Toronto Star - Andrew Cohen
A virtual country
On the 153rd anniversary of Confederation, Canada goes through the motions yet again. On Parliament Hill, the bells toll mournfully and the Maple Leaf hangs listlessly. Soldiers fire a 21-gun salute and Snowbirds fly overhead. Under sweltering skies, the prime minister still insists that Canada is "a young country," as he and his untutored predecessors have done since it really was a young country.Thousands gather on the grass. They hear breathless politicians declare that Canada is the best country in the world, a boast once thought terribly un-Canadian, but lately as predictable as the national time signal. In the shadow of the Peace Tower, they watch entertainers of every ethnicity, reflecting this extraordinarily diverse society. The show is as inclusive as Canada itself. Everyone must be represented — there was a minor scandal last year when Karen dancers from Burma were overlooked in the festivities — because peoples from around the globe are reserving rooms in Hotel Canada. All want a role in this spectacle, as if to confirm their arrival.Troupe after troupe of new Canadians in traditional national costume march across the stage. Recalling national birthdays long past, there are some high-stepping Ukrainians, fiddlers from Quebec and throat singers from Nunavut. But these are passé today. Now, the headliners are drummers from Senegal and acrobats from Brunei. After a half-generation of open immigration, Canada is home to millions who have fled the drought and desertification that have turned parts of Africa and Asia into a netherworld and made the environment humanity's ruin. The land that God gave to Cain and Voltaire called "a few acres of snow" now looks like Shangri-La in a beleaguered world. No wonder Canada's birthday party goes on for three days, as if it were a Hindu wedding.
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