As someone who’s grown up in Manitoba and Alberta, and visited at least six provinces, I can tell you a few things. Not many, but at least five.
So: this is my Canada.
1. Every Canadian has a bear story
I heard this phrase from the England-born parents of two high school friends and suddenly realized it was true. I have more than one.
When I was 10, there was what they call a “problem bear” at the lake my family had a cottage at. In those days the only way in or out was by train (or pontoon plane). I saw the bear once from a distance, mistaking it for a dog; but it wasn’t the sort of thing my friends and I were too worried about. It had been nosing around people’s cottages but nothing huge.
I came back to my friend’s cottage after we had been out hacking around in the forest one day, hoping to get something to eat. His parents and brothers were out, and when we came in we saw one of the cupboard doors on the floor and some packaged food on the counter. It looked like someone had dropped a bunch of stuff. Then my friend noticed a lot more things had been damaged, including the kitchen window, which had been pushed in and wrecked.
We didn’t touch anything, and quickly realized a bear had tried to get into the cabin and when it found the window was too small it had destroyed about a quarter of the upper kitchen without even getting inside.
That scared the hell out of us, but worse was that night, when the bear came back, looking for more. My friend’s father heard the bear trying to get in through another window, and he jumped out of bed. He grabbed his rifle, and as he put it the next morning when I came to visit, “I was bear shooting, but I was also bare shooting — I didn’t have any time to get clothes on. But I got the son of a bitch.”
It was true: there were bullet holes in the window and blood spattered on the rocks outside.
After that, the park rangers were called in, because a wounded bear that isn’t afraid of people is no joke. I saw the rangers when they talked to people around the lake and it was pretty clear the bear was going to be hunted down and killed. I never heard when they caught up with it, but we didn’t have any problems with that bear after that.
2. Health care
Seriously, this is a boring one, but I get a lot of traffic here from the United States, so I might as well add my vice to the chorus of Public Health Care Works. We don’t have a perfect health care system, but man, there have been many times I went to see a doctor or needed to go to the hospital to get something checked out (like the time I had a bad cough that was really bronchitis and was down to 10 per cent of my lung capacity), which I would not have been able to afford on my own.
I love winter. It’s magnificent, it’s bleak and bright and bold, and when it hits minus 30 Celsius on the prairies you feel in your bones that you’re alive. I know everyone else hates the cold and snow, and I know a big part of why I love it is I can afford central heating. But it’s a beautiful season, and at least you can dress for it. When it’s brutally hot in the summer, you can’t.
4. Our writers rock
Every country has its great literature. But if you haven’t read Canadian writers like the savagely satiric Mordecai Richler, bitingly intelligent Margaret Atwood, or pointedly observant Farley Mowat, not to mention Stuart McLean, whose Christmas stories alone will have you in stitches, you are missing out. I’m not even scratching the surface here! Read Canadian.
5. We are a great haven for werewolves
You may laugh, but it’s true. We defined the first hugely popular female werewolf in Kelley Armstrong’s Bitten and its sequels. Douglas Smith combines Native and European mythologies in his Heroka series, including Spirit Dance. American writer David Wellington chose Canada’s far North to set his fantastic werewolf novels Frostbite and Overwinter. And Margaret Atwood even wrote a poem about them — Update on Werewolves.
So there you have it — five of my reasons why I love Canada. What are yours? Let me know in the comments!