologetic nature is built into everything that we do, from our lack of national pride (because pride and fame are looked down upon) to our conversational dialogue (the way we up talk every sentence until we finish our story indicating to the other person it is their turn to speak). Myer’s choice to include these well-known stereotypes works to the novels advantage. It is humorous to the Canadian reader and educational to those not familiar with Canadian culture. Including these pop culture references draws the reader in from the beginning with light-hearted content, and waits until later into the book before bringing up heavier topics of identity and politics.
Myers interlaces Canadian tendencies into his own upbringing. Born to immigrant parents, and brought up in Toronto, Myers has worked hard to keep his Canadian culture in almost every aspect of his work. From his time in Second City, working with Neil Mullarkey in England, Saturday Night Live, and his subsequent movie Wayne’s World, the covertly Canadian character Wayne Campbell has defined Myers and his style of comedy. And in describing his love of Canada, he manages to make the reader fall in love with the country. His passion for the Canada is refreshing. He makes you miss the country you have never left.
A statement that Myers makes in the novel is that Canada can never be defined without mentioning politics and its ‘big government’. Although he cautions himself against taking a political stance as a public person, Myers does not hesitate to attach himself to the Liberal party. His passion for the party is what the reader ultimately takes away from the novel, as he both begins and ends by describing the impact the Liberals have had on the country and shaping its ideals. His statements against former prime minister Stephen Harper's Conservative government are the most heavy-handed and impactful in the novel, and leaves the reader thinking that to be conservative is to be anti-Canadian. Myers chose to include a photo of a barn that was painted in big bold white letters “Canada, you have changed.” An image such as this one can not easily be forgotten.
In his politically-heavy chapters, Myers speaks about his admiration for both Trudeau prime ministers and how those two elections helped define Canada and Canadian culture. After Pierre Trudeau’s election there was a great search for this definition. CanCon came into effect in 1986, obligating media to present at least 30% Canadian content. Other policies that defined the accepting nature of Canada included the legalization of gay marriage, divorce, and abortion. According to Myers, this is what Canada is about, this is how we define Canada: through acceptance, our ‘salad bowl’ of multiculturalism, and liberal democracy. Canada should never try to be “America Lite”.
The novel succeeds on many levels in terms of design, as well. The book takes on the appearance of a columned article interspersed with full page photos and pull quotes. This, coupled with Myers conversational narrative writing style, makes the reader feel as if Myers is sitting across from you at the dinner table and is recounting his tale in person. He draws you into the story and manages to describe the scene effectively.
Although we are still a country without a mission statement, we are closer now than ever before, Myers said. As Canadians we are slowly allowing ourselves to become prideful, protective of our talent, and celebratory of our unique nation. Part of this is due to people like Catherine O’Hara, Russell Peters, Jim Carrey, and Drake, who continue to include their Canadian background in their wide-reaching work. They are the people saying ‘Hey America, look up! We’ve got some great thing going on up here!’ But culture cannot create itself without looking within and we cannot let ourselves be defined by what others think. As Myers says, “Canada will be defined by its ideals alone.” Its culture is formed on those ideals of equality, cooperation, mutual respect, and a level playing field.
This piece was edited by Mathew Ouellet, Feature Editor of CanCulture.