Snow’s Our Most Defining Feature

Snow's our most defining feature

The Calgary Sun
Last Updated: 12th December 2009, 4:46am

Even though I don't usually have a lot good to say about our current government in Ottawa, I will give Stephen Harper full credit and even a pat on the back for improving the guide for new Canadian citizens.

About a month ago, Citizenship and Immigration Canada published it new guide for people applying for citizenship called Discover Canada: the Rights and Responsibilities of Citizenship.”

Right away, I like anything that reminds you that rights come with responsibilities, like working hard, obeying the law and contributing to this great country and its people.


When it was first published, there was a minor kerfuffle over some plain talk about cultural expectations.

The guide doesn't mince words when it says: “In Canada, men and women are equal under the law.

“Canada's openness and generosity do not extend to barbaric cultural practices that tolerate spousal abuse, 'honour killings,' female genital mutilation or other gender-based violence.”

In other words, you come here to be part of Canadian society, which already worked hard to build up some pretty good values.

The “every opinion, value and custom is equally valid” multiculturalism only works well at a mall food court — not so well in building a country.

You don't have to be the same colour, race or religion to work as a country, but you do have to share core values.

The only thing I was disappointed with in the new citizenship guide was that it made hardly any reference to the thing most vital to living successfully here.

Except for pointing out the snowmobile was a Canadian invention, that we are proud of the aerial acrobatics of the Snowbirds, and that snow removal is a municipal responsibility, the guide makes no other reference to the white stuff.

I would have thought snow was one of our most defining features, and one of the things many immigrants are the least prepared for.

For one thing, I'd like the citizenship guide to have a whole chapter on the proper way to shovel snow.

I've seen some of my neighbours who originated in warmer countries out in a blizzard with a broom and a rake.

You shouldn't get your citizenship until you can identify the three kinds of snow shovel every house needs — a pusher, a thrower, and that blade on a stick for chopping ice.

Driving on snow could take up several chapters and should be mandatory reading, including by the lady who wanged into my rear bumper this morning.

“The snow is very slippery,” was her remarkable observation as we got out of our cars to survey the damage.

“It is not like this in Greece.” I've got news — I've been to Greece and she's not driving around the Parthenon anymore.

Fortunately, she left a scrape too small to bother insurance companies with, so I let her off with a bit of advice that snow will continue to be slippery all winter, so she better take it easy.

A bit of fashion advice for newcomers would also not be out of order.


Canadian winters can be breathtakingly cold.

Years back I had a Nigerian client who arrived in the summer.

By September he was complaining about the cold.

When I explained to him that we would have a few days in February that would hit 20 below, he looked at me like I was insane.

Maybe we are insane to live work and even play in weather like that.

But that's part of who we are, and I think we should give future citizens fair warning.

After all, we may have to huddle together for warmth.