Monday, October 29, 2018



Once upon a time, believe it or not, the federal government made it illegal to call yourself Canadian on the forms of StatsCan, particularly at census time.
I challenged this at provincial and federal human rights tribunals which ignored me on their grounds that I was just the Editor of the Toronto Sun and tabloids really didn't count with the Establishment.
Except the not-so-secret weapon of the Toronto Sun was columnist Doug Fisher, who before computers was the trusted memory of official Ottawa.
 Fisher had been a MP thanks to being the giant killer who defeated C.D. Howe, one of the most powerful pols ever to walk the Commons. Then he became a columnist feared and respected by every political leader in the land, particularly on immigration and native issues, and as a librarian by training, had the best files on any issue you could think of to buttress his opinions.
I was at many a party in Ottawa where leaders like Jean Chretien talked about Fisher's files as one of the best resources in the country.
The politically correct armies were just getting rolling but when it came to issues as sensitive as Indian/native/indigenous affairs, no one dared tackle Fisher even when he pointed out that the PC police were often full of crap and as a result too much money was spent and wasted on and by native leaders.
I began a Count Me Canadian campaign, in editorials, columns, speeches and electronic appearances, saying that Canadian should be allowed to call themselves exactly that when official federal questions involved ethnic origin.
With broadsides from Fisher and some immigrant leaders, we won, the census bureaucrats actually crediting the Sun for the change. So Canada as the next century approached actually went from fines for Canadians who dared call themselves Canadian on forms (we had to write it in) to formal recognition that as a country that was actually older than half the countries in the world, it was O.K. to say it was our origin. We no longer had to say our family originated in failed foreign regimes that specialized in driving their people to seek their fortunes elsewhere.
I hadn't thought of the issue for years. But I just read a letter-to-the editor complaining that the writer had to complete a form in which listing Canadian as an ethnic origin was not allowed.
Do we really have to go through this war again? Do we really have to go back to one of the sturdy roots for the good change, the great campaign by John Diefenbaker around 1960 to end hyphenated Canadianism?
Look at my family history. My father was born just two years after Confederation and came here from Cornwall a decade later. My mother came here from Holland in 1909. More than a century later, I visit the smuggler's coves of Cornwall and the canals of Rotterdam that my father and mother left behind and enjoy myself but don't really feel kinship.
Since Mary's parents came nearly a century ago, my three sons have our century-old roots in England/Holland/Slovenia, but their base, their source, is Canadian, not some hybrid gruel loved only by academics and those who boost the mosaic rather than the melting pot because they have more power (and grants) when they divide with hyphens fashioned as swords more than links.
Whenever I write about this, I still smell the stench from the past when ethnic origin and religion mattered more than the capability of the person in question. It's really not that long ago that politicians and businessmen found it necessary to fib about their history, and I'm not just talking about serial liars like Donald Trump who pretends he doesn't have German ancestors.
Religion doesn't count any more. Orange Toronto died a long time ago. Roman Catholicism may have been an issue in the mayoral election of 1972,  and it did take the city 146 years to elect its first Roman Catholic mayor in Art Eggleton in 1980, but we have just gone through a number of elections when religion wasn't important.
Or so they say.
I would just as soon not return to the days when our officials forced us to remember foreign roots that should instead be lost in the mists of history.
Count Me Canadian on every question about my ancestry or I will shove a bushel of forms down the throat of every official/professor/politician who wants to drag the baggage of other lands into this, the best country in the world. (Sorry, but the daily gush of patriotism south of the border is a tad infectious even though it must be obvious that we Canadians are much better and have a much nicer country.)

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