Published — Thursday 17 January 2013
Last update 17 January 2013 4:30 am
During my school years at the preparatory level (7-9th grade), I was one of five students who made up the school’s cultural team. During those days schools competed with other each in a quiz show based on information from the school’s curriculum and outside sources. The final match was aired on local TV. Many teams always lost precious points when asked about the capital of Canada.
Before the televised final, the headmaster tasked each one of the five students to read as much as he could about world geography. Each student was given a region and was asked to read about each country’s capital, head of state and so on. The region I was tasked to familiarize myself with was the North American continent and Australia. In later article, I will write about my love story of an Australian swimmer!
Reading about Canada wasn’t easy for me. I didn’t understand why Canada has 13 territories, but has 10 provinces. Why the meaning of Canada is village when it is spread over about 4 million square miles? Also, why did they choose a maple leaf to be on their flag after waiting till 1965 to make up their mind about the shape of the flag? Why do they have a royal anthem that says (God Save the Queen) if they don’t even have a palace in their capital?
Canadians could have made geography easier for everyone if their capital was Toronto or Montreal. They have a place called British Columbia, but they don’t have double-decker buses. I still don’t know how to pronounce Saskatchewan.
But what does a Canadian maple leaf have to do with my son’s wedding? My son’s wedding was not held in Canada, his honeymoon wasn’t in Canada and the last time we were in Canada was in 1996 when we drove from Seattle, Washington. And the only Canadian official I met was the former Canadian Ambassador to Saudi Arabia few years back when he was accompanying a Canadian business delegation and they met their Saudi counterparts at the Eastern Province Chamber of Commerce in Dammam.
I am not a businessman and I was invited by my friend, Ali Borman, who is the vice chairman of the Saudi-Canadian Council. After this conference, it was clear that the Saudi-Canadian relations deserve better attention and efforts. Saudi Arabia is the biggest trade partner of Canada in this part of the world. There are thousands of Canadians in Saudi Arabia. And there are more than 25,000 Saudis in Canada. Sixteen thousands of the Saudis are students attending the best Canadian universities and medical institutes. Those Saudi students are part of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah scholarship program.
Now, here is the story of the Canadian maple leaf at my son’s wedding. About two years ago my family and I were preparing the list of guests who would attend our eldest son’s wedding. One of my nieces (Faydah) told me there was a Canadian woman named Tracy who worked with her as an English teacher at the Berlitz Institute in Al-Ahsa, and she wanted to invite her to the wedding.
I told my niece, the Canadian woman was more than welcome. Tracy was a beautiful young woman from Vancouver and was new in Saudi Arabia at the time. She was thrilled to attend the wedding. Most of the ladies didn’t know her name, so they just called her the Canadian Maple Leaf.
The ladies wedding reception ended at 5 O’clock in the morning. Who says Canadians go to bed early?
Tracy’s became very close friend of my niece and picked a lot of the Saudi way of life, and now she is being called Jumanah instead of Tracy. And just a month ago Tracy (Jumanah) attended a wedding of another niece. This time Tracy danced the way Saudi women danced and she was good at it, some of the ladies thought she was born in Riyadh, not Vancouver. Who says Canadians don’t like to have fun?
My first visit to Canada was during the 1976 Olympics in Montreal when I was only 20 years old. I became interested in Canada the moment I crossed their border from the American side. No one asked for my passport. I presented my car registration and my New York driving license which had no photo of the drivers at the time and that was it.
This made me interested in Canadian politics. The other reason for my interest was because of my admiration of Margaret Trudeau and her husband Pierre who was the prime minister then. But when I was at the Olympic stadium, my conversation with some of the Canadian fans was about the unfinished Olympic Stadium Arch. I started wondering why Canada had a labor dispute if their political, social and labor systems are one of the best in the world. Also, I noticed that Canadian simply didn’t know their strengths. The Canadian are more powerful in military, economic, education and standard of living than what they think.
Canada has the largest water reserve, plenty of oil and gas, raw materials, unlimited resources, fertile land, one of the highest standards of living in the world and Canadian has one of the highest per capita income in the world. Canada is a G7, G8, G20, member of NATO and many other world organizations. Canada is governed as a parliamentary democracy. It is one of the few countries in the world which is officially bilingual and multicultural at the federal level. It has one of the most transparent political systems in the world and plays vital part in world politics.
There are reports about Canadian commitments in helping African countries manage their natural resources in a transparent and responsible way. This means helping Africa to accelerate economic growth and reducing poverty. And even though Canada has only 35 million people, many Canadians have been world achievers in media, Nobel Prize winners, sports, arts and theaters.
In the international arena, Canada is always present. For example, it was Lester Pearson, the foreign minister, who defused the Suez crisis in 1956 and received the 1957 Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts. Canada was one of the countries that helped end South Africa’s Apartheid system and most important, the Canadians were one of the driving forces behind banning the anti-personal mines. So, Canada is not a village, it is a continent.