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Who are we? In Canadians, one of Canada’s most intelligent and beloved writers maps our national psyche in a wonderful and ambitious work. Canadians is an entertaining portrait of this country and its people, through its history, popular culture, literature, sport, landscape, and weather. In his pursuit of the Canadian national identity, MacGregor has travelled far and wide, taking our pulse, telling our stories. A sparkling blend of historical, anecdotal, and reflective writing converges in a narrative that is extraordinarily learned in its perceptions and light in its delivery—all trademarks of this remarkable writer’s work.
But so, it seemed, was everyone else. Not only was the national media taking over most of the hotel space around the legislature, the Prime Minister’s Office had sent an entire team of legal arm-twisters to try to talk some sense into Harper. The shy, ponytailed Native must not be allowed to destroy the country over some minor point—Aboriginal inclusion in the Constitution—that could easily be cleared up at a later date. Trouble was, no one could find him. Native leaders from across the country and Harper’s own extended family had also descended on the capital, and they had ensconced Harper in a place where no one could reach him.
He erects a nine-metre cross bearing the words “Vive le Roi de France,” claiming the new land for France. When the chief, Donnacona, complains, Cartier says it’s merely a landmark. Cartier later returns and seizes Donnacona, taking the chief, his sons, and seven others to France, where within a few years they all die in misery. 1611: Henry Hudson establishes the fur trade in James Bay, ripping off the first Indian who comes to trade by demanding twice as many pelts as offered for a mere hatchet. 1685: The governor of New France, Marquis de Denonville, writes that Indians “pass on to us a great degree of what is most malicious in them and take themselves only what is bad and vicious in us.
And taxes, of course, were too high. But Canada—dull old dependable Canada—had something new that was making it cool: that “certain boldness in social matters. ” While the United States seemed to be growing ever more conservative, the magazine reported, Canada was becoming ever more tolerant. You want same-sex marriage? Fine, head for Canada. You think possession of marijuana for personal use should be decriminalized? Just follow the smoke. Canada, The Economist boldly declared, had become “an increasingly self-confident country.
The young, fresh-faced soldier, jaw jutting out defiantly, standing face to face with the fierce-looking, camouflaged “Warrior” became the image that defined that summer of 1990. Inspired by Harper’s victory, Natives across the country took up the Oka cause. One day I ran into Frank and Rick Thomas, who had decided to walk down St-Michel, Oka’s main street, just to get a look at the famous barricade. Rick, having asked for a few days off from his job at a basket works in St. Stephen, New Brunswick, had jumped into his old 1977 Chrysler and driven three hundred kilometres out of his way to pick up his cousin Frank from the Shubenacadie Reserve in Nova Scotia.
I advised him to forget the media response because they were only going to laugh anyway. And if there was bound to be widespread knocking because of the Forum’s failures in Quebec, go with them rather than deny them and let it be known that this would be the first time ever that the voice of the Rest of Canada had come through so loudly and so clearly. All Canadians—and this included Quebec and the chortling elite—needed to hear this. Commissioner 13 then supplied his own “minority report. ” I said that Keith Spicer knew better than anyone what Canadians were thinking and saying.