Saturday, March 11, 2023

John Ralston Saul on the national holiday we'll probably never have

The burning of Parliament -- in 1849, fortunately not in 2022

March 11: in 2020 it was the day the global pandemic was declared, same day I had the surgery that saved me from prostate cancer, just as the surgical wards began cancelling surgeries by the thousand. So for me, a good day.

Also in 2023 it is the 175th anniversary of democratic government in Canada. In the Globe and Mail, John Ralston Saul has published his almost annual urging that Canada grasp the importance of the achievement of what then called responsible government.  It came first in Nova Scotia, as he notes, but in a lone province it might have been abandoned almost unnoted. The adhesion of the Province of Canada (ie, Ontario and Quebec, more or less) gave it a chance at spreading and becoming entrenched.  Not without violent challenge, as Saul describes. 

The first bill the new Reform majority got through Parliament was a law to encourage, protect and support immigrants. A torrent of reforms followed: public schools and universities; toll-free roads for the poor; a professional civil service; official bilingualism; municipal democracy; independent judges. Both legal codes were rewritten. It was a waterfall of legislation designed to create a fair and just society. What they put in place are the legal and social foundations of Canada today. And all of this was done in just three years.

With each reform, the elites became increasingly upset. They eventually occupied the centre of the national capital, in Montreal. Mobs attacked Parliament in scenes of brawling as the MPs fought back. A gas lamp was struck by a rock and suddenly the Assembly was on fire. In the morning, only a shell remained. Canada’s largest library and archives were lost in the flames.

I've written about John Ralston Saul's campaign around March 11, 1848 before.  It's still vital.


Follow @CmedMoore