BY Edward Riche
Well that was awkward. I knew Canada’s big 150 anniversary shindig was going to be difficult but it’s not like I couldn’t go.
I was late to the celebration so they were all in their cups when I arrived and, with the exception of Quebec, none of them know how to drink. New Brunswick actually tried to kiss me but I deked my head and turned the approach into a clumsy hug.
“Happy 150!” he said after letting me go.
“Actually only 68 for me, so …” I said.
New Brunswick was at a loss, went sort of cross-eyed for a moment before putting it half together, still finding math hard.
“Right, right … you only joined in … 1927, was it?”
“No, 1949, …” I started to explain that ’27 was the Quebec-Labrador boundary decision but New Brunswick, bored, had already walked away.
Alberta greeted me with a punch in the arm.
“How’s she goin’ b’y?” he said.
“Long may your jig bib drawl,” he said, hitting me again. “So many Newfies out west I got the lingo down!”
Alberta always came to these things with a chip on his shoulder, always became jealous of the attention lavished on Ontario and Quebec. I was about to say something provocative, get him on the go but remembered promising myself when I decided to come that I wouldn’t start another racket with the mainland.
Indeed Canada was across the room huddled with Ontario and Quebec, still unaware I’d even arrived. Why did she even bother inviting the rest of us to these things?
Saskatchewan made the same mistake as New Brunswick.
“Yep. We took a pass in 1867.”
“You were asked and said, “no”?”
“Yes. And again in 1869, 1895 and 1902.”
“Lots of issues; taxation, prospect of the railway meant nothing to us and the fishery was booming.”
“How’s your fishery doing now?”
“It’s not ours, it’s Canada’s.”
“It was part of the deal.”
“We got out of the Wheat Board.”
“Good for you,” I said.
“Why did you finally join?”
“We let corruption and cronyism destroy the place, we were desperate. Same old , same old.”
Ontario went to the washroom and Quebec went outside for a smoke on the bridge giving Canada a first opportunity to come over and welcome me.
“Hey, where’s Labrador!” Up close I saw that Canada was even drunker than New Brunswick or Alberta.
“The invitation only said “Newfoundland” and you know how sensitive Labrador is about those things, about everything.”
“Damn, I made a point of insisting, but our staff are young and don’t give a shit about anything that happens east of Montreal. I really like Labrador. Like, really”
Everybody knew it was Canada’s attraction to Labrador, and her iron ore, that got us into Confederation, that, truth be told, Newfoundland was seen as a troublesome burden from the start, but it was rarely said out loud. Maybe I was a little hurt by this, maybe I was making trouble as I vouched I would not, goading Canada when I asked,
“So, where are the Indigenous crowd?”
Canada was crestfallen.
“I invited them but … “
Oh no, I thought, here comes that maudlin drunk Canada again.
“I’m going to make it up to them!” Canada said, “I’m calling them right now, going to reconcile!”
“Sleep on it, Canada,” I suggested.
“No, I’m phoning them right now!”
“Look, here’s an idea; do something practical first, like …. I dunno … getting them fit drinking water or some acceptable housing. Once that’s done, give the reconciliation a try.”
“I gonna call ‘em right now and acknowledge that this party is being held on unceded aboriginal land!”
Canada was going to do it too, was going to drunk-dial the entire Indigenous mailing list, had the iPhone in hand but, out in the kitchen, a fight over the failure of Energy East appeared to be breaking out between Alberta and Quebec, with Ontario trying to get in between them. Everyone else was standing around watching. Canada forgot about the Indigenous business and ran to make peace between its Upper and Lower. I took it as my opportunity to slip out.
Hey, it wasn’t my party.