Battle re-enactments and military tributes are on the agenda as Canada marks the bicentennial anniversary of the War of 1812, a conflict that some say set the stage for the nation’s independence.
Millions of dollars have been invested in hopes of catapulting the battle, oft considered a forgotten war, to renewed prominence in the minds of Canadians across the country.
On this day 200 years ago, the United States declared war on British North America, an announcement that indicated long-simmering hostilities over Maritime rights had finally boiled over.
During the nearly three-year long war, soldiers on both sides would die on what is now recognized as Canadian soil, a solemn fact that the nation is eager to acknowledge during bicentennial events.
In a statement issued Sunday, Heritage Minister James Moore referred to the bicentennial as an opportunity for Canadians to take pride in their history.
“The heroic efforts of those who fought for our country in the War of 1812 tell the story of the Canada we know today: an independent and free country,” he said.
A brand-new Canada Post stamp and commemorative exhibit at the Halifax Citadel’s army museum are among the many ways Canadians are marking the bicentennial of the War of 1812.
Environment Minister Peter Kent recently announced a $400,000 contribution to the Halifax Tall Ships festival, during which there will be a War of 1812 military tattoo replete with music and pageantry.
The Royal Canadian Mint also plans to do its part with a commemorative coin.
“These exhibits, special events, coin and stamp tell the story of how a fiery conflict with an uncertain outcome brought forth unity, bravery and perseverance, and how this remarkable shared history can help us connect with our roots and values as a nation,” Kent said in a statement released on Monday.
In southern Ontario’s Niagara on the Lake, Parks Canada has planned an evening tribute to the War of 1812 at Fort George, a British fort that was crucial in the fight for the Niagara Frontier during the battle.
A press release for the event — slated to take place from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. — boasts that “The Fort will be abuzz with music, muskets, lights and sound.” The festivities will include the grand opening of a new museum at Fort George and a War of 1812 documentary.
History buffs and revellers are encouraged to return to the Fort on June 30 for a bicentennial concert featuring The Tragically Hip, Death Cab for Cutie and the New Pornographers.
A host of additional events, including a re-enactment of the battle at Old Fort Erie, are slated to take place across the country.
Gen. Rick Hillier, the former Chief of Defence Staff of the Canadian Forces, will also be taking part in the revelry. He’ll take on the role of honourary Parade Marshal when the town of Fort Erie hosts its Grande Parade bicentennial celebration.
The festivities aren’t just limited to this time period.
Canada’s heritage ministry intends to honour the conflict with a four-year plan, which features a cross-country educational campaign and an official month of commemoration set for October 2012.