How long have we been together? Forty-six years? Granted, for the first five or so, I didn’t really know you existed, and it was several years still before I learned of Toronto, though even then it was hard to imagine such a thing could possibly exist. I still have a hard time believing in Sudbury.
But one way or another, Canada, you’ve always been there for me. A little rough around the edges maybe, a little wet, sometimes too frosty, but solid, like a shield – a Canadian shield.
Lately, though, something’s changed. You’re not the Canada I once knew.
I’ve always known you’ve had your faults, Canada, but they were minor faults, mostly around the St. Lawrence River Valley, certainly nothing of San Andreas caliber, nothing to get too shook up about.
I willingly overlooked the low self-esteem, the neediness, the Chrétien years. When you went through your midlife constitutional crises, people would ask me if I was frustrated with you and I would say, “No, not Meech.”
Sure, I looked at other countries from time to time. Who doesn’t? It’s only natural. I even went so far as to shop in other countries. It’s only NAFTA. But I always came back to you.
Broken promises? There were those too. “The twentieth century belongs to Canada,” you told me. In the end, Canada could only borrow the twentieth century and paid hefty user fees to boot. And what with all the greenhouse gasses, there’s no way we’re getting our damage deposit back on the twentieth century.
But I forgave everything, Canada, because at the end of the day (a half hour later in Newfoundland), you were a good country. You had heart, you had spirit, you had dill pickle chips.
These days, I’m not even sure I recognize you.
We used to share everything, Canada. You couldn’t wait to tell me about the latest report on the thinning Arctic sea ice. Now? Nothing. You don’t want to talk about it. For that matter, you don’t want anyone to talk about it.
Those faults I mentioned? You used to downplay them, for example your dirty little tar sands secret. Now, you’re not satisfied with merely airing your dirty laundry, you want to convince everyone that it’s actually the clean kind of dirty laundry, you want to ship the dirty laundry to other countries, and you want to profit from the dirty laundry. Seriously, I’m worried about these tar sands. I think you’ve gone from simply “dabbling” to full-on toxic substance abuse.
And God forbid anyone criticize you. “You’re against me! You’re all against me!” you shout. “You’re pornography-endorsing, illegal-immigrant-harbouring, criminal-coddling, hockey-fight-hating heathens!” There’s just no talking to you.
You seem so… so… angry.
Is it too much caffeine? Is it the new Tim Horton’s coffee sizes?
Do you need an intervention? A Royal Commission?
And it’s not just me. When we used to get together with other countries, you were so charming with your dry sense of humour and your quaint, regionally non-specific accent. Everybody wanted to sit at Canada’s table. Not anymore. Not the smug “me first” Canada. Are you really that oblivious to the eye-rolling, the way the other countries mock your shameless name-dropping: “My friend China is the coolest. My friend China invited me to a sleepover. My friend China doesn’t care about your stupid human rights.”
I could probably handle all of this, chalk it up as some kind of phase if it weren’t for this latest affront to our relationship – the blatant spying. When you invade my privacy without my knowledge, Canada, you’ve crossed a line that can’t be uncrossed. And if I let you get away with it, well, that says something about me as well.
I’m not saying it’s over, Canada. After all, as Otis Redding sang, “I’ve been loving you too long to emigrate now.” But pull yourself together, Canada, or there’ll be no place for the state in the bedroom of the nation, if you know what I mean.