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

Ontari-ari-ari-o!

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:

Footnotes

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.

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2 Responses to Canada Day 2007

  1. Denzil FEINBERG says:

    Thanks for your useful web-searched “Bilingual O Canada Anthem”.

    What seems mostly sung here in Ottawa (my new home city after 29 years in Winnipeg) is a mix of English with 2 lines of French. I have not yet found this. Can you help please?

    I’d learn it & try to get my Rotary West Ottawa Club to sing it instead of just English.

    Thank you.

    Denzil

    Ph 231-5915

  2. Ransom says:

    Hi Denzil.

    I don’t know what help I can be. Although the English and French versions of “O Canada” are both official, there isn’t an official bilingual version that blends the two.

    Typically, what you will hear (for example, at hockey games) is two lines of English, then two of French (starting with “Car ton bras . . .”), then back to English again from “God keep our land” to the end, pretty much as you describe.

    I would personally guess that the reason you hear the bilingual anthem in Ottawa is simply that it is the nation’s capital, and thus semi-officially bilingual (even though Ontario is officially English).

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