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An ode to B-Tier cities across Canada

Harsh winters, foreclosed housing, and Burton Cummings. An ode to the city at the heart of the continent.

Roberto Wakerell-Cruz Montreal QC

There has always been something so fascinating about civic pride, especially from those cities who do not have much to offer.

Being from Windsor, Ontario, a city that has been called “the worst city on Earth” and later on, “Earth’s rectum” by Stephen Colbert, a city whose population today is only 8,000 higher than it was in 1971, I can relate to those who come from “sh*tty” cities.

Perhaps it was my upbringing in Southern Ontario that gave me such an appreciation for “rebounding” cities. Having a front row seat to the great Midwestern tragedy that is Detroit, to have a population proud to represent their city, no matter what state it’s in, says a lot about its character.

We come from cities not called Toronto, Vancouver, or Montreal. We come from small big cities, big small cities, and everything in between. Cities that have been put through the ringer. That have experienced economic hardships, crime sprees, and local corruption.

We come from cities who don’t have flashy towers, fancy restaurants, or world-renowned universities. And we’re proud of it.

We don’t care if our entire economy is reliant on one or two industries. That’s what makes us who we are.

Don’t get it mistaken, though. We can call a spade a spade. We’re fully aware of why our city “sucks.” We are from there, after all. But it comes from experience. To stand on the outside and hurl insults at our city without living there firsthand is heresy.

The sentiment is as follows: “Yeah, sure [Insert city here] is lousy. It may be a trash heap, but it’s our trash heap, and unless you know what you’re talking about, you should keep it to yourself!”

With all of that being said, we now shift our focus to Negativipeg, the mini-doc that fully illustrates my point, better than I ever could.

Grey winters, Foreclosed houses, and Burton Cummings. An ode to the city at the heart of the continent.

Showing the bleak beauty of a city who has gone through hardships for decades, Negativipeg, a documentary by local documentarian Matthew Rankin, dives into the details surrounding one man’s violent crime against Guess Who lead singer Burton Cummings, who on cold night in March of 1985,  was at the wrong place, at the wrong time.

[Watch Negativipeg below.

Though Cummings was already an international rockstar, Winnipeg media attacked the lead singer for criticizing his city, making headlines by calling Winnipeg “Negativipeg.” Local media made Burton the butt of a joke for his actions in a 7/11.

While trying to break up an altercation at a North End gas station, Cummings was bottled over the head by 19-year-old Rory Richard Lepine. The documentary goes into focus on his crime, interviewing Lepine, and talking to media about the entire fiasco.

Small cities are beautiful, and citizens of those cities deserve to be proud. We are not synonymous with “state of the art” or phrases of similar nature. To those who sit in the ivory towers of “global cities,” I’d like to quote what poet Carl Sandburg wrote about his hometown during its hardest times:

“Come and show me another city with lifted head singing so proud to be alive and coarse and strong and cunning.”  Winnipeg, Windsor, and other second-tier cities across Canada, be proud of your stomping grounds.


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