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Oh, Harper

By Leyland Cecco, Staff Contributor

Oh Stephen, you’ve giving us quite the reputation.
In the heart of Turkey, where knowledge of Canada is a conflation of How I Met Your Mother and “that sport in the snow with the sticks,” you’ve given the Turks some new fodder.
After your performance in Copenhagen, some environmentally leaning students approached me: the Canadian.
“Why is Canada such a polluter?”
“Why are you taking oil from the tar sands? It’s bad for nature!”
This verbal attack was coming from a country that, in many major cities, doesn’t have a recycling program. To them, Canada has become a shameful land of environmental disrespect. Which, judging by the response by many Canadians, might be how we see ourselves after Copenhagen.
I managed to stammer a response that we’ve got a lot of land, so we can abuse some of it, and the rest will be all right. That didn’t work. They also didn’t buy my defence of cautious emissions cuts.
Then you made life a little bit harder, Harper, when you decided to go on holidays.
To some of the people who don’t mind waxing political, we’ve become a country of questionable democracy. That’s right – the (few) followers of Canadian politics abroad have taken to mocking our system of government as being ‘undemocratic.’ This again coming from a country whose ascension to the European Union is jeopardized by countless human rights violations and a fiercely right wing government that enforces media bans on government criticism.
Although we’ve become comic material abroad, I do thank you for boosting our presence in conversation. Before your two last performances, I was forced to explain that “No, I don’t speak Canadian,” and that “Actually, Canada isn’t part of Europe.” I’ve also been forced to ask myself, “Am I sure that Colorado isn’t in Canada? These people seem to think so.”
You’ve been able to stimulate discussion about this country that deviates from the well-trodden path of igloos, snow, hockey and bears. We’re no longer a heavily caricatured nation of loggers and fishermen that gather each week in kayaks to play hockey, using a beaver as the puck.
Inadvertently, (although I’ve read you’re a sly strategist) you’ve reinvigorated the discourse on what it is to be a Canadian. Before you awed polluting nations, we had this irritating label of being “environmentally friendly”. Now that tag has fallen into a pit of dirty sand. We used to be considered at country of “good government”, but now we’re thankfully free to re-examine that stamp. No longer do Canadians abroad have the luxury of tacking a maple leaf on to the back of their packs, and gliding through the gauntlet of political questions unscathed. Now, unfortunately, we’re forced to sit down and think hard on what shapes us as a nation, what values we really hold, and how much social and culture history means to us as a collective group of people.
So while you may be facing some problems at home (those detainee questions are getting a bit old, don’t you think?), you’ve done an excellent job of making Canada the centerpiece of talk abroad.

Leyland Cecco, a Dalhousie student, is studying in Turkey for a year.

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