July 01, 2007

Canada Day 2007

Once again, it's Canada Day, that day of the year when Canadians shed their normally reserved patriotism1, scour their wardrobes for something red, and overtly celebrate all things hoserish. (Surprisingly I have not a single article of red clothing, so I settled for showing my love of my country by having a large Timmy's double-double and listening to Rush.)

Today is Canada's 140th birthday. Like most Canada Days in Ottawa, it looked all day like it was on the verge of dumping a foot of rain. Unlike most, it didn't.

I believe this is the first time I have been in Ottawa on Canada Day on a Sunday. The last time July started on Sunday was 2001, but I think I was out of town that weekend. So it has been a fairly low-key day for me: I attended church, spent a little while downtown to take in the sights, watched some TV, and wrote this blog.

But the day started with a bang. Wanting to avoid heavy downtown traffic, crowds, and overfull buses, I decided to attend church at our satellite campus. Unfortunately, I discovered too late that the only short route to my bus stop had become a crime scene - it was blocked off with police tape thanks to a triple homicide. So I had to go well out of my way to get around it: what should have been a 5-minute walk took more than 10. Naturally, I missed the bus. So I opted to brave downtown and go to a later service, since I could at least get to it on time.

Every Canada Day, I like to write up a brief sketch of a Canadian patriotic song. I've been through our national anthem, a song that almost became it, and a song from Nova Scotia, where my family comes from. This year I've decided to do something a little closer to home.

In 1967, the government of Ontario wanted a catchy jingle to promote the province at Expo '67's Ontario Pavilion. They commissioned Richard Morris and Dolores Claman the lyrics and the score, respectively2. The outcome was "A Place to Stand, A Place to Grow":

Give us a place to stand and a place to grow
And call this land Ontario
A place to live for you and me
With hopes as high as the tallest tree

Give us a land of lakes and a land of snow
And we will build Ontario
A place to stand, a place to grow

While the "Ontari-ari-ari-o" chorus is decidedly corny, the song was surprisingly popular: as a 45 rpm record, it sold over 50,000 copies, and has been revived once or twice in recent years to promote Ontario tourism, which says something about its popularity. It has even been proposed as an official provincial anthem. Back in Grade 1, in the early 1970s, I was taught "A Place to Stand" in school. I'm sure, judging from the modified lyrics we learned, it was intended to teach a little bit of local geography as well as patriotism. The song is probably hard-wired into the mind of any Ontarian older than 35.

"A Place to Stand, A Place to Grow" was featured in the short film A Place to Stand, by Christopher Chapman. It is best known for its "multi-dynamic image technique" - a fancy word for multiple split screens all simultaneously showing different images. The film won the 1967 Oscar for Best Live Action (Short Subject). Steve McQueen was supposedly so fascinated with the technique that it was incorporated into his next film, The Thomas Crown Affair. Today the effect is an indispensible aspect of the style of 24. An excerpt from the film was used as a tourism commercial:

Previous Canada Days:


1 Overtime footnote: Apart from hockey playoff season, anyway.

2 Double overtime footnote: Claman's biggest claim to fame came later: she penned the other official Canadian anthem, the theme to Hockey Night in Canada.