So I started speaking to the students about what I had just seen and I started asking them about it. I asked the indigenous students about these kids who were either Canadian-born or from all over the world, how they work together. And I asked the other students how they work with the aboriginal students. And they both said: ‘We’re building a country together.’
If there is any symbol of Canada for me, it was that day.
– former prime minister Paul Martin
9. The ‘small town’ of Canada
I love being able to travel the world and run into a Canadian and feel like we are both from the “small town” of Canada. Like when someone says, “Oh, you’re from Vancouver. Do you know John?” And three times out of five, you do know John.
– Olympic skier Manny Osborn-Paradis
10. Our raw natural landscape
Several years ago, a magazine editor built an off-the-grid home with her husband in Ontario’s Haliburton Highlands.
“It was an incredibly humbling experience to build on such powerful terrain – to become the custodians of this beautiful wilderness,” she says, and to celebrate her passion and respect for “the towering trees, the fresh water, the ancient rock and mighty wind,” she quotes from a poem by her sister, Katherine Dimma:
“Your wolves speak a secret language of woods / that teem and thick in the burning cauldron of night. / The moon goes on forever in you and this the wolves know, / raking mercury over your vast museum of lakes, your ancient granite – you are almost as pure as when the world began. / And your people say, we know we are home, / for nowhere can we live as free and mild, / nowhere can we walk beside so much space, / and nowhere is the human heart more realized.”
– Suzanne Dimma, editor-in-chief of Canadian House & Home
“I am in awe of the nature that we have the opportunity to experience as Canadians. It’s savouring the snow-capped mountains and the bright blue ocean, or enjoying a sweet stroll along the sea wall. It’s the calm of the Prairies, the serenity of the trees, and the gorgeous sunny days on the outdoor rink during the fresh Winnipeg winters. It’s the adrenalin of jogging along crisp Lake Ontario. It’s the national parks, the provincial parks. It can be fun to visit other places in the world, but there isn’t anywhere that feels as amazing as our super home.”
– Jennifer Botterill, sports broadcaster and three-time Olympic gold medallist in hockey
11. It’s where we fall in love
Childhood is a country one never leaves. It’s our first country, that we hold inside us the rest of our lives. This small poem evokes the summer when I was 8 on the banks of the Lorette River in Quebec. It’s probably the most beautiful river in Canada, because it’s the one where I played in my childhood. At 8, one can fall in love. My little neighbour, Nathalie (who lived in the cottage next door to my parents) was the same age. One day, as we were playing the woods, she came close to me and put a quick kiss on my lips. It was my first kiss, and tasted of candy. Of course, afterward we kept on playing because, at 8, it’s important to live in the world of our games.
“I remember her face / from the first forest / hidden in childhood / and her daisy lips / moving toward the unknown / can you imagine a light lovelier / than the long, long time / climbing to the self / and memory / building itself a nest / for the possible next day / because wind blows through memories/ a wind of clearing and girl / lost in the woods of origins”
– Michel Pleau, Canada’s parliamentary poet laureate
12. Lester B. Pearson
I have few distinctive memories of Mike Pearson from my childhood years when he was prime minister, and even the millions of Americans and Britons who have flown into Toronto would be hard-pressed to identify the man after whom the airport is named. But in my mind he edges out Montreal bagels and the 1979 Habs as representing Canada at its best.