Blue Notes

We apologize, but a Canadian stereotype lives on

  • He led the Liberal Party of Canada.
    He led the Liberal Party of Canada.
    Photo credit:

So we’re driving back from a gig in Newmarket, Ont., along the 401. It’s a nice, dry, sunny Sunday around 11 a.m. Boredom soon overtakes us so we tune into the Kingston CBC Radio One station to listen to their Sunday morning program, which has been pretty good for years although they keep changing its name for some reason, I cannot fathom. It is now called “Sunday Edition.”

Michael Enright, who you might remember from “As It Happens,” is interviewing Michael Ignatieff, the previous leader of the Liberal Party of Canada. He has written a book about his experiences in Parliament. Most of the interview is about the unruly conduct of Parliament these days and the increased power of the prime minister, the usual CBC hand-wringing stuff.

But while relating memories of his time in Ottawa, Ignatieff also described in great detail the day that our parliament publicly apologized to the native peoples. He did so with much sincerity and emotion. He described how proud he felt. It was nice.

And then something unexpected happened. Or maybe I should say, so expected that it was unexpected.

He said that this was the high point of his entire political life.

Could there be anything more Canadian than this: the leader of a major national Canadian political party claiming that the zenith of his political career was an apology?

He said it with no irony. And the interviewer saw no need to question it or draw any attention to it whatsoever. It was simply accepted.

This is the very essence of the Canadian stereotype as an obsequious, polite-to-a-fault, apologizing people.

Now I don’t want to judge the virtue of the apology itself. That is not my point. And I am sure that the official apologizing ceremony was very cathartic.

But I am also very sure that there are very few, if any, political leaders of any other nation who would describe an apology as the high point of their political career.

Canada is a funny place. And as someone who makes his living making fun of Canadians I can only say that you cannot write stuff like this.

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