When I came to Canada nearly 15 years ago, I could not have imagined that the place which is now my new home would be so accepting, accommodating and tolerant of other cultures. Here we learn how to earn respect by giving respect to others. This is the beauty of Canadian society, which allows hundreds of cultures to co-exist peacefully.
When Sally Field received her second Oscar as best actress, she burbled, or was perceived to: "You like me. You really like me." This became a trope. The Canadian equivalent, nation to nation, us to the U.S., is: "You're interested in us. You're really interested in us." We keep count: over three recent days, U.S. media reports on Rob Ford were mentioned 200 times in Canada and 700 times in the U.S. That's reports of reports, not the story itself. We want to know how often they mention their coverage of us. It's practically mystical.
A version of this paper was read at a seminar on "Racism in Academia" held at The Centre of Excellence for Research (CERIS) on Immigration and Settlement, York University, on November 21, 2012.
During the 2010 Metropolis conference held in Montreal, Dr. Luin Goldring, Director of CERIS asked me to suggest a topic for a university seminar. I immediately proposed the topic "Racism in Academia," as I had written on the same issue a few years back.
My observations and inferences were based on the real experiences of Dr. Shiva Sadeghi, Faculty Associate and senior researcher at the University of Toronto. She was very disappointed, discouraged and disgusted with her job experiences and the painful realities faced by some communities on campus.
At a midpoint in the progress of Ken Sobol's dementia, his wife of over 40 years, Julie, said: "You know it occurs to me there can't be many people in the world who are writing partners with someone who has dementia." She says Ken looked unbothered but thoughtful -- a look of his I can picture -- and said: "You should put that in." So she did. If that's what you get after a half-century together, it sounds good to me.
In 1899, writer Robert Barr wrote in Canadian Magazine about the need for literature in Canada. He told how, as a young man, he went to see "the Niagara Falls" and came away disappointed by how unimpressive it was. That's because "No reality can ever equal the expectation of a boy's lurid fancy," and his had been fired by a poem of England's poet laureate Robert Southey, that appeared in all "readers" used then in Ontario schools. "The Falls of Ladore" began, Recoiling, turmoiling and toiling, and boiling . . . Years later, after he'd moved to the U.K.
We ought to consider R.A. Dickey, who's now No. 1 in the Blue Jays' starting rotation, not just a pitching asset but a cultural one. That isn't because he's a reader, though in one of many life crises he considered teaching high-school English. Nor that he's a writer, with a bestseller: Wherever I Wind Up.
It's because he's a reflector: he reflects on what he lives, and reflects the results back to us. That's what culture does. Creativity is less its essence, no one creates anything from scratch; that's one of the myths of art. What artists make is reflections on reality, including reflections on the reflections of others.
Stompin' Tom Connors, who died on Wednesday at 77, had a romance with Canada, not just its people and features -- even its place-names. You gotta start somewhere. In the 1960s, when he began, that had a certain defiance: to treat Canadian sites as seriously as other nations treated theirs, and so did we. Poet Dennis Lee wrote kids' verse flinging Casa Loma in the face of Banbury Cross. Stompin' Tom took Hank Snow's "I've Been Everywhere" and replaced U.S. names with Canadian ones. Snow was born in the Maritimes, like Connors, but he went south and glorified "their" map.
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Almost all of us miss NHL hockey some of the time. And some of us miss it all of the time: players, owners, sports journalists. But its absence may also be a covert present in this gifting season: a chance to rebalance and recalibrate the place of hockey in our culture.
You see that imbalance in references to missing "hockey" and yearning for "hockey" to return. Yet it's only NHL hockey that's lacking. This is the result of a stealth coup by the NHL: it's made itself equivalent to hockey altogether.