Canada welcomes the world this month as part of that national branding exercise called the Winter Olympics, but it is also tinkering with its multicultural self-image in one other notable way. For the first time in 15 years the country has revised its exam, and the corresponding study guide, for citizenship applicants.
Among the changes, less emphasis is being placed on Canada’s peacekeeping tradition and more on its military history. Commendably, the new guide also dispenses with some of its past wishy-washiness, delving into such touchy topics as the Chinese head tax, the Second World War internment of Japanese-Canadians and Québec separatism. Canada – which accepts 250,000 immigrants every year, the highest per capita rate in the developed world – is not alone in updating its citizenship study materials. Globalisation and the changing demographics of migrant in-flows have recently prompted Germany, the United States, Australia and even Guyana to tweak their exams. So could you be a Canadian? Try these before you apply. Which Canadian invented the worldwide system of standardised time zones? (answer: Sir Sandford Fleming). And which country invaded Canada to commence the War of 1812? (answer: those pesky southern neighbours, the United States).
During its recent trade war, the Argentine government blocked Brazilian shipments of appliances, toys – and the flip-flop – letting in only 120,000 to protect local jobs. The government has relented to permit 2.4m into the country, but Porteño beaches could still go short.
In Texas, bovine thefts tripled from 2007 to 2008, and authorities expect even higher totals when last year’s figures are released. Oklahoma saw heifer-thieving double in 2009, while Missouri estimates that cowboys-gone-wrong herded away the equivalent of about €750,000 worth of animals over the past four years. An exact national count is elusive – lack of co-operation between industry and police is a major factor. “Cattle are moved quickly,” says Sheriff Andrew Bentz of Oregon’s remote Malheur County, where bandits on horseback rustled more than 1,000 cows in the past few months. “A cow stolen at Point A is herded to Point B, then trucked off and sold at Point C. The industry itself can never agree on regulations from state to state. We all like to do our own thing, but it’s a heyday for crooks.”
Millions of litres of pure glacier runoff will be exported this year; by 2011 water exports will dwarf wine exports. Crevasse, a high-end glacier water from the southern Patagonia ice fields, is now on the shelves in Dubai and Paris. Starting soon, the same company, Waters of Patagonia, is expected to ship billions of gallons of water in bulk to clients worldwide. “This is a new distribution model for water,” says Allan "Bear" Szydlowski, of Waters of Patagonia. “Water will move as efficiently as oil and way cheaper as there is no environmental risks.”
Few state leaders have managed to carve a raw chunk of heart from the still warm carcass of a seal, swallow it, tidy their bloodied hands with a tissue, and look poised and pretty throughout.
But when Canadian governor general Michaëlle Jean did just that during a visit to Inuit elders in the Arctic territory of Nunavut last spring, it sparked an international tempest. An EU official, who had supported its recent ban on seal product imports, derided the act as “bizarre”. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) accused Jean of “trying to give Canadians an even more Neanderthal image around the world than they already have”. Asked if she was trying to send the EU a message, former broadcast journalist Jean replied, “Take from that what you will.” Most Canadians were proud of the gesture. It demonstrated respect for traditional Inuit culture. When the Haitian-born refugee Jean was sworn in as Canada’s first black governor general in 2005, her appointment was welcomed as an affirmation of the country’s multicultural character. Although it’s largely a ceremonial post that makes her the queen’s proxy in Canada, Jean has often been drawn into the media ring. Aside from the seal meat hubbub, it was her constitutional prerogative to prorogue parliament in December 2008 and thereby extend the life of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government. Jean’s job demands a more versatile wardrobe than your average head of state. From visiting Canadian troops in Afghanistan to dancing with fledging hip-hop MCs or having snowball fights with children, it can be everything from pantsuits to parkas. Throughout, however, Jean has made it her mission to promote Canadian designers and companies. The style-conscious French were especially smitten with Jean during an official visit in 2008. Le Figaro referred to her as “this pretty princess with a bohemian soul”, while Jean, in an elegant lavender suit, induced giddiness in President Nicolas Sarkozy, such that he kissed her hand perhaps more often than protocol demanded. When Sarkozy later mused he’d like to bring Québec and the rest of Canada closer together (angering Québec separatists), one wondered if the French president might have been trying to impress his new crush.
- Hair: During her tenure, Jean has alternated between a naturally kinky, lightly tinted afro, sometimes held back with a band, and a straightened, relaxed look. Her choice of hairstyle has figured in the long-standing debate over whether prominent black women should go natural, or downplay their roots with a “safe” and presumably more “professional” straight look.
- Face and figure: That the petite Jean keeps supple and trim with regular kick-boxing classes is often evident in her choice of suit. But it’s her natural beauty and radiant smile that fetches the most comments.
- Clothing: Jean has made a point of promoting homegrown design talents. Even when necessarily clad in a parka, she eschews puffy for sleek, with attention to fur and embroidered aboriginal detailing. 04 Mat: In her official duties, Jean has trod on many a welcome mat — including this Inuit one made of sealskin, put out for her during last year’s visit to Nunavut.
The European Union is abandoning the building that has housed its mission in Washington since 1995, moving three blocks away across Foggy Bottom. The bigger, more secure digs (left) will be home to Brussels’ European External Action Service, the diplomatic corps established by the Lisbon Treaty. Washington is likely to be the service’s second-largest post abroad, after Beijing.