Last year, back when everyone was still jetting around the world, I was in Montreal. On the facade of a high-rise building in Crescent Street is a huge painting of Leonard Cohen. You can see the unforgettable words of the late poet from all the city's elevated spots, from the Mont Royal mountain to the upper floors of the Musée des beaux-arts: “There's a blaze of light in every word, it doesn't matter which you heard, the holy or the broken Hallelujah.”
It is befitting that Cohen hovers over everything, the city’s most famous son encapsulates so many things that we associate with Canada: freedom and friendliness, a love for people and their creations, a certain smartness. In the eyes of the world, Canada is definitely the better America. Since the political culture of the United States has been reduced to rubble by its current president, the other great country on the continent strikes us as more progressive, more reliable, more predictable. Trudeau trumps Trump.
It hinges on land rights, the visibility of their cultures, discrimination
The fourth floor of the Musée des beaux-arts not only offers a view of Leonard Cohen, it also houses a collection of Inuit art spanning beautiful animal sculptures, stone masks and walrus ivory figures. While crowds gather on other floors, in this wing you wander around the glass display cases completely alone. The country's treatment of the descendants of its indigenous people, the First Nations, Métis and Inuit, has become a huge issue. It hinges on land rights, the visibility of their cultures, discrimination. Problems that the country is yet to solve.
The multi-ethnic state's indigenous roots, the cultural heritage of the former colonial powers England and France, and today's immigrants all shape contemporary Canada - and that is a focus of this edition of our magazine. We also look at the uninhabited expanses of this vast country, its magnificent nature – and its destruction: the melting ice, the oil sand mining and the pipelines. "A holy or broken Hallelujah," as Leonard Cohen would say.