Walrus Talks: Canada’s 150th

I was lucky enough to spend my post-#OpenCity Saturday in Halifax at The Walrus Talks event with my sister.

The Walrus Talks is a national tour put on by The Walrus magazine, to celebrate Canada’s 150th Birthday. (Which seems to be an extremely big deal around these parts.) The Walrus is travelling across Canada with different guest speakers in each city, talking about Canada’s place in the world and what we can all do to make it better.

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I will be honest, the main reason I grabbed tickets to this event was because I saw that Molly Johnson was going to be there. I love Molly Johnson. I have the girl crush of all girl crushes on this woman. My fave song is Rain and it’s on YouTube and I won’t be offended if you stop reading this right now to go listen. (Come back though, please!)

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“The time has come, the Walrus said, to talk of many things…”

First up to speak, after the folks from The Walrus was the 28th Governor General of Canada, David Johnston, who kicked things off with a quick verse recitation from Lewis Carroll’s poem, The Walrus and the Carpenter.

He also implored us to think about what a birthday is actually about if not to reflect on the past and prepare us for the future? In this case, the birthday belongs to our entire country, but why not spend some time thinking about what we each can do to make it a better place.

“Our future is bright and we all have a part to play.”

Author and Poet Jane Urquhart spoke next and touched on our adaptability and using the things we all have in common to bring people together.

Fred Fountain, said what was one of the most striking things for me, that we are the ones who get to create the value that is Canada. How things move forward is up to us.

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So many of the words shared at the talk were intended to be about the bigger picture, our country, where we live, how to make it all better, but coincidentally, or not, they were also things that resonate with me on a more personal level.

The tips that were given and the solutions set forth, are things I make an effort to use in my day to day living. Fred Fountain stated simply, “It’s not unimportant to champion beauty.” I can easily translate this into, do the things that bring you joy. Follow what makes you happy. Keep the fresh flowers on your table. Read good books. Be kind to animals. Do the thing.

Writer Anand Mahadevan spoke on his family’s journey to Canada and told about approaching an immigration officer at the airport who was bewildered at how little the family had to live on once they entered our country.

“Someone looked past their fear. The gave us an opportunity and we took it and flourished.”

Yes. Look past your fear. In life, in your day, in your home, in your comfort zone. Wherever it is that you personally are faced with fear, stare it down, move past it and aim for what could be.

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I foolishly did not know who Charles Pachter was when I first heard him speak, and then he mentioned painting a picture of the Queen on a moose. Ooohhhh! He’s that guy.

In what was maybe my favorite moment of the day, Pachter off-handedly mentioned that he got a D- in Grade 9 art. A quick look at his bio in the Walrus Talks brochure tells us he is a painter, print maker, sculptor, designer, historian and teacher. So. You know, keep going.

We got to hear from writer and activist, Desmond Cole and Aaron Taylor, a member of Trudeau’s Youth Council. Then came my bae Molly Johnson, who told the room,

“…go see a stinky band in a stinky bar. Buy art, but only if you love it. Try different food, try different art, try different culture. It’s just about learning about others. It’s just about loving others.”

I.Love.Her. Anyway. Last up at the podium was Rebecca Thomas, Halifax’s poet laureate. She performed her piece in the way that poets with important words always do. The room was completely silent. I was mesmerized. She spoke with power and truth behind her words, plain and simple.

“We tell these stories to pass on knowledge’s…”

After the talk, we got to hop on board like fancy rich people the HMCS Ville de Quebec, thanks to oh, you know, The Royal Canadian Navy.

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We dined and drank and mingled. I hummed some Norah Jones along with the band, while I stood in line for the chocolate fountain. I tried to bully my sister to stand near the edge of the boat. (She hates boats.) She said no. It was a Saturday well spent.

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I read The Walrus religiously (as I do with most mags), and I was so hoping it would be an event suitable for, well…the under 50 crowd. (No offence.) And it was! It was almost informal in a way, and the speakers, who all had a 7 minute time limit, could have spoken for hours and I would have just sat there and listened. It truly was just one big conversation about the things that are important – culture, art, diversity, kindness, openness, freedom — and what we, as citizens are going to do to add to that. The day was just enough to get my own wheels turning and to think about the difference I myself am able to make.

It’s no secret that I feel like my heart and soul belong in Europe and every day I am not there feels like my life is stalled. But! the one thing I have noticed while being abroad is the sense of pride I feel when telling people where I’m from. Canada ain’t so bad. So if I am going to continue to share my background and culture with people, I may as well make my own little effort to help push the greatness forward.

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