The Canada Day celebration in Ottawa is a highly symbolic affair that is supposed to bring the diverse citizens of Canada together to celebrate ‘canadian-ness’. So it was strange that the very first song chosen to kick off the entertainment part was about ‘flying away’ and it was sung mostly in French. The band consisted of a carefully selected individuals standing in for ethnic minorities like the Metis, Blacks, French Canadians and if the dancing girls were any indication, Irish and Scottish. There was a man doing what looked like an athletic version of pole dancing. I was waiting for the one performance that would truly represent all of Canada, sum it up in a way that the military parade, Michaelle Jean and the PM couldn’t.
It never came. The crowd was a bit sparse and Peter Mansbridge thought that it was because the weather forecast had called for rain. But maybe there were other reasons for the tepid aura and the poor attendance. I know that if I lived in Ottawa, I wouldn’t have gone either. I no longer feel that the political entity called Canada has a lot to do with me, my opinions and values. I came here as a thirteen year old girl, in 1953, and it seemed like Canada was the perfect escape from my ravaged homeland, Germany. It was a tabula rasa where I could slip out of my old identity as the child of the evil Germans into something wholesome, peace loving and pure. In those days, Canada was still interested in integrating its immigrants, unlike today when it is sending a clear message that the country of origin–and its issues–are just as important as Canada is. I became a fervid Canadian, and every time I came back from trips to the old country, I felt nothing but relief and gratitude to be back here. This changed last year when I returned from a two week holiday in Barcelona. Vancouver, my beloved green city on the Pacific, had lost its allure. I was dismayed and I still am. When a love affair comes to an end, there is always pain and sadness. That’s how it is with me and Canada these days.
The Canada Day celebrations just reminded me of how alienated I feel. Perhaps the most disturbing trend for me is that we are no longer a peace keeping nation. At the behest of the US, we are fighting in Afghanistan though practically all Canadians are opposed to the idea. We were told that the reason we are sending our soldiers to die in this arid outpost is to save the Afghan women from the horrible conditions imposed by the Taliban. It sounds noble, but it’s a mirage: the warlords that we fight side by side with are not much better when it comes to attitudes towards women. And eight years into it, women are still being oppressed, attacked, forced to stay home, denied any real equality. We are losing that war. And by now, we know that geopolitics is the reason we are fighting there. We’re fighting for control of oil resources, not women’s equality. There are now signs that the US is going to ask us to stay on after the agreed upon date of withdrawal in 2011. My guess is that we will do their bidding. My mother and I came here to get away from war, warmongering and the misery it causes.
I need to emigrate to another country, one that doesn’t kow-tow to the US and its imperialistic agenda. But I know it will not happen: I am too old. And besides, where is the country that is like the Canada of yore?