The Telegram (St. John's)
Being Canadian important for these two musicians
Newfoundland and Labrador’s Jordan Harnum and Nova Scotia’s Adam Ruzzo celebrate the diversity that brings Canadians together
Jordan Harnum’s latest gig makes him fully appreciate what it means to not just be a proud Newfoundlander and Labradorian, but to be Canadian.
The musician from New Harbour is performing a six-night-a-week residency, performing to crowds from all over the world, at the Anchor Inn in Twillingate.
It’s something the musician takes a great deal of enjoyment in, especially in the days leading up to Canada Day.
“I’ve been very proud to be Canadian for a long time,” Harnum said in a phone interview.
“Growing up, I’ve always spent time in the outdoors or watched hockey. I can even remember watching the Olympics in ’94 back when I was a little kid, so being Canadian has always been a huge part of my pride.”
As a musician, Harnum cites several Canadian musical acts as a major reason to feel proud of his country as well. The local musician lists Great Big Sea, The Tragically Hip and Hey Rosetta! as reasons to recognize and celebrate musical artistry which originated in Canada.
Harnum has always been proud to hail from Newfoundland and Labrador and shows that every night by singing songs that are about his home province all across the country.
He completed a tour which took him to Toronto, where he opened for The Rowdymen at a Come From Away event and saw how strongly other parts of the country love Newfoundland and Labrador performers.
“That makes me proud to be a Canadian and a Newfoundlander,” he said.
Back in 2018, Jordan accompanied the crew of Adventure Canada on a duo of trips to the Arctic, where they visited some isolated communities which are enduring economic hardships.
“That gives a person a different perspective on the different struggles, but they’re really happy people with an amazing culture,” he said. “And, to me, that’s a huge part of Canada as well. I can’t wait to get back there.”
COMMON GROUND WITHIN CANADA’S DIVERSITY
Adam Ruzzo of Nova Scotia has travelled across the country performing as a musician and says it’s difficult to pin down a specific definition of what it means to be Canadian because of its varied uniqueness.
“Canada is not like Ireland or an old European country,” he said in a phone interview. “We’re still loosely part of the monarchy. But I think the one thing we all have in common is the seasons. No matter how rich or poor or young or old you are, you will have to go through winter at some point if you live here.”
Ruzzo said his latest album, “The Land, The Sea, The People”, is about figuring out what the story of Canada is.
For Ruzzo, a lot of what it means to be Canadian comes from experiences away from the city. What inspires him, he said, is the Canadian ruggedness, the forests and the lakes and the connection to the land.
Ruzzo said he feels much of Canada’s identity is to be found off the beaten path where many people live in log cabins with wood stoves.
“Living in the outposts of Newfoundland, in that harsh environment, with people living close to the land, I think gives rise to a unique culture that is Canadian,” he said.
“Newfoundland and Quebec are kind of their own countries culturally, but we all have the same weather and landscapes, so we can all appreciate that, even if someone from B.C. has never been to Newfoundland and Labrador.”
Another important aspect of what it means to be defined as Canadian, which Ruzzo said he believes can’t be ignored, is how living under the cultural dominance of America affects us. He said that plays an enormous impact on our psyche in terms of what it means to be Canadian.
“Living in the shadow of the United States, with us being the underdog, that binds us together as well,” he commented. “On one layer, everything’s American. We buy, eat, drive, watch American and, then, we’re still a part of England, which is our boss, so to speak, and people that show up here, my family included, claim to be from somewhere else. They don’t claim to be Canadian, even though they’ve lived here their whole life.”
So, has Canadian pride wavered somewhat in recent years? In recent years, some could say that. One of the more notable blemishes in Canada’s history came to light in 2021 with the discovery of hundreds of unmarked graves found at the sites of four former Indian residential schools by Canadian First Nations conducting ground penetrating radar searches.
“It’s no doubt that these things are horrifying,” says Ruzzo. “But there aren’t many places in the world you can go to which don’t have a horrifying history. It is important to not blame current generations for problems which have happened in the past. It doesn’t forgive anything that went on that was bad, but it’s important to keep a perspective on that.
“Times were different in the past, but that doesn’t forgive anything that happened when an ugly situation comes to light. I think the fact that most Canadians are horrified about this says the right thing. It shows our morals and our hearts are in the right place.”
For many, It is hard to pinpoint one unifying act that represents all of Canada. As a travelling musician, Ruzzo says he’s encountered acts which represent an area very well, such as Rum Ragged for the East, and Le Vent du Nord from Quebec, but they don’t represent everybody.
While it may be difficult to name one Canadian act who represents every place, Ruzzo felt there may be one exception.
“I think Gord Downie of The Tragically Hip came pretty close,” said Ruzzo. “They sang about things that were stereotypically Canadian, yet they didn’t represent one place. They spoke for everybody and you can see from the fans they have everywhere.”