It began in 1867…….. Part One
A critical look at Canada’s past, and how social, political and
cultural changes have shaped the outlook of country as well people
January 2017 – We are almost at the juncture of enthusiastically celebrating our country’s 150th anniversary this year on 1st of July, and it is indeed very special occasion to express our pride and appreciation what this country has achieved and what creative model she has put forward for many nations to follow in respect to its ideals expressed in its open and multi-lingual, multi-racial and multi-cultural entity.
The country of only 35 million people—about two percent of the world population–and the second largest land mass in the world, has been getting special attention particularly, after the World Exposition held in Montreal in 1967. Fondly known as Expo ’67, it opened up the window of opportunities in many fields to the world community to experience, explore and see what Canada has to offer.
And since then another 50 years have passed by altering the nation’s duality—an established mark of confederation– which has changed completely with sudden influx of new immigrants mainly from Asia, Africa and the Middle East. The trend has tremendously impacted on the social, religious, cultural and political make up to the extent a different perception about fundamental values has emerged. Many conservative writers, commentators and political analysts have been expressing fears of such weave that has eroded phase of assimilation, and many strongly believe is considerably undermining the traditional way of life.
Canada’s history goes beyond confederation. From early 15th century onward, many European, mainly British and French explorers, ventured to claim land and control of emerging fur trade that eventually became very lucrative business increasing settlements in North where Aboriginal Nations had been living for thousands of years. They often went to war with each other but sometimes with the new arrivals leading to cultural conflicts and land disputes that are still very contentious issues for the subsequent Canadian governments.
Unfortunately In history, explorations and exploitations often go hand in hand helping create innovational ideas but also giving push to increase distrust and outright animosity. Wars were waged to settle territorial questions but not resulted in lasting amiable solutions. The British settlers had better fighting equipment and negotiating skills that made them win few new trades. Their interest was to avoid further destructive fights among warring factions.
And in the course of conflicted history, Britain tried to establish colonial power in this continent but faced enormous problems with France. Though the war went on almost seven years and eventually made France surrendering and giving Britain almost complete control of most of North America. But French had retained control in some part called Lower Canada and that territory is now known as Quebec.
It is interesting to observe how and why and for what reason were taken into account behind going forward to forming confederation. In the 1860s there were about seven British colonies in what is then a country emerging as Canada. Of course later other provinces and territories joined making it what Canada is today. Looking at the advantages–political as well financial—many thought it was right time all the colonies joining to make a new country.
Not too distant history reveals the land held by Aboriginals in this part of the land, the idea of political and cultural integration was needed going forward. But this proposal of assimilation has remained a major stumbling block. There are many reasons pointed to greed and mistrust. Still today, after considerable compensation of billions in funding and in direct help to communities to improve living conditions, it seems, funds have helped only so-called leaders, while residents have seen no improvement.
When few groups of people, as distinct as they maybe or they may claim to be, and by virtue of their birth, belief or acquired land some among them try to establish their own idea of nation in already legally existing nation, then people go in a crises mode to determine what it means to be Canadian and which identity should be given priority.
Well, looking at the historic facts at the time of war with France, Britain had already established thirteen colonies in North America. But people of these colonies were angry and disappointed at the treatment they were receiving from British. A slow revolution was brewing that led to war in 1775 with Britain. This led Americans to win the independence. The British were forced to recognize the United States as its own country.
History is unique in its own way. It is interesting to note that sometime wars bring unexpected results. Perhaps the outcome of losing or winning, have helped formation of new nations. Because of the war with the thirteen colonies, Britain lost much of its land, and the land left over was called British North America. Eventually in course of time and determination of few visionaries this land became a new country of Canada with two official languages—French and English.
Language, historians say, is one of the major factors of uniting people, but different languages representing many distinct peoples, could bring out a sense of nationalism to belong to specific territory for their tribe. These feelings of belonging to homogeneous group drive some to use any means to achieve their aims by taking drastic steps to fight for separate entity.
Canada went through two very divisive referenda leaving lingering bitterness in some old guards. This problem, many believe, has died down but still unresolved in minds of quite a few who do not want to accept the present day political reality.