Tuesday, March 2, 2010


After Sunday's Olympic Gold performance, the New York Times' description of the game concluded that..."Canadians, weary of being considered an outpost of the British Crown or a conquered territory of American pop culture, see hockey as a way to define themselves on their terms."

Perhaps somewhat unlike our performance in the Olympics, we natives of the northern side of the continent's border may have to walk a less aggressive tightrope when it comes to our next clash with American titans.

Last fall, the Chair of Canada's Battlefields Commission, Andre Juneau, stepped-down in the wake of a summer controversy over cancelled plans to re-enact the historic "Battle of the Plains of Abraham" in Quebec City on its 250th anniversary. Numerous plans are already in the works for re-enactments and other celebrations marking the 200th anniversary of Canada's victory in the "War of 1812" in less than a couple of years.

The problem is that our American neighbours have a decidedly different perspective about the outcome of that 200 year old confrontation. I have written about this before. It's not just Johnny Horton's iconic 1959 tune "The Battle of New Orleans"...Connie Barrone, the Manager of the "Sackets' Harbor (New York) Historic Site" fueled America's creeping revisionism about the outcome of the war in the fall of 2008. Quoted in the "National Post", when it was pointed out to Ms Barrone that the USA lost the war, she replied: "Historical or aesthetic interpretation must be made by the viewer"...Read: It's in the eye of the beholder!

A six minute television short from the Olympics by NBC anchor Tom Brokaw to explain Canada to Americans went viral on "You Tube" (60,000 views in Canada so far). It's opening sequence is of the "Peace Arch" tribute to the War of 1812 - "May These Gates Never Be Closed". Despite defeats by Issac Brock with Laura Secord at Queenston Heights; the assault on Washington D.C. and the sacking of the White House on August 24, 1814; and the Battle at Crysler Farm, near Ottawa...or in spite of them American historians have concluded that the War of 1812 really just signals the "real" conclusion to the U.S. struggle for its autonomy from the British begun with the signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 4th, 1776. That's where we disagree.

From Gettysburg, to Boston, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Richmond and at virtually every historic battlefield, our American cousins revel in re-enacting significant moments of their history. The next Olympic Winter Games in 2014 in Sochi may conceivably play host to a rematch of Sunday's Vancouver game. It's over the years in between that we may struggle not to offend.

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