Our View: War of 1812 offers lessons

As with all myths, it can be difficult to determine historic reality from the “messaging” written after the hostilities ended.

This weekend, Canadians from sea to sea to sea will participate in our ongoing attempt at nation building.

Canada Day celebrations are everywhere and promise to be even more prevalent this year, on the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812.

Like every country, ours is founded on myths. Some of Canada’s earliest heroes – Laura Secord and Issac Brock – date back to that war, which established that North America would be home to a distinctly British nation as well as an American republic.

In classrooms, Canadians learn to take pride in the defence of our homeland and how our nation was forged by our battles against a much larger army of American invaders.

And like all myths, it can be difficult to determine historic reality from the “messaging” written after the hostilities ended.

Thankfully, the bicentennial of that war has prompted both government and media to dig deeper into the history of the muddied narrative of the War of 1812.

The documentaries and reenactments will bring the lessons of this conflict to new generations who may know little about the significance of this war.

The books and newspaper features will dig up new information from the archives that will shed more light on how events actually unfolded.

But, as happens every time we really look at ourselves in the mirror, we will see things we might wish we hadn’t. For as much as our earliest settlers stood nobly against the African slave trade and raids on aboriginal lands, those early Canadians also closed off the country to the spirit of development and innovation that allowed the U.S. to blossom.

After the War of 1812, as both countries went their separate ways, we spent decades as a country that severely restricted many of the rights – such as religious freedom and democratic principles – that are cherished today. But from that tyranny of conformity emerged a character that would eventually come to be known as among the most tolerant and peaceful in the world: Canada.