I AM CANADIAN SPECIFIC
© David Watts, July 2001
I am Canadian Specific
I am local and planetary
Provincially aware and globally connected
I am in the meeting place of the St. Lawrence village and the market place of the world
In the vigour of the foothills and the enveloping mist of the coastal rain forest
The sensitivity of the permafrost and the seeming endlessness of the oceans
Listen to me, learn from me, watch me as we go on a journey together:
I am the Canadian enterprise:
the enterprise of first peoples who fashioned a culture on the bison and birchbark canoe
…of the merchants of Bristol who funded an Italian seaman to lead an expedition to New Founde Lande
the company of traders founded by Samuel de Champlain, with the Order of Good Cheer
the Hudson’s Bay Company—whose voyageurs followed the waterways of the West to build a fashion empire on the beaver
Canadian Pacific who followed the waterways with a railway to open the West to settlers
Each of these ventures contributed to the country we call Canada
Each of these initiatives brought newcomers into contact with those who were here already, building a culture of connections. I am the Canadian enterprise.
I am the Canadian exchange: the exchange that grew out of these encounters:
the exchange if First Nations’ knowledge of the land, and European trade and technology
the exchange of French and English who were enemies for 400 hundred years in Europe. Here they became neighbours and partners in the opening of a continent.
The exchange of civilization and the wilderness, the Northwest and the settled east
The exchange of public and private enterprise such as the C.P.R. and the National Policy
The exchange of the Euro-Western World with the peoples of Asia along the Pacific rim
Each exchanges was unique. Some became common patterns for contact between cultures
Some exchanges benefited all parties. Others created injustices we’re making up for now
Some involved big differences. Dealing with these made Canada a Culture unlike others:
I am the Canadian exception: those features that make our history unique:
I am the only major modern country to be born with revolution or civil war.
…the first to be both independent and sharing a common Crown in a Common-wealth.
I am the first group of colonies to form a federation that was also a Dominion
The first to have equal provinces with yet one province a “distinct society”.
To have “conscription if necessary but not necessarily conscription”
A Charter of Rights with a legislative over-ride
Many of these exceptions were controversial. We agreed to them because we couldn’t see any other way. Continuing compromise has made Canada an ongoing experiment.
I am the Canadian experiment. Each generation of Canadians has faced an uncertain future. We don’t know our experiiment will work out, or if it will.
We didn’t know if we would survive the winter
If we could keep our historic ties intact, or be absorbed into a continental culture
If we could pay for Confederation and a trans-continental railway with 3 million people
If we can meet the aspirations of the West
If we can make it in the global economy without losing our sense of who we are.
And there are moments we’ve said “I am the Canadian experience” “We made it!”:
“Alexander Mackenzie, from Canada by land”
“Roberta Bondar, from Canada, in Space”
“Lester Pearson, from Canada, at the United Nations”
“Robert Day, from Canada, in business”
“Helen Houston, from Canada, in Tibet”
“Marilyn Bell, from Canada, across Lake Ontario”
“RCMP Schooner St. Roch, through the North West Passage”
These expressions of the Human Spirit can become examples to our fellow Earthlings.
I am Canadian, Canadian Specific
My Canadian-ness is not in isolation from others.
My enterprise has enriched people and nations world wide.
My exchange has created new ways of looking at, of doing things
My exceptions have ceased to be exceptional as they are adopted by others.
My experience has become part of the legacy of humankind.
I am Canada, a pilot project
A model of community on Planet Earth.
(700 words, 4 min. 30 sec. reading time)
To be recorded to musical background:
Ricciotti, Concertino No. 4 in F minor