For Canada Day, the Toronto Star has compiled lists and more lists of Canadian culture, under the banner "Essentially Canadian".
Panelists in their respective fields pick the best Canadian work in these categories: children's entertainment, movies, visual arts, books, design, music, architecture, theatre and television. Long lists were published throughout this past week; top 10 lists are out today.
Anyone who believes the Canadian identity is lacking needs to take a serious read of the following pages.Naturally, the Star wants you to use their website to "continue the debate". I'll just save the list for my ongoing exploration of my new country.
It took our 36 panelists months of often heated debate to whittle our long lists of nominees down to just 91 works that we hope represent the very best of Canadian arts and culture. The result is Essentially Canadian, our (almost) definitive guide to the works Canadians need to know in order to understand our cultural history.
The sheer breadth, originality and talent exhibited in these works should be a source of national pride alone.
The project was inspired by a government initiative in Denmark this year to establish a canon of Danish arts and culture. The stated goal of the year-long project was, in part, to "contribute to a lively cultural debate by acting as a yardstick for quality - a yardstick that will obviously be constantly challenged and discussed."
The nationwide reaction, for and against, was immediate and intense. Film director Lars von Trier, one of whose works was honoured, protested the canon's "nationalization of culture."
While our means are more modest, and our list has no government sanction, the goal is the same: to create a dialogue.
The primary guideline in selecting the nominees was that the works must still be accessible to Canadians - whether in books, on video or in person. There would be little point in creating a "must list" unless Canadians could judge the list for themselves. Each work must be strong enough on its own to justify being called a "classic." Narrowing each category down to just 10 works was a monumental task.