This weekend, Canadians across the land, all 3,854,085 square miles of it, will be celebrating Canada Day. That is an amazing amount of land for a country with a population of only 34,842,000 (2012 Census) and it equals 1.4 people per square mile. Huge tracts of land form most of its provinces. To imagine their size, I remind myself that several U.S. states would fit into just one province. Canada became a sovereign state on July 1, 1867 and Canada Day has been celebrated ever since on that date. Canada Day is special for me this year. As an immigrant, I thought I had no roots here, but I have recently learned that a branch of my ancestors lived in Québec and Ontario. I knew that Great-great-grandfather Samuel Davis entered the United States from Eastern Canada before he migrated to Montana to raise a family, but I honestly didn’t know that his immediate family had actually settled above the border. Thanks to the genealogical research of my cousins Terry, Jim, Don, and Kelley, I now know that the Davis family immigrated to Canada from the U.S. well before the War of 1812. Earlier still, the Davis’ had immigrated to the early American colonies from the British Isles and, as loyalists, their sympathies lay with the British. My cousin Terry also told me that because my ancestors were colonists, if we wished, we could join the Daughters of the Revolution (DAR). She added that she hadn’t because we had relatives on both sides of the early North American wars, above and below the border.
Coming from a family that heavily identifies with its Irish ancestry, learning about this British loyalist streak was shocking…. But what can you do? The towns in which my ancestors lived were in Lower Canada, Québec, and Upper Canada, Ontario. That was all there was to ‘Canada’ back then…. I love knowing my ancestors originally settled in a town with as lyrical a name as Saint-André-d’Argenteuil, Québec. At this point in the story, though, I must stress that I am talking about Anglo colonists, as the land mass that is now Canada was already populated by indigenous peoples. I recently watched a television show on Canada’s History Channel about the War of 1812…. Evidently, the average American or Canadian both think they ‘won the war.’ However, historians appearing on the show stated that neither the British or American side won, because no land was ceded and losses were high. They did say, sadly enough, that the losers in the War of 1812 were the aboriginals, because that was the turning point in North American history when they began to become displaced.
As with Canada, Canadiana covers a lot of territory and many iconic motifs. Maple syrup, beavers, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the maple leaf, the Canada goose, canoes, Lacrosse, hockey. That reminds me…I went to a Rubens chocolate factory outlet nearby. While I was perusing bags of white and dark chocolate, my eyes lighted on a display of little chocolate hockey players! Only in Canada!! About the only thing you won’t find here is Canadian bacon, which is an American invention… Speaking of the U.S., the Canada/ U.S. border runs along the 49th parallel and it is a border without walls, fences, or razor tape. In fact, if you live on Zero Avenue, right on the border, your neighbors on the opposite side of the street will live in a different country…. Sometimes celebrations are shared, too. On July 1st, Americans in Blaine, WA, US, on the south side of Boundary Bay, can sit back and enjoy the fireworks display put on by the city of White Rock, BC, CA. From their lawn chairs, they’ll be able to sip their iced tea or lemonade while watching fireworks launched over the water on the north side of the bay. Then, on the Fourth of July, Canadians living in White Rock can sit back and take in their neighbor’s fireworks during the festival celebrating its nationhood. Colonies, independence, and Brittania….
When I’m in Canada, I feel this is what the world should be like.— Jane Fonda