Happy Birthday, Canada!

Canada is that country “up there,” the one that’s really big and cold and makes maple syrup and hockey players (and saddle-bronc riders). It’s polite, generally friendly (aside from Quebec, and Quebecois don’t seem to like anyone other than the French, so that doesn’t really count.) Canada has great skiing, wonderful rodeos, Mounties, and, um . . . well . . .

One of the most recognizable flags in the world. Image used under Creative Commons Fair Use. Source: https://www.ctvnews.ca/canada/canada-marks-50th-anniversary-of-maple-leaf-flag-1.2237381

How about being one of the top wheat producers in the world, ditto beef and dairy? Maple syrup, yes, and a lot of other things. Canada punched far above its weight class in WWI, WWII, Korea, and other military conflicts. Canada was on the front lines of the Cold War as well. She has a proud history, with some less-than-lovely moments, just like every other country in the world.

As Conrad Black of the National Post put it last week:

Canada is a magnificent country and most Canadians know that. It is not remotely in contention for being the most exciting country in the world, but excitement drama, and historical interest are ultimately generated by upheaval and often violence. I attempted, in my history of Canada, “Rise to Greatness,” to show that Canadian history is in fact very interesting. This is the only bicultural transcontinental parliamentary confederation in the history of the world; it has endured without major modification to its political institutions for 153 years, longer than any other large country except the United Kingdom and the United States. And in that time, the United Kingdom lost most of the province of Ireland and the United States was just recovering from a terrible civil war in which 750,000 Americans died (in a population of just 31 million). These were indeed exciting and dramatic events; few episodes in the last 200 years have been more celebrated and engrossing than the war between the American states and the Irish troubles. Patching together what is now a G-7 country from a group of settlements scattered along the northern border of the United States, composed of two cultural communities that did not know or like each other and whose relations are far from entirely smooth even now; agitating for independence from Britain while retaining its guaranty against the annexationist appetite of the United States (that ravaged Mexico for a million square miles in 1846), was a triumph of Canadian statesmanship, but bloodless and almost invisible.


I wouldn’t call the results of the Mexican-American War and Gadsden Purchase “ravaging Mexico,” but Mr. Black has a point. Canada also has problems of its own with certain political movements. Alas, crazy politicians and bureaucrats are not unique to the US. That doesn’t change the fact that Canada is a beautiful country with a lot of great people.

As Rudyard Kipling described Canada:

A NATION spoke to a Nation,
A Queen sent word to a Throne:
“Daughter am I in my mother’s house,
But mistress in my own.
The gates are mine to open,
As the gates are mine to close,
And I set my house in order,”
Said our Lady of the Snows.

“Neither with laughter nor weeping,
Fear or the child’s amaze—
Soberly under the White Man’s law
My white men go their ways.
Not for the Gentiles’ clamour—
Insult or threat of blows—
Bow we the knee to Baal,”
Said our Lady of the Snows.

“My speech is clean and single,
I talk of common things—
Words of the wharf and the market-place
And the ware the merchant brings:
Favour to those I favour,
But a stumbling-block to my foes.
Many there be that hate us,”
Said our Lady of the Snows.

“I called my chiefs to council
In the din of a troubled year;
For the sake of a sign ye would not see,
And a word ye would not hear.
This is our message and answer;
This is the path we chose:
For we be also a people,”
Said our Lady of the Snows.

“Carry the word to my sisters—
To the Queens of the East and the South.
I have proven faith in the Heritage
By more than the word of the mouth.
They that are wise may follow
Ere the world’s war-trumpet blows,
But I—I am first in the battle,”
Said our Lady of the Snows.

A Nation spoke to a Nation
A Throne sent word to a Throne:
“Daughter am I in my mother’s house
But mistress in my own.
The gates are mine to open,
As the gates are mine to close,
And I abide by my Mother’s House,”
Said our Lady of the Snows.

So Happy Canada Day!


11 thoughts on “Happy Birthday, Canada!

    • *reiterates you know what*

      Right now I’m a bit more “why haven’t we nuked China?”

  1. Re: the Mexican-American War and Gadsden Purchase– shouldn’t the tagline for that be something like “don’t start no nothing, won’t be no nothin”? Or maybe “don’t make me come over there”?

    When the biggest negative I can think about for a country is that some of their rockbands are idiots, and even that is tempered by Weird Al having done an awesome version of the song, they’re pretty good. (Canadian Idiot, for those wondering. It’s seriously brilliant as an example of gutting an insult by making it obvious how STUPID it is…and making a better song while you’re at it.)

  2. I once had a couple of roommates from Alberta, Canada, who were always throwing out references to Bob & Doug McKenzie and the Great White North; most of which (desert rat that I am) I didn’t catch. One of them could recite Robert Service’s “The Cremation of Sam McGee” from memory.

    • My mom memorized The Cremation of Sam McGee JUST so that she could quote it, at length, rather than just saying “it’s cold.”

      (Ag work doesn’t care that it’s too cold, and if you’re reciting poetry people tend to give you a pass on whining.)

      • To be polite to those who don’t have the name off the top of their heads, and a link for those who haven’t had the pleasure, yet:

        There are strange things done in the midnight sun
        By the men who moil for gold;
        The Arctic trails have their secret tales
        That would make your blood run cold;
        The Northern Lights have seen queer sights,
        But the queerest they ever did see
        Was that night on the marge of Lake Lebarge
        I cremated Sam McGee.


  3. A couple of Canadian streamers show up in “Queen Victoria’s Little Wars”. There were separatist and and U.S. backed groups in the western areas in the 1860s and 1870s, quashed and then politely erased. Britain had other troubles in the Empire, the U.S. had it’s own problems, and a low-scale war was not something in either power’s interest.

  4. Canada invented motorcycle and bicycle blitzkrieg in WWI, and the Germans just copied them for WWII, with more vehicles.

    You gotta watch those Canadians.

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