On Saturday, August 11, I performed my show at the annual Couchiching Conference. Jane and I met there 11 years ago when I was a visiting speaker (pronouncing great truths on globalization and publishing, I recall) and Jane was a hospitable member of the board, tasked with making visiting speakers feel welcome. We were married within the year.
The conference theme this year was The Arab Spring, and the implications for Canada. My Stories About Storytellers show was labelled as “And Now For Something Completely Different,” which was very accurate billing. But much of the Conference had dealt with the worrying situation facing the minority groups in many nations in the Arab world, and Hugh MacLennan provided an interesting link there.
I recalled for the audience that it was Hugh who made the point that Canada was formed from “defeated peoples.” Hugh listed The Loyalists, driven north after losing the American War of Independence, the French-Canadians after 1759, the waves of Highland Scots ejected after The Clearances, the Potato Famine Irish. Thereafter there were waves of defeated people from Europe, followed by more recent examples like Vietnamese Boat People, Ugandan Asians, victims of the Yugoslavian troubles, Tamil refugees, and on and on, not to mention our invaded aboriginal people.
I went on to suggest that if you were trying to create a society that was concerned about minorities, not just the triumphant majority, you couldn’t devise a more promising background than Canada’s.
As a punch line, to show how long-lasting this cultural heritage of support for gallant losers really is, I asked what other nation would be so proud of an Olympic bronze medal? Think about it. It was no accident that Christine Sinclair was selected as our flag-bearer. That bronze medal was the great event of the Olympics for most Canadians.
Hugh MacLennan would have been very pleased.