By Cassandra Betts, photo by Caroline Rice
Sometimes the Europe-North America program at Sciences Po feels more like the Europe-United Stated of America program; however, on Monday October 10th Canada took centre-stage, turning the campus into a maple-scented haven for white and red coloured pride. The Salle des Actes was full of Canadians from all ends of the country, from chilly Montreal to balmy Vancouver and everywhere in between, who eagerly showed off their local customs. This was the second year that the event took place, and this year it was scheduled on the same day as Canadian Thanksgiving, so that Canadians and foreigners alike would have something to be thankful for.
The day kicked off early with a crêpe stand set up outside the school. For many Canadians, Sunday mornings are accompanied by fluffy pancakes doused in maple syrup, and the Canada on Campus team was looking to bring this experience to the Sciencespistes who have not been lucky enough to enjoy this classic breakfast. Although crêpes were served instead of pancakes, there was more than enough maple syrup to go around and it was a tasty blend of French and Canadian culture. Many students headed off to their first class with the sticky sweetness of maple still on their lips and a greater appreciation for the Canadian way.
The main event began at lunch as everyone gathered in the Salle des Actes to listen to the Canadian National Anthem, accompanied by Teddy Paikin on the guitar. Despite the fact that the Canadians were the only ones who actually knew the lyrics to “O Canada,” their voices rang out through the glass hallway as they proclaimed their “true patriot love” for their “home and native land.” Throughout the rest of the lunch hour, students were able to explore the booths that had been set up and discover more about the second largest country in the world.
One of the most popular activities was the photo booth, where students could get their picture taken with Canadian flags, signs, tuques, and Vancouver 2010 Olympic mittens. Megan Yakabuski and Marina Starck were busy painting faces, and for the rest of the day students could be seen with red, white, and glittery face paint decorating their cheeks. There was also a tea table where students could take advantage of Canadian hospitality to pick up some refreshments.
The event was not only about eating good food and getting decked out in Canadian apparel, it was also informative. There was a booth devoted to Canadian political trivia where students were able to learn about some of the lesser-known political figures, such as the controversial leader of the Green Party, Elizabeth May. Another booth focused on highlighting some of the aboriginal issues that are widely ignored by Canadians and foreigners alike. Random facts about Canada were handed out, and students had the opportunity to jam out to some Canadian artists. Some students provided information about the universities in their hometown to those who were trying to decide where to spend their third year. Many provinces had their own booth, and took the opportunity to show that there is more to Canada than just Vancouver, Toronto, and Quebec. The Albertans in particular showed off their provincial pride by starting a line dance in the middle of the Salle des Actes. Although no one else knew the steps to Slap Leather or the words to Paul Brandt’s iconic tune “Alberta Bound” the Albertans showed everyone how to grapevine and pigeon toe with the best of them.
All in all, the Canada on Campus event was not only fun and festive, but it allowed other students to get a better idea of what it is like to live in the country that is so much more than the US’s northern neighbour. “Our impression of Canada is that it has always stayed the friendly player number two for America, a Luigi to its Mario. It just kind of stays there, all nice and proper and ready to be compared to the US,” said Yuchen Huang, a second year who is originally from China. “It is, perhaps, more stereotyped than any other countries in the world, and the Canadians are too nice to correct us. This event is nice in that it decomposes Canada, showing that it has internal mechanisms, its own contradictions and nuances, rather than just [being] an ideal country on the map.” Allison McFall, an American, also had a positive opinion of the event. “I thought Canada Day this year was amazing, and that the idea to organize the event by province showed people how much more there is to Canada than just maple syrup and free health care.” Based on student’s feedback (and the amount of maple syrup consumed), the second annual Canada Day was a polite success that will hopefully be replicated next year.