Snappy Answers runs every Saturday afternoon. Send your questions, be they tough or trivial, to [email protected].
Hi. I’m an immigrant all the way from the depths of third world South America. First of all I would like to say how blessed I feel to be able to live in a such a great country like Canada and such an awesome city like Toronto. I love this country and I love this city just as much or even more than I love my own home country; which takes me to my question: Why is there such an awful lack of patriotism and love for Canada amongst Canadians themselves? It just sometimes seems bizarre to me that most of the time even I display more patriotism for Canada and Toronto than everybody else who is originally from here.
The thing about Canada is, no one is “originally from here.” (Except, of course, native Canadians, and they constitute less than four percent of the population.) In this newest of worlds, we are all, relatively speaking, immigrants. Even after two, three, ten generations, most of us still derive our cultural identities from the old countries, from retold stories and revisionist histories, from mother and grandmother and great-grandmother tongues.
And most of us don’t see our subsequent lack of Canadian patriotism as all that awful, really. In fact, the polar opposite is true. We take great national pride in not having great national pride, which is to say, in not being American. Our leaders don’t wear cowboy hats. Our flags only really get waved during Olympic hockey. Our children are not learning about the Canadian empire.
Canadianness, then, is a negative: it is what we are not. What we are has been argued, imagined, second-guessed, and constitutionally wrangled to pieces. Canada is a multiple-choice question to which the correct answer may always be “all of the above.”
Or, if you live in Toronto, it might just be “who cares?”—because what we may lack in national pride, we more than make up for in local egotism.
You may have yet to see it, but we believe Torontonians love Toronto just as much as New Yorkers (heart) NY and Parisians aiment Paris. When we hate it—when we complain virulently about the traffic on the Parkway, the gentrification of Parkdale, and everything in between—it is really because we love it. It is a city of small towns, in which no one is separated by more than two degrees of Facebook friendship; a city of big dreams, but none too big for our heads; a city of clashing colours and flashing lights, of sights and scenes, parties and protests, money and art and “art.” Awesome is right. We’ll never stop feeling that awe.
I know Kingston Road is called “Kingston Road” because it leads to Kingston, Ontario, and “Dundas Road” leads to Dundas, Ontario. But why is Danforth Road called “The Danforth”?
What, you’ve never heard of Danforth, Ontario?
Actually, Danforth Avenue (not Road) was named after American contractor Asa Danforth, who was hired by the Upper Canada government to construct the east-west artery in 1799. He didn’t stick with the project, but his name did, and the Don and Danforth Plank Road Company completed “the Danforth” in 1851.
Why is the parking lot between OCAD and Grange Park still a parking lot? One of the reasons given for Will Alsop’s tabletop design was to allow access to The Grange from McCaul. Never happened. Why not?
From The New Yorker, October 2007:
The new building was to occupy the parking lot, but the neighbors in the apartment block objected to losing their park views and the college was eager to avoid confrontation. Alsop met with the neighbors and someone suggested lifting the addition into the air to allow views under it. “I don’t want to sound like some Communist here, but ordinary people do have some good ideas,” he told me recently. “Architects left on their own can’t break away from their preconceived notions.”
And speaking of preconceived notions, what makes you so sure that parking lot is really a parking lot? Come on, it’s at OCAD. It’s probably an art installation in a fourth (or sixteenth) year thesis on the impersonality of personal space.