I saw a survey recently that calculated the state of the Canadian identity by asking a cross-section of Canadians questions about their sense of our cultural stereotypes and how they felt it represented their own sense of a national identity.
The consensus, they said, was as diverse as the country itself. No doubt. Just because we are super polite doesn’t mean we aren’t unique within our borders. This is what makes us great. Diversity and respect. It’s also what makes us different than, well, you know who (it’s not polite to point fingers).
But the question on this survey that got my attention was this: “If you could have dinner with a renowned Canadian, living or dead, who would you invite?” (Of course, my first thought was who would cook, because I assure you it wouldn’t be me).
I couldn’t pick just one person, so I randomly picked 10 and all of them deceased – because let’s face it, they have much better stories and no reason to lie. I would need a very big table.
My imaginary seating chart was carefully planned. As head of the rectangular table, I would have Louis Riel to my left and Nellie McClung to my right. On the far end, opposite me, Pierre Elliott Trudeau (so we could make faces at each other, because we would).
Beside Riel, William Lyon Mackenzie (my favourite angry Scotsman). What can I say? I like rebels. My greatest female writing influence, Margaret Laurence, would be more than happy to sit next to these fellows (she was a rebel who appreciated both Scottish and Metis characters).
Stompin’ Tom Connors would make me smile simply with his presence, pulling up a chair next to Trudeau. Down the right side, McClung would sit beside the mesmerizing Leonard Cohen (because I want to believe even a hard-core suffragette could be wooed by Cohen’s seductive deep voice).
The always amusing and light-hearted John Candy would be seated between Wilfrid Laurier and Tom Thomson, because those fellas need a laugh, and Candy would keep it clean.
Mackenzie and Riel would swap stories of their rebellious comrades, but Connors and Candy would keep the party light. McClung and Laurence would be instant friends, talking about gender equality and the state of humanity. Laurier likes everyone. He would be in on all conversations, flipping between both official languages.
Thomson and Trudeau could talk about epic portages, the grace of canoes and mysteries better left unsolved. We would raise a glass to the nation we love. And yes, we’d take shots at John A., because he wasn’t invited.
These are my dream Canadian dinner guests: artists, rebels and politicians. In the end, they were just people who played a part in a vision for an emerging nation. 150 years later, that’s what we’re doing too. Humanity, respect, freedom of expression and a deep respect for the landscape we share is not a theme; it’s who we are.
For dessert, beaver tails, (with gluten, because I’m a rebel too).
Here’s to the next 150 years, Canada. True, patriot love.