“In days of yore,” and all that …

I suppose I’m a wee bit of a sentimental imperialist, in a way …

Stamp_Canada_1942_1cg1061Oh, I was born here, in Canada, of Canadian born parents and Canadian born grandparents, too, but I was born when King George VI, the last King-Emperor, was on the throne and it was, still, common to see coins with the images of King George V on them. I recall, very well indeed, the day King George VI died and the images of three grieving queens, the new Queen, who is, still, thankfully, our monarch today, the Queen Mother, Elizabeth, and the Dowager Queen Mother, Mary, was flashed around the world …

image… I grew up celebrating Dominion Day (it didn’t become Canada day until 1982) and I understood what “dominion” meant ~ it was, never, a synonym for colony, even though many, many foolish people thought so. I knew what empire meant, too, and I watched in fascination as the Brits, for the first time in history, dissolved one … mostly peacefully.  I thought (I still think) that, in 1982, we threw out way too much baby and not nearly enough bath water … but it was Pierre Trudeau’s Canada and he and I had much different senses of what our country was (and wasn’t) and could be.

I remember a country school house ~ one grade per room/one room per grade (none were overcrowded) we had a picture over the chalkboard … it was of a the white ensign …


… and under it was written the slogan that Sir Robert Borden used when he won the 1911 election:

One Flag, One Fleet, One Throne

We grew up never questioning the idea that we were Canadians … and British subjects.

I lived through turbulent times … the greatest war in history, the jet age, the advent of television and the suburbs, the impact of the pill, the nuclear age, the information age … and the dissolution of the British Empire and the rise of the American one.

But there was one constant. We Canadians had made the maple leaf our own symbol …

… and I think I knew the worlds to “The Maple Leaf Forever” at least as soon as I knew the words to “O Canada!”

So I do not crave a return of the  British Empire ~ which also featured prominently on every schoolroom wall …


… although I agree, broadly and generally with historians like Niall Ferguson that it was, by an large, a force for much more good than evil. And I welcomed the maple leaf flag when it first flew … I vividly remember a stirring of pride when I arrived (1967) at my new post, Canadian Army barracks named Fort York, near the small city of Soest in West Germany, and saw the maple leaf waving so proudly above our camp. We were proud, fiercely independent Canadians, but we were also, equally proudly, part of the British Army of the Rhine … it was the best, most professional force in NATO and we were the best soldiers in it.

I am part of the “transition generation” between that great empire and the 21st century; I have a ‘foot in both camps’ as it were. I’m happy with our new Canada, even if I think we are too quick to discard things of real value from our history and even though my childhood memories are of an old Canada .

But, for me, anyway, it’s still Dominion Day and although I live in Ottawa, where all the hoopla takes place, I think it, Dominion Day, is still celebrated best in town like Shelburne, Nova Scotia, and Shelburne,Ontario and hundreds of other small towns, from coast to coast to coast …


… so, happy 149th birthday, Dominion of Canada …


… and God save our gracious Queen.

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