THE GOOD STUFF
Steve Nash is the NBA’S MVP, Toronto’s Natalie Glebova is Miss Universe, and Paul Anka is back, and cool again. But there’s a lot more to be proud of this Canada Day. From unlikely comebacks to unheralded breakthroughs, Maclean's presents a random collection of people and things worth celebrating.
JUNIOR HOCKEY GETS ITS DUE
More a habit than a passion. With this blunt assessment on the eve of the cancellation of the 2004-05 season, Hall of Fame goaltender Ken Dryden summed up the country’s waning attachment to NHL hockey, so far has the league declined in quality and fan appeal. But as the lockout dragged into May, fans were discovering a hockey world more worthy of their ardour. Junior-with its furious pace, exuberant young players and homespun atmospherics-was hot.
It was a timely ascendence for both fans and the junior leagues. Just when the Stanley Cup might have been awarded, record audiences were glued to their TVs to watch a Memorial Cup final featuring two of the most successful teams in major junior history-the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League and Quebec’s Rimouski Océanie. The Knights set numerous records during an astonishing season, going 31 games unbeaten from the start of the season and finishing with a 59-7-2 record. The Océanie, meanwhile, had one of the most spectacular prospects in decades in 17-yearold Sidney Crosby, and an amazing 28-game unbeaten streak of their own. Tickets for the dramatic final between the Knights and Océanie were commanding $500 apiece, and 825,000 tuned in to watch from home. London won big in the end: the final score was 4-0 and the tournament drew crowds totalling 71,000.
It was the second tour de force for junior in 2005. At the start of the year, a hand-picked squad of Canadians electrified the country by winning gold at the world junior hockey championship in North Dakota, led by Crosby and London’s big star, Corey Perry. Today, fans might rightly wonder where these kids have been hiding. No lockouts. No whining owners. No spoiled millionaire players. Makes you wish they’d never grow up, doesn’t it?
A PLACE TO REMEMBER
The big party on July 1 is on Parliament Hill, as it should be for a national celebration. But this year there’s a new must-see destination for visitors to the capital for the annual bash: the Canadian War Museum, a pleasant stroll west of the Peace Tower along the Ottawa River. The museum opened in early May and has already proven to be a crowd-pleaser, attracting as many visitors in its first month as its old, much smaller digs, tucked in beside the National Gallery of Canada, did in a year. The exhibitions of military hardware (kids love it) and war art (an underappreciated cultural treasure trove) make it a rich family outing.
It’s all housed in a remarkable building that’s worth a trip on its own: a moody, low-slung modern masterpiece by architects Raymond Moriyama and Alexander Rankin. And this happens to be a prime moment to take stock of Canada’s military past-or look ahead to the future. Only a few days before the new museum opened it doors, tens of thousands of people in the Dutch town of Wageningen cheered as Canadian veterans marched through the streets they liberated 60 years ago, when the German army surrendered. Meanwhile, federal spending plans are generating optimism that the military legacy those proud Second World War vets represent isn’t a thing of Canada’s past: this year’s budget pumps $12.8 billion over the next five years into defence, the biggest hike in military spending in two decades.
THE LOONIE HITS THE SWEET SPOT
Not too hot, and not too cold. That’s how we like our dollar, but it rarely seems to work out that way. We panic when it’s plunging, as it did in 1998 and 2001. We hyperventilate when it jumps too fast, like it did in 2003. Well, this year the loonie finally obliged, settling into that elusive sweet spot. After a blistering 21per-cent rise in 2003 and another 7.2-per-cent jump in 2004, the old C-dollar has levelled off in 2005. And by holding at around U580 cents, the currency has managed to give us the best of both worlds.
The cooling has provided a reprieve to Canada’s embattled exporters, who wilted under the pressure of a surging dollar in the past couple of years. A rising loonie hurts exports because it cuts the proceeds of goods sold abroad, while operating expenses denominated in Canadian dollars hold steady.
At the same time, the loonie managed to
hold most of its recent gains, putting an end to “northern peso” jokes, increasing economic productivity, and making travel to the U.S. a whole lot cheaper. As an added bonus, the dollar has posted a solid 8.9-percent gain against the euro this year as well. It all adds up to a better standard of living for Canadians, more buying power and an optimistic sign for the future of our economy. STEVE MAICH
MAKING WHOOPERS WITHOUT MAKING WHOOPEE
Call it a test-tube whooper, or perhaps a new meaning for the turkey baster. In late May, the first whooping crane chick conceived using artificial insemination hatched at the Calgary Zoo, and within a few days, three more were born. Whoopers, as they are affectionately called, today number roughly 450 worldwide. That makes them one of the world’s most endangered species, but it’s a huge improvement from the 1940s, when the population fell to about 20 birds.
With its striking snowy white feathers and tall stature-a male can measure 1.5 m high-the whooping crane is a spectacular bird. Its flight is extraordinary: it involves spiralling upward with thermal drafts and then gliding downward, an oddly energy-efficient style that allows it to travel as much as 750 km without a rest. But one of the whooping crane’s most remarkable features is its elaborate courtship ritual. Adult mates perform a dance together, bobbing, weaving and jumping at each other. The pair may accompany their courtship with a call made in unison, like singing a duet. But in captivity, sadly, the birds are reluctant to mate, says Dwight Knapik, the Calgary Zoo’s cranekeeper. In fact, only one pair of the zoo’s 20 birds has had chicks. “We don’t have a good handle on why it’s so difficult to get them to breed in captivity,” he says.
Artificial insemination, which has been successfully practised in the U.5., is the answer. There’s better genetic diversity among captive birds than wild ones, Knapik explains, and the goal is to create more offspring from the captive groups that over time can be used to expand the gene pools of wild flocks. AI is a complicated procedure, requiring two people-one to hold the bird and massage its upper thighs and the other to collect semen. But it’s well worth it, says Knapik. This year, three of the four chicks survived and, he says, “they are just stretching out and growing like weeds.” KATHERINE MACKLEM
BABEWATCH: NOW WITH MORE BABES
Soon after being “discovered” wearing a teeny tiny Labatt Blue T-shirt at a B.C. Lions game in 1989, Pamela Anderson set off a prime time revolution. Three seasons as Tim Allen’s Tool Time girl on Home Improvements to the role (in a red one-piece on Baywatch) that made her famous. Say what you will, but Pam’s success turned Hollywood talent scouts on to Canada, sending them rushing over the border in search of the next hot thing from the North.
Flip through the channels these days and it’s pretty clear there was no shortage. We complain a lot about Canadian TV-it’s never funny enough, smart enough or sexy enough. Maybe that’s because most of our homegrown starlets have headed south-and they’ve never looked better on the small screen. Tune in to the major networks on any night of the week and take your pick. There’s Evangeline Lilly running around in a dirty (and often wet) T-shirt in Lost, Sarah Chalke getting laughs in Scrubs-, Kelly Rowan as a sexy mom/high-powered publishing executive with a drinking problem on The O.C.; Kristin Kreuk playing hard to get with Clark Kent in Smallville; Sandra Oh turning heads as a surgical intern in Grey’s Anatomy, Molly Parker in the raunchy Western drama Deadwood; even Anderson, back on the boob tube as the star of Stacked. Think of them as our very own Golden G/r/s-thankfully they’re a lot hotter than the originals. JOHN INTINI
STICKIN’ IT TO KRISPY KREME
They may not have mastered the double-double lingo yet, but Americans have taken to Tim Hortons like, well, a sweet tooth takes to Timbits. Since it expanded south of the border, Canada’s coffee king has proven to be the exception to a depressingly standard rule of Canadian retailers bombing in the U.S. But in Tim’s case, it hasn’t just survived in the notoriously competitive U.S. fast-food market, it’s thriving. Its in-shop sales last year were up an impressive 10 per cent, and it continues to expand at a steady pace. There are now more than 250 Tim Hortons coffee shops across the northwest and midwest states, with an ambitious goal to double that number within a couple of years. If the company succeeds, it will be among the fastest-growing fast-food chains in North America.
Tim’s was founded in 1964 in Hamilton by Tim Horton, then a Toronto Maple Leafs star. A defenceman who played in the NHL for 22 years, Horton was tragically killed in a car crash when he was only 44. But his partner, Ron Joyce, carried on as sole owner until 1995 when, with a franchise business of 1,000 shops, he sold to Wendy’s International. Perhaps part of its secret recipe for success in the U.S. is that the chain continues to function as a Canadian entity, separate from its parent company. Even the dough for its signature apple fritters, Dutchies and other baked goods is prepared in Canada. Last year, Tim’s was responsible for a quarter of Wendy’s total sales and almost half its profits, making the friendly fast-food joint popular with both investors and snackers. Now that’s a double-double.
A STEP TOWARD REAL COMPASSION
The scenes of destruction and despair that followed Asia’s Boxing Day tsunami had at least one positive consequence: they opened our eyes to the extreme poverty in which much of the planet still exists, and brought an outpouring of generosity from citizens of the world’s rich nations.
Ottawa responded with a drastic change in the federal government’s approach to foreign aid. Over the next five years, the federal government will begin concentrating all of its foreign-aid spending on a short list of about 25 nations where poverty is extreme but the opportunity for improvement is great. Gone from the roster of recipients are countries such as China, which many thought shouldn’t have been getting aid in the first place, given its rapid economic growth. That should leave more for the poorest recipients, like Tanzania, Zambia and Sri Lanka.
This means an end to the drop-in-thebucket approach to foreign aid, and a new sense of optimism in Canada’s stretched aid organizations. “We will do more of what we’re good at in places where Canada can make a
difference,” Foreign Affairs Minister Pierre Pettigrew said in April when he announced the new program.
The next big step is getting the Liberal government to commit to spending .7 per cent of Canada’s gross domestic product on focused and effective foreign aid by 2015. It won’t be easy-like almost all other rich nations, Canada isn’t even close to that mark. But in June, all parties endorsed the idea-meaning increased foreign assistance was one of the only issues that this fractious minority Parliament could agree on. That’s progress. STEVE MAICH
NEW HOPE IN THE BATTLE AGAINST TWO TERRIFYING VIRUSES
The mere mention of their names is chilling. Ebola and Marburgthey’re two of the most fearsome viruses known, hemorrhagic fevers that kill upwards of 90 per cent of those who contract them. Now, thanks to a breakthrough at Canada’s National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg, there’s hope we can vanquish them.
Vaccines for both viruses have been discovered, and while it will be at least five years before they can be used extensively in humans, they may help rescue the endangered western lowland gorilla and the central chimpanzee that inhabit the Republic of Congo and Gabon, and are disappearing under the effects of a viral siege.
The Winnipeg lab opened in 1999 and is now part of the Public Health Agency of Canada. It’s a level-four facility, the most secure there is, when it comes to protecting scientists against the world’s most dangerous microbes. The lab has attracted the likes of Dr. Heinz Feldmann from Germany, internationally regarded as a leading expert on hemorrhagic fevers, and England’s Steven Jones, acting chief of zoonotic bacteriology and head of immunopathology at the lab. Together, Feldmann and Jones showed that their vaccines provided 100-per-cent protection against Marburg and Ebola in mice, guinea pigs and goats. The U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases in Maryland then did the necessary confirmation in monkeys.
A recent Marburg outbreak in Angola illustrates what doctors are up against. To date, the disease has infected 422 patients there-killing 356. Bioterrorists have taken note, says Kelly Keith, a spokeswoman at the Winnipeg lab. The work in Canada still has a ways to go, but represents a monumental first step against two of the world’s most terrifying killer bugs. DANYLO HAWALESHKA
THE GREAT CANADIAN NOVEL GETS A NEW FACE
It’s impossible to guess where the Great Canadian Novel, should it ever be written, will unfold, but there’s a very good chance it won’t be in Canada. The eternal Canadian novel, after all—the one we keep writing over and over again-is set across the Atlantic, against the carnage of the Western Front. No surprise there. The Great War occupies a profoundly ambiguous place in Canada’s psyche: both slaughterhouse of the young and crucible of the nation.
Now Joseph Boyden, in a superb First World War novel, has brought the almost forgotten First Nations’ contribution to the fore in Three Day Road. After the war, the wounded Xavier travels home to the bush with his old aunt Niska. Their three-day canoe trip, during which Xavier’s memories of himself and his fellow Cree sniper Elijah Weesageechak emerge, parallels the Ojibway belief in the soul’s three-day journey from the body to the spirit world.
The novel is partly a tribute to Francis Pegahmagabow, a real-life Ojibway sniper who survived the war intact-and with an astonishing record of 378 enemy kills. That’s certainly something worth restoring to the national memory, especially for Boyden, who is acutely attuned to the “big part played in my life by the small part of my ancestry that’s native.” Part Metis, Boyden, 38, grew up in Toronto, but spent his childhood summers near Georgian Bay, Ont., and often visited local reserves.
The extraordinary richness of Boyden’s prose and his material, both in the forgotten history he’s recovered and his electric metaphors, make Three Day Road one of the finest novels in an already rich national tradition. BRIAN BETHUNE
GOODBYE TO THE ONE-PARTY STATE
Federal politics stink, right? Corruption is rampant. Parliament is a farce. The leaders are not leading.
Actually, wrong on all three counts.
The sponsorship scandal, serious though it is, dates back to the last administration. The current one set up the judicial inquiry into it—hard to take that away from Paul Martin. True, there’s been some tawdry dealmaking around the House lately, but a self-serving Stronach defection here and a bootleg Grewal recording there does not a dysfunctional Parliament make.
Remember the dispiriting Ottawa landscape of the 1990s? Jean Chretien’s Liberals were really the only game in town. Today, while Stephen Harper might not score high on the fun-guy index, he’s a proven coalition-builder who presides over a credible government-in-waitingsomething Preston Manning and Stockwell Day could never truly claim. And if Jack Layton hasn’t shed his tiresome air of lefty indignation, he has displayed a dogged effectiveness that lifts the NDP above its marginal status under Audrey McLaughlin and Alexa McDonough.
And then there’s Martin. His chronically awkward way with words may prevent him from ever truly connecting with Canadians, but lately he’s shown some of the whatever-it-takes pragmatism that allowed past Liberal PMs to get things done. Overall, not so bad. And compared with Canada’s international competition, even better. George W. Bush’s main domestic priority (social security reform) is stalled, and his top foreign file (Iraq, of course) looks, well, quagmired. And don’t get us started on those referendum-scorched Euro-losers. On balance, we’ll take our guys. JOHN GEDDES
OUR FIRST LADY OF MEMORY
When you’re a living legend in science, honours tend to pile up. That’s the way it’s long been for Brenda Milner, 86, whose distinguished research career as a behavioural neuroscientist spans more than five decades and continues today at the Montreal Neurological Institute. But when you are chosen for three prestigious awards in the span of 12 months, that’s something special, even for the woman widely rec-
ognized as a founder of cognitive neuroscience.
Every three years, the National Academy of Sciences in Washington hands out its coveted US$25,000 NAS Award in the Neurosciences. Last year, it went to Milner, “for her pioneering and seminal investigations of the functioning of the temporal lobes and other brain regions in learning, memory, and speech.” Then, last December, Governor General Adrienne Clarkson promoted Milner to the highest level within the Order of Canada. And in April, it was announced Milner will receive the prestigious Gairdner Award in Toronto, whose recipients frequently go on to win a Nobel Prize.
It’s been said that Milner and memory are synonymous. For several decades, she studied a patient known only as H.M. He could never remember meeting her, nor could he recall the drawing exercises she utilized to study what was, or wasn’t, going on in H.M.’s brain. He became famous within the scientific community, and helped Milner explain different ways in which memory works. Today, Milner remains a mentor to students at Montreal’s McGill University, and she is still at the cutting edge of her discipline, using powerful brainimaging technology to figure out which part of the brain remembers the location of objects.
Milner has taught us how memory works. And we’ll always remember her for it.