We Canadians don’t get worked up over Canada Day.
The French are stirred whenever “La Marseillaise” is played. The Brits stand up anytime they hear “God Save the Queen.” Nobody outdoes the Americans for red-white-and-blue extravagance on the Fourth of July. And Aussies get excited every time someone opens a fridge.
We throw on a red-and-white T-shirt, and grill some food, and remember hockey gold medals, and maybe see what’s on TV from Parliament Hill…. No big deal. Nice to have a summer day off.
We could, however, celebrate Confederation as a political miracle.
In 1867, two communities decided to form a country together.
Yes, they had each mistreated native peoples, and 150 years later, we have a lot left to do on that account. Yes, they would go on to be hard on immigrants. And yes, they would mistrust and insult each other, almost to the breaking point.
But after a century and a half, we’re still here. And that is, historically speaking, amazing.
For by 1867, English people and French people had spent a thousand years trying to conquer or exterminate each other. And the defeat of the French emperor Napoleon at Waterloo by the Duke of Wellington and his Prussian allies was within the living memory of many Canadians at the time of Confederation.
Yet here was John A. Macdonald, the Scottish immigrant and pride of Kingston, Ontario, joining hands and fortunes with George-Étienne Cartier to work with the leaders of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick—provinces with their own troubled histories of French-English relations—to form a new country.
More astounding still was the fact that Confederation also brought together Protestant and Catholic Christians who for half a millennium had been trying to convert or excommunicate each other all over Europe and out into the New World.
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