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I’m Gonna Roam Again

Canada World Youth envisions a world of active, engaged global citizens who share responsibility for the well-being of all people and the planet.


I’M GONNA ROAM AGAIN (words and music Mike Ford 2007)

Schoolgirl blowing bubble gum

Blows a big balloon and pops it

Children ask her where she’s from

Spins a globe and with a finger stops it

“We got out when it got too rough

But when I see it again -

Share it with you my new friend”




See the big house, see the pride

20 rooms just for the filling

Precious goods from far and wide

Where the merchant’s make a killing

Will he ever have enough

To make his heart less empty

Here in the Land of Plenty?




Let’s rewrite the opera

Now that we’ve hung our leaders out to dry

The curtain rises, Canada

But will you only close your eyes?

You might think you’ve seen enough

But a planet calls again

Share it with our friends


Map and a backpack, I’m without a care, oh

Anybody’s guess, I’m a-goin’ out there, oh

Compass and a coat and a current on the air, oh

Flyin’ on a wings on the back of a sparrow




Sing to me of where you’re from

The melody will paint a picture

Use the bright notes for the sun

We’ll make a syncopated scripture

I know I’ll never hear enough

Sing it loud again

Share it with me my new friend


Key Terms & Phrases

Canada World Youth

Mission: Canada World Youth's mission is to increase the ability of people, and especially youth, to participate actively in the development of just, harmonious, and sustainable societies.

Vision: Canada World Youth envisions a world of active, engaged global citizens who share responsibility for the well-being of all people and the planet.



Mission: Engage youth in volunteer service and foster sustainable communities through challenging national youth service programs.

Our objectives:

•To contribute substantially to the personal, social and professional development of the volunteers.

•To promote community service.

•To offer a diverse experience fostering a better understanding of the Canadian reality.





Unlike the other songs in Mike Ford’s 20th Century Canada Needs You song cycle, I’m Gonna Roam Again doesn’t focus on a specific historical event. Its theme is that of Canadians travelling out into the world. The “roamers” sung about here are making first-hand connections with people and places worldwide – inspired sometimes by their own heritage or country of origin, by curiosity, desire to effect change and more. It’s a theme that many Canadians see as integral to a sense of this country’s national character. Some of the most iconic individuals in modern Canada are associated with this drive to be of service in the wider world – Nobel Peace Prize winner Lester B. Pearson, tireless AIDS relief ambassador Stephen Lewis, Free The Children activist Craig Kielburger, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour, Haiti Relief fundraiser Georges Laraque, to name a few. Some would even contend that spending time gaining global experience – specifically in developing countries – became a very ‘Canadian’ trait in the 2nd half of the 20th Century. Admirers of Pierre Trudeau, one of the country’s most discussed Prime Ministers, often cite his youthful international wanderings as central to shaping his political directions back home. But is the image of the ‘Backpacking Canadian’ still relevant?


Two important non-profit organizations (among the many) that have evolved out of this phenomenon – both of them founded in the ‘Trudeau years’ – are Canada World Youth and Katimavik. Canada World Youth was founded in 1971 and has been providing youth (17-25) with opportunities to learn about foreign cultures and help communities ever since. Exchange is central to its programs, with groups spending a period of months in a community abroad, and then hosting the participants from that foreign community back in Canada. Katimavik began in 1977, and each year allows young Canadians to learn about and experience other regions of their own country, focusing on volunteer community projects, cultural discovery, ‘Eco-citizenship’, active living and bilingual experience. Both Canada World Youth and Katimavik were founded by Jacques Hébert (a Minister in Trudeau cabinets, and later Senator) and are unfortunately financially beholden to the whims of successive governments.


There was a time in this country, not too long ago, when High School students were well aware of Canada World Youth and Katimavik, and the amazing experience, growth and training they can make possible. These organizations still exist, and in spite of their on-going battles for adequate funding, continue to develop effective and exciting programs, offering young Canadians inspiring post-secondary and post-university options. If your school’s guidance department and hallway NGO posters aren’t informing students about these programs – make sure they do!



2330 Notre-Dame St. West, 3rd floor

Montreal, Quebec H3J 1N4

Telephone: 1-800-605-3526 (toll free)


Fax: 514-939-2621



Ontario regional office

301-265 Carling Avenue

Ottawa, Ontario K1S 2E1

Telephone: 613 722-8091

Fax: 613 722-1359





Composer's Notes

My previous Canadian History song-cycle, featuring songs about 17th/18th/19th Century themes (performed in Intermediate classes and found on the album Canada Needs You volume one, begins with spoken word/hip-hop song called “I’m Gonna Roam”. It’s my attempt to poetically describe the phenomenon of immigration to, and settlement in, this northern land – from millennia-long migrations over the Bering Straight five to twenty thousand years ago. to European exploration, to Underground Railroad refugees, to railroad-building labourers. It is meant to serve as an introduction to the ensuing songs and stories, and to evoke the great land mass itself and the spirit felt therein by its first inhabitants (“I am the turtle….I am the turtle”). To finish the second song cycle (performed in Secondary schools and recorded on Canada Needs You volume two) I wanted to create a ‘bookend’ effect. I’m Gonna Roam Again is inspired by an imagined notion of this modern citizenry, having come here from everywhere else over the centuries, taking a breath, turning back outward and saying “O.K…I’m settled…now let’s go back out and explore”.

When I was in High School, a very common question was: “so, after graduation, where are you going backpacking?” It was a wanderlust that sometimes found organizational help in Programs like Canada World Youth and Katimavik (see Historical Context) though just as often inspired one’s own independent doings. And of course it continues today in myriad forms, from Free The Children and World Vision volunteer experiences to Teaching English abroad to just wanting to revisit your home town far away.

The 1st verse is in a classroom, with one recently arrived student expressing her sorrow for the place she’s had to leave behind, and her desire to share its wonders with her new classmates.

The 2nd verse shows a glimpse of the realizations that can come with growing awareness of, or travel to, foreign lands. I was thinking of a common component of culture shock– returning from an underdeveloped or war-torn country and seeing the material excess of Canadian life in contrast – so much of that excess and abundance made possible by the poverty in those foreign lands – workers and resources available so cheaply, allowing the wealthy nations to call the shots. And yet, what does this great abundance so many of us know in Canada do for the soul?

The 3rd verse reveals the inherent challenge in all this. If we keep our eyes open, if we don’t keep distracting our selves with trivial entertainments and gadgetry, we cannot ignore that changes must be made – BIG CHANGES, so that all can share in the natural wealth of the planet.

The 4th verse is perhaps a recognition of what this country is finally meant to become – a place for us to truly know each other and know this world through each other – to dance, sing, learn and teach together, and become both celebration and catalyst for the future. 

I wanted the song’s Sound and Style to be celebratory – like a summer street party, hence the rhythm’s Caribbean feel. I also wanted to evoke the sense of people coming together to live, work and play in concert – that’s what inspired the use of countermelody that comes in for the 3rd and 4th chorus (“map and a backpack, I’m without a care-o…”). For the recording, I was able to bring the celebration to fruition with the awesome help of my usual cohorts (Mark Mariash, Murray Foster, David Matheson, Jen Bush) but on top of that (and with $$ help from The Ontario Arts Council) I was able to include (as in Expo ’67) three of Toronto’s finest horn players (Wil Carn, William Sperandei and Tara Davidson). In the in-school presentation, the song becomes a chance to encourage audience counter melodies, chants and rhythms.



Foreign Correspondents

Contact an organization like Canada World Youth, Katimavik, Crossroads, Medicines Sans Frontiers, etc and propose that you represent one of their participants for your class – that you would conduct an interview (or several over time) with a Canadian working in development or aid work in another region or country. Such a project would serve the organisation by raising awareness about their activities among young people – and encourage potential future participants, as well as serve your Social Science class by sharing first-hand accounts of development and aid issues across the country and across the globe.

In your correspondence with the travelling worker, consider posing questions that consider:

1.the people, society, culture and language in that area

2.physical, climatic, political and infrastructural observations

3.nature of the aid or development work being done the worker got involved with the org.

5.biggest surprises or ‘culture shock’ experienced

6.anecdotes of new experiences, friends made, things learned

7.where the worker hopes to travel next

Tour Itinerary

For 3 students: each student choose 1 global location (perhaps connected to their own heritage, research or interests) and the three together draw up a 3 week itinerary, designing fact-finding travel to compare aspects of the 3 places. Begin the project by discussing and noting whish particular aspects of the locations they will be comparing (i.e. – diet, occupations, infrastructure, cultural activities, challenges, creative/ingenious practices).

Create an annotated map and day-by-day agenda to show how what places will be visited from which to draw observations for the fact-finding mission.