Volume 31, Issue 1/2
Any presentation of Canada to an American audience must negotiate the prior relations of knowing and ignorance that exist between the United States and Canada. For example, when Canada figures in the American imaginary as a northern "beyond," or fails to register even as an absence, much is already being stated about the relationships of power between the two countries. But among the Americans I expect will read this volume, such declarations of total ignorance would be unlikely. Instead, I imagine my readers as largely subscribing to the tacit agreement that guides Americans and Canadians when they speak with each other about the territory occupying the northernmost reaches of this hemisphere. In this dialogue, Americans see Canada as an Other, but not an absolute alterity like the Soviet Union. Nor is it the impov erished, pacified Other that exists both within the United States and outside it at its southern fringe.
If Canadians, as Ian Angus playfully suggests in his contribution, "are, of course, more peacable, less greedy, more concerned with justice, and so on—just naturally better than Americans," the odd thing is that most Americans, at least in a conversation with a Canadian, will not disagree. Americans seem to want and need Canadians to be all these things, and perhaps most of all the conscience of what is ultimately imagined as a common civilization, but here uncorrupted by the guilt of imperial obligations. It is as if Americans occasionally wish to halt in reverie and contemplate what might have been.
When this vision serves as the basis for a volume or an anthology, there is a Table of Contents that frequently suggests itself: Under the rubric of a "survey," a series of binary oppositions take form: Canada's multicultural "ethnic mosaic" vs. America's ruthless "melting pot"; Canada's support for culture, whether it be through film development, state-owned radio and television services, subsidized publish ing, or "art banks" and parallel galleries vs. America's almost entirely privatized and commodified production of culture and the policing of cultural innovation (the Helms amendment); socialized medicine and quality public education vs. an inclination to privatize and localize the burdens of social welfare and maintain gross inequalities at all levels of schooling. It also includes a demonstration of the belief that Canadians' relation to the land is necessarily more immediate, less spoiled by industrial disfigurement and speculation.
There would be, of course, a certain pleasure in acquiescing to speak about Canada in this way. It cannot be denied that Canadians are often quite willing to do so because it enables them to receive confirmation of what they would like to believe about themselves. It is not easy having a neighbour that usually seems to be able to do what it wants when it wants, especially if affinities of cultures, history, and foundational experiences on a new continent underscore what are enormous differentials of power. Thus, Canadians have a highly ambivalent relation to the United States that bears many of the traits of dependency: admiration/resentment, disdain/ envy, security/menace. Americans like Canadians may imagine Canada as "open" or endless, but just as often Canadians also experience it as stubbornly limiting, as a sparsely populated political construction that is simply no match for its geography. Therefore, testimonials to the successful character of these constructions are understandably gratifying. But I hope it will not be taken as impolite if I confess that I am uncomfortable with this exercise. "Natu rally," Canada wins it, but then wasn't it structured to be compensatorry to begin with, offering precisely a symbolic superiority?
As a Canadian living in the United States, and especially as a Director of a program of Canadian Studies, I am no stranger to the opportunity and temptation to stand for my homeland in the binary structure I have described. homeland in the binary structure I have described. The demand to do so is rarely explicit, but is most often "simply" built into the logic of my pedagogical encounters. It can be a hollowing experience: I have felt profound empathy with contributor Gail Scott's reaction to playing the role of "bridge" when "representing" Québec writing in English Canada. She recounts how that bridge went right over her, "casting a shadow that left little trace of either my writing or my reflection ..." In the function of a bridge, she says, "the body of the speaker is what is lost in the interests of objective pedagogy . . ." When my body is in Canada, it may place itself within debate, in opposition to, or critical of a policy, a figure, even a general social tendency. When it is in the United States, this relationship easily becomes reversed, as I feel my body solicited to act as the patient receptor of all that is Canadian as it crosses the border, of itself embodying the Canadian.
Of course, as editor I have the responsibility of serving as a bridge into this special issue, but I did not want the issue itself to become a bridge aspiring above all to "objective pedagogy." Hopefully, it may serve as a bridge into Canada, but I did not want to ask my contributors to themselves become bridges or "native informants." Instead, I imagined my task as an occasion for reclaiming a personal relationship to Canada that would resist the conciliatory and universalizing imperatives of pedagogic discourse. To do so, I had to turn myself into another kind of bridge, the kind determined by Canada's paradoxical configuration: "presenting Canada" meant precisely attempting to span a land that, for all its imposing expanse of territory, is fractured along several lines including geography, but even more fundamentally along those of language, cultural identities, and conflicting senses of social ethos. Trying to embrace the totality of these would be an impossible enterprise. The choices are undeniably mine, but also are determined by whether or not those solicited wished to take their place in a project that sought to embrace them. It has been gratifying to enter into contact with writers and artists whose work I admire and have so many of them enthusiastically agree to participate in this project. It has also been exciting to discover new work by others who answered our general invitation to submit texts.
I strongly suspect that the Canada I see in the manuscripts before me is not the "contemporary Canada" readers may expect. Nor for the most part are the writers and artists the ones who usually come to mind when Americans think "Canada," even though some are known in specific American literary or art milieux. Yet, several—Nicole Brossard, Erin Mouré, André Roy, Phyllis Webb, Fred Wah—have received the Governor General's award, Canada's highest literary prize. The artists have gained international—by which I mean especially European and South American—recognition, and three of them, Melvin Charney, Geneviève Cadieux, and Angela Grauerholz have represented Canada at major world Biennales. While some of the contributors are senior in their fields, most are just now achieving the maturity of their craft; a few of the youngest may properly be called "rising." But if they are not the Canadians that Americans know, they are hardly marginal, unless by marginal one means that which we do not know.
Inevitably, many "Canadas" will be postulated across this volume's essays, fiction, poetry, and artist's portfolios. Perhaps it is not gratuitous to remind the reader at the outset that many of the contributors would undoubtedly be surprised to be told they had produced something essentially "Canadian." My intention in setting out to construct an anthology that resists the suggestion of a national "specificity" on the one hand and eschews a comparatist, or negative/positive photographic struc ture on the other, is not to condemn either as "false." Even less do I wish to call into question the talents of the many Canadians who are conscripted for such exercises or to excoriate those who derive pleasure from such projects. It would, of course, be both presumptuous and even hypocritical of me to do so. But I do worry that as such reflections of Canada amass, they produce a thickness of surface through which they are doomed to refract—however critically—what Americans first want to interrogate or seek relief from in their own culture. In this volume, I did not want Canada to fit into the space created by this refraction, into the dislocation of image it produces.
An/other Canada, then? Hopefully, an other Other, an unexpected series of mirrorings whose interactions may allow an American reader the experience of a different fracturing, a different configuration of conflicts, tensions, yearnings, opportunities.
* * *
"Canada," as Bruce Russell reminds us in his foreboding, imagistic contribution, has always been imagined around the topos of promise. But what if Canada today were becoming something other than this promise of perpetual, but deferred becoming? It was Canadian Prime Minister Wildfred Laurier who, early in this century, prophesied that "the twentieth century belonged to Canada"; yet, as we near the century's end, we may recognize a self-reflexive and anxious engagement with this prophecy in several of the contributions to this volume. Because this engagement is not always explicit, or immediately decipherable to readers unfamiliar with the parameters of recent debate in Canada, I want to take this occasion to explore what I take to be two of the key questions preoccupying the country at this time: Québec's constitutional status within Confederation and the nature of the country's economic relationship with the United States. Neither question is in any sense "new," and each possesses its own historical dynamic. But for the present, they have become interwoven in particularly volatile ways, producing optimism for some where others see "the end of Canada," or at least of the Canada they have known.
i—Canada and Québec
There is something treacherous and even foolhardy about discussing Canada's "national question" at the very moment the most recent negotiations concerning it are reaching a climax. By June 23, all ten provinces must approve the Meech Lake accord, named after the small lake in Québec where the provincial premiers gathered two years ago to try and find a formula that would allow Québec to sign the Canadian constitution. In 1981, the "British North America Act" was finally repatriated from London and supplemented by a new Charter of Rights and Freedoms. (This Charter, incidentally, breaks with British tradition and gives the judiciary powers of interpretation more akin to those of American courts; it also enshrines the legal rights Canadians incorrectly assumed they'd always had, an ironic effect of years of watching American courtroom dramas on TV!) Yet, Québec did not sign at that time, protesting that its national rights were not sufficiently recognized in the document. "Meech Lake" would recognize Québec as a "distinct society" within Canada and charge its government with protecting and promoting that distinctness.
How may Québec be understood as a "distinct society?" Of course, the most obvious marker of difference in Quebec is that of language: the overwhelming majority of its population is French speaking. But language here is not merely a question of communication; it is the sign of difference that traverses a whole series of other cultural and political markers. All Canadian provinces have legislatures and provincial libraries, but Québec has an Assemblée nationale, a Bibliothèque nationale, and a host of other "national" bodies. While English signs on the road to Ottawa herald one's arrival in "The Nation's capital," their French counterparts announce the proximity of "la capitale du Canada" or "la capitale fédérale." Québec's sense of distinctiveness contains strong elements of homogenous and collective Identity—most Québécois are the descendants of French colonists who arrived in the 17th and early 18th centuries; a common history whose decisive moment is seen as la Conquête, or the victory of the British over General Montcalm on the Plains of Abraham in 1759; the Catholic faith; a harsh geography that was precariously humanized through agriculture in a distinctive pattern of land settlement; and a civil code that even today is based on French rather than British law. Increasingly, however, Québec's sense of itself is built on notions of heterogeneity. In the modern nationalist discourse, Québec is seen as a jurisdiction whose citizens are not all of one derivation. An ethnic definition of nationhood now exists alongside a territorial one. Thus, immigrants to Québec may be desig nated "néo-Québécois," or as minorities within a national majority.
Within a pan-Canadian context, however, Québécois become one of two founding peoples, or more and more often an ethnic minority that, reinscribed as French Canadians, represents relatively small populations in provinces outside Québec, where other cultural groups are often far more numerous. As the proportion of francophones in the Québec population continues to grow (approaching 85-90% of the total), it continues to decline precipitously across Canada through the combined effect of assimilation—often the affair of a generation's time, now—and the acquisition of English by immigrants outside Québec.
What are the stakes of this "double inscription" of Québec within Canada? To clarify this question, it may help to step back momentarily and recall the itineraries of the European immigrant communities that came to Canada from the mid nineteenth to mid-twentieth centuries. Their quest for the surest trail to social mobility entailed not so much identifying with a pan-Canadian national ethos as with recognizing the "fact" of the superiority of the British colonial victors. Even as children or grandchildren of immigrants, we proclaimed our loyalties not so much to Canada as to British North America. I recall our Armistice Day assemblies every November 11 at the Jewish day school I attended in Winnipeg. The auditorium stage would be flanked by the Union Jack and the Red Enseign, Canada's unofficial flag at the time. It also included a Union Jack within it. A veteran officer would rehearse for us the ritual tales of valour and sacrifice, after which we would sing "Land of Hope and Glory" and "The Maple Leaf Forever." The first proclaimed of the British empire, "Wider still and wider shall thy bounds be set, God who made Thee mighty, make Thee mightier yet"; the second chronicled how from Britain's shore "Wolfe the dauntless hero came" to conquer Canada. This was the Canada of the "thistle, shamrock, rose entwined"; necessarily omitted was the fleur-de-lys of New France. Yet in the Province of Manitoba, we lived on land seized from the M?tis people, a nation of Indian and French mixed blood, and we were never taught that when the Province of Manitoba entered the Canadian Confederation in 1870, it was mostly French speaking. After the first social democratic government was elected in Manitoba in 1969, it proceeded to rehabilitate Louis Riel, the Métis leader hanged for treason by the Ottawa government in 1885. When we read his testament in high school, in which he says "Je sais que je suis le fondateur du Manitoba," some of my classmates stormed out of the room, indignant at the supplanting of the province's "British" history.
Yet, modern Canada—the Canada that showed itself off at the World's Fair in Montréal in 1967—gave itself a new flag free of any British iconography, and a state bureaucracy that has promoted itself as "nation-builder" through myriad government programs, especially through those promoting the twin ideals of "bilingualism and biculturalism." But this legal, institutional equality of English and French, Canada's two official languages, cannot obviate the importance of recognizing the inequalities that exist between them through historical, economic, and political relationships. Sherry Simon's essay on the role of translation in Canada begins by putting this question in a new way. In effect she asks, "Which voices have English Canada and Québec heard from their Others?" For most of Canada's hisotry, it is the Law itself, including orders-in-council, policy papers, judgements, and public signage which has been conveyed through translation to the Québécois. From Québec, however, English Canadians have been accustomed to receive mostly "culture" in translation: works of fiction, poetry, theatre. In Ottawa itself, the predominant language in various ministries seems largely to correspond to this division of labour between "material" and "cultural" preoccupations. But what happens when Québec tires of assuring "Culture" in such an arrangement and sets out to reclaim the globality and virtualities of its own culture? To do so, Québec writing has come to increasingly situate itself such that the dichotomy it addresses is no longer between English and French, whether understood as languages or as cultures in a majority/minority Canadian context. Instead, it explores the heterogeneity of language in Québec itself, including interactions among world languages and confron tations between different registers of French.
Québec's "double inscription" within Canada as nation and bulwark of an ethnic group or founding people leads to profound chasms of interpretation. Québec's Charter of the French Language (Bill 101) recognizes the de jure primacy of French, and in a sense merely affirms what exists de facto lor all majority cultures: that their language is the lingua franca of civil and political society. The fact that this needed to be codified in law reflects centuries of linguistic domination that itself resulted from and reinforced economic and political marginalization. Today, the specific provisions of the Charter and its sequel, Bill 178, regarding commercial signage are the most contentious. The law calls for unilingual French signs outside all commercial establishments. English Canadians generally feel these laws are an assault on individual freedom, while francophones in Québec sense that in an economy dominated by American and English-Canadian firms, the "option" to use English would inevitably communicate the message that French is dispensable, a "translation" of the English "original." They especially fear it would send a message to immigrants that it is simply not necessary to know French in order to function in Québec.
The acrimony caused by Québec's language legislation has served as a pretext for many to express their reticence toward the "distinct society" clause of the Meech Lake agreement. Ironically, many in English Canada who see Québec as de manding special "privileges" are often those who would deny French-speaking minorities in their provinces the access to educational, social service, and cultural services that English speakers fully enjoy in Québec. The most extreme of them, such as the Alliance for the Protection of English in Canada, rally against the "French menace" across Canada and demand that the country be declared unilingually English forthwith. The attacks of such organizations are currently felt most harsh ly by the already highly vulnerable French-Canadian communities outside Québec. Unlike the English in Québec, they have never been in a position to surround themselves with the kind of community institutions that reflect generations of economic supremacy. In a distorted and vicious way, the reac tionary sentiments of groups such as APEC signal a profound demographic evolution wherein Québec francophones continue to be minoritized within a Canada that has yet to come to terms with their national rights.
Of course, anything may happen between now and June 23 on the terrain of last minute negotiations, compromises, and the introduction of "parallel accords" that might satisfy certain specific objections of other provinces. Whether the dissenting provinces will actually stall or defeat Meech Lake to assure aboriginal rights in the constitution remains to be seen; but their interest in reforming Canada's Senate to make it more representative of regions with smaller populations and in encoding provisions for the eventual creation of new provinces are issues that have been insistently raised. In any case, Québec has opposed none of these issues on principle, but insisted that Meech Lake be adopted as it stands before proceeding to negotiate them. The graver problem is that many would like to add provisions to supplementary accords that, even if not removing the "distinct society" clause, would effectively override it. Whether Meech Lake is finally adopted or rejected, the symbolic issues it has raised have reminded all sides of the enduring differences in their respective visions of Canada. The tragedy is that if Meech Lake is adopted, it will not be in the generous spirit of welcoming Québec into the constitutional fold, but rather as the grudging recognition of political necessity. Québec now knows this as much as the rest of Canada. In this regard, although the very real possibility of the failure of the Meech Lake accord is the point of departure for Paul Chamberland's essay, the sense of discouragement expressed there could no longer be overcome by its simple adoption.
But today's crisis over Meech Lake is fraught with another source of anxiety. During the years leading up to Québec's 1980 referendum on "sovereignty-association," a form of political independence from Canada, an oft-repeated argu ment for "national unity" was that without Québec, Canada would be indistinguishable from the United States! This double bind of calling on Quebec's "distinctness" but being unwilling to acknowledge it within a new constitutional arrangement explains why many Québécois feel they are held hostage by English Canada which, unsure of its identity, "needs" Québec to prove its difference.
It is the new Canada-United States Free Trade agreement that has exacerbated this double bind by calling into question the very contract that brought Canada into being. As a territory and above all a market to be rescued from American expansion in the years following the Civil War, Canada was forged by unravelling a thin band of steel across the continent. As the railway pushed westward, it deposited immigrant colonies from Europe along its sidings. Some, mostly of British and Nordic origins, were offered hospitable land for farming; others, mostly of central and eastern European origins, were abandoned amidst rocks and scrub, where cold and epidemics took early tolls. Chinese were brought in to build the most dangerous expanses of the railroad through the Western mountains. Their employers were our "Fathers of Confederation": Railway and timber barons, bankers, and lawyers; it was not unusual for these men to take turns playing at these various roles.
Canadian banks and industries have emerged from a century of confederation with a prominent international profile. Their very size has often seemed equal to that of the state itself, and even if they were not nationally owned, Canada's largest corporations have always been so intimately identified with the origins of the country that it has been "natural" to demand of them a demonstration of "good citizenship." They were expected to accept and contribute to a series of social welfare organizations for which battles were waged and won. These institutions themselves appeared as "natural" as the traditions out of which they grew—the services provided by the Catholic church, British working class radicalism, cooperative move ments, and ethnic benevolent associations. They are crucial to the sense of "distinctness" Canadians have, especially in relation to the United States.
There are real consequences of this legacy: For example, Canadian branches of "international" (i.e. American/Cana dian) trade unions have often struck earlier and longer for a more far-ranging set of demands than their American counterparts, and American unions have often been able to wield the specter of these militant Canadian actions to win a better deal on their side of the border. Canadians do not see health services or cultural programs as commodities subject to market forces, nor as "subsidies." Yet, there is concern that the logic of free trade will see all these aspects of Canadian life reinterpreted according to the ideological constructs of American neo-liberalism. In this regard, Pierre Véronneau's survey of Canadian film demonstrates the precarious balancing-act performed by the industry in Canada between servicing Hollywood studios and promoting an original and pluralistic cinéma.
Free trade has raised many questions: The agreement may be bilateral, but can the fact that one partner is ten times larger in population than the other and supreme in world presence simply be dismissed? Won't Canadian companies argue that with unprotected markets, it will be impossible for them to compete with American firms if they have to offer their workers substantially more generous "social packages" than their counterparts across the border? Now that a once protected territory is felt to be a limitation by the social class that rushed to delimit it in the first place, will Canadians rise to the challenge and demonstrate through their myriad institutions that the country's distinctness, however it is imagined, is worth preserving?
The promotional discourses of Free Trade implicitly acknowledge these anxieties by exhorting Canadians to "have confidence" in themselves. Nowhere has this counsel been followed more assiduously than in Québec which, unlike the rest of Canada, largely supports the agreement. English Canadian intellectuals in particular have expressed their horror at this "betrayal" and warned the Québécois that for francophone culture, Free Trade can only mean certain assimilation into the United States. The answer in Québec—undoubtedly a bit hasty—has been that the French language will protect them. But underlying such a response are the politics of ressentiment, the largely unconscious revenge exacted for Québec's unresolved constitutional status. "Where were you," ask Québec intellectuals of their English Canadian counterparts, "when we were fighting for the right to protect our culture, to work and lead our lives in French in North America? What have you done to affirm our right to difference? Now that you feel your identity threatened by Free Trade, you expect us to oppose it. But if you feel threatened, maybe it's because there really is so little difference between English Canada and the United States, because we are what keep you distinct. So why should we help you when you won't help us?"
There is, however, a final irony in the intersection of Meech Lake and Free Trade. In the 1960s and 70s, the forces for national independence in Québec formed a mass movement based on a populist ideology that had anti-imperialist, social democratic, and even anti-colonial underpinnings. In Michèle Mailhot's contribution, there is a moving evocation of these discourses and some of the ways they intersected with questions of gender and cultural allegiance during the period of the Parti Québécois government from 1976 to 1985. In preparation for its referendum, the PQ sought to deeschatologize independence and insist that it would be as "normal" for Québec as it had been for the USA or any "mature society." At the time, Canadian and American business warned of economic catastrophe for Québec should it become independent, even of its probable reduction to Third World status. Moreover, in a conjuncture governed by the "stability" of the post-war agreements, the eruption of new national sovereignties in the developed world seemed unthinkable without causing major dislocations. In 1980, the Québécois voted "NO" almost 2-1 and denied their government the authority to negotiate "sovereignty-association" with the federal government.
But what has happened? The Meech Lake agreement was supposed to codify Québec's acceptance of these economic and political realities in return for the explicit recognition of its distinct character. But not only have English Canadians begun to have second thoughts; several major financial institutions, from Merril-Lynch to the Bank of Montréal—doomsayers all a decade ago—have released reports this year concluding that Québec independence would have no negative effect on the province's standard of living or economy! It is almost as if the new porousness of national boundaries symbolized by the Free Trade agreement now makes it possible to think of Québec as a market unattached to Canada, as floating between it and the United States and open to exchange with both. And so Québec independence, once derided as Utopian and feared for its popular base, today returns as an option serenely entertained by corporate leaders from above, including Québec's new generation of francophone entrepreneurs!
* * *
How can a special issue devoted to Canada hope at once to convey the importance of the issues I have been surveying and demonstrate that they do not preclude or even overshadow the simultaneous exploration of other questions? Even when Canadians talk to each other as Canadians—and that is not necessarily as frequent an occurrence as Americans might suppose—it is across vast and various regional expanses. That is why each text should simply be taken as an other Canada, rooted in a sense of place that may appear paradoxical to other Canadians because it does not conform to the region imagined. In fact, some Americans may be closer to spontaneously grasping some of these Canadas than are other Canadians.
David McGimpsey's tale from east-end Montréal—heteroglossic, plurilinguistic—conveys an articulation of the sorrows of class and nation and the recourse to popular registers of culture that may be easier to hear in some of the inner cities of America than in the many orderly municipal ities of English Canada. And I suspect a reader in Seattle or San Francisco may sense the transpacific affinities behind Phyllis Webb's "Imprints" better than many readers in Montréal. For them Phyllis Webb is a "West Coast" writer, and yet her work resonates with the experience of a West magically spinning itself into a Pacific rim forming an unbroken band through Hong Kong, San Francisco, Tokyo, Vancouver ... In rain-soaked Vancouver, the prairies seem an indisputably arid, monotonous place; Americans from the Great Plains, though, will appreciate the volatility of water evoked by Kristjanna Gunnars, its power to stir a landscape to rage, and the implicit lie it gives to an eastern arrogance about the uneventfulness of life in the interior; in a shrewd shift from a geographical to a psychological register, here we are precisely confronted with the turbulence of an interior life.
In another paradox, the most urgent plea to rethink the land in this volume comes neither from coastal zones nor inland plains, but instead from (post)industrial Ontario, where there are nuclear power plants surrounded by wildlife reserves that double as security buffers and recreational areas for employees. No wonder Alexander Wilson is taken with the efforts of artists attempting to contest this cynical, superficially unscarred "civilization" of nature. "In Canada," the commercials tell us, "the winds blow a little colder, the waters run a little swifter"; but Canadians know that many of their exported mineral waters are purified because they come from sources as polluted as some of the worst south of the border, and that maples in Québec are as endangered as those in New Hampshire or Vermont under the onslaught of acid rain clouds that know no frontier.
But what of the other Canadas that cannot be neatly summarized by regional particularities or differences? The integration of new immigrant communities, largely from Central America, East Asia, and Africa, is certainly accompanied by tensions that will not be unfamiliar to Americans. Nonetheless, because of the profoundly unstable definition Canadians have had of themselves, the question "What is Canadian?" can never resonate with the same normative force as the superficially parallel, "What is American?" "Multiculturalism" is official state policy, and in many ways it is true that immigrants, historic or recent, do not feel a relentless drive to assimilate that would at the same time devalue their own cultures. This does not mean that immigrant groups have not criticized multicultural policy, resisting the tendency to see their cultural expression reduced to folkloric dance troupes, youth choirs, and a weekly program on radio or Cable TV. Nor does it mean that intolerance is unknown for new arrivals. Every region seems to have its own marker of what constitutes acceptable or unacceptable "proof" of "integration." But integrate into what? There is no codified Canadian-ness to which one could even credibly pretend, and usually it can only mean adopting the cultural signs of one of the country's already dominant groups.
This has been obvious in the recent controversy over whether Sikhs would be allowed to wear their turbans as members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. To their credit, the RCMP and the government have said "yes," but the issue is hotly contested by those who feel the Sikhs' religious obligations must cede before "respect for Canadian tradition" as symbolized by the classic Mountie hat. Current tensions in Vancouver, where well-educated and financially secure emigrés from Hong Kong are arriving in increasing numbers as 1997 draws nearer, reflect the metamorphosis of a city that now accommodates a retirement population of European ancestry that comes to it from across Canada, a working class hit hard by deindustrialization, and new arrivals who have the resources to contribute to the city's economic and cultural well-being, but harbour none of the insecurities and feelings of inferiority of earlier immigrant communities. In the center of the city, standing as an unmistakable symbol of this transformation, is the former Salvation Army citadel, now a Bhuddist temple.
What is all too true is that as in the United States, the temptation has been to advance a national identity through the symbols of communities and peoples marginalized along the way, especially the continent's original peoples. Gloria Cranmer Webster muses on this as she recounts the arduous process of repatriating her Kwakwaka'wakw peoples' treasures from museum collections. These treasures had been confiscated by the police during the missionary period and for years, along with the magnificent totems and sculptures of the Northwest Coast and Arctic aboriginal peoples, were used to promote Canada abroad by evoking the country's primeval or "exotic" origins. Today, these objects have undergone a change of status and are presented as artistic objects in their own right. Nevertheless, they remain trademarks abroad of a country whose citizens, when in the confines of their common home, will not agree on who they are.
In a profound sense, Canada's image abroad does have a significant effect on Canada's internal historic compromise, its agreement to disagree while being profoundly reluctant to act on its disagreements. Canada's domestic conflicts are somehow circumscribed by its intermediate but respected status in world affairs. Tellingly, contemporary appeals to "national unity" can never be forged through bellicose patriotism or smug affirmations of superiority. Unlike the United States, Canada can always fit comfortably on the world stage, where it can take the measure of its presence. Canadians regard the United Nations seriously and see themselves confirmed there as members of a world community, with obligations, responsibilities, and needs that constantly address others as sovereign equals. They do not believe that acts of other states need be interpreted foremost as acts of friendship or hostility toward them. When American visitors to Canada are alternately shocked or titillated to see travel billboards for Cuba adorning the walls of the subways, they are being interpellated by the demons of their own fabrication; but in the Cold War, Canadians were in the middle geographically (though certainly not ideologically!), between the United States to the south and the Soviet Union over the pole. This geographic situation, and geography is always of foremost importance in the Canadian imagination, provides the very figure of an intermediary status: middle power, "honest broker," mediator. The world could never be a periphery to a Canadian center, but neither does Canada see itself as marginal in the world.
It is perhaps in the artists' dossiers of this volume that the transcultural, though non-imperializing, opportunities af forded by this geo-political situation are most suggestive. Angela Grauerholz's romantic evocations of travel address this transcultural experience directly, while simultaneously generating a melancholy contact with a modernity whose time seems past with the century; Geneviève Cadieux's interrogation of the gaze is extended to the viewer's own. In fact, the viewer's tendency to approach the dossier as a series of reproductions is frustrated here. Instead, the "viewer" is asked to consider the signification of the textual embodiment of visual objects through a project that refuses to engage in the traditional hierarchies of image and text; Attila Richard Lukacs explores the complex semiotics of Punk and Skinheads through defiant portraits and tableaux of boys for whom codes of manhood no longer dissimulate their political and erotic tensions; Stephen Andrews' dense but fragile bodies seek their tenuous place in a universe predisposed to their disintegration. Perhaps what is "Canadian" in the interweaving of these strands that preoccupy our fin-de-siècle, is only the observation that Canada itself seems to be a hospitable terrain for artists to explore what are fundamentally questions not only of representation, but especially of mediation.
Fragile yet dense bodies defining and appropriating space appear in much of this volume's writing, as well. Myths of creation seem themselves vulnerable when the substances of life become conveyances of suffering and early death, and in this regard André Roy's reinscriptions of our origins seem in fitting apposition to Stephen Andrews' sketches. Nicole Brossard, too, rehabilitates the body, reminding us that desire propels language, moves life to want to "touch its metaphors." The writing of Erin Mouré and Gail Scott, like that of Roy and Brossard, is grounded in sexual difference, but not the difference of a constituency, a "minority." Canadians have often been accused of a "garrison mentality," but there is no claim here of a space inviolate to others. Rather, difference moves outward, its pleasures traversing the terrains of place and politics like the "seams" of Mouré's poems. Difference also establishes itself through Scott's anxious, rebellious juxtapositions of itineraries of desire in Montréal and the evocations of a classical image of eros from another Nordic land.
Representation and mediation are also prominent organiz ing principles for Melvin Charney's Garden for the Canadian Centre for Architecture. Here, many elements are doubled, interrogating each other reflexively without surrendering their autonomous capacity to generate signification. I would like to think that all the contributions to this volume can resonate in a similar manner for their readers, at once maintaining their richness as discrete texts and forming a vivid, evocative intertext that is neither exhaustive nor definitive.
Paraphrasing Charney's characterization of the CCA Garden's unlikely site, it seems fitting to conclude that for all its incongruities, Canada, too, exists as a fact, "embodying concrete traces of human passage rooted in history and memory, layer upon layer." Similarly, I would like to offer "Canada" as something both complex and complicated, a constant interplay of the originary myths of memory and the arrangements and accommodations of history. The former are diverse and even mutually contradictory, engaging and traversing linguistic communities, social classes, genders, sexualities, and peoples. The latter are so insistent that they preclude any certainty of dramatic changes in Canada's "inability" to decide. Thus, the crises currently spoken in Canada may resolve themselves in a typically Canadian manner, through deferment and a willingness to refrain from ordering antagonistic, contrary discourses of history. If they don't, I will not be too surprised—after all, we are in a period where yesterday's unthinkable is today's banality. But if they do, I will continue to find pleasures in the polyphony of the many Canadas that modulate sometimes tentatively, some times compellingly, but most of all differently from the insistently triumphalist harmonies surrounding my life to the south.
L'homme des sept jours
BY André Roy, TRANSLATED BY David Lenson
Crossing the Border
BY Ian Angus
BY Erin Mouré
Independence is for 1993
BY Paul Chamberland, TRANSLATED BY David Lenson
The Palm Tree
BY Michèle Mailhot, TRANSLATED BY Richard Tedeschi
BY Bruce Russell
La Matiere Harmonieuse manoeuvre encore
BY Nicole Brossard, TRANSLATED BY Lise Weil
Rites of Passage: Translation and Its Intents
BY Sherry Simon
Anaximander; Imprint #1; #3; #4;"Self-City"
BY Phyllis Webb
BY Attila Richard Lukacs
'The Kiss' by Edvard Munch, Revisited,
BY Gail Scott
The U'mista Cultural Centre,
BY Gloria Cranmer Webster
BY Kristjana Gunnars
The Discourse of the Other: Canadian Literature and the Question of Ethnicity
BY Barbara Godard
The Adam Suite
BY Stephen Andrews
BY Angela Grauerholz
The Garden for the Canadian Center for Architecture
BY Melvin Charney
Canadian Film: An Unexpected Emergence
BY Pierre Veronneau, TRANSLATED BY Jane Critchlow
Artknot 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26
BY Fred Wah
Cosmologie de l'Est
BY David McGimpsey
Art, Geography and Resistance
BY Alexander Wilson
BY Geneviève Cadieux
Arts in Review: The Year in Fiction
BY Valerie Martin
Arts in Review: Recent Drama
BY Robert King
Arts in Review: American Poetry
BY Sharon Dunn
Table of Contents
Introduction to an/other Canada, another Canada?
other Canadas, Non-Fiction by Robert Schwartzwald
L'homme des sept jours, Poetry by Anre Roy,
Translated by David Lenson
Crossing the Border, Fiction by Ian Angus
Seams/Seems, Poetry by Erin Mouré
Independence is for 1993,
Non-Fiction by Paul Chamberland,
Translated by David Lenson
The Palm Tree, Fiction by Michele Mailhot,
Translated by Richard Tedeschi
True North, Non-Fiction by Bruce Russell
La Matiere Harmonieuse manoeuvre encore,
Poetry by Nicole Brossard, Translated by Lise Weil
Rites of Passage: Translation and Its Intents,
Non-Fiction by Sherry Simon
Anaximander; Imprint #1; #3; #4;"Self-City",
Poetry by Phyllis Webb
Recent Paintings, Art by Attila Richard Lukacs
'The Kiss' by Edvard Munch, Revisited,
Fiction by Gail Scott
The U'mista Cultural Centre,
Non-Fiction by Gloria Cranmer Webster
Water, Fiction by Kristjana Gunnars
The Discourse of the Other:
Canadian Literature and the Question of Ethnicity,
Non-Fiction by Barbara Godard
The Adam Suite, Art by Stephen Andrews, drawings
Seven Photographs, Art by Angela Grauerholz
The Garden for the Canadian Center for Architecture,
Non-Fiction by Melvin Charney
Canadian Film: An Unexpected Emergence,
Non-Fiction by Pierre Veronneau, Translated
by Jane Critchlow
Artknot 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26,
Poetry by Fred Wah
Cosmologie de l'Est, Fiction by David McGimpsey
Art, Geography and Resistance,
Non-Fiction by Alexander Wilson
Three Installations, Art by Genevieve Cadieux
Arts in Review: The Year in Fiction,
Non-Fiction by Valerie Martin
Arts in Review: Recent Drama,
Non-Fiction by Robert King
Arts in Review: American Poetry,
Non-Fiction by Sharon Dunn