How Canada influenced the world in 2011
From Occupy Wall Street to Libya to Research in Motion
2011 seemed like a year of relentless newsmaking, and, as it turns out, Canadians played a large part in it. Here's a look at how this country influenced world events.
If the anti-corporate protests that have swept the world this fall can be traced to a single trigger, it would be a July 13 blog post by the Vancouver-based magazine Adbusters. The headline was a simple, Twitter-savvy directive: #OccupyWallStreet.
Inspired by the pro-democracy demonstrations in the Middle East and anti-austerity actions in Spain, Adbusters directed readers to flock to lower Manhattan on Sept. 17 to protest "the greatest corrupter of our democracy: Wall Street, the financial Gomorrah of America."
The prime target was the so-called 1 per cent, the wealthy minority perceived to be responsible for the global financial crisis. Representing the "99 per cent," the movement that began in New York’s Zuccotti Park quickly went viral and spread to more than 90 cities worldwide, from Kamloops to Kuala Lumpur.
Critics charged that the protesters’ message was too unfocused to matter, but the resulting media coverage and political hand-wringing made it clear that Occupy became a force to be reckoned with.
Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney has been a golden boy in banking circles since March 2008, when he made the bold move of drastically lowering interest rates. Why? He saw the financial crisis coming and did what he felt was necessary to shield Canadians from a global recession.
Since then, he’s been universally lauded for his stewardship of the Canadian economy. In November, Carney was named chairman of the Financial Stability Board, the Swiss-based international regulatory body. The position is only a part-time job, but all the same, it prompted Maclean’s magazine to call Carney "The Canadian Hired to Save the World."
Canada’s role in Libya
When pro-democracy protests emerged in Libya in February, Col. Moammar Gadhafi responded with a campaign of brutal suppression. Under the auspices of NATO, countries such as the U.S., France, Britain and Canada intervened, first to establish an arms embargo and a no-fly zone to deter the Libyan government from bombing its own citizens, and later to execute air strikes on positions held by Gadhafi loyalists.
Commanded by Canadian Lt.-Gen. Charles Bouchard, Operation Unified Protector is seen as having prevented the slaughter of anti-Gadhafi forces and the partitioning of the country, as well as having been crucial to the overthrow of Gadhafi.
While it was not without casualties, the mission has been lauded for meeting its aims in a limited timeframe (March to October). It also reflected Canada’s heightened presence in world conflicts — not only was a Canadian at the helm, but Canadian planes flew more than 1,000 sorties.
The Vancouver riots photo
One of the most mortifying moments for Canada as a nation also inspired one of the most poignant. After the Vancouver Canucks lost game seven of the Stanley Cup finals on June 15, discontented fans rioted in the streets. Amid images of burning cars, looting and other assorted mischief was a picture by photographer Rich Lam of a couple lying in the street in a romantic embrace.
The backstory is that Scott Jones was trying to calm his girlfriend, Alex Thomas, after she was knocked over by riot police.
A glimpse of humanity on an otherwise savage night, Esquire magazine named it the Photo of the Year.
Research in Motion’s annus horribilus
There’s no sugarcoating it: Research in Motion, Canada’s one-time tech darling, had a spectacularly bad year.
Hoping to take a bite out of Apple’s dominance in the smartphone and tablet markets, the Waterloo, Ont. company faced a seemingly never-ending stream of setbacks.
Here are the biggies:
1. The launch of the PlayBook, RIM’s first tablet, in April was met with jeers. Citing its disappointing apps store and the fact that the PlayBook lacked email access without a link to a BlackBerry, critics wondered why the tablet hadn’t spent more time in R&D. (Due to soft consumer demand, RIM ended up chopping the retail price from $500 to $200.)
2. Disappointing overall sales of its phones and tablets forced the company to cut 2,000 jobs in July.
3. In October, a three-day service outage cut off access to email and texting for millions of "CrackBerry"-addicted users in North America, Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
4. In November, two RIM executives on an Air Canada flight from Toronto to Beijing got so drunk and rowdy they forced the pilot to make an unscheduled stop in Vancouver. They were subsequently fired.
5. Even an ostensibly good-news story — namely, the BlackBerry’s success in Indonesia — turned into another debacle, when the December launch of the Bold 9790 smartphone in Jakarta caused a stampede that injured dozens of people.
Canada dominates the pop charts
We all know that Canada's musicians are world-class, and that an increasing number of them are international stars. But it is nonetheless striking that Canadians held four of the top five albums on the Billboard 200 chart for the week of December 17.
Crooner Michael Bublé took the No. 1 spot with the holiday album Christmas; teen sensation Justin Bieber nabbed No. 3 with his own yuletide offering, Under the Mistletoe; rapper Drake grabbed the fourth spot with Take Care; and rockers Nickelback rounded out the top five with Here and Now. This eclectic group not only proves the global appeal of Canadian music, but the diversity of our talent.