Wednesday, May 18, 2011

 

MY LITTLE TOWN

A report in the morning's newspaper suggests that Canada's multicultural identity may be suffering from the country's perceived "tougher" identity. As with the case of our "peacekeeping" reputation being damaged by involvement in wars in Afghanistan and Libya; it is perhaps an unconceived result of well intentioned government social policy gone awry.

On past occasions I have noted the impact and effects of the War of 1812 on our relationship with the United-States of America with whom we share the North American Continent. Most recently to chide the Federal Department of Heritage for its plan to spend millions of dollars next year to mark the war's 200th anniversary...an unconceived result of which may be to remind our American neighbour of a painful three year period in its own history in which it eventually lost this war. (See: "To The Victor...The Spoils" - May 14/11)

Until the Webster-Ashburton Treaty of 1842, one of the unsettled issues of the War of 1812 was designation of the International Boundary between the northeastern United-States and eastern Canada. It's an area which was rich in navigable waterways; vastly unexplored timber resources of white pine; spruce and poplar; and rich farmland. - Given as I am to digression: The masts on Admiral Nelson's ship at the Battle of Trafalgar were of white pine from New Brunswick; the spars and struts on the famed "Battle of Britain" fighters (Hurricane and Spitfires) of New Brunswick spruce veneer; and the blockbuster Discovery Channel TV series "American Loggers" is shot in the Allegash region of Northern Maine at the head waters of the St. John River which since 1842 has designated the International Border.

Webster-Ashburton's designation of the St. John River (often described as the Rhine of America) split settler's and settlements between two nations. And it spawned a subsequent declaration of the short-lived "Republic of Madawaska;" an armed movement by locals to reunite their colony. - That's where I was born, where I grew-up more than six decades ago. A fiercely proud community of Americans and Canadians; Francophone and Anglophone - A multicultural, international, bilingual community of mutually respectful residents of The Republic.

In fact, New Brunswick is Canada's only officially bilingual (English / French) province. At my birth; my hometown; Edmundston, New Brunswick could boast of a population which was 98% fluently bilingual. Over the ensuing decades, for seemingly logical and expedient reasons, successive governments essentially split the school system into the two language groups and eventually brought-in specialized educators to replace retiring locals. Ultimately the "unconceived results" skewed the delicate balance which made the place special...Sadly at least to those of my generation and the ones who'd come before me.

Facing the harsh financial realities of our times, locals will welcome in 2014 the economic fallout from the World Acadian Congress in the area. As have so many others of us, Acadians have lived and prospered in the area (as elsewhere) since their Great Deportation of 1785. We will be respectful; but WE ARE NOT ACADIAN. I'm saddened if not mildly outraged that economic and politically expedient reasons are once more poised to trump authenticity and revise the history of my ancestors.

"It's not that the colours aren't there
It's just imagination they lack
Everything's the same back
in my little town."

(Paul Simon / 1975)

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