Monday 1 July 2013

O Canada

It's what used to be Dominion Day today in Canada.  They call it Canada Day since 1982, to damp down the imperial associations and look forward rather than back to The British North America Act of 1867 which on 1st July of that year united the colonies of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia with "Canada" and promptly split that entity into Ontario and Quebec. The other parts of what we now know as Canada were added piecemeal over the next 3 generations, starting with Manitoba in 1870 and tidying up the Northern half of the continent with the addition of Newfoundland (and Labrador) in 1949.
Predictably, lots of people had the vapours when it was suggested that the name of The Day be changed.  "My Uncle was at Vimy Ridge in 1917" "My father was captured during the Dieppe Raid in 1942".  In a similar way, perhaps more so because it was longer ago, changing the flag from the distinctly heraldic and imperial Canadian Red Ensign  to the rather hip design-conscious Maple Leaf flag we know today also caused distress and also caused a good bit of less sincere political posturing on both sides.  What is it with flags?  The  particular Canadian Red Ensign that was struggled up Vimy Ridge came into the possession of the Imperial War Museum in London.  It's a little weird because that flag hadn't been sanctioned for official use since before 1870  as it only shows the arms of the first four provinces. "... it may have simply been 'souvenired' from the flag locker of the merchant ship that brought the battalion to Europe".  
ANNyway, the I.W.M. refused to repatriate or even lend the flag to Canada for such flag-sensitive events as the dedication of the tomb of their unknown soldier.  Eventually they loaned it for the opening of  their sister institution the Canadian War Museum in 2005 but got it back sharpish. Museums have  tendency to acquire stuff for their own ends and can lose sight of the purpose of the artifacts that they preserve. There's a film to be made there about the 'souveniring' of their flag from London by some elderly survivors of the Canadian military - a cross between Ocean's Eleven and Night at the Museum.
 I hope all my Canadian readers and all my Canadian friends (there is only partial overlap) have a great time today, because I had a great time in Canada getting my snow-suit wet in Kingston ON in 1956, and in the early 80s, seeing the Petitcodiac Bore, as well as the Miramichi and Restigouche rivers, while hunting up data in Sydney, Yarmouth and Digby NS; Québec and Trois-Rivières PQ; Moncton, Bathurst, Edmundston, Campbellton and Saint John NB.  Happy days sustained by meat-loaf, cheap hotels and the Canadian sense of instinctive hospitality.  But I never did warm to poutine the Canadian convention of covering excellent french fries with brown gravy and wet white cheese.  The fries go too soggy too quickly.

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