S’mores the pity

Posted on July 06, 2011 | Atlantic Business Magazine | 0 Comments

Great news for Canadian multiculturalism!

At long last, we have identified (and more importantly, elected to share) the secret formula to welcoming new immigrants in a way that instantly, retroactively, integrates them as privileged members of the sacred Canadian fold. And we have none other than Parks Canada to thank.

The inscrutable mysticism that has become the trademark of the Steve-o regime — so unforeseen are its decisions; its effects so often divorced from natural cause (such as deeming a coast guard rescue centre superfluous for the Atlantic-shrouded isle of Newfoundland) — was particularly evident in the pronouncement from a Parks Canada departmental denizen. Speaking to CBC New Brunswick mid-June, this unnamed person (I know her name, but thought to save her the embarrassment of continued personal identification) proclaimed she can think of no better way to welcome new citizens to their now-native land than camping.

Yes, you read that right: camping. As in, it’s time to load up on the Deep Woods ’cause you’re about to become fly-bait; plug your nostrils against the odiferous aromatherapy of primitive outdoor water closets; shiver on the ground with only a thin fowl-feather cocoon as cushion from whatever uneven surface you’ve chosen to pitch on, camping.

The mind repels.

I am a natural-born Canadian and I haven’t camped, in all its tented foulness, for nigh on 25 years. I’m of the civilized persuasion that enjoys above-ground sleeping and running water. Voluntarily huddle on damp foliage with some previously unseen tree root gouging its way through my spine? I think not.

Yet, someone, somewhere, somehow, decided that camping was just what our newest citizens needed to feel more at home in the Great White North. (A critical person might suppose it had something to do with an outfitter’s sponsorship of the excursion. They wouldn’t really try to subliminally convince newcomers that Coleman stoves and sleeping bags were essential to cultural integration. Would they?)

Seriously, what more could immigrants wish for than to go camping? Updated immigration policies, shorter application processing times, better translation services, access to credit, recognition of foreign education credentials so that doctors and engineers don’t have to become taxi drivers or restaurant owners — what use are these? It’s not like we want all our immigrants following in the footsteps of ultra-successful business and community icon Wadih Fares (Atlantic Business Magazine’s CEO of the Year for 2011). No, far better we teach them to survive the wilds of P.E.I.

Which exactly explains why a late June weekend saw some 115 new immigrants gather at the Fort Beauséjour National Historic Site in Aulac, N.B. There they were taught the intricacies of tent pitching, outdoor fire starting and how to achieve the perfect “s’more” — a dental hygienist’s nightmare of semi-burnt marshmallow merged with cloying chocolate chunk and sandwiched between sweetened crackers made from graham flour.

(As an interesting aside, you might care to note that graham crackers were, according to Wikipedia, originally marketed as a health food that could be used to curb “unhealthy carnal urges” — the definition of which is beyond my powers of explication. Still, the thought nags: could the “s’more” be a secret government conspiracy to dampen sexual activity, thereby preventing new arrivals from procreating and outnumbering the native populace?)

But back to the topic at hand: the Great Camping Experiment. This smoked and tented pseudo-adventure took place on a site that, ironically enough, commemorates the ancient French-English battle for supremacy in the New World. Sadly, neither the subliminal messaging nor the tortuous circumstances comprised by the very nature of the camping experience approach the full ridiculousness of the event.

Well-intentioned though it might have been, it hinged on the erroneous and arrogant assumption that camping is somehow a quintessentially unique Canadian experience on par with the cultural distinction of Newfoundland mummering, Acadian music or First Nation powwows. As if camping were unique to Canada! Did anyone not stop to think that perhaps, just perhaps, people from Iran or any of the other 16 countries represented, were familiar with sleeping out of doors?

It was a misleading representation of real Canadiana and an arrogant appraisal of what experiences and skills would be most valued by immigrants. And here’s the real kicker: Fort Beauséjour is a national historic site — according to the Parks Canada website, there’s no camping allowed.

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