The Harper government's decision to (re)rename Canada's air force and navy with the "royal" appellation could kick-start an essential history lesson that Canadians should learn to understand the nature of their national identity. Pierre Poilievre, an Ottawa MP who wrote a part of Harper's Tory platform expressing a wish for a "renewed patriotism founded in our traditions," believes the "royal" moniker will enact a "restoration" and "renewal of our historic memory." He may be right, but only if one takes that "historic memory" to its reductio ad absurdum and studies in depth Canada`s colonial history.
First, the British royal navy, fueled by Prime Minister William Pitt's desire for British commercial superiority forged the conquest of France's North American colonies in 1760. France's final defeat seeded the condition of modern Quebec, widely viewed across Anglophone Canada (if viewed with anything more than indifference) as a culture of victims living on federal handouts. In my opinion, Harper's decision to (re)rebrand our national identity in British monarchical terms is in part an intentional snub against Quebec. The British army's defeat of New France 251 years ago set Quebec on the road to its reputedly insignificant role in Canada's national identity, a project Harper has pursued as an apparent act of revenge since Quebec lambasted him in 2008 for cutting $45 million in arts funding, part of which was deemed essential in Quebec for the preservation of its language and culture. Harper's strategy against Quebec echoes the position taken in an article from 1790 in the Anglophone paper Quebec Mercury, the author exulting his Anglo readers to help "unfrenchify" the province by "raising mounds against the progress of French power."
Second, the Tories have given Canadians the chance to remind themselves of who we are as a former colony of the British empire. We need only recall the royal treatment of First Nations peoples since the British took over the land Aboriginals had considered home for centuries before us. To get a sense of the possible extinction of Canada's Indians, a "soft genocide" being executed not with a bang but a whimper, consider, for example, the Gradual Civilization Act of 1857. It was designed by the British colonial government of the time who saw themselves as intellectually, culturally and technologically superior to their indigenous subjects, thus choosing to "enfranchise" them into British North American society by stripping them of their cultural beliefs and traditions: their identity.
Is there a significant difference between how they were treated then and how our enlightened federal government treats them now? Today's First Nations are consigned to remote reservations far removed from the cities that grease the engine of our economy, relieved of the burden of taxation on alcohol and cigarettes to be left weak, unhealthy, demoralized and dependent on government handouts, and allowed to run casinos on reservations to keep them distracted from the gravity of their plight and addicted to the narcotic of loss. Poilievre's aim to "renew our historic memory" should also take into account our royal legacy of the maltreatment of our conquered and vanquished: Quebec and First Nations, respectively.
Third, the Tory decision to focus more on our royal military roots bolsters Canada's global image as a competitor on the world's battlefields, notably in Harper's commitment to Arab-Asian military adventures in Libya and Afghanistan. The federal government's official policy is to liberate these nations from tyranny and to nurture democracy, but informed Canadians hold some inkling of the truths behind the lies. The campaigns in which we're involved in Libya and Afghanistan reveal what Canada is and what it was: an imperialistic nation governed by a minority ruling class. In fact, Canada began as a corporation: The Hudson's Bay Company, felting beaver fur for Paris hat makers selling their wares to wealthy elites.
Similarly, today, we obey our American overlords by participating in the so-called New Great Game of trying to prevent African, Middle Eastern and central Asian oil and gas supplies from reaching America's greatest competitors, such as China.
I suspect that digging deeply into our royal roots wouldn't achieve the "renewed patriotism" Harper, Poilievre and the other Tory cronies covet from Canadian citizens, but an honest "renewal of historic memory" would expose the truth that British North America's identity mirrors modern Canada's identity as a burgeoning military power poised to play a role in driving civilization to collapse. Widespread acknowledgment of this fact may compel us to change the course of our history largely devoid of growth and change.
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