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The Weather (1/10)

Who are we? Every once in a while, we wonder, locals and immigrants alike. People shaped the country we live in, but the face of this same country changed, evolved and reflects today’s world as well as its history. At least, I hope so, because I consider change chance and not a threat.

Canada is a multicultural country. Today, according to the BBC , 20% of people living in Canada are foreign-born and 250 000 newcomers make Canada their home each year. These people will soon be Canadians are most of them will adapt to the North American way of life, while bringing some aspects of their own culture in Canada. Food, languages, customs, skills… we all win.

Yet, some are scared. Who are we? We all are the faces of Canada. The traditional Anglo-European face of the country is changing, that’s true. But Canada is very much alive. National identity isn’t something static and we don’t have to look alike to form a country. A lot of things make Canada a distinct country, from the trivial little things to political choices, from geographical places to special people, from values we share to things that bring us together.

In 2008, I’ll apply for Canadian citizenship. I first came here in 2002 and I’ll be one of these foreign-born. French. Canadian. And a citizen of the world.

What defines Canada? I’m starting a series on our icons, from people to places, from everyday life’s items to sports, from trademarks to customs. Don’t expect anything too deep: this is Canada the way I see it. I don’t bring answers. I just want to share, and I will with you every Saturday — enjoy!



Obvious Canada #1 icon: the weather. When you think of Canada, you have the mental picture of a frozen tundra. Can’t blame you, because it’s pretty accurate! Weather changes are often drastic and we can go from +40C in the summer to –40C in the winter.

I took the first picture on the left in the summer, at sunset. This is the Canadian Parliament in Ottawa. The second picture was taken during last year’s Winterlude. In front of the actual building is an ice replica of the Parliament.

The weather here has a price. I’m not talking about the zillions weather channels and weather-related websites, but also about the snow clearing budget. The last big storm buried Ottawa in debt, as the Ottawa Citizen explains. Salting roads, clearing snow in the streets, closing schools and sometimes services comes at a — pretty high — price Snow removal sometimes turns into a big issues, and I’m not even talking about the dreaded ice rains and ice storms that can destroy crops and paralyze a city faster than you can say “oh shit”.

Yet, Canadians love to brag about the weather, and I like to indulge too, as in Blizzard, checked or Through The Storm. If you wait for the bus in and it’s –40C outside, chances are that someone waiting with you will comment: “oh, that’s nothing… back in the 70s, it was at least –50C for six months a year!“. If you’re shoveling snow on your driveway, passerby may say: “well, the 1990 storm was much worse, trust me on that eh!“. Basically, the weather was always colder, the storms were always bigger, the rain was much wetter… long time ago. Preferably when you weren’t here or too young too witness.

I’m tellin’ ya. They like it. And so do I.

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