Monday, January 30, 2006


Rough weekend for Canadian culture

It was a bad weekend for icons of Canadian culture.

First, on Friday it was announced that the Hudson's Bay Company is being sold to an American businessman. The history of Canada and the Hudson's Bay Company are irrevocably intertwined, and the idea of this titan of Canadian culture and history being owned by American interests is deeply disturbing (with apologies to my dear American friends.)

So why does it matter that HBC has fallen to foreign ownership? First, because one of the first things I remember learning about in elementary school was the role of HBC in the formation of Canada - the fur trade, Rupert's Lands, coureurs du bois, Native people, British and French power struggles and remote northern outposts. It all became more tangible and comprehensible when I could tie it somehow to the big Bay department store downtown, back in the 1970s when department stores and downtown were both places of significance.

And more importantly, because given the choice between The Bay or Sears, or between WalMart and the HBC-owned Zellers, I always tried to support the Canadian company. If HBC ownership falls to American interests, there isn't a Canadian equivalent left to choose.

Second, there were rumblings in the media this weekend about the possibility that Tim Hortons would be setting up its most distantly remote franchise ever - in Kandahar, Afghanistan. There are more than 2,000 Canadian peacekeeping troops stationed there, and while American soldiers can have their Pizza Hut, Burger King or Subway fix, Canada's most popular coffee shop is reluctant to make the same move.

Timmy's head office says that while it would be logistically feasible to set up a coffee and doughnut vending trailer on the base, they are reluctant to do so, citing concerns about quality control. While Timmy's has a reputation for being generous to our overseas troops, ensuring each deployed soldier gets a gift package at Christmas, this seems like a great way for the company to show their support of the peacekeepers.

I don't know how I'd get through a morning in my quiet little world with out a Timmy's coffee (extra large, three milks) to start my day. For those who risk their lives in the name of a more peaceful world, a double-double and a chocolate dip doesn't seem like too much to ask.