Happy Canada Day 2010 .. at some point this country will discover itself .. probably sooner than later

Jul 1st, 2010 | By | Category: In Brief
Cover of new CD “Treelines”, by Christine Jensen Jazz Orchestra featuring Ingrid Jensen — from Nanaimo, BC to Montreal, QC and back.

Cover of new CD “Treelines”, by Christine Jensen Jazz Orchestra featuring Ingrid Jensen — from Nanaimo, BC to Montreal, QC and back.

It is a tribute to the respect Queen Elizabeth II still enjoys in Canadian public life that even those Canadians who believe the British monarchy has no long-term future in Canada tend to think the institution will await the end of her reign before it fades into the sunset on which the old empire never etc, etc, etc.

The minority of present-day Canadian citizens who still warmly support the now quite vague concept of British monarch as Canadian head of state will be especially happy that Her Majesty is actually physically present in Canada on Canada Day 2010. And the rest of us can be happy for them — and even (in some cases perhaps) pleased to see Her Majesty as a grand lady of contemporary world history (who does, as someone unaware of the English aristocratic past noted rather breathlessly on CBC TV the other night, also speak quite reasonable French).

Emily Carr, “Tree in Autumn.”

Emily Carr, “Tree in Autumn.”

At the same time, the recent Ipsos Public Affairs poll which reported that “Six in Ten Canadians (58%, +5) Believe Canada Should End Ties to Monarchy When Her Majesty’s Reign Ends … Majority (62%, +9) Believes Canada’s Head of State Should Be the Governor General, Not the Queen” is only the latest survey of its sort to suggest that a majority of Canadians do nowadays believe that  the British monarchy has no long-term future in Canada.

We politely confess we are among this majority. And the country we are celebrating on Canada Day 2010 is the independent parliamentary democracy whose sovereign is the Canadian people, whose past stretches back into the aboriginal origins of the word Canada, and forward into the diverse future of the high technological global village in the 21st century. There are, no doubt, various senses in which this country of the future is still in the process of discovering itself today. (That is one of the things that makes it interesting.) And leaving the old cocoon of the British monarchy at last will mark some culmination of this process.

Ingrid Jensen and Christine Jensen ... two sisters, from Nanaimo, BC.

Ingrid Jensen and Christine Jensen ... two sisters, from Nanaimo, BC.

A recent item in the National Post has stressed the political and constitutional complexities of ending Canada’s now strictly symbolic ties with the British monarchy, even at the end of the reign of the present Queen who still enjoys much quiet respect. This is the, as it were, last defence of the monarchy in Canada today — and that in itself suggests the institution’s contemporary limitations. The parliamentary democratic republican models provided by such other former self-governing British dominions as Ireland and India suggest as well that at least many of the complexities are much exaggerated by those who still yearn for a Canadian “constitutional monarchy” that lasts forever.

Yet in the end it is not the politics of all this that is driving things forward. And several of us were reminded of this when we were lucky enough to catch the “Christine Jensen Jazz Orchestra featuring Ingrid Jensen” at the 2010 Toronto Jazz Festival — on Monday, June 28, just after the locally turbulent G20 gathering in present-day Canada’s largest big city. Christine Jensen grew up in Nanaimo, BC (like Diana Krall) and then went to study music in Montreal, where she is still based today.

Emily Carr, “Among the Firs.”

Emily Carr, “Among the Firs.”

Her music, as also captured on her new CD “Treelines,” draws on “the paintings of Emily Carr, the short stories of Alice Munro and the songs of Joni Mitchell.” Her quite intricate and intriguing compositions, performed by an impressive assortment of excellent Montreal musicians, reflect, on her own testimony, her deep attachments to the various unique geographies of northern North America — and especially the Emily Carr geography of Canada’s Pacific Province, where Christine Jensen grew up. (Thus the titles of her tunes “Red Cedar,” “Western Yew,” “Dark and Stormy Blues,” and “Seafever” — the last of which, she told us, she wrote while studying in France, in the midst of a bout of homesickness for Canada’s Pacific coast.)

Like so many others among us, in so many different ways, Christine Jensen is discovering Canada. There is no doubt a part of this discovery that, in one sense or another, respects the many worthy Canadian legacies of the old British Empire and Commonwealth. (And it is, after all, “British Columbia” where Ms Jensen and her talented trumpet-playing sister Ingrid grew up.) It is still a struggle, as you could see in various subtle ways at her Toronto Jazz Festival appearance, for Christine Jensen to make her career in Montreal. But she is struggling on and surviving. There really is something in her music. And it is somehow Canadian — as well as a part of the wider global village today. Say what you like. It does point to a Canadian future beyond the British monarchy. And, one way or another, that future is ultimately going to unfold. So Happy Canada Day 2010.  (And, of course, Happy Canada Day to Queen Elizabeth too.)

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