(we are) CANADIANS IN TIME & SPACE © David Watts, 1999
At the Greenwich Observatory, a statue of James Wolfe stands astride the Zero Meridian—the line that divides the world into eastern and western hemispheres.
Wolfe is there not as a geographer but as a general—
—the soldier whose strategy in 1759 brought Québec and Canada into the British Empire
and ultimately give Britain her long-sought North West Passage—a passage over land, through Canada—to the Orient
Britain had other colonies in the New World including the Thirteen American ones she was soon to lose, and others she was to barter back and forth at the conference table
But it was Canada—New France, as it had been called by earlier colonists—that opened up the heart of North America and fire the imagination of the English speaking peoples
The new land turned out to be vaster than the British had imagined
It gave them a new sense of space. Living on an Island, they knew about the breadth of the oceans around them
But they had not ever known a land like that—a huge, open land, that seemed to go on and on, like the ocean.
It also gave them a new sense of time, and timelessness:
Living here were First Nations whose lives had been undisturbed for millennia, a window in time to look in on
Britain had had her Angles and Saxons, her Picts and Scots,
just as Italy had her Latins, Sabines, Romans and Etruscans
But these earlier peoples had passed away, intermingled in the marriage and movement of generations
In Canada these first peoples still thrived
Though the coming of Europeans changed their live immeasurably
500 years later they are still among us, vibrant and vital
Giving a Presence to our past, an immediacy to our origins that other nations can only imagine
This 10,000 years of living history and 5,000 kilometres of space posed new challenge and offered new opportunities
It led to treaties, agreements under which the land was ceded not by conquest but by covenants with the first peoples.
It led to time zones in a space so vast that it was afternoon on our east coast when the sun was just rising in Vancouver
and where travel back and forth between these regions made it unworkable for everyone to set their own clock by the sun
It was a Canadian engineer and railway surveyor, Sanford Fleming, who gave the world its system of standard time
just as it was a Canadian communicator, Marshall McLuhan, 100 years later who gave the world phrases like “Gutenberg Galaxies” and “Global Village” to describe our planet’s coming together.
Canada’s place as a platform for peering into the cosmos began long before the space age:
James Cook rose to prominence as a navigator from a report he wrote on an eclipse of the sun he observed over Newfoundland.
He was there with Wolfe’s expedition, an expedition he helped make successful by charting up the Saint Lawrence
And when Cook—now—Captain Cook—was later plotting Venus’ position from the Island of Tahiti in the South Pacific …
… a parallel plotting of Venus was taking place from Churchill, Manitoba, Canada, which later became a rocket launching range.
The Canadian technology that connected our country with telephone and transcontinental railways has gone into space …
…giving the world the Canadarm—the arm and hand of the Space Shuttle—and the Telesat and Anik communications satellites.
Canada has given other things to the NASA space program:
Edmonton’s Namao air base, one of the few runways in the world long enough to serve as a Shuttle emergency landing strip …
… and Tiger Lily, Alberta, one of the few towns whose radio amateurs managed to make live contact with the Shuttle.
We’ve given the space program three [now ten] astronauts:
Marc Garneau, Roberta Bondar, Julie Payette … Chris Hadfield
Canadians in time and space
Taking our sense of spaciousness and timelessness into orbit and bring back to Earth a renewed vision of ONE WORLD.