What Defines Us: Harper’s Version

Apparently one of the reasons we are going to spend all this money on arctic patrol ships is that “Canada’s Arctic is central to our national identity as a northern nation.” Oh, well, that comes as quite a surprise to me and the millions of other urban Canadians for whom “up north” means a place where you might go to a cottage.

Canada’s Arctic is central to the stereotype that many people have of Canadians. I suspect that I am not a unique case when I say that I have never seen polar bear outside of a zoo, I’ve never used a dog sled as transportation, I’ve never spent a night in an igloo, I have never seen any fjords in person, I do not know how to hunt seal, I have never felt permafrost under my feet, my ratio of green to white Christmases is running about 1:1, and what’s more, these things are not terribly high priorities for me either.

It’s not that I never want to see the north, I’m sure it’s interesting and/or beautiful at times, but on my finite vacation dollars I can make a much strong case for, say, Thailand, India, or even California. If I wanted to get closer to the pole, I’d even rather do so by going to St. Petersburg where there’s at least an interesting historical city if all the natural beauty doesn’t live up to its billing.

I don’t want to slight northerners, their culture, or their landscape, but it is not how I conceive of Canada since it is not my experience of Canada. I suspect that a majority of Canadians are with me on this one.


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