The year-long celebration of the War of 1812’s bicentennial is over, and Canada is $30-million poorer, but many Canadians say they feel no greater sense of affinity for their country as a result of the federally instigated hoopla.
A recent survey conducted by Nanos Research for the Institute for Research on Public Policy asked what types of historic events Canadians believe the federal government should spend time and money marking. The War of 1812, which saw British troops thwart a U.S. attempt to overrun their territory, was not high on the list.
Nor was the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee or the 40th anniversary of the 1972 Canada-Russia hockey series – both of which took place last year. And the online poll of 1,000 Canadians, conducted Jan. 18 and 19, suggests there is only muted enthusiasm for glorifying the coming 200th birthday of Sir John A. Macdonald.
Rather, says Nik Nanos, the president of the research firm, Canadians are more interested in recognizing the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage, which takes place in 2019.
The poll also suggests they would also have liked to have spent more time applauding the 30th anniversary of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms – a document that was brought in by a Liberal government in 1982 and which received only the barest of mentions last year by Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservatives.
The War of 1812, on the other hand, was celebrated with tens of millions of dollars worth of re-enactments, coins and a new national monument on Parliament Hill. “I was quite surprised that only about three out of every 10 Canadians supported the government in actively encouraging the celebration of the War of 1812,” Mr. Nanos said. And “it’s a bit of an eyeopener that only about 15 per cent of Canadians felt more patriotic as a result of the celebrations.”
Respondents in Ontario, where most of the war’s key battlegrounds are located, were more likely than those in other parts of the country to say they felt more patriotic as a result of the government’s program of events.
But, if the Conservatives wanted to have a strategy for a breakthrough in Quebec, celebrating the War of 1812 was not it, Mr. Nanos said. Just 8.9 per cent of Quebeckers said they felt “more positive” about Canada after the celebrations of 2012 and people in other provinces were largely ambivalent.
“What does the War of 1812 have to do with British Columbia?” asked Mr. Nanos. “Not a lot.”
As for Sir John A. Macdonald, who would be celebrating his 200th birthday in 2015, just 22.9 per cent of those polled said they support the government’s plans to mark the occasion. Another 36 per cent said they “somewhat support” the intentions.
“It doesn’t look like Canadians are ready to celebrate a politician,” Mr. Nanos said.
Some historic events did spark the interest of the poll participants.
“What I thought was quite surprising was that things that affected the day-to-day lives of Canadians, like the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the vote for women, had a significant amount of support in terms of something to celebrate,” Mr. Nanos said. A full 47 per cent of respondents said they would like to mark the founding of the Charter while 46.5 said they would support events marking women’s suffrage.
But there’s a difference between what should be celebrated and what Canadians prefer to celebrate.
“This doesn’t mean that Sir John A. Macdonald is not important,” said the pollster. “It just means that there are fewer Canadians that would be excited about celebrating the birthday of Sir John A. Macdonald compared to the vote for women.”