Home > acting, living, politics > How I intend to become (more) Canadian

How I intend to become (more) Canadian

Apparently I had a bright idea.

 

I am about as Canadian as a person comes; namely, I was born somewhere else (the States), my parents are immigrants from yet another country (England), I have both worked at and enjoyed many a good 2am conversation at Tim Hortons, and (if I am remembering correctly), Sarah Koury once described me as the most inoffensive person she knows. Or hardest to dislike, anyway. I listen to Stuart McLean’s CBC Radio podcasts every week, I am supposed to be French/English bilingual thanks to my entry into Late French Immersion, I once based a theatrical character on Harold from The Red Green Show, and, heck, I’ve even sung our national anthem on the ice at a hockey game.

 

And yet, despite all my innate Canadian-ness, I have a confession to make – I’ve never travelled the country. Never been anywhere east of Chiliwack for more than an hour or two, to be honest. Well, except for the dullest five hours of my life – the amount of time I spent locked in a room at the Toronto International Airport. On my way to somewhere else, of course.

 

Oh, alright, I’ll explain that one.

 

Waaaaay back when, my older brother and I went to visit my granddad in Florida, where he spent half of each year, minus a day. (Later, he would manage to get himself adopted by an couple in the 90’s – why not! His parents are dead! – in order to get American citizenship so he could stay for longer. He lives in the south of France now.) Anyway, as I was (…I believe…) only ten at the time, and my brother only twelve, we were declared ‘unaccompanied minors’ on the plane trip from Vancouver to Florida, with a transfer in Toronto. This meant that the flight staff were all very nice to us, lead us about… and locked us in a room in the Toronto airport for five hours, between flights.

 

The room contained a couch (which my brother promptly fell asleep on), a small table, a chair, and a television that would for some reason only pick up one channel, which happened to be showing – I kid you not – STAGECOACH RACING. Which sounds interesting! For about two minutes. And all I had with me was a substandard quality R. L. Stine book, The Beast, WHICH I HAD JUST FINISHED READING ON THE PLANE RIDE THERE. Not to great to start up again from the beginning. So, my impressions of Toronto have thus far been spoiled for life.

 

There wasn't even a crash.

 

But yes, in my life I have visited Seattle, New York, Florida, Paris (for a day), and England on many, many occasions, but not once have I stepped outside an airport in any other Canadian province. Not even our neighbouring Alberta, though I did go to UVic, so I’ve met thousands of (former) Calgarians.

 

Cover of "Why I Hate Canadians"

Why this burst of discovery writing? Two reasons. First, this week I began and finished reading Will Ferguson’s Why I Hate Canadians, an excellent book that managed to in Voltron-like-fashion combine a memoir, travel journal, and history book into an analysis of Canadian culture. Brother of my friend and director Ian Ferguson, Will has a keen analytical eye with just enough romance in his soul to be able to grapple with questions of patriotism, nationalism, and nature. This book WAS published in ye olden 1997, however. I would love to hear how he and his opinions on this country have shifted and changed with the collapse of the separatist movement and rise of the NDP. In the book, Will says, “The question is not whether Quebec will separate, but whether she will ever finally join us.” Have we now seen the next step toward that finally happening?

 

The second reason I’m drawn to writing this introspective post is, well, I was just rejected from the Ottawa Fringe Festival. Well, okay, not rejected, per say; it’s a lottery system, and my name wasn’t drawn out of the hat. So, rejected in the same way Nicole Rempel rejected me in grade six by way of us ending up in separate school districts.

 

But yes. I feel it’s time I explored more of this country, and not just to get the foul taste of my first experience with Toronto out of my mouth, not just because I one day would like to be an elected public servant in this country, not just because to be a working actor in this country means needing to move about and work in different cities… but because I want to step into different cultures with different ideals and motivations, all while keeping that olive branch of Canadian-ness. I may be eight thousand kilometres from Newfoundlanders, but we share enough in common to sit down and have a pint. And one way for me to explore this country is through the Fringe theatre circuit, travelling from city to city, performing.

 

But I need to get into the festivals to do that. So far, in this, the Fringe-entry drawing season, I am in for Regina and London, Ontario. Out for Saskatoon, Montreal, and Ottawa. I’ll need a few more cities to make the tour not potentially financially crippling. Here’s hoping.

 

Here’s to finally meeting more of this country I call home.

 

And then... THE WORLD! MUAHAHAHAHAAAA!

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