Written by Jasmine Mah
A few weeks ago I was sitting in a piazza in a small town in Northern Italy when from the corner of my eye, I glimpsed a blue baseball cap with an unmistakable white embroidered maple leaf. A Torontonian. A Canadian. My heart was pounding with adrenaline, the ecstatic fearful kind of rush like when you see unexpectedly see your first love somewhere and you’re wearing the perfect outfit. Canada and Canadians are like that for me- the one that got away but that will always hold pieces of your heart, no matter the time that passes or the distance. Shamelessly and more so, proudly, I yelled across about fifty people sipping on prosecco “hey, are you Canadian?!”. Heads turned, probably because of the English than the brashness, the former a rarity in my adopted city. He smiled from ear to ear and I had my answer, no words needed.
There is a camaraderie between Canadians abroad, an unspoken connectivity that runs deeper than a shared love of maple syrup and poutine. I’ve lived in Italy for two years now and there’s nothing that makes me happier than meeting my fellow countrymen by chance. I literally have to resist urges to hug these strangers, these fragments of home. I can hear a Canadian accent now- jovial and unassuming, clear and neutral, I can hear it a mile away. I stalk backpackers through Italian cities, following the little stitched-on Canadian flags, inexplicably drawn to their mere presence. Though I moved to one of the world’s most coveted and romantic countries, I often struggle with missing Canada. I was born and raised in Alberta and ironically all I ever wanted to do was leave. Mine is a story that is has been written time and time again. Edmonton felt too small for me, I wanted the world. I wanted cobblestone streets, cheap wine, and never-ending carbohydrates. I yearned for the chatter of foreign tongues and the challenge that comes with transplanting your life across the Atlantic.
Turns out, you don’t know what you have until it’s gone and there’s a myriad of things that Canada has that I didn’t know it had until I found myself across the pond. I speak for Alberta in particular when I say the first thing I miss is the endless blue sky. The kind of sky that makes you dream and at the same time, makes you feel irrelevant. I spend hours when I’m back with my head tilted back, amazed. The air is different. Cleaner and purer, a proper cliché but the truth. The air in Italy tastes ancient as if it’s been breathed a million times over, the same air of the Romans, and rightfully so. Not better or worse, just different.
In Canada, if you have a craving for pho, for ramen, for spaghetti alla carbonara, for cabbage rolls, for butter chicken, you name it…you can find a friend and find a place to curb that craving. In other parts of the world, it’s not that easy and you may have that craving for years until it’s satiated as many other Canadians abroad will know. There have been times I would have murdered someone for decent dim sum. Another beautiful and underrated thing is that you can find a friend to go with, someone who knows exactly what all these ethnic dishes are, how they are pronounced, and loves them as much as you do because you both grew up with them. You probably had a best friend whose mom made the best pelmeni and you’d steal them from her lunchbox when she wasn’t looking. While it can be argued that multiculturalism in Canada isn’t perfect, it’s far ahead of the rest of the globe.
We also acknowledge strangers as they pass, even with just a look, a nod. In Italy, I had to be told to stop smiling at random people on the street as it’s gotten me into trouble more than once, people mistaking friendliness for seductiveness or naivety. Apparently being overly friendly could actually be a flaw. It made me an easy target abroad and I quickly learned to clench my jaw and suppress my instinct to smile, my Canadian instinct, in order to prevent misunderstandings and being taken advantage of.
Another thing I love about Canada is that no one stares at mixed couples as if we’re an abomination of nature. If they do, it’s out of intrigue and not disdain, a stark difference that makes all the difference to me as one-half of a mixed couple (my other half is Italian). I’ve also never been asked how much I cost or where I’m “really from” after I tell someone I’m Canadian, both of which have been all-too-common occurrences over the past two years. It’s cringe worthy, I know, especially on the receiving end. I used to be surprised and offended to hear these remarks until realizing and accepting that they come from people who haven’t had the privilege of being raised in a country like Canada.
If you’ve travelled or lived in another country, you might also recall being stared at for looking different or for speaking a language that doesn’t “belong” to the country you were in. People telling you that you don’t look Canadian followed by confused looks when you try to explain for the umpteenth time that you were born there. I have often found myself wondering what a Canadian looks like and what Canadian is supposed to sound like. I’ve decided that the answer is at the airport, I saw and heard it in action when I flew back this time. The off-tune singsong of different languages in the customs line is our language and everyone looks Canadian despite the color of their passports or their skin. When the customs officer said “welcome home”, I nearly broke down in tears. It struck me how privileged we are to call Canada home.
I am blessed to know two countries, two languages, and two ways of living, however there is a saying in Italian: non si possono avere due paradisi: uno di qua e uno di là. You can’t have two paradises, one here and one there. You can’t have both at once. I’m back in Canada, dreaming under the blue skies of Alberta and for the moment, it is paradise. Perhaps one day, many years from now, I’ll have the same feeling of belonging, the same tears, when the plane lands in Milan. Of this, I am uncertain, but there is one thing that I know for sure- you will never catch me yelling across a crowded piazza upon glimpsing the tricolore, the Italian flag. That’s something I’d only do and will always do…for a maple leaf.
When we visited Muskoka, we spoke with five families who can attest to the connections we make with things outside of ourselves. Every summer, the Roells, Rölls, Rossis, Durnis and Smails flock to Bala Bay, a part of Muskoka where their most special memories have been formed.
Writer: Charlotte Singmin
Spring is finally here and with it comes the oh-so-Canadian tradition of farmer’s markets popping up all over our busy urban centres. The evolution of the roadside fruit stand with the same farm to table sensibility, farmer’s markets give us the opportunity to shop local and support small businesses while fostering a sense of community, something we Canadians are known for. What better way to meet up with friends and neighbours and sample local produce, hand made sauces and sandwiches, fresh cut flowers and vegan ice cream, while enjoying some of the prettiest pockets of the city? And not just for parks and open grassy spaces, farmers markets in the downtown core are giving corporate professionals the opportunity to step out into the sunshine and head back to their desks with pints of Ontario grown strawberries, homegrown honey, or freshly baked bread.
Check out our favourite TO farmers markets all the way from the west end to the beaches and back, and make sure to add these healthy hangouts to your summertime schedule.
Thursdays from 3-7pm. This market is open all year round, but nothing beats summertime in the grove at dusk eating delicious local treats. This farmers market shares space with skateboarders, baseball leagues, yogis and thespians as well as boasting a significant play area for kids.
Tuesday afternoons from May thru October. Set in the north end of arguably one of the loveliest parks in the neighourhood, Trinity Bellwood’s Farmers’ market is a great way to support local farming efforts as well as enjoying a slice of green space in the middle of the city. Nestled near hipster havens of Ossington and Dundas, and infamous Queen street west, Bellwood’s park is home to evening baseball games, tennis courts, a sprawling dog park and children’s playgrounds. With plenty of grass as well as scattered picnic tables and benches, it’s the perfect place to picnic with your farmers market fare.
Sundays from 9am – 2pm May 22nd- Oct 30th. Nothing says weekend chill-out like waking up on Sunday and making your way to this east end hot spot for a locally brewed caffeine hit and homemade, healthy eats. Located in Jonathan Ashbridge Park and outfitted with plenty of bike racks and free parking, this is your one stop shop for locally grown goods, live music, and a family friendly, community vibe.
Mondays from 3-7pm. Parkdale’s pride and joy, this year round farmer’s market is operated by the equally popular West End Food Co-op and offers a wide variety of local vendors and popular wares that can also be found in the queen west shop. Lot’s of outdoor space to enjoy as well as live music and a park for the kids, this market is a great place to pick up your seedlings for the summer and pre-order seasonable produce.
Thursdays from 8am – 2pm, May thru October. Kick start your morning with a visit to this particularly urban farmer’s market located in the courtyard off King Street West. Not much in the way of green space but certainly plenty of local produce, cheeses and baked goods, why not grab a bouquet of fresh wildflowers and make a colleagues day while you’re at it.
Saturdays 8am- 1pm May thru November. One of the largest farmers’ markets in the city, the Brickworks even has it’s own free shuttle bus transporting eager patrons from Broadview subway station and back. Plenty of produce and other locally grown goods, this farmers market also has several vendors serving up delicious homemade treats. Musical performances, an expansive nursery, as well as a children’s garden make this market one not to be missed.
Artscape Wychwood Barns
Saturdays 8am – noon, May to October. Run by the Stop Community Food Center, which provides food and assistance for low-income families, the Wychwood Barns, farmers market has helped to establish a significant sense of community within this vibrant north west neighbourhood. Fresh produce, local vendors, hot lunches and lots of fun for the kids makes this fixture on the farmers market circuit an enjoyable part of any weekend routine.
The Peace Collective is a platform that allows Canadians to show pride in who they are and what they believe in all while giving back to their community.
So far we’ve accomplished this with products that allow Canadians to show their pride coupled with our one-for-one model that supports Canadian youth. We believe in ordinary Canadians doing extraordinary things. So, if you’re a Canadian chasing a dream, giving back to your community or have an amazing story to tell, you’re part of the Peace Collective.
In the last year we at Peace Collective have been working diligently to strengthen this messaging and to rally Canadians around the concept of chasing a passion. Together we have made great strides towards this goal, but it’s just the start
Today we are proud to announce “Project: My Canada.”
This project is our commitment to becoming more than just an apparel company. It’s our commitment to becoming one of the premier Canadian lifestyle brands and our commitment to becoming a nation-wide platform for Canadian pride.
#MyCanada represents an open dialogue we’re excited to have. It’s a deeper conversation about what it means to be Canadian and is told through sharing our story and telling the stories of other Canadians coast-to-coast. When discussing Canadian identity, even within Canada, the first thought is always stereotypical. It’s maple syrup, poutine, igloos and snow. It’s stories about plaid shirts, drinking beer and watching the hockey game. Don’t get us wrong, all of these thing are great and may represent what it means to be Canadian for some, but is it representative of the ENTIRE Canadian culture? We don’t believe so.
Canada is one of the most multicultural countries in the world and a majority of Canadians originate from different cultures and different walks of life. We know that the Canadian identity is much deeper than a stereotype and this project seeks to uncover that. We’ll be painting Canada’s identity by sharing real life stories from different Canadians coast-to-coast. By telling the unique stories of Canadians, and highlighting their passions and dreams, we hope to put together a mosaic of unique perspectives of what it means to be Canadian. This is the beautiful thing about Canada, there is no single Canadian identity. We each live a unique life, filled with unique ambitions, hopes, dreams and struggles. We each have different upbringings and a different perspective of the world. Home is Canada means something different to every Canadian.
Every week for the next two months we’ll be releasing a new project to paint a picture of what “Our Canada” consists of. As we tell our story we want to hear what your #MyCanada is. What makes you excited to wake up in the morning? What are you passionate about? What does Home is Canada mean to you?
We want to share your story with the rest of the community through our website and our social media. We will be reading all of the stories you submit between April 6th, 2016 to May 30th 2016 and on June 1st, we will select the ones that inspires and touches us the most to be entered into a contest to win the Ultimate Canadian Trip (to be announced on June 1st). You can submit your story via the platform of your choice.
Stay tuned and much love.
Visit to submit your #MyCanada story: http://bit.ly/1pIqg3A Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org Send us a DM on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook.