Canadian-ness

We recently spent some time in our nation’s capital where preparations are underway for the Canada Day celebrations.  Tents, Jumbotron screens, flags, food vendors, stages and fences are everywhere as excitement builds.  I am very proud indeed to be Canadian.  However that pride does come with a certain degree of humility and perspective.

Peace and prosperity are fluid terms that often times are not equally experienced amongst all Canadians.  And the 151 years we celebrate as nation-hood, really only represents a small timeline of the ‘history-of-the-winners’.  As a middle-class, white, heterosexual woman, I have a particular lens which is very different from the lenses of my diverse fellow Canadians.  I don’t presume to speak for anyone’s experience.  But I do think that on Canada Day, we need to acknowledge that grief and resilience are part of our shared story.

For me, the French folksong Un Canadien Errant expresses how I feel on Canada Day.  The text describes the vast beauty of the land, but also how a Canadian can feel lost and exiled, and yet still be hopeful for the future.  I have included here a lovely recording, as well as the lyrics in both French and English.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QmjdmPBzKvk

Once a Canadian lad,

Exiled from hearth and home,

Wandered, alone and sad,

Through alien lands unknown.

 

Down by a rushing stream,

Thoughtful and sad one day

He watched the water pass

And to it he did say:

 

“If you should reach my land,

My most unhappy land,

Please speak to all my friends

So they will understand.

 

Tell them how much I wish

That I could be once more

In my beloved land

That I will see no more.

 

Un Canadien errant,

Banni de ses foyers,

Parcourait en pleurant

Des pays étrangers.

 

Un jour, triste et pensif,

Assis au bord des flots,

Au courant fugitif

Il adressa ces mots:

 

“Si tu vois mon pays,

Mon pays malheureux,

Va dire à mes amis

Que je me souviens d’eux.

 

O jours si pleins d’appas,

Vous êtes disparus…

Et ma patrie, hélas!

Je ne la verrai plus!

 

Translation by Edith Fowke

Source: Fowke, Edith and Alan Mills (eds). Singing our History: Canada’s Story in Song, (Doubleday, Toronto, 1984)

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