IMAGES 99

Hail and Farewell

The last year of the century was brimful of inspiration, sadness—and war

Bruce Wallace December 20 1999
IMAGES 99

Hail and Farewell

The last year of the century was brimful of inspiration, sadness—and war

Bruce Wallace December 20 1999

Hail and Farewell

IMAGES 99

The last year of the century was brimful of inspiration, sadness—and war

There was never much likelihood this most tumultuous of centuries would go out with a whimper. The 20th closed as it opened: with political traumas in the globe’s remote corners, and people alternately dazzled and perplexed by great technological changes swirling around them. All the century’s hallmarks were present. The shame of its inhumanity, so achingly visible in the eyes of refugees from wars in Kosovo, East Timor and Chechnya. The marvels of its ingenuity, evidenced by the galloping growth of the Internet and the mapping of the human genetic code. And the enduring fascination with that 20th-century religion: celebrity. But the world in 1999 was a far more intimate place than it had been at the century’s dawn. The global circuitry is

‘We didn’t come here for fun. We were forced out of Kosovo.’

—Fasil Hasanan, 50, a Kosovar Albanian refugee in Canada

now so complex and interconnected that Canada could not avoid the buffeting of far-off maelstroms even if it hoped to.

And so Canadian pilots flew bombing runs last spring over a contested Yugoslav province, where almost a whole people was expelled from its homes into mud and misery on the basis of its Albanian ethnicity. When Slobodan Milosevics marauding forces finally withdrew after 78 days and nights of bombing from the mightiest military alliance ever assembled, Canadian peacekeepers arrived to help police the chaotic aftermath. A smaller band of Canadian blue berets did the same a few months later, landing in the thick jungle heat of East Timor to try to restore a modicum of control to a province that had been turned to cinder. And Canadians felt the ripples from the economic ambitions gripping Chinas Fujian province, as some of the hundreds of thousands of Chinese trying to smuggle themselves to the West washed

up on rocky British Columbia shores.

But there were troubles in tiny corners at home, too, some of them also rooted in ancient and ethnic causes. The harbour village of Burnt Church, N.B., became the latest flash point between native and non-native Canadians, after the Supreme Court recognized the validity of a 239year-old treaty guaranteeing Mi’kmaq Indians the right to fish. Mostly, however, 1999 was quiet at home. Provincial elections produced some new faces, notably New Brunswick’s baby-faced Bernard Lord and Manitoba’s fourth-time-lucky Gary Doer. The Parti Québécois government fired the occasional rhetorical bullet but little more, while Jean Chrétien laid out how Ottawa would react to any friture referendum. Above all, there were moments to quietly celebrate being Canadian: in the extraterrestrial adventures of Julie Payette; in the frigid birth of a new territory—Nunavut, “Our Land” in Inuktitut; and in the appointment of Chinese-Canadian immigrant Adrienne Clarkson as the 26th Governor General, who quickly injected life and energy into the sleepy ceremonial post.

It was also a year when many icons passed from being part of our lives to part of our memories. Wayne Gretzky retired from rinkside to poolside. Michael Jordan was finally grounded, while Nelson Mandela left office to return to his boyhood village. Maple Leaf Gardens closed with sentimental grace, Eaton’s with the indignity of a fire sale, and Canadian Airlines succumbed at last, swallowed by Air Canada, its bitter eastern rival. They faded as a calamitous century expired, giving way to a new one yet to throw up its own heroes and glories and tragedies, its innocence still unblemished.

178,400

Prescriptions issued for Viagra in first three months after Canada approved it

Bruce Wallace