Canadian culture: Jane Siberry: One More Colour

Self-tutoring about Canadian culture: the tutor reflects on a memorable Canadian 80s hit.

Jane Siberry is a Canadian music artist. Perhaps she began in ’81 or before, but I know of her because of a single hit from the 1980s: “One More Colour” from her 1985 album The Speckless Sky.

I remember hearing “One More Colour” when I was fifteen. It called me back to a childhood that I’d glimpsed, but was losing. Its lyrics hint at life in Canada:

A basket of apples by the back door, beneath the sweater pegs
The autumn leaves lift along the street….

-Jane Siberry, “One More Colour”

“One More Colour”‘s dreamy, bouncy melody draws the listener into contemplation. It’s catchy, yet intriguing – I can’t think of a similar song. Underneath, Jane starts by asking, “Is it lasting?”

“One More Colour”‘s meaning seems difficult for me to decode, while its tone seems to ask, “Why worry?” It’s mysterious, yet somehow reassuring.

I can’t recall any of my friends mentioning “One More Colour”, yet I saw the video on TV. Truly, I think it’s catchier than some 80s hits that receive more attention.

That part of my life passed quickly, but I never forgot “One More Colour”, half of whose video I caught on my way out to catch the bus when I was a kid of fifteen. I knew I must, eventually, listen to the whole song. Now, thanks to the internet, you can, too:)



Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.

Canadian culture, poetry: You Learn, Alanis Morissette

Tutoring English, you encounter poems and songs. The tutor comments about one with which he’s gotten reacquainted.

Alanis Morisette’s album Jagged Little Pill yields numerous good songs, among them You Learn.

Back in the late nineties, I liked You Learn, but it didn’t speak to me as now. Twenty three years later, I’m finding more of a lesson in it, while back then it was just a fun song. BTW: I was 25 when Jagged Little Pill released, so I’ve about doubled in age since.

The song’s lesson, of course, is that if you play it safe to avoid embarrassment, you don’t progress. If, on the other hand, you try, you’ll probably fail – the first time. Yet, you learn.

Going even further, Alanis pokes fun at embarrassment itself:

I recommend sticking your foot in your mouth…at anytime…
(Feel free…)

In fact, You Learn confronts haters. Alanis is stating that those who would make you feel awkward or ashamed have no real power; rather, it’s just your fear of them that gives them influence. Instead of being shamed by their criticism, you should be ashamed of yourself for worrying about it. Don’t let them prevent you from trying – from learning.

At this age, I get her message; I wish I’d understood it much sooner. Nowadays, I take her advice – and, to quote her, “I recommend” it, along with You Learn.


You Learn, Alanis Morisette: YouTube

Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.

Canadian culture, social studies: Canadian ethnicity

Tutoring social studies, ethnicity may arise. The tutor brings up an example he observed.

In the Fraser Valley last week, I was leaving a hotel lobby to return to the room. The night air felt brisk on the face; snow or rain may have been falling.

Feeling the cold’s sharpness, I was hurrying to return indoors, but slowed to do a double-take. Twenty feet outside the main doors stood a tall man in cowboy hat and boots and a sports shirt. Behind him, a pickup truck idled; on its other side stood his friend, dressed similarly.

By their posture, the two men were in their twenties. I could tell they are taller than I am, and fit. Neither wore a coat, nor were they in any hurry to enter the hotel. They looked at me, in my quilted bright orange winter jacket, as if I’m from the moon. Then they resumed talking.

“They must be from Alberta,” I realized. Glancing at their license plate, I saw red numbers.

Sometimes it might take a Canadian to know another one. Furthermore, Canada is big enough – and old enough – to have its own distinct ethnicities. The ability of those Albertans to cross the Rockies, then stand in a Fraser Valley parking lot like it’s their backyard, is delightful.

Happy holidays:)

Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.

Canadian Culture: Peter and Lou

Tutoring social studies, you might wonder how your own experience fits. The tutor contemplates Valdy’s Peter and Lou.

I recall hearing Peter and Lou on the radio as a kid. Yesterday I suddenly felt great importance about looking it up, so did. It took a couple of tries; I didn’t know for sure the song’s title.

As it played on the computer, I wondered if I’m a sentimental middle-aged parent who can’t leave his own childhood behind. However, within a minute and a half, my fifteen-year-old son was up from playing video games, peeking in the kitchen. “We saw him in concert,” he commented.

Peter and Lou is about kids who skate “on Winter’s frozen lake.” They “take their turn” skating, painting…being kids. By the second stanza, they’re “hanging their skates on the wall” and leaving town: they’ve grown up.

Stanza three finds the narrator “standing alone on the ice”, realizing there’s nothing left for him but to leave town, as well. Yet, he anticipates, “If I should miss them….” Whether the narrator is their parent or friend, he doesn’t say.

Kids take for granted that they will change what they do: they know when to “hang up their skates on the wall.” The end of each stage of their childhood, then its ultimate end, is a reality they don’t question. Yet, a parent might realize the greatness of a kid at a given stage, then consider it, “standing alone on the ice”, long after the kid has forgotten.

Valdy is Canadian. I think he was about 31 when he wrote Peter and Lou. I’m impressed that someone so young would realize that song.


youtube: Peter and Lou

Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.

Canadian language: what does Kabloona mean?

The tutor shares a term he discovered in the dictionary.

Kabloona is an Inuit term referring to a non-Inuit; the term particularly suggests a white person. It has been used to describe white people present to do specific functions: police, missionaries, etc.

Kabloonamuit refers to Inuit people who emulate White ways. They generally participate in the economy as a white person would – having a job instead of being self-employed, and buying clothes and food from stores.

Having learned only recently of the terms Kabloona and Kabloonamuit, I don’t know if they’re meant for conversational use. I’m intrigued I’ve never heard of them.


Collins Essential Canadian English Dictionary & Thesaurus. Glasgow:
  HarperCollins Publishers, 2006.

Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbel River, BC.

English: Hardy Boys series: a Canadian connection

The tutor continues his probe of the popular Hardy Boys mystery series.

Back on Jan 19, I began about the Hardy Boys. I’ve not stopped reading them to my kids, now 11 and 13. In fact, we just finished Mystery of the Chinese Junk the night before last.

After writing the Jan 19 post, I came to doubt that The Tower Treasure, from 1927, and The Firebird Rocket, from 1978, were truly written by the same person. While theoretically possible, a writing career spanning that many years, in a valuable, but static, style, just seems very unlikely. A few times a month, spontaneously, I’d return to the issue to continue wondering: does the series use several ghostwriters, all posing as Franklin W. Dixon? The authorship of the books became a mystery similar, indeed, to a Hardy Boys case. Perhaps just as baffling, I never thought to research it.

Yesterday, I finally did inquire online about the Hardy Boys author. In fact, the series does use several ghostwriters. What do you know – a Canadian, Leslie McFarlane, wrote the first sixteen, and 21 in all.

So often, one finds a Canadian connection in what seems to be American culture:)

I’ll be talking much more about the Hardy Boys series in future posts.




Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.

Canadian weather: When February was the coldest month

The tutor offers more reflections about his past experiences with Canadian weather.

Here on the west coast today, it’s 8°C; we’re under a rainfall warning.  Subtropical air filled with moisture is sweeping over us; it’s typical west coast winter weather.

As I mentioned in my January 26 post, I lived in the Atlantic provinces until I was sixteen. There, the winters were long and cold.

One day years ago, I was in a conversation about the weather – how different it is in the Atlantic provinces compared with the west coast. I observed, offhandedly, that I recalled February’s being the coldest month when I was a kid. It was surprising to the others in the room – probably unbelievable. Here, flowers bloom in February.

Yet, what I said had been honest. I recalled, in the fading afternoon light of February, light blue snow, piled high along driveways. The cold’s grip was unquestionable; the temperature had been sub-zero for days and days. The dusk sky’s clarity, its first stars already developing, promised another night below -20°C. By the way: more than one Maritimer has since agreed with me: February, by their reckoning, is the coldest month.

Well, they probably agreed because it’s true. In at least three places I lived as a kid, the coldest month is indeed February:

Monthly average temps
Dec Jan Feb
Halifax, NS -2.5°C -5°C -5.5°C
Kentville, NS -2.6°C -5.6°C -5.7°C
St John’s, NF -1°C -3.5°C -4°C

Winter arrives late in the Atlantic provinces. Yet, by March, it’s warming up even there.

Weather in the Atlantic provinces is complex. I’ll be talking more about it in coming posts:)


Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.

Canadian history: how French rights prevailed in Quebec after 1763

Tutoring social studies, questions come to mind that aren’t necessarily discussed every day.  The tutor focuses on a central question about the Canadian identity.

To a Canadian anglophone, the “other world” of Quebec is intriguing.  Anyone who’s been there knows it’s like a different country.

The French language and culture that exist in Quebec have done so from the 1600s – before English settlement in much of Canada.  Without necessarily knowing the details, most Canadians are conscious that after a conflict between English and French, the English culture came to dominate the rest of the country, while Quebec remains French to this day. So, why is the rest of the country (generally) not French?  How did French prevail in Quebec?

The French began settling what is now Quebec – calling it “New France” –  while the English focused on the Thirteen Colonies (New England).  Life in New France – with its available farmland, its harsh winters, and its absolute necessity of self-reliance – was totally different from what the settlers had left behind in France.  In the fertile land along the St. Lawrence, covered in snow as much as five months a year, a new identity sprouted – the Canadien.  While they still spoke French, the Canadiens perceived themselves as distinct.

From 1756 to 1763, England and France clashed in the Seven Years’ War, which was a worldwide conflict.  By the Treaty of Paris, 1763, England gained possession of New France; its 65 000 French – the Canadiens – became British subjects.  In King George III’s Royal Proclamation of 1763, he stated intention to allow the French language and Catholic religion to continue, while promising, as quickly as possible, an elected assembly to guide an English government.  New France became the Quebec Colony.

The Quebec Colony’s first governor was James Murray.  He perceived that the elected Assembly – which, possibly, the majority French would be barred from – could put the Quebec Colony under the control of a tiny English minority.  Murray sensed the potential problems that might result. Furthermore, he came to doubt the intentions of the English merchants as they grew impatient for the Assembly’s formation.  In fact, the English merchants eventually petitioned Britain for Murray’s recall, and won – though in England, his side was upheld.

As Governor of Quebec, Murray had come to prefer the peaceful, law-abiding Canadiens over the critical, demanding English merchants.  His replacement, Governor Guy Carleton, took Murray’s side:  The French would never assimilate to English culture – but why should they?   The Candiens were content, hard-working people who were easy to govern.  Carleton petitioned Britain for more protection for the Canadien way of life – and won.  In 1774, the Quebec Act recognized the Canadiens as having distinct status within the British Empire (Bowers and Garrod).  It protected their Roman Catholic religion, their French language, and even their civil laws.  Officially, the Canadien identity was upheld – 93 years before the country Canada even existed.

So, perhaps ironically, two Englishmen safeguarded the French Canadian – the Canadien – identity.  Morevover, they did so against the wishes of their English-speaking subjects.  We know they were motivated by a preference they both developed towards the Canadien over the English merchant.

Probably, what prevailed above all, was the British resistance to change.  Both James Murray and Guy Carleton saw the Canadien way of life as entrenched and self-sustaining.  The English merchants, in contrast, wanted to change life in the Quebec Colony – and expected royal assistance to do so.  Both Murray and Carleton, while they must have realized change would come in some form, believed it had to be spontaneous in order to be valid.  In the meantime, no change at all was fine with them.


Bowers, Vivien and Stan Garrod.  Our Land:  Building the West. Toronto:  Gage, 1987.

k-12 social studies foundation, Manitoba

Thank-you to all my sources for this article:)

Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.

French education: the challenge of exogamy

In BC, 75% of francophone families are exogamous.

Exogamy refers to the marriage of someone from a certain culture, to a spouse from outside that culture.  From the francophone perspective, an exogamous family has one parent with French as the mother tongue, while the other parent has a different mother tongue.

In the francophone education system, most students come from exogamous families. As homogeneous French families become increasingly rare in Canada, the survival of francophone education outside Quebec depends on the enrollment of children from exogamous families.

Many people wonder why they would send their child to francophone education when they could just send them to the English system.  The answer is that in Canada, children who are educated in French usually turn out to be better in English as well.  Most people accept without question that knowing a second language is advantageous, and that learning it from a young age – if possible – is the best way.

Surprisingly, a francophone parent will often speak English at home to their children.  At the same time, the exogamous parent (usually English-speaking) may be more serious about their children’s learning French – probably because it’s a great opportunity that the English parent never had themselves.

The challenge for the francophone schools is to devise a way to welcome the non-French parents of exogamous families, while still maintaining a French-speaking environment.  Such a solution will likely ensure the growth of French-English bilingualism outside Quebec.


Rodrigue Landry, “The challenges of exogamy”

“English Information,” Conseil scolaire francophone de la Colombie Britannique