Two Christmas stories

Shortly before Christmas, a company I work with sent out a message to its customers advising them of shorter holiday hours for telephone customer service and technical support. Imbued with the spirit of Jesus, a customer in Cumberland County saw fit to reply:

I am sure that your boss has ordered compliance with the goddam politically correct and inoffensive crowd that is prevalent these days, but it is Merry Christmas or Happy Christmas in your correspondence with me, otherwise don’t bother.

I once threatened that the next person that bowed and cowered to the middle East and Asian immigrants’ demands, and wished me a “Happy Holiday,” I would punch him/her in the face.

I don’t care what church you go to or what you believe, this is Canada, and in Canada, we celebrate Christmas. Those who are offended by that should reconsider their decision to come here and retrace their steps to whatever pathetic swamp they came from. I have no love, and little caring, for those who would come to my country and change everything that I spent forty years in uniform to protect.


Having grown up in the United States, I’m accustomed to having one’s countrymen make you feel embarrassed for your country, but it doesn’t happen often in Canada. This gent managed to pull it off.

Now consider the pre-Christmas experience of three young Germans spending the year in Cape Breton, where they serve as live-in assistants to men and women with developmental disabilities at l’Arche. Finding themselves with four days off from their intense duties, the adventuresome trio made a quick trip to Newfoundland, where they booked rooms at Sheppard’s B&B in Gros Morne National Park.

Ka Klicker, who called for the reservation, noted that proprietor Doris Shepphard, “seems to be very nice.”

The night of their arrival in Trout River happened to coincide with the annual Christmas party Doris hosts for her church group. Nothing would do but that the Germans join the party. And to their astonishment, when they got to the celebration, each was presented with a personalized Christmas card and a small gift.

“It was unbelievable,” said Klicker, who had already told me, a few weeks earlier, that the warmth of the welcome she received in Cape Breton was the thing she found most surprising about Canada. Now Western Newfoundland trumped even this standard of hospitality.

“Everyone in Newfoundland was just so friendly, so welcoming, so kind,” she said, shaking her head in amazement. “This would not happen in Germany. Germans are friendly, but not like this.”

To resurrect a shopworn phrase, my Canada includes Sheppard’s B&B. And reduced holiday hours.

Trout River
The Pond Lookoff, Trout River, NL

An infelicitous phrase – updated

Souleymane Sy Savane,-csThe Harper Government’s ambivalent attitude toward immigration deserves more thoughtful consideration than I have time for this morning, but in light of yesterday’s release of a new guide for prospective Canadian Immigrants, a manual high in testosterone and shy on environmental values, I flag it here for future discussion.

An immigrant himself, Contrarian left yesterday’s Film Series benefit for L’Arche Cape Breton* thinking about the Senegalese immigrant cab driver at the centre of the featured movie — an ebullient character named Solo, brilliantly played by Souleymane Sy Savane, himself an immigrant to the US from the Ivory Coast.  Solo is one of those characters you instinctively root for, a guy who makes you proud to live in a country that welcomes immigrants of all stripes.

Jason Kenney-csAs I left the theatre with these thoughts running through my head, I flipped on the radio to hear Immigration Minister Jason Kenney hectoring would-be immigrants about their responsibilities:

When you become a citizen, you’re not just getting a travel document into Hotel Canada. You are inheriting a set of responsibilities, of obligations as a citizen.

A travel document into Hotel Canada. Perhaps it was merely an off-note in an otherwise skillful presentation, but the minister’s infelicitous phrase was striking for its portrayal of the immigrant as other, while its vehemence conveyed deep conviction. Comments welcome.

[Updated] Dennis Falvy demurs:

If the concept of ‘other’ is bothersome, how does one approach the definition of being Canadian? Unless ‘Canadian’ means ‘citizen of the world’, there will have to be a distinction between being a Canadian, and not being a Canadian, a distinction that leads ineluctably to being the one or the ‘other’.

And even if one favours the concept of being a citizen of the world, the seats of power, and sources of human abuse, in the world do not accept this idea yet, and there is no apparatus to support or enforce it. I for one would prefer that my citizenship distinguished me from some of the rest of the world, and being Canadian works just fine (at least until Stephen Harper succeeds in bamboozling voters into allowing him to destroy the country).

As for testosterone playing a large part in the new citizenship manual, I presume you are referring to the part played by the military in Canadian history. The thousands of women who have served and sacrificed for Canada, especially those now serving, would no doubt find fault with your choice of words, particularly this close to Remembrance Day. Now that was an infelicitous phrase.

Miles Tompkins draws a connection between Kenney’s musings and his government’s treatment of Maher Arar:

“When you become a citizen, you’re not just getting a travel document into Hotel Canada. You are inheriting a set of responsibilities, of obligations as a citizen.” Yes, and when you are a Minister of the Crown, you also have a set of responsibilities under international treaties which are the law of the land. There is a bit of an obligation there.

(*) Ironically, L’Arche Cape Breton relies heavily on temporary foreign workers, young people who spend a year or two in the community before returning to their native lands. Their work features long hours, few days off, intense personal care of men and women with significant developmental disabilities, and the extraordinary personal growth that comes from that experience in the L’Arche context. In some cases, the work these young people do fulfills the national service obligations of their home country.