Scandal in Canada?
By Jheri St. James
Many people in the world think of
they think of Canada—as a large, peaceful, picturesque,
bland country. They probably remember the red maple leaf from
Canada’s flag. What’s it like to be the “wallflower” country
continuously upstaged by the much more dramatic United States
and its media machine? We here at Common Ground 191 cherish every
country from which we collect soil, but some countries’ stories
are more colorful and flamboyant than others. Where is Canada
on the drama and action scale? How much mileage can Canada get
out of more than the tundra and the world’s largest shopping
mall in Edmondton, Alberta?
The adventurous Vikings visited
Canada in the 11th century, and later explorers such as John
Cabot, Jacques Cartier
and Samuel de Champlain also traversed the great northern wilderness.
Those are the kind of expeditions that spell adventure in Canada.
The sophisticated French founded Quebec in 1608 and made Canada
the royal colony of New France (1663). Anglo-French rivalry culminated
in the cession of New France to Britain (Treaty of Paris, 1763),
then French rights were guaranteed by the Quebec Act (1774).
Only one serious revolt against British rule took place (1837-38),
consisting of separate uprisings in Upper Canada and Lower Canada.
Canada became a self-governing dominion in 1867 while retaining
ties to the British crown. “Only one serious revolt?” Not
much in the way of theatre or adrenalin there.
Economically and technologically, the nation developed
in parallel with the U.S., its neighbor to the south across an
unfortified border. As the largest country in the Western Hemisphere
and the second largest in the world after the USSR, Canada certainly
has geographical mass. As a constitutional monarchy under the
British Crown and a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, French
and English are the official languages. The Federal parliamentary
democracy of Canada is divided into 10 provinces and three territories*:
Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Newfoundland
and Labrador, Northwest Territories*, Nova Scotia, Nunavut*,
Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Quebec, Sasketchewan and Yukon
Territory*. Canada is strategically located between Russia and
the U.S. via the northern polar route.
70 percent of Canadian soil is useless for agriculture, but
most of the non-arable soils support vast expanses
of forests, and some are suitable for raising cattle. Covering
about 40 percent of the country from coast to coast, the northern
forests form Canada’s largest belt of natural vegetation.
The tundra extending across northern Canada can support only
moss, lichens, and grass and flowers during the summer, when
the surface layer is frost-free. The tundra, cowboys and farmers?
Ho-hum, some might say.
Life expectancy in Canada is 80.1
years at birth, among the world’s highest. Only Singapore
at 82, Andorra at 84, and San Marino at 82 are higher. But
what quality to this
long life? Are Canadians long-lived only because of no stress,
or could it be called no action?
Then there are thrilling elements such as Canada
balsam, a viscous transparent resin from the balsam fir, used
as cement for glass lenses and for mounting specimens on microscopic
slides. The Canadian goose with grayish plumage, a black neck
and head, and a white throat patch; the Canada thistle, a noxious
weed having spiny-margined leaves; Canadian hemlock, an evergreen;
and Canadian bacon. Still not much in the way of heart-pounding
Aside from the majestic scenery,
even the tourist offerings on line sound rather insipid, and
they operate only
in spring and summer. The Yukon Artists @ Work Cooperative overlooks
the Yukon River Valley. Takhini Hot Springs in Whitehorse are
a good place to watch the blaze of the Aurora Borealis from the
comfort of a steaming bath. One of the Klondike’s little
gems is the Tintina Bakery and Tombstone Gallery in Dawson City,
Yukon. Then there’s the Caribou Carnival in Yellowknife,
Northwest Territories featuring face-stuffing, juggling and can-can
dancing, followed by locals competitions in winter sporting events.
Aurora Village in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories is a village
situated right under the Aurora Oval and one of the best places
to see the Northern Lights from late November to mid-April. The
Dempster Highway is listed as another rare opportunity to drive
north of the Arctic Circle to Inuvik and see the Northern Lights.
The Toonik Tyme Spring Festival in Iqaluit, Nunavut features
native Iqualuit festivities such as igloo-building contests,
crafts sales, seal skinning, ice sculpting, Inuit games, snowmobile
racing, traditional dog team racing and more, the last two weeks
The Inuit are people who live near
the Arctic in an area stretching from the northeastern tip
of Russia across
Alaska and northern Canada to parts of Greenland. Inuit refers
to the people formerly called Eskimos, which is a term that may
have meant “eater of raw meat”. They prefer the name
Inuit, which means “the people” or “real people” and
in the language called Inuit-Inupiaq. The singular of Inuit is
Inuk, which means “person.”
As they spread eastward, the Inuit modified their
way of life to suit the Arctic environments they encountered.
They caught fish and hunted seals, walruses and whales. On land,
they hunted caribou, musk oxen, polar bear and other small animals,
using the skins to make tents and clothes, and crafting tools
and weapons from the bones, antlers, horns and teeth. In summer
they traveled in boats covered with animal skin called kayaks
and in winter on sleds pulled by dog teams. Most Inuit lived
in tents in the summer and in large sod houses during the winter.
Snow houses were temporary shelters built when traveling in search
The Inuit are a race of people both strong in spirit
and in mind. Their cultural identity is firmly rooted in nature
and the land, maintained through storytelling, drum dancing,
language, family and cultural laws and traditions like hunting
and survival skills, and traditional arts and crafts.
The traditional way of life has ended for most
Inuit. They live in wood homes rather than snow houses, sod houses
or tents. They wear modern clothing instead of animal skins and
most Inuit speak English, Russian or Danish in addition to their
native language. The kayak and the umiak have given way to motorboats;
the snowmobile has replaced the dog team. While some have adjusted
to the new way of life, unemployment, suicide and addiction are
major problems, and industrial and nuclear pollution are poisoning
their traditional homelands and food sources. Only recently have
land claim agreements been signed, allowing the aboriginal peoples
a hold and legal claim to what they have always considered to
be their land.
Canada is a nation made up of human
beings and in human activities, one always discovers positive
activities. On a website called http://www.canadiangenocide.nativeweb.org,
some headlines found on the page entitled “Hidden from
History: The Canadian Holocaust” might be a location for
scandal in Canada. Topics like “Evidence of Biological
Warfare against North American Indians”; “Are You
or Someone You Know an Aboriginal Survivor of Medical Experimentation
or Sterilization? It’s Time Your Story Was Heard!”; “Canada
and its Churches are Accused of Genocide by Major Guatemalan
Indigenous Organizations”; “Sunday Morning Fun with
the Truth Commission into Genocide in Canada”; “Control
of Water = Control of People” are a few of the topics discussed.
But cruelties to indigenous people, people who really understand
living on the earth, are ubiquitous to the history of many countries
on our planet. Canada is not unique in dealing with these types
of rumors, and the fact that they have made some efforts to give
the natives ownership of their land may mitigate those rumors.
Another website, http://www.mysteriesofcanada.com,
lists some geographical Canadian mysteries like The Treasure
of Black Hole Harbour, The Treasure Pit of Oak Island, The Mystery
of Mary Celeste. And Canadians worry about earthquakes and tsunamis
more than the rest of the world might realize. Places like British
Columbia are concerned about these freaks of nature, as well
as avalanches, floods and hurricanes.
But in all emergencies, Canadians
can rely on the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Canada’s best-known international
symbol—the Mountie in a scarlet coat, nobly seated astride
his steed. It’s an image that’s been used to promote
Canada abroad since 1880—and was glamorized by Hollywood
in the 20’s, 30’s and 40’s. Hollywood took
great liberties with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and is
usually cited as the source of the saying that the Mounties “always
get their man.” (The phrase actually can be traced to the
Fort Benton, Montana Record in April 1877). The force was created
after Prime Minister John A. Macdonald declared that the prairies
needed a temporary strong police force to solidify Canada’s
claim to the West, improve relations with First Nations, and
wipe out the illegal whiskey trade. The Mounties were modeled
on the Royal Irish Constabulary, one of the world’s first
national police forces. In 1896, Prime Minister Sir Wilfrid Laurier
wanted to reduce the size of the force and eventually disband
it, but support for the force was strong and getting stronger
as it built on its reputation by policing the Klondike Gold Rush.
In 1920, the RNWMP (Royal North West Mounted Police) became a
national force when it absorbed the eastern-based Dominion Police
and became the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. This body was responsible
for enforcing federal laws in all provinces and territories.
Their formal attire is known as
the Red Serge, consisting of a Stetson hat with a wide flat
brim and hat band,
a scarlet tunic in military dress style, with low neck collar
and brass buttons, and black riding breeches with bulges at the
hips and yellow striping down the outside of each leg. The uniform
includes Trathcona boots, which are brown leather riding boots
and spurs. The tunic is finished off with a Sam Browne belt,
a cross strap and belt that holds in place a pistol holder, a
double magazine holder and a handcuff pouch. An officer in Red
Serge would also wear a white lanyard. Badges include shoulder
badges, collar badges, service badges, qualifying badges and
appointment badges. In 1974, women were recruited for the first
time as RCMP officers and recently Baltej Singh Dhillon, a Sikh
Mountie, was granted permission to wear a turban with his Red
Serge. In the 1990’s international policing efforts were
expanded with the RCMP serving in Namibia, Yugoslavia, Haiti,
Kosovo, Bosnia/Herzegovina, East Timor, Guatemala, Croatia, and
the Western Sahara.
The Common Ground 191 project is first and foremost
an art concept. Mr. Arnold Friberg, R.S.A. made his art reputation
from many representations of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police,
using this iconic figure as a witness to the unfolding drama
of Canadian history. His works include images of the frontier,
horses, dogs, landscapes, locomotives and Mounties at work solving
crimes. These images can be seen at http://www.bnr-art.com/friberg/rcmp.htm.
There is more to the Mounties than
just a romantic image. The RCMP has created a spectacle known
around the world
as the Musical Ride, an opportunity for Canadians from coast
to coast to experience their heritage and national identity.
This is an opportunity for the Mounties to display their riding
abilities and entertain themselves and the local community. Traditional
cavalry drill movements form the basis of the Musical Ride, the
first of which was performed in Regina under Inspector William
George Matthews in 1887. The Musical Ride was put on public display
for the first time in 1901. Over the years the popularity of
the Ride has grown and it has become a familiar sight throughout
most of the world. Riders are also ambassadors of good will.
Working through this unique medium, they promote the RCMP’s
image throughout Canada and the world. Today the Musical Ride
is performed by a full troop of 32 riders and horses, and consists
of the execution of a variety of intricate figures and cavalry
drills choreographed to music. Demanding utmost control, timing
and coordination, these movements are formed by individual horses
and riders in two’s, four’s and eight’s, at
the trot and at the canter. One of the more familiar Musical
Ride formations is the “Dome” once featured on the
back of the Canadian 50 dollar bill. The highlight of the Ride
is the charge when lances, with their red and white pennons,
are lowered and the riders and their mounts launch into the gallop.
Below are some of the formations:
MOVEMENTS OF THE MUSICAL RIDE
The Royal Canadian Mounties are symbols of an heroic
Canada, adding to their police force the theater of music and
choreography. The Great Northern Lights are spectacular sky shows
from a heaven, which smiles on this vast white country, quietly
fostering peace and a life. The images of all the main provinces
in Canada in this journal entry attest to the cosmopolitan attributes
of the U.S. quiet neighbor. The vast tundra is a critical part
of global warming dialogues held daily all over our planet.
Is Canada’s low-key image an illusion, its
lack of drama strength in disguise? Assuredly, yes. While the
rest of the countries of the world go about blowing one another
up, with populations dying in massive numbers from AIDS, starving
from poverty, committing genocides against native and other peoples,
Canada quietly goes about nurturing its people, its land and
their future—under the radiant aurora borealis Northern
Lights. Surely this is more important and admirable than making
international headlines. With a population of 32,805,041 people,
a 0.3% AIDS death rate and only 56,000 people living with the
disease, an infant mortality rate of 4.75 per 1,000 live births,
and a 97 percent literacy rate—not to mention national
health care—perhaps more of the world should look at Canada
and take some lessons. Canada may be a societal symbol for the
pot of gold at the end of the aurora borealis rainbow.
As an affluent, high-tech industrial society, newly
entered in the trillion-dollar class, Canada closely resembles
the U.S. in its market-oriented economic system pattern of production,
and affluent living standards. Since World War II, the impressive
growth of the manufacturing, mining and service sectors has transformed
the nation from a largely rural economy into one primarily industrial
and urban. The 1989 U.S.-Canada Free Trade Agreement (FTA) and
the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) (which includes
Mexico) touched off a dramatic increase in trade and economic
integration with the U.S. Given its great natural resources,
skilled labor force, and modern capital plant, Canada enjoys
solid economic prospects. Solid fiscal management has produced
a long-term budget surplus, which is substantially reducing the
national debt, although public debate continues over how to manage
the rising cost of the publicly funded healthcare system. Exports
account for roughly a third of GDP. Canada enjoys a substantial
trade surplus with its principal trading partner, the U.S., which
absorbs more than 85% of Canadian exports.
has made us neighbors. History has made us friends. Economics
has made us allies. Those whom
nature hath so joined together, let no man put asunder.” John
F. Kennedy, address to Canadian Parliament, Ottawa, May 17, 1961.
Our collector in Canada was a man named Kevin Blucke,
President of Summerhill Pyramid Winery in Kelowna, B.C. He is
a friend of Darren and
Huber who operate an artisan winery
in Laguna Beach next to the Simpson studios at 2133 Laguna Canyon
Road (www.lagunacanyonwinery.com). This neighbor was the vehicle
for our soil collection from Canada. Thank you Kevin, Darren
for your participation.
* * *
Without going out of my door I can know all
things on earth.
Without looking out of my window I could know the ways
The farther one travels, the less one knows, the less one
Without going out of your door you can know all things
Without looking out of your window you can know the ways
The farther one travels, the less one knows, the less one
Arrive without traveling, see all without looking, (see
all without looking).
*Photos thanks to Philippe Renault: www.picturesofcanada.com