This weekend all freedom loving Canadians should be saluting Queen Victoria, and though that might sound odd, the fact is that when it comes to freedom in Canada, we owe a lot to Queen Victoria.
Only 18 when she ascended to the throne of the largest empire the world has ever known on June 20th, 1837, and within months, rebellions had taken shape in Lower and Upper Canada.
The rebellion in Lower Canada, now Quebec, started on November 6, lasting a year and the rebellion in Upper Canada, now Ontario, lasted just a few days in early December 1837 ending with the March from Montgomery’s Tavern on December 7, 1837.
Two vastly different rebellions but the result was the same, the young Queen Victoria, eager not to lose the colonies in Canada, called on Lord Durham to travel to the region, hear out the grievances and report back.
What we got in return was responsible government. The first steps for the colonies of British North America to govern themselves and the first steps towards what would become Confederation and Canada.
Imagine what the world might look like today if instead of dismissing the concerns of American colonists, George III had listened to them and granted them the rights and liberties that the colonists felt entitled to as free men.
The American revolution might not have happened, at least not then, and the world would look very different.
Queen Victoria learned the lesson her grandfather did not, that keeping people down was not a good long term strategy.
Some may scoff and denounce this as a revisionist view of colonialism. Perhaps, I’m not a natural monarchist, but a reluctant monarchist and given the choice between living in any other country from the era’s competing empires, those ruled by Britain have, mostly, ended up better off than the others.
Those ideals of individual liberty, of freedom were the embodiment of the Victorian era. Not all was perfect, but it was better than the alternative and Victoria helped usher in the era that led to confederation, which came into being under her watch.
So this long weekend, don’t just scoff at the day or the May 24 weekend. Instead, honour the woman the holiday is named for — Queen Victoria.
She may be dead but long may her legacy live on in Canada, the greatest country on earth.