W: Have you lived in Canada your whole life?
S: That is correct
W: Are you first generation? Or do you know when your family came over?
S: I always forget how it works, but my family came here and I was born about a year after they came. So first generation.
W: You said you have an Arabic name so did they come from an Arabic speaking country?
S: They did, my mom is from Egypt and my dad is from Sudan but he was raised in Egypt his whole life. So I’m half Egyptian half Sudanese.
W: Would you say Canada has its own identity?
S: I guess it would because when you ask someone from another country: “What do you think about Canadians?” You get the stereotypical answer like hockey, nice, polite, always saying sorry all the time. But I guess the inclusiveness especially when you contrast that with our neighbours to the south, at the current moment at least. I definitely think that we’re like the welcoming neighbour. In terms of personality type overall.
W: If you had to recommend me one place, city, restaurant, etc. That I had to go to in Canada before I die, where should I go?
S: Hmm let’s see… Tell me if you’ve gotten this before; Algonquin park?
W: I have yeah
S: Ok ok I’ll do another then let’s see… In Hamilton, since I’m from Hamilton I’ll recommend it. The Bruce Trail. It’s basically this long trail system that connects the Niagara peninsula, Hamilton and a few cities west of Hamilton. You can basically take it for a day and a half, or more. It’s a super nice scenic bike ride. Along Hamilton it goes along the escarpment which is what we call the mountain. However we’ll soon find out what actual mountains look like. It goes along the side of it, and it’s awesome because Hamilton has a ton of natural waterfalls which this connects to. So if you’re ever there during the summer: Bruce Trail.
W: Yeah I’ve heard a lot about the waterfalls
S: Yeah it’s super funny because I have friends that go to McMaster and they tell me they’ve checked out every waterfall and I’ve been there for 20+ years and I’ve only checked out like one.
W: If you had to write a birthday card to Canada what would you wish it?
S: So I’d do the cliche “Happy 150 here’s to 150 more.” And after that I’d say; continue being as self-aware as a country as you are. Just because I was saying this earlier to another group; the fact that we are all proud to be Canadian but it’s not like that blind nationalism that you see, I keep saying it but like you’d see in the US for example. They have people saying like “‘MURICA FUCK YEAH” and nothing’s wrong with our country we’re the best 100% of the time. That can be a problem at times, because if you don’t know what’s wrong with your country you can’t improve on it. So I feel like the fact that we are a self-aware country and we have a good reputation but we can improve and that’s good.
W: Yeah like I was talking about this with another person I interviewed that works for VIA, and we were talking about how Canada, it’s ok to have another Nationality. Where you’re Canadian but you’re also something else.
S: Yeah, and you embrace both
W: Yeah exactly whereas in the States it feels like you can only be American.
S: Yes, like when we were in Winnipeg me and the other person we were with decided to go drinking at 11 am. Because why not, we’re on the train and time doesn’t mean anything on this thing. But this woman was talking about all these festivals in Winnipeg. And one of them was this world's fair where you have a booth setup for every single country, they’re all from Canada but they’re also from all these different countries like Brazil, Japan, etc. So yeah it’s exactly that.
W: Yeah I think that’s my favourite part about Canada, like for example with me and Quebecois culture, that I can still be both. And there’s also some people that reject Canadian culture and identity too.
S: As first generation I see both sides of that though, I feel like that can be an issue at times. I feel that the perfect balance is that I’m this nationality but also Canadian.
W: Yeah, I also feel like it’s problematic because being Quebecois, where there’s feelings of separatism where they don’t think of themselves as being Canadian because going to Quebec is like walking into a different country just because of how different it is. So some people have that experience. Like some people they’ll never learn any English in Quebec…
S: Like out of spite or?
W: Not necessarily, like they’ll sooner learn a native language especially in the North,.
S: Hmm I suppose it’s because it’s more useful there right? Like in Northern Quebec you won’t necessarily need English… that’s so cool. My friend was in Quebec city for St-Jean Baptiste day, and he said it was just the biggest party he’s ever been to in his whole life so I have to go there. It’s in June right?
W: Yes, they like to try to outdo Canada Day
S: I love that. I’ll do that next year.
W: Yeah just don’t wear anything Canada related.
S: I was gonna say yeah I should wear blue, Fleur-De-Lys only.
W: Just don’t wear anything with a Canadian flag on it and you should be good. Even then most people would just say whatever-
S: Yeah you’ll get the super hardcore guys telling you to take that off.
W: Yeah they’re just assholes in that case.
S: Which you get everywhere, it’s not just a Quebec thing you get that everywhere.
W: Yeah exactly.
W: What are you studying by the way?
S: So I currently go to McMaster and I’m going to come back for my fifth year of undergrad. I was originally doing Earth and Environmental science, so like Geology, but then I switched to focus more on Geography. This certain kind of Geography called Epidemiology which is the study of how disease moves over an area. So I was in Geology first and I was into it and then I realised to work in the field that I wanted, which was finding minerals, or rather exploration geology. You have to be able to move up north and live in an obscure area. Or a setting where you’re at work for two weeks and then back home for another two and since I want to settle down and have a family it’s not really something you can do without putting stress on your family.
W: Yeah I don’t think I’d be able to do that either
S: Exactly right, like the idea of raising a kid but you’re the one away all the time. Like I remember I was at this mining convention in Toronto trying to network when I was younger, around two years ago. I was eating lunch with a bunch of older guys and I was asking them about their life in the industry and they made a joke about how you’re not a geologist until you’re divorced at least once and they all laughed because they’ve all been through it and had stressful marriages because they’re away all the time. I chuckled but internally I didn’t like that, was not a fan.
W: What is your most memorable winter memory?
S: I was in Burlington, Ontario which is right by Hamilton. And we went skating right by the lakeshore, by Lake Ontario and there was this restaurant that had a wading pool but in the winter it turned into an ice rink it was pretty small. I had skates on and it was just a clam snowy night skating by the water and it was just really cool.
W: Yeah when I ask this question everyone always comments about how they love the calm aspect of winter.
S: Yeah, A close second was during that ice storm I think three Christmases ago. When Toronto got the brunt of it and was basically shut down 4-5 days in a row. Hamilton was shut down too for I think two days. But we only had a five seater car and six people in my family. So they all went to a wedding and I was home alone. I was just chilling by our fireplace, all the power was out and I was just reading a book and just enjoying myself. It was such a fun time.
W: Is there anything you wish Canada did better?
S: It’s interesting I was actually talking about this with someone back there, there’s a few things. The first one was, in the last federal election I voted Liberal because I agreed with a lot of the points the Liberal party was making. One of the biggest ones I agreed with was electoral reform. Basically get rid of First Past the Post and instead have I think it's called representational government. But essentially that was one of the things I voted them in for. And so what happened is that Trudeau made the announcement that they were going to pull back on that promise. I really regretted that because that was one of the things I voted for. It’s funny because my parents, in their eyes Trudeau can do no wrong, they love him completely. I’d talk to them about my frustrations with this and they’d say “No! Stop he’s great!”. Can’t say anything bad about him, well no you should critique everybody.
W: Yeah critiquing is always important and even the opposite too like I was staunchly against Harper but he expanded the amounts of prescription drugs covered under our universal healthcare.
S: Yeah exactly there’s good and bad I just try to tell my parents that I love and respect you guys but there’s bad sides and good sides to both people and parties. And that’s the other thing too if you knew that the Liberals would go back on those promises would you still voted for them. The other thing I was voting them in on was the legalization of Marijuana and while I don’t necessarily use it as much as some of my friends do, just the fact that they’d get taxes from that and be able to use it on other things. Get it out of the hands of criminals. Like if you look at Washington and Colorado state and how much money they’re making so we might as well take advantage of it.
W: So you think what Canada can do better is in its political promises?
S: Yeah I think it’s about holding politicians more accountable to their promises. Like for example there was a official petition that I signed and once it hits a certain number of signatures it goes to the House of Commons. But more of that and holding more accountable would be useful.
W: I remember reading that one of the reasons they gave for not going ahead with the reform is that they didn’t think younger voters cared enough and the older Liberal voters really didn’t want it.
S: Yeah didn’t want to change the status quo, which is unfortunate that the lack of interest can be seen.
W: And since young people are not such a huge voting block it’s a self fulfilling cycle where we don’t vote-
S: And then we get no representation and then you’re like fuck it I’m not going to vote.
W: How would you describe the Canadian Landscape?
S: Varied. And I can’t wait to see how it varies even more. When I was doing Geology at McMaster you have to do a mandatory week and a half in Sudbury where you’re mapping Geology. So all that stuff we saw in Ontario, the Canadian Shield and the Birch trees, it’s all familiar to me. But seeing days and days of fields here for example, I love that too. I love that it’s not consistent.
W: Everyone’s been telling me that
S: Aw damn I want to sound original ok I hate it it’s boring, Trains too slow I’d rather be home. Man the amount of people I’ve been hearing complaining about the train ride. Like you’re on a train what do you expect, how fast are you expecting to move? This isn’t a bullet train.
W: Yeah like I’m having the time of life on this train I don’t really want it to end.
S: I was talking to my friend earlier, this is basically a trip in itself.
W: Exactly, I’m not even worried about the destination right now.
S: It’s the journey not just the destination! Are you just doing Vancouver then, what else are you doing?
W: After Vancouver we’re taking the train to Edmonton then a bus to Banff.
S: That’s cool, I’m doing Jasper, meeting a friend there and driving to Vancouver. Stopping in Kamloops on the way. Then Victoria, then Edmonton for three days. Back to Toronto and then to Way Home hopefully.
W: I’ve got a day in Lake Louise and then back to Toronto, and then to Quebec city and Halifax.
S: Oh you’re doing the whole country nice. I figured since I have friends in Vancouver I’d check out the entire West Coast and then maybe next summer I’d fly out to Halifax or something.
W: Who’s your most memorable Canadian?
S: Chris Hadfield. The Astronaut. Just because I was in the Air Cadets when I was younger and so I was in it from grade 7-12 and he was in the Air Cadets when he was younger and they said “oh look you’re in the Air Cadets you could be a famous person like this guy.” So I followed him and read his autobiography. It’s really cliche but he’s such an exemplary Canadian essentially. Super welcoming, great face for the country internationally. Also extraterrestrially because he’s in space.
W: Do you think there’s a Canadian dream, and if so, how does it differ from the American one?
S: I feel the Canadian dream might be, me and my older brother were joking that you’re not really Canadian until you own a cottage. So maybe owning a cottage up in Muskoka is the Canadian dream.
Oh look there’s some Horses.
*At the other table*: You didn’t see any before?
S: No first time on the train. Apparently yesterday we passed Bison, I was in the bathroom and I missed it. My seatmate was like: “Sami I have really bad news for you, you missed Bison.” I was like NOOO.
W: Yeah a couple days ago people on this car (Observation car) were freaking out because they saw the northern lights.
S: Are you fucking kidding me?
W: No I’m not kidding you
S: Goddamnit. Sorry didn’t mean to swear on the recording but ugh.