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|Thunder On The Right - January 2012|
Thunder On The Right
By Paul Jackson
Canadian newspaper and magazine headlines call it the ‘War that saved Canada’ and the ‘War that created a nation.’ Canadians are getting ready to commemorate the War of 1812 when President James Madison decided to attack Canada, annex it and absorb it into the United States.
Uncharacteristically, the usually noble Thomas Jefferson boasted something akin to Canada falling into American hands within days, rather than weeks, but two years later, after Canadians burned down the White House, the U.S abandoned its attempted conquest and unlike its savaging of half of Mexico, went home.
Canadian Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper is walking a cautious line on the 200-year anniversary of the War of 1812. One hand, he strongly believes in preserving Canada’s heritage and traditions, yet doesn’t want to stir up the latent anti-Americanism that festers within the Liberal-Left in Canada - which has as much contempt for Barack Obama as it did for George W. Bush.
Hence, a federal budget of a proposed $100 million to commemorate Canada’s survival has been cut to less than $30 million. But it will still be a respectable and responsible schedule of commemorative events.
They were more occupied with Napoleon Bonaparte’s expansionist plans in Europe. In 1812 itself, Napoleon’s army was at the gates of Moscow. Incidentally, what actually sparked the USA’s attack on Canada was that British ships were undermining American ships carrying arms to Napoleon’s forces. So Madison decided to retaliate by trying to conquer Canada.
Alongside Brock’s force, countless Canadian-born men were in militia units fighting Madison’s onslaught, and the likes of Charles de Salaberry, the French-Canadian officer who led a stunning victory over huge American forces at the Battle of Chateauguay in 1813, were prominent. De Salaberry was a scion of a Canadian military family that went back to the 1770s. Most of those defending the nation wore the emblem of the beaver - Canada’s national symbol - and the word Canada stitched on their uniforms.
There were other fabulous and enthralling personalities: Farmer’s wife Laura Secord who walked 20 miles to warn of an American attack, and Shawnee Indian leader Tecumseh - an American, now regarded as a great Canadian hero - who persuaded his tribe to support Canada because he believed America’s native people would get a better deal under Canadian authority. Natives born in Canada also joined in the fight to defend the nation.
A quirk: Although generation after generation of men and women had been born in Canada, and thought of themselves as Canadians for almost 300 years, there was actually no official Canadian citizenship until after the Second World War. It wasn’t until 1946/47 that legislation creating an official Canadian citizenship came into force. Until then, all Canadians were listed as ‘British’ subjects. Point, to suggest someone born in Canada two, three or four decades - or even 100 years before the War of 1812 - wasn’t truly a Canadian is rubbish. Actually, insulting - Quebec City itself is, after all, the oldest city in North America.
Yet the myth that somehow this was a war against the British and not Canada continues. Canada’s most prestigious and moderate magazine - Maclean’s, puts it like this, “Canada’s identity was shaped by the War of 1812,” and then adds: ”Yet, in the U.S. version of the war, the fact that they were defeated doesn’t even rate a mention.”
So the headlines and the commemorations are correct: The War of 1812 was fought for the survival of Canada, and all Canadians, while not being anti-American, should take quiet pride that our forefathers fought off a far, far stronger enemy.