Double click: Casualties of war

Maheen A. Rashdi |

Canada celebrated 145 years of its sovereignty on Saturday, July 1 this year: the date it was recognised as an independent nation by the signing of the British North America Act in 1867 or the Constitution Act as it is called today. Called Canada Day, this birthday of the nation is celebrated like all national birthdays, with much fan fare and fervour.

This year however, the celebration was heightened as Canadians are also commemorating the second centenary of the memorable war of 1812, fought between the forces of the British Empire and the United States. Just for the 1st July  celebrations at Parliament Hill, Ottawa, the Harper government reportedly spent $3.7 million on one day of festivities.

The bicentennial celebrations of the war of 1812 have in fact been the centre of attention this year and since June there have been numerous re-enactments of the famous battles that marked the war. But Canada is not the only country celebrating the bicentennial landmark. Britain too is staging its own remembrance and so is the United States (rather reluctantly) as it was a conflict in which all three forces were involved.

However, the debate on who won the war continues even now between the two North American countries and both nations wax upon their own glorious performances whence arguing about the outcome. The Americans boast of their superior military strength and how they invaded the Upper and Lower Canada Provinces several times and consider it as their second war of independence against the British.

The Canadians on the other hand, declare themselves the victors, claiming that the Americans — who started the war by attacking Canada with the idea of annexing this region — were vanquished and their grand plans for Canada were thwarted.

While it was the British army that supported Canada’s fight it were the Canadian soldiers defending their borders, because British troops at the time were engaged in fending of Bonaparte in the Napoleanic wars. They did however get some hands on action after the defeat of Bonaparte in 1814 and went on to defeat the Americans in a battle capturing and burning public buildings in Washington including the White House — a fact not cherished by the Americans.

With the native Indians also joining in the war from the British side, the war holds a significance for the natives in Canada as they believe their role in creating an independent, peaceful Canada should be acknowledged.

But the Americans, uphold that if it weren’t for them, the native Indians would have declared an Indian confederacy with an independent Indian state under British sponsorship. Why that would have been so intolerable is easy to understand.

For Canada, the war marks two hundred years of peace, it should not be forgotten that both the North American nations have usurped land from its natural inhabitants. It was the British who with their patent ‘white supremacy’ trend, began taking over lands and marking territories to stretch the horizon of their empire. Invading foreign lands with the idea of taming the alleged heathens that inhabit them, the Brits set the stage for invasion without cause.

And now, we have the Americans who feel they have the mandate to do exactly that and choose groundless pretexts like weapons of mass destruction to brazenly enter independent, resource-rich countries. Thank God that the heathens of modern day have internet, satellite TV and social media as added weapons and can withstand the white-man attacks.

The war of 1812 is said to have marked the beginning of a ‘national identity’ for Canada as well as the United States. Canada got its confederation and America was inspired to write its national anthem, ‘The star spangled banner’ even though they largely choose to forget the larger outcome of the war.

With Canada fervently celebrating the war in the year-long activities planned much in advance with a federal budget of millions of dollars, the US can’t help but plan its own events, even though they cannot own a victory. Mitch Potter of the Toronto Star in his column quoted the president of the Maryland Historical Society (an American), whose candid comment on the American 1812 invasion was, “In the cold light of day you wonder what in the world the Americans were thinking.”

For us in present day, having witnessed the American greed for supremacy it is not difficult at all to understand what the Americans were thinking.

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