By Doug Draper
“It remains a defining point in our history,” said Niagara, Ontario Regional Chair Gary Burroughs as opening ceremonies began this June 17 for commemorating the bicentennial of the official ‘Declaration of the War of 1812’ .
Hundreds of people from both sides of the Canada/U.S. border gathered on the verdant grounds of Queenston Heights as Buroughs and other dignitariesopened the curtains on three years of special events that will bring back to life a history that began with bloody battles, yet ended with 200 years of friendship and peace between two nations that is too often unheard of in this world today.
Janice Thomson, Chair of the Niagara Parks Commission, the provincial agency responsible for preserving lands along the Canadian side of the Niagara River corridor, said the NPC is proud its lands, including Queenston Heights where British General Sir Isaac Brock was cut down in his last battle, will serve as a venue for many of these commemorations. “Keeping our history alive shapes our culture and keeps us alive as a people,” she said.
David Eke, the Lord Mayor of Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario which was all but burned to the ground by American troops at one point during the three-year war, added that while the commemorations will feature many battle re-enactments,” it is imported to remember that the end of the war “marked 200 years of uninterrupted peace between Great Britain, Canada and the United States.
The Lord Mayor may have forgotten a little thing called the Fenian raids that involved a considerable number of former U.S. Civil War veterans charging across the border to places like Ridgeway, Ontario, where they had quite a battle in the late 1860s, thinking that we people up here might still be interested in joining the American union. It turned out they were wrong, but except for that episode, the Lord Mayor is more or less right.
We’ve had our share of hip cups ever since – not that I am using the term ‘hip cups’ to diminish the disputes – over Canada’s willingness to accept American draft dodgers during the 1960s and early 70s from the War in Vietnam, over free trade, and more recently over Canada’s unwillingness to join President George W. Bush’s ‘coalition of the willing” for an invasion of Iraq.
Yet having said that, and when everything is balanced out, all of us, on both sides of the Canada/U.S. border, are fortunate to live in a region of the world where two countries live in such relative peace and harmony. We – and I mean all of us on both sides of that border – must never take that for granted or we might lose something that is very precious.
So let’s remember our shared history as Canadians and Americans – both the both the bad and bloody and the good.
There will be some great events coming up in the immediate weeks and months through this spring and summer on both sides of the border. You can find out more about them by visiting Discover1812.com. Please remember, as some of the speakers at the opening ceremonies at Queenston Heights said, we need to know about our past to have a greater appreciation and understanding of who we are now and were we are going in the future as communities of people.
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