The government of Canada has recently been very public about its criticisms on the teaching of Canadian history, saying that the important parts of history, Canada’s military history, its ties to the throne are not discussed. In this light its disproportionate financing of the War of 1812 and the Queen’s Jubilee are key. For those in government right now, Canadian identity is closely tied to these two themes.

I came across this article the other day, written in 1879 which seems to echo this narrow vision of Canadian identity. Don’t get me wrong, I believe that both elements are vitally important, but they are not the only which ties Canadians together as a people, and I would hope that we would have grown in our own self-vision since 1879.

Montreal Gazette, 9 September 1879, page 2

Canada Before the World

(From the London Catholic Record)
It is not yet forgotten that two illustrious Canadians, the late Sir George Cartier and the Hon Wm Macdougall were accepted guests at Windsor Castle, in obedience to the gracious invitation of Her Majesty the Queen. It is well known that Queen Victoria took delight in the conversation of the able and genial Canadian Premier, and that the honors of a truly royal hospitality were heaped on him and his honorable colleague.

The Hon Mr Langevin has succeeded Sir George Cartier as the leader of the French-Canadian Section of the Dominion and England has seen and recognized, once more, the ability and perseverance of the Canadian race. A governor can no more, by that figure of speech which it is well to call a lapsus lingua, brand this race as inferior.

In financial circles Sir John Rose worthily represents Canada at the British capital. In case of need the diplomatic ability of this eminent Financier can well sustain Canadian honor and credit. Neither of these is at a discount. In fact, successive administrations have obtained such loans as were desired. Quite recently Sir Leonard Tilley has at least equaled preceding ministers in this respect. The facility with which he has won a great financial victory, bears witness to his diplomatic skill and the soundness of Canadian credit.

Canadian youth are not less distinguished, Mr Sidney Hanton of Ottawa, has just won the Gilchrist scholarship and taken the highest honors in mathematics at the London University. Nor in the warlike art is Canada behind the world. Col. Gibson has competed successfully for the Prince of Wales’ prize of $500 at Wimbledon. Col Elliot, son of the late Major JF Elliot, of Windsor, Ontario, has merited the Cross of St Michael and St George. Major Robinson, son of the late distinguished Chief Justice, Sir John Beverly Robinson, and Col Jarvis, OMG, formerly Deputy Adjutant-General of Militia at Kingston, are highly honored in England. What shall we say of the many brave Canadians who have distinguished themselves in that disastrous African war? History will not allow their valorous deeds to be forgotten.

Canada is no less loyal than her sons are brave. It cannot be overlooked that when there was danger of war with the great northern powers which threatened European civilization, she generously offered a contingent of ten thousand men in aid of the imperial cause. This if occasion had required, would have been more than mere show and promise, as is well shown by the conduct of the Canadian regiment which has so long marched side by side with the best of British troops.

As regards the arts of peace Canada right nobly holds her own, as was so grandly proved at the splendid Parisian exhibition as well as the great Centennial display in Philadelphia. Her trade and enterprise are no less remarkable. Her mercantile navy ranks as the third among the nations that go down to the sea in ships. That such a people should possess a skilled and hardy race of seamen is not to be wondered at. Nor that among these should be found one who is indeed the prince of oarsmen.

Sir George E Cartier
Sir George E Cartier

Sir John Rose
Sir John Rose