Canada ‘bea­con in the world’

Aykroyd nar­rates se­ries on Canada’s in­no­va­tions

The Hamilton Spectator - - CANADA & WORLD - VIC­TO­RIA AHEARN

Dan Aykroyd is uber Cana­dian. The Os­car-nom­i­nated com­edy star was born on Canada Day — July 1, 1952 — in Ot­tawa, no less. He was bilin­gual grow­ing up, thanks to his French-Cana­dian mom. And be­fore he hit the big time on “Satur­day Night Live,” the crim­i­nol­ogy and so­ci­ol­ogy ma­jor worked for the fed­eral gov­ern­ment: at the Depart­ment of Pub­lic Works, with the Cana­dian Pen­i­ten­tiary Ser­vice, and Royal Mail Canada.

His fa­ther, an en­gi­neer from Lon­don, Ont., also worked for the fed­eral gov­ern­ment and was a Privy Coun­cil of­fi­cer for then-prime min­is­ter Pierre Trudeau. And his grand­fa­ther was a Royal Cana­dian Mounted Po­lice staff sergeant.

“I am thor­oughly, through and through, a Cana­dian,” the Emmy Award-win­ning ac­tor, co­me­dian, writer, pro­ducer and busi­nessper­son said in a phone in­ter­view.

Fit­ting, then, that Aykroyd is the nar­ra­tor be­hind a new three-part His­tory doc­u­men­tary se­ries about Canada’s great con­tri­bu­tions to this world.

Air­ing this Wed­nes­day, Thurs­day and Fri­day, “The World With­out Canada” ex­plores an al­ter­nate real­ity in which the coun­try and its in­ven­tions and in­no­va­tions ceased to ex­ist.

Ex­perts high­light the ben­e­fits of Canada’s nat­u­ral re­sources, tech­no­log­i­cal and med­i­cal break­throughs, and hu­man­i­tar­ian ef­forts as dra­ma­tized scenes de­pict the global rip­ple ef­fect if such con­tri­bu­tions sud­denly dis­ap­peared.

Aykroyd seems to have an en­cy­clo­pe­dic knowl­edge of Canada’s ac­com­plish­ments and is able to rhyme off a long list of them.

“But to me, re­ally the most strik­ing and mean­ing­ful and pos­i­tive mes­sage about what Canada has ac­com­plished falls in the hu­man rights and peace­keep­ing as­pect of our cul­ture and our pur­suits,” he said from Cal­i­for­nia.

“Our coun­try is made up of im­mi­grants who have been wel­comed ... That’s deeply in­grained in us — tol­er­ance, un­der­stand­ing, com­pas­sion, ac­cep­tance of those who are dif­fer­ent, and a wel­com­ing spirit. And that re­ally comes through in the doc­u­men­tary ... Canada is a bea­con where hope­fully some of the op­pressed can flee to in time of dis­tress.”

When he’s south of the border, Aykroyd — the co-writer and star of the first two “Ghost­busters” films — has been known to cham­pion this coun­try in var­i­ous way. In 1995, for in­stance, he pushed for the Trag­i­cally Hip to get a cov­eted per­for­mance slot on SNL and in­tro­duced them on­stage wear­ing a Canada-themed T-shirt.

“I’ve known them since the early ’80s and I’ve been great friends with the guys for a long, long time and sup­ported them in ev­ery­thing they’ve done,” he said, adding he’s clos­est with drum­mer Johnny Fay.

Asked which Cana­dian in­ven­tion has had a ma­jor im­pact on his life, Aykroyd said: “The snow­mo­bile. There’s noth­ing like a good old snow­mo­bile race and es­pe­cially ice and open-water snow­mo­bile rac­ing and grass drags. This is a big part of Cana­dian cul­ture and I’ve had some fun on snow­mo­biles.”

Aykroyd said he’s de­vel­op­ing sev­eral projects, in­clud­ing an an­i­mated “Blues Broth­ers” TV se­ries, for which he’s look­ing for a dis­trib­u­tor.

“It’s a half-hour an­i­mated show where mu­sic is the star,” he said. “We’re talk­ing to a few peo­ple about that. We’re work­ing with Bento Box (En­ter­tain­ment). They do a show called ‘Bob’s Burg­ers.’”


Dan Aykroyd: "I am thor­oughly, through and through, a Cana­dian.”

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