Canada, 150 Ain’t Nothin’ But A Number, Eh?


I am fiercely proud to be Canadian. No doot aboot it. Yeah, it’s a tad on the chilly side here at times, and we’re not perfect, but this country is pretty amazing. It’s sufficiently amazing that our 150th birthday is reason enough for us to overcome our trademark shyness and brag a little. Becoming your own country is a big deal, and staying together in a relatively peaceful manner is also a big deal. Go us! Put on some Tragially Hip, eat some poutine, get dressed up in red and white, and light some sparklers!

I do, however, think it’s important to point out (as many Canadians online have been this past little while), that who we are as a country spans a whole lot more than 150 years. We don’t want anyone patting us on the head and telling us we’re an adorable baby nation without having a deeper understanding of what went on long before the BNA (important document, look it up) was signed.

Here’s a small, but important sampling of Canada, pre-1867:

  • First Nations: There’s a reason the word “first” is used to describe our indigenous cultures. According to the archaeological record, they ventured over here a good 20-30,000 years before anyone else. There are over a million Canadians with this as part of their heritage, forming 634 nations, and speaking 50 distinct languages. I mean, come on, the name Canada itself is First Nations in origin. If this isn’t the right time to (finally) show a little respect, I don’t know what it.
  • Vikings: Our rocky shores called to these guys over 1000 years ago. Okay, they didn’t stay all that long, but it’s still pretty cool to think that Canada was an important stop on their illustrious journey. Some of them (my family included) found their way back again eventually.
  • The French: They got a fair bit earlier than the English did too (mid-1500’s to be exact), and a whole lot of what’s amazing about Canadian culture stems from the fact that we have two official languages. It’s so much more than having two sides to the cereal box.
  • Canadian Inventions: That’s right kids, lacrosse, hockey, the fog horn, the odometer, newsprint, kerosene, and oh yeah, a little thing we like to call the telephone, were all invented in Canada, before it was officially its own country, and these are just modern examples. Let’s not forget the contributions of indigenous people and early settlers to our proud technological history.
  • Can Lit: For more than 150 years, people in these parts have been slaving away, sticking together words and ideas, putting pen to paper, and churning out some pretty influential stuff. Long before there were “official” Canadians, there were writers and storytellers galore, and what’s even more cool to me is that a nontrivial percentage of them were female. Our literary tradition gained its footing at a time when women were also finding their voices.

150 really isn’t all that meaningful by itself. It’s a symbol, a landmark, but it doesn’t really speak to who we are and how far we’ve come as a nation. It doesn’t say anything about the diversity of our population and our culture. It’s not a big enough number to express how we’ve managed to stay united. It’s way too small a number to indicate how far we still have to go, and how much we still have to learn about one another.

Yes, on July 1st, I will be wearing a dorky t-shirt, fake tattoos of maple leaves on my cheeks, belting out our national anthem and doing a myriad of other hokey things. But it won’t just be the signing of a document that I’ll be celebrating. I’ll be raising a glass to tens of tens of thousands of years of human beings learning to be happy and fruitful on a big, frosty chunk of land. I’ll be congratulating the ones who stayed (including the more recent additions) and who made us who we are. I’ll be appreciating the fact that this country took my family in, and that it continues to do so for others. I’ll be waving a banner for our artists, our thinkers, our leaders and our makers. On Canada’s birthday, I’ll be thinking what I think every year on my own birthday: it’s just a number. Now, let’s have cake.

Not Sorry. I Enjoy Being A Girl.

This song is corny AF, and it in no way reflects my version of being a girl. I don’t do any of this girly stuff. I pretty much despise doing all this girly stuff.  I’ve never even seen this musical. Yet, whenever I find myself in despair at being a member of the fairer sex (sorry, threw up in my mouth a little as I typed that), I find myself singing this tune. It’s mostly in an ironic sense, but at least the title itself rings true.

Lately, I find myself having to sing it more, now through gritted teeth and my eyes rolling dangerously far into the back of my head. Lately, I have to sing louder, placing a whole lot more emphasis on the last word. Lately, it feels like we’re sliding back downhill (more like we’re been pushed), and singing corny crap like this has become more of a battle cry than a cute little ditty. It’s not like we were at the top of the hill to begin with. The little bit of foothold we do have took forever to gain.

It’s been hundreds, if not thousands of years, and we’re still having to apologize for being female. Yeah, that’s right, I said apologize. It’s 2017, and there’s still this stinky, floating cloud of “Oh, you’re a chick? Wow, tough break.” We go into science with the caveat that we’ll be working exclusively in healing and education, you know, the nice, friendly end of science. When we set foot in the business world, we do so with cutesy terms like “lady boss” and “femmepreneur” on our name badges. Want to go into politics? Be prepared to prostrate yourself over everything from the colour of your shoes to your choice of haircut. Are you kick-ass at sports? Don’t expect to be allowed to sweat or wear practical, comfortable clothes. If you’re lucky enough to get a voice in the media, it’ll be with the understanding that you’ll have to appear half-naked in a push-up bra, your squishy underbelly exposed. Sorry, sorry, sorry.

We suck it up and keep walking when we get cat-called on the street. We foresake stuff we like to eat- even really, really good stuff. We tint our language with hearts and flowers. Worst of all, we apologize for our daughters being female by basically sending them out in gooey pink halloween costumes, and telling them they’re princesses instead of queens. Again with the sorry, sorry, sorry.

As we bow our heads in shame over being female, we get to watch other people apologize, because if half of the population has to do it, why not smaller groups too? If being a girl is a source of remorse, why shouldn’t people who are different colours, different sizes and shapes, different nationalities, who are of different economic statuses, who have different ways of loving, and who have different types of abilities all be expected to say sorry as well? All kinds of sorry, sorry, sorry.

And here’s the end to all of this constant, infernal sorry-ing: we get less. Less pay, less safety, less confidence, less room for big ideas, less control over our basic physical being. And as we’ve seen from the previous paragraph, sorry spreads like a bad rash.

I really do enjoy being a girl. I’m happy with the body and mind I was given, not in spite of it being female, but because of it. It’s not a blessing or a curse, it’s just a fact of who I am, and I’m good with that. So I’m done apologizing, for something that is neither in my control, nor a bad thing to begin with. I’m not sorry that I’m smart, or driven, or capable, any more than I’m sorry that I’m loving and sensitive and compassionate. I’m not sorry that I’m funny, or stubborn, or a little bit tactless. Not sorry for my big arms, or my loud Scooby-Doo laugh. I’m not going to apologize for doing this “girl” thing in my own way, nor am I going to apologize for supporting other girls who do the same (even the ones who truly love pink).

I’m tempted to be sorry for those who spend so much time expecting apologies, whose worldviews are tentatively stacked upon others feeling small, insignificant, and generally awful about themselves. But I’ll get over that. It’s their choice to miss out. Those of us who figure out how to stop being sorry tend to do some pretty fun stuff.

Sorry, not sorry. Resume corny show tunes.