During “For the Love of CBC” Concert at the National Arts Centre Theatre in Ottawa on Monday, March 9, Astronaut Chris Hadfield joined close to thirty artists and speakers in support of CBC/Radio-Canada. He performed the songIn Canada and later on the I.S.S. song, and between the two he made the following remarks:
“It’s an enormous country and when my brother and I set out to write that song we were just struck by the geography of this place.
And it is enormous, with people thinly spread across it, and it separates us, just the inherent geography that is our country separates us. But, by that same very nature, of the separation, it defines us. It helps make us who we are in this country.
And it’s not just our geology, such an ancient geology, some of oldest rock on Earth, some of the earliest remnants of this very planet, are here in Canada. But it also is a vast history, since before the written word.
The very first people that walked across to this land, whatever 20 thousand years ago or 15 thousand years ago, and the waves of them that came across since, and the waves that have followed a thousand years ago with the Vikings, and 500 years ago from Europe. And the waves that are still arriving today.
They, over all of that time, also are a barrier. That the integration of all of those cultures, of all of those languages and histories, and prides, and things that would naturally separate us. But, they also are what defines Canada to its very core.
And how does that happen? How do we link ourselves across such an enormous place and across such an enormous time and cultural difference? And it doesn’t happen accidentally. It doesn’t just happen just through meanderings on the web. It takes a concerted effort.
It’s taken a concerted effort for the couple hundred years that led up to us forming and almost 150 years we’ve been together as a nation. It takes work. And it takes a place. It takes a Cross Country Check-up for this country to be able to communicate with each other. And we really need that place.
And, it’s not ABC, and it’s not the BBC, it is CBC that joins this whole country together.
When I was getting ready for my third flight in space, we thought it would be a really interesting idea to try and join as many Canadians in that magnificent new human experience as possible. And one of the ways to do that of course is scientifically but another way to do that is artistically. People understand each other better through culture and through a chance to discuss what we mean to each other artistically.
And so we wrote a song, Ed Robertson of the Barenaked Ladies and I wrote a song, and the idea was that kids all across Canada could join in. And it’s not that complex an idea but we thought it might be interesting for people to see things from that separated perspective.
And wrote that song, put it together, and then it was shepherded and taken care of by the CBC so that it reached all the way across the country and they helped put that song together. You need an institution to do that.
And when I performed that song on orbit, as I played the Canadian guitar that’s up on the International Space Station, and sang that song, simultaneously from St. John’s all the way across to Vancouver Island, I sang that song live with 700 thousand Canadian kids. Tous ensemble. One voice, singing a song about hope and about where we are nationally and how we all work together. Kids who are first generation immigrants and kids from families that have been here forever, all singing that song together.
And when I think of everything I’ve done in my life, what will ring the longest? What will have the longest effect?
And the idea that we in Canada have an organization that’s been here longer than I have, that helps us share a voice, that lets us see ourselves in a type of mirror, that is rare in the world.
As someone who has lived outside the country for 26 years, serving in Russia and the United States, and someone who has crossed Canada thousands of times from above, I perhaps see the importance of that thread that links us together better than anyone.