Canada is a place with countless histories. The phrase "Canadian history" should probably be banned for a while because really it's just an invitation to an argument. And the arguments ensue because the truth is that Canada is an idea with many histories.
Thus you have your own approach to the idea, and your own idea of how to mark the 150th birthday on Saturday. It's fraught, this thing. But maybe you can just turn on the TV once or twice during the day and connect with the celebration, or not. That's how it works best – just you and the TV. There is a lot of coverage of something or other to do with the day and the birthday. It's bewildering.
Now, me, forgive me, but I am not a bit interested in a Jonathan Torrens Canada Day special "featuring the world's biggest butter tart and a heartfelt musical 'thank you' note to Canada." I think Torrens is just great and a fine fella. But, please. The program is Your Special Canada, airing Saturday, CBC, 7 p.m. (and previously aired June 25th). In fact, if I am obliged to watch another TV special about Canada being, you know, "special" and featuring butter tarts or Chris Hadfield, I will burst into tears. (Colonel Hadfield is both on CTV's news special, Canada 150, starting Saturday 11 a.m., and on Air Farce Canada 150, on CBC, Saturday 8 p.m.) Like I said, it's fraught, this thing.
All three major Canadian broadcasters cover official events, the speeches and malarkey, in Ottawa, starting at 10 a.m. for CBC and 11 a.m. for CTV and Global. That all ends at 2 p.m., except for CBC which goes until 3 p.m. and then presents multiple episodes of Becoming Canadian, which offers "Compelling and emotional stories from citizens as they become new Canadians." If you're a bit tipsy already, you'll be in tears, I bet.
In the evening, it's a wacky menu of Canada 150-related matters. Global is airing the 2017 Indspire Awards (7 p.m.) in which Indigenous professionals and youth are recognized for demonstrating outstanding career achievements. That's a smart move for July 1st, although the awards aired on APTN in March. CTV offers a repeat of Canada In a Day (9 p.m.), and it's a very, very pretty portrait of the lives of Canadians at home, in celebration of and connected to, the country's 150th birthday.
Canada Day 150! From Coast to Coast to Coast (CBC, 9 p.m.) is the big live special from Ottawa and beyond. I gather it features folk icon Gordon Lightfoot and the biggest fireworks display in Canada Day history. Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly said so at a news conference. Some of the headlining artists from Parliament Hill include Walk Off The Earth, Serena Ryder, Dean Brody, Alessia Cara, Lightfoot and a special thing from Cirque du Soleil. But if you want to engage with a different icon, on CBC News Network at 9:30 p.m. there's In Conversation With Peter Mansbridge, with the Pastor discussing his career and legacy. No fireworks, mind you.
By Sunday, it is pretty much back to American programming on the commercial Canadian channels. Global has Big Brother, CTV has something called Steve Harvey's Funderdome, which would also make me burst into tears, I suspect, if I was forced to watch it.
Mind you, you can keep going all-Canadian with some good things on CBC. Once an Immigrant (Sunday, CBC, 9 p.m.) is Peter Keleghan's lovely documentary about taking his mother to her birthplace in Ireland and cheerfully ruminating on what it means to be an immigrant in Canada, with the forces of home pulling a person this way and that. It's funny and perceptive about the ideas of "family" and "home." And, by the way, I played a small role in getting the Irish part of this doc under way, and then left it to the participants and professionals.
Not unrelated and a good way to end your Canada 150 indulgence is The River of My Dreams: A Portrait of Gordon Pinsent (Sunday, Documentary Channel 9 p.m.). It's Brigitte Berman's loving and reverent look at the life and legacy of the actor, writer, painter and performer of so many acts that mattered. There are clips of him in Quentin Durgens, M.P. and in The Rowdyman, and we see him as self-deprecating poet. "I never really believed I was that great at anything," he says at one point. And, as we know, that's a very Canada 150 idea. This is a place with so many histories. Enjoy the one you want to celebrate or signify.