20 January 2014

Our 150th birthday bash ... all about war

If there was any remaining doubt that the Conservative government has a militaristic view of history, check out Canada 150, the website for Canada's 150th anniversary. Note that the only subject with its own heading is "World War Commemorations." Then click on the "Road to 2017" and peruse the milestones. You will discover that out of 22 milestones listed, over 40 per cent commemorate war.

Apparently this does not reflect the interests revealed by Canadian Heritage-commissioned focus groups on the Canada 150 logo. TNS Canadian Facts, who conducted the research, reported, "From the words that people chose to describe this event, it is clear that the communications should focus on the celebration of Canada’s diversity and multiculturalism as a country, as well as appeal to the younger generation as much as possible." As for the younger generation, I counted only two milestones that originated after WWII. An extensive study by the Canadian Capital Cities Organization that included a Facebook campaign, an online survey and cross-country consultations seemed to agree with the focus groups. The words "mosaic" and "multicultural" came up repeatedly. Acknowledging First Nations treaties and contributions also came up frequently (incredibly, the government's milestones ignore the signing of the treaties, some of the largest peaceful land transfers in history).

Nor do the government's milestones mention Medicare and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, arguably the two most important Canadian achievements post-WWII, not only in themselves but in the fact that they are "live" history; they continue to affect us today in critical ways and will continue to do so well into the future, unlike the "dead" history of names, dates and old battles.

An informal online survey by the CBC had "Confederation and events of 1867" and "1982 constitution and charter" as the two most popular of the seven choices offered with "Canada's wartime contributions" and "past political leaders" least popular. The latter two provided most of the government's milestones.

The government's choices show a disturbing lack of generosity for any interests other than those which strongly appeal to Conservatives, particularly to their maximum leader. Most problematically, they represent a re-writing of history.

So, if the Conservatives still form the government in 2017, and the government's milestones are a sample of things to come, our 150th birthday celebration will be a very military exercise.

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