“What does it mean to be Canadian? Well, for one thing, if you’re of a certain age (Mike Myers is 53), it means you have stored away in your memory banks one of Canada’s most famous addresses, 55 Sparks Street, Ottawa 4 – or was it 56 Sparks?”
I listened with great interest to Shelagh Rogers’ recent CBC interview of famed comedian Mike Myers, exploring Myers’ recent book, Canada, about his life long relationship with his native land.
What does it mean to be Canadian? Well, for one thing, if you’re of a certain age (Mike Myers is 53), it means you have stored away in your memory banks one of Canada’s most famous addresses, 55 Sparks Street, Ottawa 4 – or was it 56 Sparks?
It also means that if you were a kid growing up in the 60s or 70s (as I and Myers were), you likely took pleasure in imitating the unique accent that Lotta Hitschmanova spoke with in her TV and radio PSAs urging Canadians to help those in need in far off lands.
And if you were incredibly talented as an actor and comedian, you might even have found inspiration in Lotta’s persona, her Czech accent, her unique uniform, etc, upon which to weave the occasional humorous sketch.
And you might even have done this without realizing that Lotta herself had a great sense of humour.
Later on in the CBC interview, Myers spoke eloquently about what else it means to be Canadian:
“There is a candle, of our identity, which is progressive ideals. Which is that we value cooperation more than we value exploitation. That we value being in alignment with people, as opposed to powering over them. These are the beautiful things.”
Myers is spot on, in my opinion. And as I have written elsewhere I believe we should acknowledge Lotta for her unique role in making Canada a more compassionate and caring society, and for instilling in us these same “progressive ideals” that continue to inspire and indeed challenge our social discourse to this very day.
Myers finished up the interview with these thoughts:
“We’ve been asking the wrong question. The question should have always been ‘why’ are we? And I think over time, with the force of cultural evolution, and not revolution, I think we may have found out who we are. We’re a collection of ideals, you know. It’s very beautiful ideals, the best ideals, and that’ll be our greatest legacy.”
And to echo what Myers has said, I believe Lotta’s greatest legacy (ironically as a refugee to Canada herself) was in helping us answer the “why” question. She was Canada’s conscience for several decades – our national priest, rabbi and imam all rolled into one incredible force of nature.
Thank you Lotta for helping to forge our identity, and thank you Mike Myers for paying tribute to her in your own unique way. Perhaps your next sketch will explore even further what she has meant to Canada and Canadians.