Saturday, July 01, 2006

Oh, Canada

I started Canada Day in a bad mood. I'd been mulling this news over in my mind:

Canada joins Russia in opposing indigenous rights. By "Canada," we mean functionaries on the newly-constituted UN Human Rights Council, taking their orders from Stephen Harper's PMO. By "Russia," we mean functionaries from a country that has waged genocidal war on the Chechen people for years.

The two were cheered on by Australia, whose genocide of the Tasmanian aborigines, pace the revisionist historian Keith Windschuttle, is well-established in the historical record. New Zealand, with its two centuries of depredation against the Maori (which continues to this day), joined them on the sidelines as well, and--who else?--the United States, with its frankly dreadful history of extermination and dispossession, and I'm talking home front here.
Well, I think cynically, maybe the extinction of the Beothuks in Newfoundland entitles Canada to move in these circles.

But of course "Canada" is not a Harper functionary, nor is it one thing, one point of view, one action, one homogenized culture, one history or one community. Many of us writhe at the position on the world stage that the minority Conservative regime has
recently chosen for us, and we're none too pleased about the goings-on at home either. We're Canadians, too, and Harper and his don't speak for me and mine.

As I get a little older, I realize how plain lucky I am to have been adopted by Canadian parents after the war and brought to this country to live. I love the place, without getting all nationalist and patriotic about it. It's home, never mind the too-cold winters, the too-hot summers, the mosquitoes, the blackflies, the current government. (Through an immigration officer's mistake, I didn't actually become a citizen until I was 23, but that's a whole nother story.) I like the fact that Canadians tend to get on, at least for the moment, with all sorts of other Canadians, without allowing the well-intentioned but ossifying process of official multiculturalism to divide us in any fundamental way. My stepson has two school friends he pals around with: one's Jewish, the other is Sunni Muslim. That's the wave of the future, folks. Brings tears to my eyes. Seriously.

Yes, we have differences among us, differences that can cause hatred to bubble to the surface rather too quickly. Read the comboxes at various conservative blogs, and anything that a bunch of Islamist comères have burbled to each other on a chat-line somewhere pales into near-insignificance. Yet this sort of thing doesn't usually end in more than raised voices. I feel proud that, even with our profound disagreements, I have conservatives on my blogroll and that my blog appears on some of theirs. We Canadians like to talk about our differences, while bemoaning the fact that we aren't all the same. In the blogosphere and beyond, we're all dissidents.

Today, I'll be celebrating Canada Day at home with my partner (kids took off for the Yukon yesterday), my brother, my sister-in-law, my precocious nephew, a cousin, and her spouse. Who knows? We might have some loud discussions--the latter got us into free trade, and he's a ferocious debater. The question of security certificates might come up, and Mo Harkat's release on bail, and the fact that his chief accuser turns out to be clinically insane. Maybe we'll all agree. Maybe we won't.

But we'll be eating at the same table. And each one of us will raise a glass this evening to whatever Canada is.

Have a good one, folks.

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