The Fractured Nation Interviews

Canada with a K

The InterviewsJohnny: Do I have time for one more e-mail [looking toward his producer]? Yes. Good. The next e-mail is from Stephan from Munich, Germany who asks: “what is the origin of the name Canada and why according to my grand-father, Kanadian is sometimes spelled with a K by Canadians?”

To answer your first question; the name Canada, according to legend, comes from a chance meeting between the French explorer Jacques Cartier and two young native Indians in 1535. The two Indians were showing Cartier the route to their village, Stadacona but they called their village "Kanata", the Huron-Iroquois word for village. The name stuck and Kanata was then used by Cartier and other explorers to apply to an increasingly larger area.

In 1547, everything north of the St. Lawrence River was designated as "Canada." The first official use of the name was in 1791 when Québec was divided into Upper and Lower Canada. On July 1, 1867, the date of the country’s confederation, the name “Canada” was assumed.

Your second question was somewhat more difficult to answer but we do have some very good researchers. In investigating the perplexing mystery of why some Canadians would spell Canada with a K they un-earthed some interesting information about an important Canadian institution that none of the people interviewed so far have talked about. Perhaps it was because it didn’t have much or anything to do with The Fracture. That was the Canadian Foreign Service.

Your grand-father must have, at one point in time, visited or perhaps simply walked by the Canadian Embassy in Berlin or the Canadian Consulate in Munich and this is where he probably saw Canadian spelt with a K.

The Canadian High Commission in Munich, at one point in time, spelled Canadian with a K. Our researchers found that this misspelling of Canadian was not unusual in identifying Canadian foreign missions.

This raised another question: why would an institution such as the Canadian Foreign Service, which prided itself in only hiring the best and the brightest, be so bad at spelling?

The answer, our researchers informed me, can partly be found in an old study of the Canadian Foreign Service by a Pamela McDougall, a one-woman royal commission which published a report called the Royal Commission on Conditions of Foreign Service. In this report, Ms. McDougall provides evidence that Canadian Foreign Service Officers considered themselves not only not part of what Galbraith called "the contented class", but in a class of their own or a caste of their own to use Ms. McDougall’s term.

Members of this caste tended to look down on lesser mortals. If these lesser mortals got into trouble in some foreign land it was their own fault and they should suffer the consequences. This attitude of the Canadian Foreign Service, our researchers are convinced, is why in places like Germany they spelt Canada with a K so as to make it more difficult for Canadians in distress to locate them.

Canadians looking for help from the Canadian Foreign Service would of course look for Canadian Consulate or Canadian Embassy under C not K in the local phone book. So spelling Canadian with a K, Stephan, was not because Canadian Foreign Service Officers did not know how to spell.

In trying to answer you question our researchers also came across an interesting interview with a former Canadian ambassador that demonstrated this lack of empathy on the part of Canadian Foreign Service Officers for fellow Canadians in distress in a foreign land.

This Ambassador, was asked a question concerning a William Sampson, a Canadian who was falsely accused of murder and threatened with beheading by the Saudis and routinely beaten and tortured by his Saudi jailors. This former Canadian ambassador to the Middle East said, and I quote: “the Saudi security forces routinely beat confessions out of suspected criminals, that is their system of justice and we must accept that.”

Imagine a Canadian ambassador saying it was okay for a country like Saudi Arabia to torture a Canadian citizen because it was part of their tradition – that country’s justice system being based on religious traditions and customs.

Is it possible that the Canadian tolerance for primitive tribal traditions, questionable religious practices and the tacit acquiescence of repressive regimes was a characteristic of the Canadian elite and not that of ordinary Canadians? I wonder.

My producer is indicating to me that we have reached Mr. Souviens. I hope Stephan that I have answered that question to your satisfaction. Auf Wiedersehen.

[ON a large monitor we see a visibly angry JEAN JOSEPH SOUVIENS sitting behind a large desk]