My Perspective - What we're made of


By Kate Jackman-Atkinson

The Neepawa Banner

On July 1, the patriotism in Canada is palpable. Across the country, from sea to sea, it’s red and white and maple leaves as we celebrate Canada Day and it’s easy to feel an overwhelming sense of pride in this great nation. But it’s now December, why am I talking about Canada Day?

While Canada Day is a special day, I think this time of year, even more so than that time of year, is the best time to celebrate Canada and what it means to be Canadian.

This is a stressful time of year.  The first of the real winter weather has arrived and life becomes extremely busy with holiday preparations, end of year preparations and end of term preparations. It’s hard to find someone who isn’t extremely busy as the calendar counts down the last weeks of 2014. This is the time of year in which I am proud to be Canadian.

Last weekend was American Thanksgiving, which means it was Black Friday in the U.S., but also here. Canadian retailers have increasingly been offering Black Friday sales in an effort to keep Canadians, ever keen to score a deal, at home. Canadian Black Friday is essentially the same as American Black Friday, except for one simple difference– it’s celebrated by Canadians.  

In the United States, scoring a great Black Friday deal can quite literally be a blood sport.  There is even a website called Black Friday Death Count which chronicles the injuries to and deaths of shoppers and retail staff on Black Friday.  Since 2006, there has been seven deaths and 96 injuries. 

This year, on Nov. 28, three shoppers were arrested in Tustin, Calif. after a brawl broke out at a Kohl’s store. Three female suspects were responsible for the assault in which one victim was taken to hospital with non-life threatening injuries and another was checked out and released at the scene. In Wymoning, a women was hit by a car in front of a Walmart.  

Last year, it was more of the same. In a New Jersey Walmart, a shopper was pepper sprayed and arrested after getting into an argument with a store manager and attacking a police officer. The argument was over a television. In Virginia, a man was stabbed during an altercation over a parking spot.

During Black Friday, American shoppers have been trampled, shot and stabbed. In 2011, shoppers stepped over 61 year-old Walter Vance after he collapsed in a Target store.  He subsequently died in hospital.

It’s hard to imagine such a thing happening in Canada where for years we have queued patiently in line waiting for deals on Boxing Day. You’ll see no knives, but you will hear shoppers saying “excuse me” and “sorry” as they jostle one another in search of deals.

This attitude continues through the Christmas season as shoppers flock to malls and stores. We may be desperate to get this year’s “It” toy and the perfect gift for friends and family, but we are still polite to one another. I know, I have worked retail at Christmas.

But it isn’t just our more peaceful nature when it comes to scoring the season’s best deals that makes me proud to be Canadian at this time of year, it’s our toughness.The winters endured by those who first made this area home would have been unimaginable to those of us accustomed to modern heating systems, thermal clothing, warm cars and high speed internet.  It took a certain kind of person to call this part of the world home and to survive with their health and sanity intact– to make it their home and to prosper.

That spirit lives on in Canadians today.  On a day in which the temperature approached -30°C before the wind chill, the comments I heard around town included, “At least there are no mosquitoes” and “Cold enough for you?”. The Brits may have “Keep calm and carry on”, but we Canadians have “Dress warm and carry on.”

I’m all for July 1 fireworks and barbeques, but this truly is the time of year in which I am most proud to be Canadian.