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Entries in Canada 150 (4)

Wednesday
Jun142017

Dang, I missed it!

Disclaimer: This is a post about Canada. For those who find Canada uninteresting, feel free to click away.

One of the things I wanted to do during this year of Canada's 150th birthday is write more Canadian content. Well, I suppose all of the content is Canadian since I am Canadian. However, there were some dates in the year I was supposed to be paying attention to. In early June, the 2nd, I missed one: the death of Stan Rogers.

Stan Rogers is one of my favourite singers; ever. My husband introduced him to me. I was a newlywed and heard the sounds of his voice, and I wondered who owned that booming voice. One of the first songs I remember hearing was the the song "The Witch of the Westmoreland."  Rogers had a huge voice, and it echoed beautifully throughout our tiny apartment. I was hooked.

Rogers wrote about real life and real people. Whether it was singing about an aging farmwife, the man who tends the locks, or the migration of workers to western Canada, he sang about ordinary lives. He sang with a tangible passion in his voice no matter the subject matter. No, he was not a popular music singing success, and no he did not take his talent to the U.S. in hopes of becoming more of a commercial success, but he had a great talent, and he wrote good songs. He had a talent for depicting the human condition with poignancy. And his voice still gives goosebumps. There was simply something about it I can't explain.

My favourite of his recordings is From Fresh Water, a recording centred around the Great Lakes. Its content reflects the area where I live and from where he came. His song "Tiny Fish For Japan" is about a town very near to me, and every time I go there, I hear his song in my head. My favourite from that recording, is the song "White Squall." The way the music accents the rising action of the song is great.

A number of years ago, Adrienne Clarkson did a documentary called "One Warm Line." There are clips available here. If you like folk music, you just might like Stan Rogers. 

Wednesday
May312017

The Catholic Presence Makes a Difference

One of the areas of study I am always in the process of engaging in is the history of the Church in Canada. I will be taking Church history in September, and I hope at that time to find more resources about the history of evangelicalism specifically. Evangelicalism in the U.S. is well documented, but there is much less with a specifically Canadian focus.  

For quite a few years now, I have had Mark Noll's A History of Christianity in the United States and Canada on my shelf. It's a large volume, and I've just never decided to sit down with it and pick away at it. As part of my reading of Canadian material this year (and reading books which sit on my shelf unread for a long time), I decided to take it out on the deck with me and my tea yesterday afternoon. I have always like Noll's writing. 

Noll begins right at the beginning, with the colonization of the New World, and the impact it had on the indigenous peoples. I was happy to see Noll's admission that what Columbus and his kind did was not always Christian. As he discusses these early years, he points out that in Canada, because of the French presence, had a Christian presence for a long time before Protestantism began making its mark.

One of the most famous French mission initiatives to Canada came through Jean de Brébuf, a Jesuit. He was a man reputed to be more sensitive to the people he was ministering to, although he is quoted as using the word "savage" to describe the native population. That said, he did believe in recognizing that the natives were to be viewed as  "ransomed by the blood of the son of God, and as our Brethren with whom we are to pass the rest of our lives."

This presence of Roman Catholicism did not stay confined to what is now Québec. It spread throughout the country. The enduring element of French culture and language which remained even after the British were victorious at the Battle of the Plains of Abraham, has left its mark on Canada. Noll says:

Whereas Roman Catholics in significant numbers came relatively late to what would be called the United States, they were present as the first permanent settlers of Canada and so provided foundational contribution to later Canadian civilization.

Through the succeeding centuries Quebec's French Catholic culture remained an important counterpoint to the Protestant societies of North America and even to the more pluralistic Catholicism that eventually came to play such a large role in the United States and elsewhere in Canada.

The dual nature of our country is still evident, of course. But more than than, the soil in which the seeds of evangelicalism were sown is not the same as the United States. Canada is a country defined also by its regionalism, and thus the environment of the Western provinces provides a different climate for evangelicalism to flourish. Those provinces have the further influence of large numbers of Mennonites settling, as well as American influences and large numbers of European immigrants. I confess to finding immigration history very interesting; not just the statistical aspects, but how that immigration worked itself out in society.

I don't imagine I'll finish Noll's book before school begins again, but hopefully I will get through much of it. I also recently picked up a copy of Canadian Evangelicalism in the Twentieth Century, by John Stackhouse. I am confident that Noll's book will provide more resources, as he ends every chapter of this book with suggested resources.

Wednesday
Mar152017

This Canuck Reads

I've not had time for a lot of reading other than school reading, but I do make an effort to read for pleasure. It makes being a student that much more enjoyable when we can relax with a book. This year, in light of Canada's 150th birthday, I have been reading Canadian fiction and non-fiction. So far, I have enjoyed a few.

Fiction:

The Break, Katharena Vermette:  Vermette is a Métis writer from Winnipeg. This is a brilliantly crafted story about interconnecting relations between Métis women in the north end of Winnipeg. 

The Birth House, Ami McKay: The story of a Nova Scotia girl who becomes a midwife. It is set in the early years of the 20th century. Someone told me later that it may have been on Oprah's reading list. I didn't pick it for that reason. I enjoyed it, but there were some anachronistic parts. 

The Way the Crow Flies, Anne-Marie MacDonald: A story of a young girl living on a military base in the London, Ontario area in the 70's. In the summer months, one of her classmates goes missing. The story also has multiple layers of relationships. 

Barometer Rising, Hugh MacLennan: Wonderful book by MacLennan set around the Halifax explosion in 1917.  MacLennan was a brilliant writer, and this was one of the best books I've read in a long time.

Non-Fiction:

Shattered City, Janet Kitz. A carefully compiled account of the Halifax explosion. I picked this up after reading Barometer Rising. Years ago, our family visited a museum in Halifax where there was a lot of information about the explosion. The chapter about what happened to the children was rather heartbreaking.

Just Started:

The Education of Augie Merasty: A Residential School Memoir, Joseph Augustus Merasty with David Carpenter:  The story of Canada's residential schools is not a pleasant one, much like many stories related to Canada's First Nations. The story of how Merasty collaborated with David Carpenter is just as interesting as the first couple chapters of Merasty's narrative.

Looking forward to:

The Orenda, Joseph Boyden: Although there has been some controversial accounts of Boyden's claim to aboriginal heritage (I have closer Métis ties than he claimed at one time), I love Boyden's writing. Looking forward to this one. 

Peace Shall Destroy Many, Rudy Wiebe:  I have read reviews of Wiebe's writing, and heard many others say how good it is. I'm going to find out for myself. This is the first of his novels. Another, Come Back, sounds very good. I read a review of it recently.

Vimy, Pierre Berton:  I have read many of Berton's books. I am drawn to Canada's history in the first few decades of the 20th century, inclding her war history.

Monday
Jan092017

Canada and the US: the difference was Victoria

I've been reading a book by the Canadian biographer and historian, Charlotte Gray. Gray is British by birth, but has spent her career in Canada, writing about her adopted country. Her book The Promise of Canada, was written in anticipation of Canada's 150th birthday. It is filled with stories of people who have contributed to Canada's history. In the opening chapter, she talks about some of the prominent figures of Confederation.

I loved high school history. When I was in my last year of high school, I took Canadian history, and the year's study focused a great deal on the differences between Canada and the United States. The teacher, Mr. O'Hearn, was one of my favourite teachers. I think he would endorse Charlotte Gray's observations about Confederation.

Unlike Amrerican independence, Confederation in Canada was achieved apart from the blaze of revolution. Confederation was not meant to permanently sever the link between Canada and England. Gray makes an interesting observation about how Confederation would have affected the ordinary Canadian:

The truth was that the central government was almost irrelevant to most people's lives. Citizens expected little from the new federal government in Ottawa: municipalities provided most policing; provincial governments administered most laws; people looked to churches and service clubs for charity. There was only one national symbol in the Dominion, and that was a symbol that resided elsewhere. In parlours across Canada, you would likely find a picture of Queen Victoria -- dumpy, unsmiling, but a crucial part of Canadian federalism. Loyalty to the distant monarchy was a defining difference between Canadians and Americans (emphasis mine).

I believe that last sentiment is an important part of understanding the differences between Canada and the United States. I think it would be a fascinating study to track the implications of that loyalty to the crown and see how those differences influenced Canada over its last 150 years.