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Fresh focus on Canadian milestones stokes fear Conservatives rewriting history


 

OTTAWA – A throne speech that’s expected to focus on a series of upcoming national milestones is stoking fears that the Conservative government is trying to put a stop to what it considers a liberal-lensed perspective on Canadian history.

Wednesday’s speech is expected to dwell on the government’s plans to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Confederation in 2017, as well as the continuing 200th anniversary of the War of 1812, the 150th anniversary of the Fenian Raids, the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War and the 75th anniversary of the beginning of the Second World War.

Some historians have complained bitterly that the Conservatives are paying short shrift to Canada’s social, medical and technological history in favour of unduly emphasizing the country’s military triumphs.

“What I find really unsettling about this government is that they are forcing a view of Canada on the country that most Canadians don’t accept,” said Ian McKay, a history professor at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont.

“It’s the transformation of history into myth, a romanticizing of our military history. It’s hyper-militarism, very authoritarian, and it represents an aggressive attack on Canada’s peacekeeping tradition.”

But Jack Granatstein, a historian who has long advocated a greater emphasis on Canadian military history, dismissed such concerns as “nonsense.” Indeed, Granatstein said he’s worried the Tories are going to skimp on the First World War.

“I am told they’re only putting in as much money for World War One as they did for the War of 1812, about $30 million or something, and that’s just pathetic,” Granatstein said.

“This was a world-changing event in which Canadians played an absolutely major role and it needs to be commemorated in a big way.”

Granatstein conceded, however, that he could “see some of the difficulties” for the government in commemorating the First World War.

“Quebec basically opted out of the war, and it’s pretty hard to paint it any other way, and it would be a bit difficult for the government to paint it as a great national experience when a third of the country opted out. But in English-speaking Canada, this was a huge event with major social ramifications as well.”

Granatstein, who once helmed the Canadian War Museum, also scoffed at complaints from McKay and other historians — including those at the Canadian History Association — about the government’s laser-sharp focus on Canada’s military history.

“It’s ignorance, it’s stupidity, and it’s been my view that it’s complete nonsense,” he said.

“Obviously I am generalizing, but historians are all NDPers, they hate the Tories with a passion, and they’re all social historians, so they think any government that’s going to commemorate the War of 1812 — which they have all said is unimportant, which is just silly — is a war-mongering government.”

Of particular to concern to many historians, however, is the government’s $25 million overhaul of the Canadian Museum of Civilization, which will soon become the Canadian Museum of History.

That rebranding is considered just one puzzle piece in a broader Conservative strategy to alter the way Canadians view their history.

The museum’s 1990 mandate stressed the need to increase an “interest in, knowledge and critical understanding” of Canadian history.

Its new mandate, implemented under former heritage minister James Moore — now industry minister — is aimed at boosting Canadians’ “knowledge, understanding and appreciation of events, experiences, people and objects that reflect and have shaped Canada’s history and identity.”

McKay said he considers that change in language — particularly the lack of the words “critical understanding” — to be startling, although it may seem subtle to a historical layman.

“It’s sort of like a Hockey Hall of Fame approach to history — to celebrate and mythologize,” he said. “It more than verges on propaganda.”

The Canadian History Association has also charged that changing the museum’s name and mandate “appears to reflect a new use of history to support the government’s political agenda.”

Granatstein, however, shrugged off such complaints.

“They’re forgetting, of course, that there is the Canadian War Museum that does all the war history, and it’s not going to be duplicated by the Canadian Museum of History,” he said.

Documents obtained by The Canadian Press show that Canada’s official commemorative plan leading up to the country’s 150th birthday highlights an arsenal of battles and wars, a smattering of sports and a nod to the Arctic.

The government’s Interdepartmental Commemorations Committee has also singled out the 200th anniversary of the births of Sir John A. Macdonald and Sir George-Etienne Cartier as well as the 175th of Sir Wilfrid Laurier’s entry into the world.

The list also includes the 50th anniversary of the Canada Games, the 125th of the Stanley Cup and the 100th of both the National Hockey League and a Canadian expedition to the Arctic.

The various milestones are to be celebrated with ceremonies, education campaigns, plaques, books, coins, performances and even an ice sculpture.


 
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Fresh focus on Canadian milestones stokes fear Conservatives rewriting history

  1. Granatstein’s chest-beating nonsense aside, Canadians aren’t going to turn out to commemorate battles and wars.

    • Canadians aren’t going to turn out to commemorate anything, except conceivably the new season of The Bachelor Canada.

    • Granatstein’s depth of knowledge of Canadian military history is simply unsurpassed. He shit’s more intellect in a single visit to the men’s room than you’ve managed in nearly 9000 posts.

      • I don’t talk to crude rude people who have other posts removed.

        You’re attempting to bully other posters, and it won’t work.

        • You don’t talk to anyone. You pontificate.

          • So?

            Ciao baby.

          • Professor Ranter
            Hopefully you’re available for a few classroom hours in the interest of academic objectivity?

        • You’ll talk with anyone you wild old thing. Tell me how anyone could shut you up.

  2. For decades history has not been taught.

    It’s high time we got some.

  3. According to his Queens biography, Professor Ian McKay, mentioned in the story, is a strong influence on how history is taught in Canada. In process by him for publication (and likely as a text book) is a general work describing the influence of a Marxist radical, Antonio Gramsci, on the so-called “Liberal Revolution in Canada.”

    Study of Gramsci is a valid academic pursuit and a slight re-arrangement of the curriculum would will allow Professor McKay to be awarded a sabbatical leave to pursue his research.

    In the upcoming Speech from the Throne, the 200th Anniversary of the War of 1812 will be funded and it’s rumoured that the value of a Gramsci course will be recognized by a special grant to distinguished Professors Raging Ranter, Glynn Mohr and David W. Axelrod-Kinsella who would assume Dr. McKay’s classroom hours and bring a necessary perspective to this important field of study.

    The prerequisite for the course will be a Wikipedic knowledge of the following:
    a) Antonio Gramsci himself
    b) The Frankfurt School
    c) The Cloward-Piven Strategy
    d) Saul Alinsky

  4. The idea that Canada has a glorious military past is laughable. Ask any European..I’ve seen my son’s high school history book and it covers Canada’s actions in WW1 and WW2 thoroughly, and gives plenty of credit where it’s due. To emphasize these actions to a higher degree while undermining Canada’s other significant history (domestic and international) like the Maple Leaf flag, the 1935 On-to-Ottawa Trek, universal health care, and UN peacekeeping, is simply propaganda. If the Conservatives break out in hives every time they read about universal healthcare or the Maple Leaf in a history book because they were brought in by non-Conservative governments, they can move elsewhere. They won’t be missed.

    • Are you suggesting peacekeeping and the maple leaf flag are equal in stature to the tremendous contributions and sacrifices we made in the two world wars? I’m going to assume your post was sarcasm.

  5. Commemorate? I don’t see anything to commemorate about poorly equipped amateur soldiers getting gassed and slaughtered in the name of a few yards of mud. Shouldn’t that be mourning? That so many of our communities were decimated by the deaths of our young men? That violence and mental illness was spread through our families by returning soldiers who had no idea why they were supposed to kill Germans? That the War to End all Wars wasn’t even the end of so-called World Wars?

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