1 July 2012

Happy Canada Day

Today is Canada Day, formerly known as Dominion Day, wherein those of us in the Great White North celebrate the founding of our nation.  Unlike our neighbours to the south, our founding fathers were not an iconic group of philosopher statesmen (at least as the popular legend tells it), but rather a group of flawed men who were, first to last, politicians.   Canada never has, and likely never will have, a Mount Rushmore, as I can't think of any Prime Minister whose face we would want carved into a mountainside, though there are a few I would gladly have carved into the bottom of a toilet bowl, face up and mouth open.

Sometimes, during this time of the year, I ponder the incongruity of the idea of the founding of our nation and the way we celebrate its anniversary. I wonder if our founding fathers, and the founding fathers of the Republic to the south, ever said to each other: "We have just created a new nation, set down its laws and formed its government.  Now throw some weenies and the barbecue and let's go light some gunpowder!"

Today at the end of Mass we sang O Canada in English.  I remarked to my wife that I half expected someone to drop a puck as we finished the last few words.  The verses of the song were printed in the hymnal in both English and French.  Not many people know this, but the two languages are not translations.  The two lyrics are completely different.  In English, the lyrics are thus:

O Canada!

Our home and native land!

True patriot love in all thy sons command.

With glowing hearts we see thee rise,
The True North strong and free!

From far and wide,
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

God keep our land glorious and free!
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
In French, the words are thus:

O Canada!

Terre de nos aïeux,
Ton front est ceint de fleurons glorieux.

Car ton bras sait porter l'épée,
Il sait porter la croix.

Ton histoire est une épopée,
Des plus brillants exploits.

Et ta valeur, de foi trempée,
Protégera nos foyers et nos droits.
Protégera nos foyers et nos droits.

The French Lyrics reflect very much Quebec's once great, now faded, Catholic faith.  In fact, but for the first two words, I would say it is a hymn to Quebec.  Here's a translation to give you an idea. (My translation.  Forgive the absolute lack of poetry)

O Canada! 
Land of our ancestors,
Thy brow is wreathed in glorious jewels.

Because thy arm knows to bear the sword,
It knows to bear the cross,
Thy story is an epic
of very great exploits,

And thy valour, tempered by faith,
Shall protect our homes and our rights.
Shall protect our homes and our rights.
One might have thought that the now secular Quebec society would object to such lyrics; however, those among the Quebeckers who may object would most likely rather not be a part of Canada to begin with, and do away with the anthem altogether.

One final note:  I believe I have pointed it out before, but there is an odd fact that came from the Klondike Gold Rush, (which I understand is rather on again.)  During that time, there were a great many Americans living and prospecting in the Klondike.  Rather than dispute or disagree over the celebration of our national days, the good people of the Klondike decided to celebrate both days, with the days in between thrown in, and turned our national days into what was, by all descriptions, a mother of a four day blow out.  So you see, we call all get along, if only we have enough holidays, some gold, and some booze to go with it.  Plus some sparkly gunpowder. Our borders have been quiet since 1866, the year before Canada became Canada, and since then we had rather shoot our guns into the air, rather than at each other.

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