“What is Canadian Culture?” a friend asked me the
other day. “When I think of Japan,” he said, “I think of pagodas,
sushi, samauri… what do we have in Canada? Beavers? That's not
culture!” He stated.
In Canada, Culture is what you make it. Culture evolves
according to the people are are active creating it. I have been
called a cultural engineer because I actively create cultural events
such as my signature event “Gung Haggis Fat Choy: Toddish McWong's
Robbie Burns Chinese New Year Dinner.
But culture lives and breathes and sometimes you have to change it's
diapers. Today I discussed culture with Michael Dangeli who is a First
nations artist and performer. We are sitting inside our “carving
tent” with our wood carving projects, and discussing how through time,
cultures get appropriated by individuals, absorbed into societies and
emerge in new forms.
We have been discussing the origins of dragon boat racing, since we
have a dragon boat on display in front of our visual arts carving tent
just behind the Vancouver Maritime Museum. We are part of
the Sea Vancouver Festival, as artists and presenters. Dragon
Boats originated in China, further developed in North America and the rest of the
world, and now has entered a kind of sports metamorphosis. Dragon
Boats have also been appropriated by Breast Cancer dragon boat teams as
a method of exercise and support groups.
I also told Michael about how “Chop Suey” and “Fortune Cookies” are
not from China
originally – but originated in North America to beome “Chinese
traditions”… at least in North America. It is an example of how
cultural values and customs
transform in a new land. Witness how Scottish deep fried bread
called Bannock travelled across Canada and became absorbed into First
Gung Haggis Fat Choy is a cultural fusion. It is a blend
of cultures. It is a cultural evolution. It is
representative of the traditions and values that the immigrating
cultures of Scotland and China brought with them. And it is
representative of how their descendents adapt to living in this new
land, while trying to retain some sense of ethnic ancestral culture
while living in a present day “Canadian culture”.
Below is a description of Canada's Cultural Mosaic according to Frommer's
Canada's Cultural Mosaic — Canada has sought
“unity through diversity” as a national ideal, and its people are even
more diverse than its scenery. In the eastern province of Québec live 6
million French Canadians, whose motto, Je me souviens (“I
remember”), has kept them “more French than France” through 2 centuries
of Anglo domination. They've transformed Canada into a bilingual
country where everything official — including parking tickets and
airline passes — comes in two tongues.
The English-speaking majority of the populace is a mosaic rather
than a block. Two massive waves of immigration — one before 1914, the
other between 1945 and 1972 — poured 6.5 million assorted Europeans
and Americans into the country, providing muscles and skills, as well
as a kaleidoscope of cultures. The 1990s saw another wave of
immigration — largely from Asia and particularly from Hong Kong —
that has transformed the economics and politics of British Columbia.
Thus, Nova Scotia is as Scottish as haggis and kilts, Vancouver has the
largest Chinese population outside Asia, the plains of Manitoba are
sprinkled with the onion-shaped domes of Ukrainian churches, and
Ontario offers Italian street markets and a theater festival featuring
the works of Shakespeare at, yes, Stratford.
You can attend a native-Canadian tribal assembly, a Chinese New Year
dragon parade, an Inuit spring celebration, a German Bierfest, a
Highland gathering, or a Slavic folk dance. There are group settlements
on the prairies where the working parlance is Danish, Czech, or
Hungarian, and entire villages speak Icelandic.