I run two other blogs besides this one, identified as http://mariposabyconway.wordpress.com/ and https://playstephenleacock.wordpress.com/. The other two are associated with the Stephen Leacock Project, and will evolve as it does. This one is more personal.
I like the idea of celebrating the country, although I will do so today in my own way. When the rain lets up I will take a celebratory walk. The rest of the day I will enjoy my family in a quiet way and attempt to contribute to their enjoyment. That should be enough. Normally, or even obsessively, I avoid crowds. When they gather I will not be there. And as for fireworks, for me they add nothing to the beauties of the silent darkness.
I have been following the comments, both for and against, about our Sesquicentennial. I understand the negativity, although I do not share it. I think that, on balance, Canada’s story is remarkable and well worth celebrating. That there remains much work to be done, and that there are no guarantees about the future unless we work very hard for them and with somewhat more of the enabling virtues than we customarily display, does not for me detract at all. The story remains remarkable, and I will always tell it that way.
I view Canada as a political entity, in the best sense. Our politics are an expression of our community and I am proud of what they have accomplished over the years. Not uncritically proud, of course; that would be stupid. In a country as diverse and multi-point-of-viewed as this one politics are bound to be messy. Maybe that’s as they should be. A man I know likes to say that Nature likes a mess. Maybe Humanity likes a mess too, because mess leaves room for creativity. Too much order stifles the spirit. Canada is a spirited country, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
At some point in the colonial past we stopped being administered and became political, that is, began to generate important decisions out of our own conversations and processes instead of having them generated for us from head office or its appointees. It is difficult to pin-point a date. From the time when two people faced each other on the distant shore some kind of negotiation began, explicit or tacit, and that is always a political act regardless of the context. That process continued between local and authoritative voices throughout the colonial era. At some point, however, the balance of power shifted and the local voices became too strong to deny, regardless of the preferences of the formal authorities and their friends. I would put that point somewhere in the movement towards Responsible Government, and thus in the 1840’s. It became obvious in 1848, first in Nova Scotia, then in the Province of Canada.
What Responsible Government created, however, was not a country, or even the intention of a country. These colonies — Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Canada East (Lower Canada), Canada West (Upper Canada) — were separate entities, each with its own history and intentions, although the situation in the Province of Canada was more complex. If it was not a country it was, at least in some respects, beginning to behave like one, and had been since 1841.
I think the country of Canada was born, that is, popped out of the egg and started to breathe on its own on September 7, 1864, when those delegates from Maritime Provinces met in Charlottetown to discuss a union and were joined by delegates from Canada with a proposal for a wider one. If you think September 7th is premature, then try October 27th when the subsequent Québec Conference closed, having adopted the Seventy-Two Resolutions that became the British North America Act.
There sit the delegates, and f they are enjoying the contemplation of the fruits of their labour it would be hard to tell from their faces. And not a woman or an indigenous person or a black or brown face among them. I wonder what the Seventy-Two (or more) resolutions would have looked like if they had been there? Something quite different, no doubt. Better, no doubt, although that’s no reason to despise what we have. These men did the best they could with what they had, and that accomplishment is never to be despised.(Photo from Library and Archives Canada under the reproduction reference number C-006350 and under the MIKAN ID number 3623086 through Wikepedia: Quebec Conference 1864.)
Therefore: Sorry, all you celebrating folks. The sesquicentennial birthday, if we must have one, was over three years ago. Say October 27, 2014. I, for one, missed it. But I won’t miss the 153rd this Fall. If all goes well, Leslie and I will be in Winnipeg that day. For the reason why, try http://www.voyageurstorytelling.ca
It took another 67 years to sever the umbilical cord completely by means of the Statute of Westminster, or rather, the negotiations that produced it, but that’s another whole raft of stories, all worth telling. (I know that hatchlings from eggs don’t have umbilical cords, of course. A mixed birthing metaphor is appropriate. Call it an umbilical chord: the tune and rhythm matter more than the words.)
And the work continues. The women and indigenous are now at the conference table for sure, along with the more recently arrived peoples from the four corners of the Earth. It’s high time. What Confederation looks like from now on will be something quite different, no doubt. Better, no doubt. Needing improvement, no doubt. That’s Canada. That’s what I celebrate today, and every day. All of it.