As most people know, Canada is a winter country, but why do some Canadians seem to be in denial about this?
Every year, the local media in various cities across the country make a big deal about the first snow fall. This is Canada, it’s suppose to snow! What do you expect in December and January, a 30 °C heat wave? When newscasts show footage of people shoveling, brushing off cars, and blowing snow off their driveways, some people start getting depressed about winter. Despite the explicit reminder of the difficulty of getting around when there’s snow, slush and ice on the ground, people still aren’t prepared. The day of the first snow fall, people are skidding on the expressways because they haven’t put on their winter tires yet.
Winter can be very beautiful, especially the way snow covers the built environment. The wind plays an interesting role in sculpting the forms of the snow that cover buildings, cars, streetlights and signs. Nothing is left uncovered, unless covered by something else or protected by the path of the wind. Large snow falls
of 25 centimeters or more make bus stands and canopies look bulky. Some windows lose a percentage of their light due to snow accumulation on their sills. A few years ago in the Montreal area, the roofs of some homes collapsed because of the weight on the snow.
In Quebec, some residents use tent-like products called tempos, which allow people to park their cars in their driveways without having to dig them out after large snow falls. These tempos are easy to erect and dismantle, but despite their advantages, some cities in Quebec have banned them for not being architecturally pleasing.
Sure, they have a rudimentary design, but they are practical and useful. There is something typical about the tempo fitting into suburban culture where everyone has their own house, on their own lot, with their own front yard, their own back yard and their own driveway. Seeing as it is their own driveway, it’s not difficult to see why people put up their own tempos. Architecturally unappealing or not, the tempo represents one of the few elements of preparedness towards snow most Canadians have, especially people in large cities.
Maybe in rural Canada people handle snow well, but in urban Canada some of us are in denial. Other than those of you who are fortunate to live in Vancouver, most urban Canadians miss the afternoon lunches on the sidewalk terraces and the cold beers on the patios of their favourite bars. In the summer, when it’s 30 °C, the grass is green and the birds are singing, it’s easy to forget that Canada is a winter country. The first snow fall or the first temperature below minus -5 °C usually put things into their seasonal perspective.
New Canadians in Toronto, Calgary or Montreal, must be wondering what they’ve gotten themselves into. Some of these immigrants come from countries such as India, Haiti, Philippines, Nigeria and other places with warm weather. If some native-born Canadians are not prepared for winter, then one can only imagine what new Canadians must be thinking on days when its -10 °C. It’s easier to be prepared for snow than extremely cold temperatures.
For most of the year Canada is a winter country and Canadians should get use to it. Then again, with all the Canadians living in Florida, particularly during the winter, our denial may continue for a while…