Coureur de bois

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On January 28, 2010, I was invited to take the Oath of Citizenship in front of Judge Gill in Toronto. Lindy and Noah took the morning off in order to be present. It was quite a joyous and meaningful event – particularly for Noah, officially welcoming his dad in the community of “coureurs de bois”.

In addition to representing the local “Native Canadian Community”, Noah was also appointed photographer for the occasion and did quite a nice job with Lindy’s iPhone.

Judge Gill managed to strike a skillful balance between quite humorous and moving personal stories of his own immigration to Canada, and a more solemn discourse on the importance of the oath and the extraordinary privileges and essential responsibilities attached to Canadian citizenship.

Lindy asked me: “Are you at least going to sing the Canadian anthem in French?” … It pained me in a way, but I could not bring myself to do it. Although born and raised in catholic Belgium, and certainly tempted to take the oath in my native language, I could not quite reconcile my vision of a tolerant, multicultural Canada with the lyrics of the French version of the national anthem.

While the English version of the anthem speaks of Canadians of all horizons coming together from far and wide to celebrate their love for a glorious land, and their dedication to the protection of freedom, truth and independence, the French version remains entrenched in a very partial conception of the nation. In the lines “Car ton bras sait porter l’épée, Il sait porter la croix!”, the references to instruments of war and Christianity are no longer in line with Canada’s multi-confessional society and role in the world as a beacon of tolerance and a force for peace.

Furthermore, in “Et ta valeur, de foi trempée”, the reference to inherent and unyielding faith – which in this case relates again to Christianity – does not leave equal space for individual freedom of thought and Religion in a society that has unequivocally embraced the separation of church and state.

There were people from 33 nationalities taking the oat with me that day … the united nations of Canada. Men, women and children from all over the world, from totally different cultures and religions. I could not stop thinking about the awkwardness that the French speaking amongst them – although very likely in extreme minority – may have felt about “porter l’épée et la croix!”

Although certainly not as gory as the “Marseillaise” – which today seems quite frankly out of place in a fraternal and united Europe – the lyrics of the French Canadian anthem would perhaps benefit from some revitalizing to reflect better the nature of an essentially peaceful and multifaceted country.

But again, maybe I am being oversensitive … and should accept that keeping reminiscences of the past does not condone the values of the time. “Je me souviens” can in many ways help us preserve the past and to the history of the nation … while at the same time remaining lucid and tolerant.

Maybe I am just being oversensitive …

Anyway, notwithstanding the slight reservations about the French lyrics of the anthem, it was a truly wonderful experience to share together, as a Canadian family, this rite of passage as well as a deep and renewed sense of pride and common love for Canada.

O Canada, we stand on guard for thee!

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About Michel Botman

Michel Botman was born in Belgium, where visual arts have always flirted with the limits of reality. In the eighties, Michel Botman started exploring the first tools to manipulate images though computers. For about 15 years, Michel Botman worked throughout Europe in the emerging field of Computer Applications for the Graphic Arts. Extensive experience in Digital Imaging allowed Michel to move into the field of computerized systems for Diagnostic Imaging. As VP Sales & Marketing for eSys Medical and later with Eclipsys, Michel Botman always remained dedicated to the creativity and innovation that are at the heart of his career. At the present time, Michel Botman is refocusing his life towards graphic arts. “I studied photography in Europe, but never had time to practice it enough. Life took me on other paths towards computer technologies and running a business. I enjoyed it very much, but I also love art. I always keep my eyes open for exciting opportunities and people that touch my heart.” Michel Botman lives in Toronto with his wife Lindy and son Noah. Above Gravatar pictures are of Michel Botman, his wife Lindy Amato and his son Noah Botman.
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