Une épopée des plus brillants exploits

I grew up in Ste. Rose du Lac, a vil­lage with a strong French pop­u­la­tion. From grade 1 to grade 9, I rode the bus 20 min­utes every morn­ing and every evening1 in order to attend school at École Lau­ri­er, a French immer­sion school in the near­by vil­lage of Lau­ri­er. There I learned to par­lez en français, and all my class­es (with the obvi­ous excep­tion of Eng­lish) were taught in French. I learned my frac­tions in French, I learned about weath­er­ing and ter­mi­nal moraines and drum­lins en français, I learned about Louis Riel2 and the Métis and the plains of Abra­ham in French. Even at recess we were sup­posed to con­verse in French. We did­n’t, but the teach­ers super­vis­ing would pre­tend not to under­stand if we tried to speak to them in Eng­lish.3

I learned the Lord’s prayer in French. I learned my nation­al anthem en français, too; in fact, it was years before I learned it in Eng­lish. (Lat­er I learned that the French ver­sion is the orig­i­nal, and the Eng­lish words cur­rent­ly in use — not a trans­la­tion of the orig­i­nal, but a dif­fer­ent anthem — were writ­ten over a quar­ter-cen­tu­ry after the ver­sion that I learned, and still treasure.)

On Remem­brance Day, which is, of course, today, there’s a stan­za in the French anthem that res­onates with great power:

Car ton bras sait porter l’épée
Il sait porter la croix

En anglais, rough­ly, it means:

Because you under­stand the sword,
You also under­stands the cross

You can’t have war with­out casu­al­ties. You can’t have con­flict with­out cost. You can’t have the sword and not expect fields of cross­es, shot through with poppies.



  1. My dad worked out the mileage once. I’ve been around the world twice on a school bus. 
  2. When you go to a French immer­sion school run by a Catholic ex-nun, the pan­theon goes Dieu, Jésus, l’e­sprit saint, Louis Riel, pape Jean-Paul II, et tout le reste
  3. Unless you had, say, a scalp wound or an obvi­ous­ly bro­ken arm. 


On the Hill

August long week­end, Kath­leen and I took a lit­tle trip, just a cou­ple hours in a West­jet 737.  We flew out to Ottawa for a fam­i­ly reunion of my mom’s side of the family.

See, Mom lives in Man­i­to­ba, along with me and my mid­dle sis­ter. My youngest sis­ter — who end­ed up not mak­ing it to the reunion, and she was sore­ly missed — lives fur­ther west, in Alber­ta. My uncle R lives in Nova Sco­tia, out on the east coast, and one of my aunts, M, lives in either Man­i­to­ba or Chi­na, depend­ing on if school’s in ses­sion. So my oth­er aunt, V, who lives in Ontario — in the Cap­i­tal Region — decid­ed, Hey, I’m right in the mid­dle! So we had the reunion out at her place.

We arrived on Thurs­day after­noon, and were picked up at the air­port by V.  We went to her house — in a bed­room com­mu­ni­ty about 40 min­utes from Ottawa prop­er — and set­tled in. Most of the fam­i­ly was there already — my sis­ter and her fam­i­ly had arrived ear­li­er in the day, hav­ing dri­ven from MB instead of fly­ing. Brave, that; they have four chil­dren, and it was about a four-day dri­ve.  R was there, and M, and my mom.  Most of V’s kids were float­ing around, too.

On Fri­day, we went into the city to do some tourist­ing.  Kath­leen had nev­er been to Ottawa, and my last vis­it was when I was 17, so the time was right.  We got dropped off about a block from Par­lia­ment Hill, and toured around the grounds for a bit before tak­ing the free tour of Cen­tre Block, which is the build­ing that hous­es both the House of Com­mons and the Sen­ate.  Gov­ern­ment was­n’t in ses­sion, so we got the full tour (except the Peace Tow­er, which was closed).

Pho­tos from our tour (click through for descriptions):

The House of Commons

The Senate

The Peace Tower

The Library

Manitoba's shield


Y Ddraig Goch?

Things I learned on our tour:

  • The Queen is not allowed to set foot in the House of Com­mons*.  Appar­ent­ly it stems from an inci­dent when Charles I tried to storm the Eng­lish par­lia­ment, and got told, in short, that the House of Com­mons was meant for the com­mon­ers, and he should piss right off depart if it should please His Majesty.  When the Cana­di­an House is in ses­sion, there’s a brass bar that sym­bol­i­cal­ly marks where the Queen is sup­posed to stop.
  • After a fire destroyed most** of Cen­tre Block in 1916, it was rebuilt using Tyn­dall stone, which is a type of lime­stone found only in Man­i­to­ba. Which explained why all the walls had the stri­a­tions I asso­ciate with Tyn­dall stone.

After the tour, we had about an hour and a half before our sched­uled pick-up, so we wan­dered around down­town Ottawa for while.  We found a lit­tle place called Byward Mar­ket­place (I think) and had some samosas and naan from a lit­tle Indi­an food kiosk. Mmmm.

Byward Market

Then we wan­dered some more, and found a park to rest our tired feet and fin­ish off our naan.  The park had a view of Parliament.


Mmmm, naan

A bit more wan­der­ing, and we found the Nation­al War Memo­r­i­al, which fea­tures the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

The War Memorial

Le Soldat Inconnu

After that, we found the buskers’ fes­ti­val, and for some rea­son I have no pho­tos of that.  After that, we got picked up by one of my cousins, and we returned to V’s house.

Tomor­row: a few more pho­tos, most­ly of family.


* She’s wel­come in the Sen­ate, though.  They have chairs for her and her hus­band in there.

** The Library survived.

Happy Louis Riel Day!

So Man­i­to­ba has a long week­end in Feb­ru­ary, still rel­a­tive­ly new, called Louis Riel Day, named for the only Father of Con­fed­er­a­tion hanged for trea­son.

It’s a provin­cial hol­i­day, not a fed­er­al one, which means the mail still comes. Which means that today, I got a pack­age of choco­late chip cook­ies from my sis­ter in Alberta.

Woo hoo, hap­py Louis Riel Day to me!

(If you’re inter­est­ed in Louis Riel, this graph­ic nov­el is a pret­ty sol­id introduction.)

Ha ha ha waah

This is not a polit­i­cal blog, nor will it become one, but:

Stephen Harp­er appoints senators

Stephen Harp­er keeps telling Cana­di­ans to tight­en their belts,” said NDP demo­c­ra­t­ic reform crit­ic David Christo­pher­son. “But these 18 unelect­ed sen­a­tors will cost the tax­pay­er over $6 mil­lion a year. When will the Con­ser­v­a­tives start prac­tis­ing what they preach?”

Con­tin­ue read­ing “Ha ha ha waah”

Standing on guard

W00t! It’s back!

Cana­di­an World Dom­i­na­tion has returned! Here I thought I was going to have to go trawl the way­back machine’s Inter­net archives, but some­one’s res­ur­rect­ed the site for me.

Some gems:

I’ll leave you with a piece of Cana­di­an music, one that’s been stuck in my head for a cou­ple days now, so it might as well be stuck in yours too.

Locked in the Trunk of a Car

And while I’m post­ing videos from the Trag­i­cal­ly Hip, here’s one of my favourites:

At the Hun­dredth Meridian