March 6


Unapologetically Canadian Episode 1: Seasonal, Free and Abundant

By Tracey Arial

March 6, 2018

To me, being Canadian means to live a seasonal, free and abundant life.

Early Signs

When I was in university, there was a free listening room where you could go to relax and hear great music on tapes. I would ask to hear songs by Joni Mitchell, Anne Murray, the Tragically Hip, Parachute Club, the Cars, Gordon Lightfoot, Tom Cochrane, Leonard Cohen, Tom Connors, April Wine, Rita MacNeil, Rush, Maureen Forrester, the Band, Loverboy, K.D. Lang, Paul Anka, Glenn Gould, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Bachman Turner Overdrive, Lenny Breau, The Guess Who, Wilf Carter and Neil Young.

To hear some of my favourites, CBC’s top 20 Canadian Songs an online museum of Canadian music from 1910 until now.

At the time, I didn’t realize that almost all my choices were Canadian.

That was the first time I lived away from home, so the lyrics, sentiments and moods of many of my favourite singers comforted me and softened some of the loneliness I felt at that time. Since then, I’ve spoken to several people who have taken on global, non-nationalistic or more local identities than my own and have come to recognize that being Canadian is an essential part of who I am.

So what does that mean?

To me, being Canadian means to live a seasonal, free and abundant life.

Seasonal Living

Let me begin with the seasonal part. Where I live, temperatures drop to minus 30 in the winter, while in the summer, they’re at plus 30. We enjoy snow, ice, flooding, fall colours, spring tulips, and summer tomatoes. In Canada, we have eight different seasons—each with good and bad points.

The year begins with deep winter when there’s enough snow for cross-country skiing and lots of shovelling.

Early spring features dirty snow, mud and lots of sunshine and warmth.

Flowers start appearing on trees, in sunny gardens and sometimes even through the snow in the springtime.

In early summer, the dandelions sprout and barbecue season gets underway.

A lack of rain dries up the grass and gardens by the time of summer heat waves and city dwellers escape to the cottage if they can.

Early autumn features morning frost and brilliant red, yellow and orange leaves.

If we’re lucky, late autumn features a brief moment of heat known as Indian summer because the rest of season is full of rainy cold grey days.

Early winter might have snowy sunny days between its long dark nights.

Our many cold dark seasons put a dry, warm pleasant shelter high on the list of priorities for Canadians. We also use more energy to heat our buildings, feed ourselves and keep ourselves warm and cool throughout the year than most other countries in the world. There’s a reason why Bob and Doug Mackenzie wear tuques.


When it comes to freedom, most Canadians can’t complain. We live in a democracy, so choosing our leaders comes down to us. Freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of movement—we have each of these, although these freedoms are being threatened these days, so we’ll have to fight to keep them.

Luckily, anyone can still run for political leadership, as I discovered when I did so myself in 2017. There’s also a free media, and anyone can become a citizen journalist and publish their own work to assist people struggling with institutions or government.

Canada has a political tradition based on the values of peace, order and good government.

Parliamentary System

We operate under a parliamentary system that we imported from Britain and then revised for our own needs. We don’t have a direct vote for our Prime Minister. Instead, we vote for a federal minister of Parliament who joins colleagues from the rest of the country to choose a prime minister. Ministers jointly recommend this prime minister to the Queen, who confirms their choice via her representative, the Governor General. Yes, it’s convoluted and not directly democratic and could use improvement, but it mostly works.

Helping World’s Needy

When it comes to freedom, I’m also proud of Canada’s many decisions to help the world’s needy. Recently, we’ve sheltered Haitian and Syrian refugees, but we’ve also taken Vietnamese boat people, American draft dodgers and many others in my lifetime. The Japanese Internment camps and our treatment of our own First Nation peoples are a sad exception to a tradition of serving as a beacon of freedom for many, including Huguenots, Mennonites, Home Children, Jews and slaves, who found freedom at the end of the Underground Railroad. I know that earlier economies in Canada benefited from human slavery, with even our Saint Marguerite Bourgeois profiting from that horror, but we did the right thing at last and that’s what I want to commemorate.

I’m also proud of our decision to join the world in banning the death penalty, providing universal health care, measuring with metric, allowing safe abortion, enabling our citizens to die with dignity and soon, legalizing marihuana. As divisive as each of these decisions has been, I believe they are the right ones to make.

In Canada, if you’re a parent and you have a full-time job, you have the right to stay with your baby for the first year. That too is a good tradition. Its benefits don’t extend to self-employed entrepreneurs, politicians or students, although we’re getting there.


I am so grateful for the extreme abundance that all Canadians benefit from. Canada has more fresh water than any other country in the world.

We have multiple bees, bird and butterfly species.

Our land grows both conifer and deciduous trees. We have mountains and rivers and peat bogs and prairies. Our geological features include moraines, escarpments, drumlins and cliffs. We have ancient, classic and modern art. Our flora and fauna ranges from arctic to dessert. We have three coasts along three different ocean bodies. The Gulf Stream passes our shores.

And that doesn’t include the incredible diverse abundance of people, both those who helped shape Canada in the past and those who live in Canada today.

As an amateur historian and genealogist, I am in awe of the accomplishments and visions of people who helped shape our country. These are the women who bore us, the parents who raised us, the farmers who fed us, the builders who constructed our homes and workplaces, the entrepreneurs who employed us, the artists who inspired us, the athletes who entertained us, the police, lawyers and soldiers who kept us secure, the prophets who got us thinking, the creators who gave us our tools, and the politicians and bureaucrats who governed us.

This podcast is my opportunity to connect with Canadians from all walks of life to find out how they and their families are contributing to our country. I’ll find out whether they consider themselves Canadian, and if so, what that means to them. It’s our chance to explore and continue co-creating the Canadian identity.

Tracey Arial

About the author

Tracey Arial helps Canadians create meaningful lives with true stories about ancestors, businesses, communities and ecology.

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