Friday, October 18, 2013

History in the throne speech

The speech by the governor general that opened parliament on Wednesday was one of the longest ever -- and a lot of it is pretty turgid.You can read it all here, but as a public service we've looked for you to see what it had to say about history.

Well, first the throwaway lines, here and there:
This year, we celebrate the 250th anniversary of the Royal Proclamation. This extraordinary document is part of the legal foundation of our country. It recognized the rights of Aboriginal people in Canada for the first time and established the basis of their relations with the Crown.  [The government mostly downplayed this anniversary, so consider this catch-up.] ...
Today, as we contemplate our 150th anniversary, the eyes and ears and expectations of Canadians turn toward this Parliament. ...
In the words of Thomas D’Arcy McGee: “I see in the not remote distance one great nationality bound, like the shield of Achilles, by the blue rim of ocean. I see it quartered into many communities, each disposing of its internal affairs, but all bound together by free institutions...”  [David Wilson, score!] ...
Look at the paintings that adorn this room—scenes of the Great War. They remind us of this, and of the profound sacrifices made by our men and women in uniform. These heroes are the pride of our country and the backbone of our history. ...
As we look confidently to the future, we draw great strength from our past. Beginning with our Aboriginal peoples, Canada’s story is one of risk, sacrifice, and rugged determination. From the founding of New France, to the fight for Canada in the War of 1812; from the visionary achievement of Confederation, to our victory at Vimy Ridge, Canadians have repeatedly triumphed over long odds to forge a great country, united and free.  ... 
As the dawn of our Confederation approached in the 1860s, our founding Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald said of Canada’s future that he saw “a great nation—great in thought, great in action, great in hope, and great in position.” His vision has come to pass.
 The speech also includes a section of specific (well, throne-speech specific) commitments regarding 2017:
Canada’s Confederation is worth celebrating. As we approach our historic 150th anniversary in 2017, our Government will join with Canadians in honouring this momentous milestone by:
  • Marking the 150th anniversaries of the Charlottetown and Québec Conferences;
  • Celebrating the 200th birthdays of two of our greatest Fathers of Confederation, Sir George-Étienne Cartier and Sir John A. Macdonald;
  • Commemorating the centennial of the First World War and the 75th anniversary of the Second World War, and the enormous sacrifices made by Canadians and our Allies in both;
  • Re-dedicating the National War Memorial to the memory of all men and women who fought for our country;
  • Building a Memorial to the Victims of Communism, to remember the millions who suffered under tyranny;
  • Marking the end of Canada’s mission in Afghanistan by honouring the service of our men and women in uniform, including those who made the ultimate sacrifice combating the spread of terrorism;
  • Honouring the proud history of our Canadian Armed Forces by restoring military traditions;
  • Strengthening the Cadet and Junior Ranger programs;
  • Establishing the Canadian Museum of History to share the story of Canada with pride;
  • Supporting the Pan and Parapan American Games and the FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2015, showcasing Canadians’ proud, competitive and united spirit under the maple leaf; and
  • Working with Canadians to support community projects, local celebrations, and other initiatives to commemorate this historic occasion.
       The coming anniversary of Confederation is also a time to mark the contribution of Canada’s        First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities, who have had a defining role in shaping our 
  • Our Government will continue our dialogue on the treaty relationship and comprehensive land claims.
  • And our Government will continue to work in partnership with Aboriginal peoples to create healthy, prosperous, self-sufficient communities.
 It is often observed that this government associates Canadian history with Canadian military history. As the speech shows, they really do go there reflexively.

Update:  Brian Busby notes the government expresses no interest in: 
the upcoming 50th anniversary of the flag. Though not sixteen months away, you'll note that it received no mention in the throne speech. Cartier's birthday? Yes. Flag? No.Interesting too that the Government is "establishing" the Canadian Museum of History, as if there was nothing before.  

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