April 2, 2024

Oh, Canada!

In college I flew with my French class to Quebec. After exploring beautiful, bright, and historically rich Quebec City, we drove in a rented bus to our destination of Sept Iles on the Gulf of St. Lawrence. I distinctly remember a day at a cabin further up the gulf. The cabin belonged to the family of one of our  student exchange partners, and we had been invited there to celebrate all things maple syrup, it being March and the time of the running of the sap. We ate fried ham and eggs smothered in syrup, and curled golden ribbons of maple taffy around sticks in the snow. The day was radiant with early spring sunshine which bounced off the snow on the shore and lit up the blue water, beckoning me outside. I trudged by myself to the shore and put my hand into the Gulf, thrilled to have finally reached the Atlantic.  I stood by the water for a while wishing I could sail across to New Brunswick and tour the Maritimes as well (something I have yet to do). I thought of the four large provinces I had crossed to get to where I was standing. I felt a connection to the vastness and variety of my country right then and there, and I think that is the moment I truly fell in love with Canada. I have been a proud Canadian every since. I care deeply about what happens in this country.

Canada recently lost our 18th Prime Minister, Brian Mulroney. He is an important figure in my memory because I had just started to pay attention to politics when he was running for election in 1984. I was fifteen at the time, and had become friends with a girl whose parents were Progressive Conservatives and fans of Mulroney. To say my parents were not was a bit of an understatement. They had been Pierre Eliot Trudeau fans and fairly staunch Liberals up to that point. I remember coming home from my friend's house and saying I liked this new Mulroney candidate and hoped he would win. This caused a few raised eyebrows. Meech Lake and Free Trade were the buzzwords in Canada at the time. When I started to pay real attention to what was at stake I changed my mind about Mulroney's policies, but that does not mean I decided he was a terrible man. He had won the right to be Prime Minister by our democratic process, and was serving his country in the way he thought right and good. Not only that, but he gained the respect of his colleagues, whatever political side they were on, simply for his intelligence, his passion for his country, his sense of fair play and respectful discourse.

These days, we can be incredibly vicious when it comes to the members of the opposing political 'teams'. It is not enough to disagree with another party's policies. We have to hate them for them. Growing up, this approach seemed to me unique to the US or Britain, not to Canada where we have a reputation for politeness and mutual respect, even in politics. Politicians who would shout opinion from opposite sides of Parliament could often be friends outside of it. That is not so true anymore; I cannot imagine Pierre Pollievre, right wing leader of the Opposition and PM Justin Trudeau having enough in common to be friends. The pandemic exposed the nasty underbelly of political opinion in this country. We have seen some ugly scenes play out here in the last few years, scenes I never thought possible before now. Even though I am in favour of political satire to keep the powers in check, the vitriol aimed at Trudeau these days is shocking to me. Is our Prime Minister my favourite person? No, but he doesn't need to be. Do I think people are justified to slap "Fuck Trudeau" bumper stickers on their vehicles for everyone, including children of reading age, to see? Hell no. What kind of example does that set to the younger generations?  I'm ashamed every time I see one of those stickers or flags. We can do better than that. We can disagree with our current Prime Minister on his policies, even lack respect for him personally, but the office of Prime Minister demands our respect, and for now, Justin Trudeau inhabits that office. He serves his country, just as Brian Mulroney did. Holding office is not for the faint of heart. In fact, it seems one needs an inflated ego to hold that office in this toxic climate we have created, which is a real shame. An election is looming and we all have some soul searching to do regarding what we want our leaders in Canada to be and not to be. That really is the question.

I love my vast mosaic of a country. I love Canadians for our self-deprecating humour, our official bilingualism, our concern for others globally and at home, and our devotion to both education and democracy. We only have to look south of the border - where the two options for leader are an 81 year old who should be living out his retirement in peace and tranquility, and a megalomaniac who, on one hand threatens violence if he loses the election, and on the other, sells Nationalistic Bibles to try to pay off his huge legal fines - to see what not to do. As Robin Williams said, "Canada is like a really nice apartment over a meth lab." We need to do everything in our power not to get sucked into dealing that meth here. 

'Til next time, 



  1. Great post, Rebecca. Politics vary in my family and I am shy to voice an opinion or question a stance as even within my own family, harsh words are often the response. I believe every politician, no matter his/her stripe come with an upside an a downside. It is very difficult in this love’em or hate’em climate the media presents to find the ‘real’ stance of any candidate. My biggest concern with the ads I have heard lately is the way they focus on building fear, “If you don’t vote for me. . . . Canada will go to hell in a hand-basket.” It sees the ‘simpler times’ are a thing of the past (as they always have been) but it sure would be nice if the beautiful people of country could engage in civil discourse on such an important topic. Thanks for your words, they always, always give me food for thought!

  2. Great work Rebecca . Love that last quote ….. never heard it before but very appropriate


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