It has been almost 200 years since the fog of war, loomed thick on battlefields all across the North American continent from Sackets Harbour to Queenston Heights. Although the events of 1812, have receded into the mist of our collective memory the impact of those events still echoes through the centuries. Compared to other global conflicts during the 19th century, the war of 1812 is rather a minor affair. However, it had a significant impact in shaping the national character of the cobble together: colonies that became Canada.
This week, the forgotten war, took front stage with a slew of federal announcements aiming to reintroduce Canadians to an important part of their past. The Canadian government invested over $28 million to commemorate the quickly approaching bicentennial of the war. As well this is another step for the Conservatives in rebranding the Canadian identity. It started with institutions like the monarchy and it continues now with historical events like the war of 1812. Simply put, the Harper government is adding to the idea of what it means to be Canadian. More importantly, providing a counterbalance to the traditional post modern liberal interpretation of Canadian history that our identity consists of the charter the flag and a gaggle of social programs.
In addition, there is something remote and distant putting so much stock of our identity in symbols of postmodern Canada. Furthermore, it is healthy for a country to call upon cultural touchstones from our past it shows where we have come from as a country. Beyond the political context of our citizenry is a serious lack of understanding of our own historical events. When only four out of ten Canadians from the ages of 25 to 34 haven’t even heard of the war of 1812; that is a significant gap in our collective understanding of how Canada came to be. Not only did the events of 1812 inspire a sense of nationhood, the outcome of the war determined the border of North America for the last two centuries. In this writer’s opinion it is hard for the Canadian psyche to perceive our country, with having drastically different borders and culture.
To the detractors that say that the government should not be spending any of the public’s money on historical events like the upcoming bicentennial. Conversely, what is wrong with a country reinvesting in points of its patriotic pride, especially when it is such a crucial historical event like the war of 1812. Now, a valid argument can be made for how much money should have been spent commemorating the war especially in a time of economic uncertainty. Finally, what’s wrong with a tad of chest pumping patriotism now and then? In retrospect, this “rebranding” and recognition of the role that the war of 1812 played in the Canadian sense of self is long overdue.