I’m going to start this post off with a truly Canadian start and apologize that I’m a day late. So in my sincerest truly Canadian voice: I’m sorry.
Anyway, yesterday marked 150 years since Canada, my homeland, began the process of becoming the country it is today through the Canadian Confederation. After 150 years our big country has made itself known for a lot more than just being America’s hat. Whether it’s for the whacky range of accents of our citizens (please look up a Newfie accent if you’ve never had the pleasure of listening to one), the cute nicknames we have for our currency (a loonie and a toonie, how much sweeter can you be?) or the fact that our current Prime Minister, love him or hate him, definitely looks like a Disney Prince.
Since I was still a little sick and I ended up not being needed at work on Saturday I didn’t really celebrate Canada Day aside from a few Canadian treats (poutine, Tim Hortons, and Hawaiian pizza, yep it’s Canadian). So I figured today’s blog post could be a little tribute to the nation I call a home.
I really struggled with what I was going to share with you all in this post. I considered doing a list of things that make me proud to be Canadian or important moments in Canadian history but I was struggling with how to write it. Canada is a big place with a lot of diversity over 10 provinces and 3 territories. I myself have only truly had the chance to visit five of the ten provinces and my experiences are definitely limited. With that in mind I thought I’d share with you the Canada I do know and the Canada I would like to meet. So here are the five top things I’ve done in my homeland, and the top five things I’d still like to do.
The Top 5 Things I’ve Done
5. Attended Toronto’s Pride Parade (twice) – I’ve been an LGBTQA ally since before I even knew the acronym or really much else about the community. Over the years I’ve learned a lot and I’ve become a better ally but it wasn’t until a few years ago that I actually got to go show my support at Toronto’s annual Pride Parade. My first Pride was actually when Toronto was the host of World Pride and it was a great time. We got crowded in amongst a barricade and although it was hot as hell once things got going the energy (and a few water gun sprays) made the whole thing quite amazing.
(Yes that is Dascha Polanco from Orange is the New Black, and yes I did die upon seeing her.)
4. Took in a world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF)
– Every September Toronto hosts a big film festival that shuts down certain streets downtown with red carpets, hoards of paparazzi, and big Hollywood stars coming in to promote their new films. When I was still in University, a group of us headed up to Toronto to try and catch a glimpse of some of these stars. It was our first time at TIFF so we didn’t really know where to be in order to actually see anyone and our late arrival put us at the back of a crowd with little chance of spotting anything more than the town cars that drove up to the red carpets. This was of course discouraging but thankfully bad luck turned into a once in a lifetime experience.
Pushed far away from the carpet itself, hoping to see a star through the window of their town car, we suddenly found ourselves in the rush ticket line for the film adaptation of Anna Karenina. The line was long so we weren’t hopeful but by some lucky star we soon enough found ourselves in one of the back rows of the Elgin Theatre watching as some of the cast and crew came out to introduce the film. Stars in attendance included Keira Knightley, Jude Law, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Domhnall Gleeson, and Mr. Darcy himself Matthew Macfadyen. I have to pinch myself when I think about the fact that Keira and Matthew were standing there together, Elizabeth and Darcy right there in the same room as us. And of course the movie was fabulous too. There’s just something about watching a period film in a theatre like the Elgin, which opened in 1913 (thank you Job #1 for that fact) and has been well maintained to this day. The night ended with a Q&A for the cast and crew and a totally memorable experience for the four young women in the back row.
3. Attended (many) lobster dinners on the East Coast – I’ve said it a million times and I’ll say it again: you haven’t truly had lobster until you’ve had it fresh off the boat. I’m quite spoiled in the fact that real lobster dinners are not a once in a lifetime experience for me but more likely something that happens every few years when I go ‘home’. Both of my grandparents are from ‘down east’ as we call it and any trip to see the family is always full of good company, perhaps a bit too much fresh air for a city girl like me, and a whole lot of good food. My great uncle was a lobster fisherman so it was nothing to have big lobster feasts where full crates of the delicious red devils were dumped into an army sized soup pot. If you every find yourself on Prince Edward Island or anywhere on the East coast really, make sure you treat yourself to a lobster or two. It’s even better if you have leftovers the next morning to make lobster sandwiches for breakfast.
2. Walked down the Rideau during Winterlude – It actually took me twenty one years of my Canadian life to get myself to our nation’s capital but a few years back cheap train tickets and a stay at one very haunted jail hostel made for my first trip to Ottawa with my best friend. It was the final weekend of Winterlude so downtown was bustling with activity despite the frigid cold that early February had brought. We walked everywhere which of course meant layering up in thick sweaters, winter jackets, and just about every winter accessory you could find. Our hostel was all of a ten minute walk from Parliament Hill and the Rideau River which becomes the world’s largest skating rink in the frostier months.
Unfortunately, I failed my homeland and never really learned how to skate but walking down the frozen river was nearly as exciting.
1. Saw my great uncle’s name in the Book of Remembrance in Ottawa
– This one is at the top of my list because it is of course a very personal experience. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts (particularly my post about the 100th anniversary of Vimy Ridge
) I am big into history, especially World War One and World War Two. My great grandfather fought in WWI, and his eldest son, my great-uncle was killed in the second world war. I have learned a bit about Curtis over the years and I was honoured to wear his name on my jacket while visiting Europe in high school.
The Book of Remembrance sits in a glass case in the base of the Peace Tower at the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa. On my first trip we were lucky enough to be waiting for the elevator to go up the Peace Tower when it was time to flip the page of the book. Every day there is a small ceremony with an officer of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) where the case is opened and the page of the book is changed. Upon the pages of the book are the names of those who gave their lives to keep our country free. I learned afterwards that you can request to see a specific page of the book if you make the request in advance but I unfortunately forgot about this on our next trip to Ottawa a few years later.
Luckily, fate intervened.
My parents and I were doing the regular tourist trips around the city; visiting museums, memorials, and of course Parliament itself. We took the familiar trip to the Peace Tower, stopping to look at the Book of Remembrance and finding that the pages had been flipped to the M’s. I completely missed his name on the first quick glance down but then my eyes lifted and found a familiar line: Pte Miller, Curtis Harrison Nth NS Highrs (Private Curtis Harrison Miller of the North Nova Scotia Highlanders). I assumed my mom had remembered to call ahead but she assured me this wasn’t her doing. I broke down in tears, of all the days we could have been up in that tower we were there the day the page was open to his name. I’m not sure anything in this country will ever top that.
The Top 5 Things I Still Want to Do
5. See the Big Nickel in Sudbury – This one might sound a little silly because what is really that great about a giant nickel? I’m not sure I can answer that question but it was one of the things I remember us planning on doing when my grandma got sick. We never did get to make the trip to Sudbury and we haven’t since so the silly Big Nickel is definitely on my list of things to do even though it might not be that exciting to some. But who knows, maybe I have some coin enthusiasts amongst my readership.
4. The Edge-walk at the CN Tower – I’ve been up the CN Tower many, many times. I’ve jumped on the glass floor, I’ve given my friend Maggi a slight heart attack while sitting on one of the railings on the observation deck, and I have even had the chance to dine in the revolving 360 restaurant. Despite all this, there is one more experience on the third tallest tower in the world that I am looking forward to. It is known as the EdgeWalk.
The tower’s newest attraction takes you outside onto the roof where a red jumpsuit clad version of yourself is tethered in to walk, balance, and hang off the edge. I actually had an interview to be one of the guides on the EdgeWalk but other things fell into place and I had to turn down the offer. Still, I hope to eventually be a guest one day.
3. Take a trip on the Rocky Mountaineer through the Canadian Rockies
– In my almost twenty five years of life I have never managed to make a trip West of Ontario. All my ventures have been to the East because that is where my family is from. Because of this, there are actually a number of things out in the Prairies and the West Coast that I would like to do but of all the things I can think of the one at the top of the list is the glass-domed train
through the Canadian Rockies. I’m not much of an outdoorsman (outdoorswoman?) but the idea of riding through the wilderness in luxury doesn’t sound so bad. If I ever get the chance I’ll definitely be springing for the GoldLeaf service
just to get the most of the experience.
2. Go up in a vintage biplane over Ottawa – This is an experience that I actually had a chance to do on my second trip to Ottawa but missed out on because I didn’t have a buddy to go up in the air with me (and because I was too stubborn to let my parents pay for both seats of the trip when only I would be going up). Anyway, at the Canadian Aviation and Space Museum there is a company that does vintage biplane flights. As you may have guessed from my desire to do the EdgeWalk, I’m not at all afraid of heights so jumping up in the air in one of these small planes doesn’t bother me one bit. Hopefully the next time I’m in Ottawa I’ll get to wear more than just the dress-up flight goggles.
1. Go dog sledding for the day
– It’s funny that I just claimed that I’m not much into the great outdoors and yet the number one thing on my Canadian bucket list is actually a completely outdoor experience in the dead of winter. Now, despite the stereotypes put out about Canada being a frozen tundra of ice and snow, we do not actually have pet polar bears nor do we all drive dog sleds to work but I would like to try it (the dogsled thing, not the polar bear). There are a bunch of companies that will actually take you out for a full day, teach you how to hitch up the dogs, mush the sled, and then just let you sit back and enjoy the ride. It sounds like an experience that will require a few hot showers afterwards but I think it would be worth it.
While I wanted to use this post to talk about some of the things that makes this country great, I think it’s important to remember, on this momentous anniversary especially that our nation is not without its faults. While we often like to raise ourselves up by saying we’re not as bad as our neighbours to the south, there are still many things we need to work on. There is a history of violence against the Indigenous people who called this land home long before the fathers of Confederation brought our nation together. It is something often overlooked in our history classes, which is especially worrisome when you learn that the last residential school did not close until 1996. While we pride ourselves in our nation’s multiculturalism, there are still ongoing incidents of racism and discrimination in our most diverse areas. I myself, as a Canadian girl was raised to believe I could do anything that a man can but still face the barriers of the gender wage gap and sex discrimination in the workplace. We have come a long way in 150 years but that does not mean we don’t still have far to go.
As our Prime Minister himself said in a recent speech addressing the nation on this momentous anniversary “We vow to set a new course for the next 150 years.” I hope for myself and for all Canadians to learn and know our history better so we can make the future in this country a safer and more welcoming place for all.
Happy belated Canada Day my fellow Canadians at home and abroad, and to the rest of you: Canada’s doors are open, you should visit sometime.