Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

O Canada

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O Canada
My home and native land.
Your leaves are falling and people are crawling
back into their houses again.
The days are getting darker,
the nights are growing colder
and Christmas has begun its’ abrupt commercial invasion
into every public space,
onto every television.

O Canada.
Sometimes you make me weary.
With your ‘I’m sorrys’ and your ‘hi/bonjours’.
You’re so polite and unassuming
and the way you talk about the weather
as though it could be as catastrophic as it is
for other countries who live closer to the paths
of hurricanes, tornados, tsunamis and earthquakes.
You get the occasional flood
and though the winters aren’t what they once were
there’s always a chance you’ll have to call in the army
to deal with another ice storm.
And wouldn’t that be something.
Do you remember that storm?

O Canada.
When will you stop thinking yourself as the sum of your mosaic?
As the whole of your two solitudes?
As the neighbours to the north?
As the land of come-and-take-our-stuff.

O Canada.
When will you invite that Queen to leave?
I know you love her grandson and
got up early to watch the wedding
and you have photographs of the week that lovely couple came to visit
but aren’t you getting tired of pretending what you do
has anything to do with that country across the pond?
It wouldn’t mean you have to stop
watching Coronation Street and
you can still admire the accents from afar
but it’s your children we remember
on that day of remembrance.

O Canada.
When will you truly take responsibility for your past?
For desecrating the home and native land
of the native people of your land?
For washing away their language?
For kidnapping their children?
You’ve technically ‘apologized’ so that’s the end of it?

O Canada, you do excel at apologizing.
You don’t want to do things wrong,
don’t want to offend,
don’t want to be mistaken for one who steps on toes,
but you’re not as clean as you’d like to be,
not as young and naïve as you would have the world believe.

Don’t get me wrong,
O Canada,
there are so many things I love about you.
You kept your banking regulations,
you don’t talk about abortion or gay marriage
in your political debates,
you wear khaki shorts in the summer
and toques in the winter,
you like to play outdoors no matter what the season.
You recognize global warming
and try to protect your polar bears.
Your children are fairly well educated.
You believe in looking after the social welfare of all your people even though lines for Emergency Rooms
and kidneys could be shorter.

You change seasons with remarkable beauty.

But still, Canada, but still …
When will you get naked?
When will you lay it all on the line
and stop pretending you don’t know who you are?
When will you stop deferring to other nations’ sense of culture?
When will you stop fetishizing other countries' elections?
When will you stop thinking of yourself as the teenager in the room?
As the imposter?
As one who has just been invited to eat at the grownup table?
When will you change your headlines?
When will you take pride in your politics, your communities, your people?
When will you start to speak with the voice of many as one?

O Canada.
We stand on guard for thee.
Let down your guard for us.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

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Erin Shields

Erin Shields is a playwright and actor who most recently won the Governor General's Award for her play If We Were Birds (Playwrights Canada Press). She is a founding member of Groundwater Productions through which she creates, develops and produces much of her work.

Go to Erin Shields’s Author Page