As a kid I was fascinated with the history of Canada, especially the War of 1812.
I remember the joy of flipping through textbooks learning about General Brock, Chief Tecumseh, and the United States' failed attempt to annex Canada.
I have no ancestors who died or fought in this conflict, but it has always played a role in my understanding of what Canada is and was. In grade school we took field trips to nearby Fort Malden. I can still remember the smells of musket fire as actors in scarlet uniforms impersonated British soldiers, and learning that Laura Secord wasn’t simply the name of some overrated chocolate.
The War of 1812 was one of the few moments in Canada’s history that stuck out as something to be proud of, and it romanticized our history.
Canada has always been regarded as the U.S.’s quiet friendly neighbour, its peaceful night cap, yet living on the border with the world’s superpower, I felt a humble sense of pride knowing that it was our little Canada that was once able to stop the juggernaut of American might from conquering us.
The War of 1812 is why to this day we call ourselves Canadian instead of American, why the Union Jack is a proud emblem in our history, why we are a constitutional monarchy, and why French Canadians have retained their identity, (unlike their Cajun brothers who were assimilated in Louisiana).
The War of 1812 may not show up on the radar in American history, but in our Canadian history it certainly does, or at least it should.
However, the new Minister of Immigration, John McCallum, doesn’t agree, and when he’s not busy incompetently mishandling a self-imposed refugee crisis, he’s now intent on "toning down" Canada’s history in Canada’s citizenship guide.
According to him, Canada’s existing citizenship guide is "a little heavy on the War of 1812.” Canada should not boast so loudly that we defeated the United States from invading us, I guess.
To quote the Minister speaking to the CBC on Saturday:
“If you ask an average Canadian what Canada means, maybe they’ll say hockey, maybe they’ll say something else, they’re not likely to say the War of 1812.”
So that’s it? Canada is just about hockey sticks, maple syrup, mittens and igloos? This is the narrative new Canadians are to learn about their country? That Canada is just a hockey team that hasn’t won the Stanley Cup since 1967, and some fermented tree sap?
No, let’s not learn about this land’s history. Let Laura Secord remain a bland ice cream parlour inside Canadian shopping malls!
And let’s not stop there! If the Honourable Minister wants to tone down the War of 1812, there must be other events the Liberal government can tone down too.
Let’s tone down Canada’s role in the First World War; after all it included trench warfare, which meant man-eating rats and flesh-eating gangrene -- vomitrocious! And while we’re at it, let’s tone down John McCrae’s poem "Flanders Fields." I mean, who the hell was Flanders anyway, and what were we doing in his fields? Trespassing?
While we’re at it, let’s just forget about the Second World War, too. Juno Beach is just a place named after that cuddly little polar bear now on exhibit at the Toronto Zoo.
Here's what I predict will end up in McCullum's "new and improved" citizenship guide: hockey, Trudeaumania, maple syrup, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Residential Schools, Trudeaumania, peacekeeping, “Just Watch Me,” Mr.Dressup, Mick Jagger’s sex life -- oh and Polkaroo! I imagine he would have included Canadian bacon, but considering where the vast majority of these 50,000 migrants are coming from, I think we outta tone that down a bit too, dontcha think?
History unifies us, and gives us a sense of purpose and direction. Although at times it may be complex, confusing, and more often than not, ugly -- like the War of 1812 -- we shouldn’t dismiss history or tone it down because it doesn’t fit a political party's agenda.
We’re constantly being told to embrace shawarmas and Diwali because "multiculturalism," but why must we tone down the historical incidents that made Canada Canada before those things came along? What McCallum is suggesting is more than simply naive -- it’s downright arrogant.
George Orwell famously wrote in his dystopia Nineteen Eighty-Four that, “He who controls the past controls the future; who controls the present controls the past." The Liberals are certainly in charge at present, and as McCallum signaled, they have a great interest in controlling the past too. Although I won’t go so far as to say they’re leading us towards some Orwellian state, this is a party ever eager to attach itself to the very definition of what it means to be a "real" Canadian.
Recall Justin Trudeau's opening remarks at the climate change summit in Paris, immediately after his election win, he proclaimed to the world, “Canada is back!” Canada, only after the election of a majority Liberal government, is now truly back? The Liberal Party seeks to redefine our history because they seek to define our future, and if the glorious victories of General Brock at Queenston Heights, or the gallant stance Chief Tecumseh made at the Battle of the Thames get in their way, then they’ll have no problem removing them, or as McCallum suggests -- tone it down.