Equal Partners
by Roland Ezri

Equal Partners by Roland Ezri

Equal Partners

By Roland Ezri

"Women are the backbone of all societies. They do a substantial part of the work, and play a major role in raising the future generation yet they are largely powerless. The decisions that count are made by men and foisted upon women."

Writings by Roland Ezri

The Second Exodus – Canada – CCCXIII. Montreal (5 of 9)


Before I even set foot on Canadian soil, I assumed that two factors shaped Canadians.

Now that I was in Canada, and over time, I would find out to what extent I was right (or wrong).

(Please keep in mind that what will follow include many generalizations).

The first consideration is influenced by my own cultural background.  In Egypt, people of European descent were considered a cut above the rest of humanity.  Most Canadians – at least when I arrived in the ’60s – had indeed European ancestry.  Did that make them superior to the people among whom I dwelt in Egypt and Israel?

I thought so during my early days in Canada.  Canadians came across as polite, disciplined, and well behaved.  For instance, at a bus stop, I found that a line would form automatically if there were a large number of people waiting.  When the bus came, no pushing and shoving took place.  Ladies and old folks were extended the courtesy of going ahead first.

In Israel you might see a line at a bus stop; but in Egypt pushing and shoving was expected as a matter of course; it’s each man (or woman) for himself.

In time, I would realize that I had idealized a European origin too much; Canadians were humans after all, they had their own flaws.

Two examples:  I found that people were less caring.  If you were distressed or sad in a crowd, people discreetly pretended not to notice.  I realized that it meant that people respected each other’s privacy, but it also showed an attitude of not caring and not wanting to get involved (that’s less true today).

There is a culture of drinking; a lot of emphasis in daily life, and especially in social gatherings, is placed on alcohol.  There is nothing wrong with that except that it collided with my own cultural background. Since the majority of Egyptians are Muslims, and since alcohol is forbidden in their religion, drinking does not figure prominently in this society.  The Jews are allowed to drink, but have never placed too much importance on alcohol, so here again, in Israel, alcohol was never the star of the show.

The second factor is the merciless climate. It has shaped Canadians like nothing else.  Let me give you a few examples.

The first immigrants that came from Europe centuries ago were greeted by a glacial and unforgiving land.  Many simply did not survive; but the ones that did were the best and the strongest; it was truly a case of the survival of the fittest.  The Canadians you`ll meet today are their descendants; and while they enjoy the amenities of our modern age, many have retained the steel core inherited from their ancestors.  And they call upon it to face life`s challenges, and, yes, when winter unleashes its fury, a fury that sometimes cannot easily be defeated even by our modern know-how.

The fictional situation that follows introduces you to two attributes that are an integral part of most Canadians.

You’re a farmer in a remote village, it’s – 20 C outside and a nasty wind is howling.  You’re fast asleep in your warm bed when a crashing sound wakes you up.  The roof of your barn, under the weight of the snow, has come crashing down.  Even with the help of your wife and your two children, you cannot deal with this calamity alone.  Therefore, you enlist the help of your neighbors, and they don’t let you down.  You thank them profusely, and a few days later you invite them to a feast.  Two qualities that were practically imposed on Canadians now come to light:  The need to help each other, and to be polite and grateful.

Canadians receive spring and summer like the Messiah!  Many have their own cottage in the country, or in a remote location.  How can you own your own home and a cottage?  Are Canadians that prosperous?  Yes, many are.  In many instances, the cottage has been inherited and is passed on from generation to generation.  The points I am trying to stress are the veneration accorded to that period of time when winter has departed; and the deep love Canadians have for nature.

Canadians are peaceful.  When you fought the elements for half of the year, you’re in no mood to go to war!  The brutal cold and the mountains of snow have taken all aggressiveness out of you; you just want to enjoy your short summer and spring peacefully.  Indeed, unlike the U.S., there has never been a civil war in Canada.  And, except in its early days, no nation has shown any desire to occupy Canada.  Who in his right mind want to conquer a land covered by ice and snow for so many months of the year?

Canada did participate in WWI and WWII, for this nation could not ignore that the values and the freedom they cherished were at stake.

While peaceful, Canadians are not passive.  They can fiercely (but peacefully) defend their values.  Witness Québec and its efforts to hang on to its language and culture.

Early on, I was apprised that Québec was an uneasy partner in confederation.  More than once in the course of its history, attempts have been made to integrate its culture to the rest in Canada, or to call it by its proper name, to Anglicise it, all in vain; Québec has stubbornly held on to its cherished French language and culture.  But that didn’t close the books on that issue; many Québecers would prefer to separate, become an independent nation.

Space does not permit me to go into the numerous issues related to this difficult problem; indeed, books have been written on the phenomenon of separatism; I will, however, briefly address two issues.

There has been some crises related to the above; nothing compared to what other nations face when major values diverge.  There was also some violence; again, I persist in viewing Canadians as peaceful.

What does Québec wants?  The question has come up many times; and, to get an answer, two referendums were conducted in 1980 and 1995; in both instances Québecers elected to remain in Canada.

It should be pointed out that most of the people of this province prefer to remain in Canada.  The proof is that in both referendums, the question asked was convoluted; many experts have stated that a direct question such as:  “Do you want to stay in Canada?  Yes or No” would have shown an impressive percentage voting against separation.

So is the problem resolved once and for all?  No, the specter of separatism will haunt us for a long time to come.

*  *  *

I have taken a long detour.  It is time to go back to my arrival in Canada.

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