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Friday, February 8, 2013

Where are the real Canadians?

Years ago, when I was very young, I met a couple who lived in Canada for a few years.  They entertained us with stories and I listen open mouthed. 

It all sounded so wonderful.  Canada sounded beautiful, but forbidding.  A place where men could be men, and women could proof what they were made of.  A land were the strong survived and the weak were send packing.

I knew there and then that I wanted to see and experience that land.  Years later I got the chance and arrived wide eyed and full of wonder in Toronto.

What I heard and saw was not what I expected.  Where were the tough men and women who took a no nonsense attitude to life?

I saw people bundled up from head to toe in a temperature of -3 degrees C (26 degrees F).

I heard that schools closed when a 30 cm (a foot) of snow was expected.

I heard of a record of car accidents because of slush on the roads.

I saw people sanitize their hands after opening a door, afraid of germs.

I saw folks lining up for a flu shot.

Who were these people and where were the tough Canadians?

We just left a hot South Africa and we were better equipped against the cold than people who lived here for years.

These weren’t Canadians. These were wimps.  When I saw a poster on a subway train stating “Citizens of Canada, show new immigrants what we are made of” I thought “What? Fluff?” 

Of course, the Canadians I met weren’t real Canadians, they were imports from other countries.  To find a real Canadian in Toronto you have to search far and wide.  You’ll find immigrants from various parts of Africa, India, the Middle East and South America, but to find a real Canadian (someone 2nd or 3rd generation) … no, no such luck. 

Back in Belgium we had cold winters too.  When I was a child we had no duvets, but had to make do with flannel sheets and blankets and occasionally a hot water bottle.  The bedrooms had no heating and sometimes we woke up to ice flowers on the glass windows.

We had no snow days at school.  No matter how cold it got or how much snow was on the ground, we went to school.  Not in pants and parkas mind you, but in skirts (short skirts) with no leg protection other than knee high socks.

As for snow fall … take your cue from Switzerland and Austria, Canada.  You haven’t seen snow until you’ve been to Zermatt.  Packs and packs of white stuff.  Yet nobody complains.  

Cars and trains drive on mountains with ravines of a few hundred meters (feet) deep, and everybody goes about their business like it’s just another day.

The men might offer you a glass of mulled wine or Jagermeister, while the women cheerfully fling open the windows of their houses to throw bread and nuts for the birds and squirrels.  They go about their business and when given half a chance they strap on their skis and head up the mountains.  Cold?  What cold … it’s winter, isn’t it?

In Canada the country all but comes to a standstill when the temperature drops.  Car and bus drivers turn into clumsy idiots, tacks freeze and trains get stuck, companies close early and schools don’t even open.

What happened to the Canada of my childhood stories?  What happened to all the real Canadians?

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