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The War of 1812
February 20, 2012 7:37 AM   Subscribe

"Canada exists for no natural reason.... [This] is not to say that no significant differences exist between Canadians and Americans — just that our shared national border, unlike those of Europe, was not shaped by linguistic and ethnic variations. The War of 1812 made all the difference here. A complicated and unpleasant struggle, mostly forgotten, sundered our two countries. And that struggle is now 200 years old, which makes this as good a time as any to start remembering."
posted by Johnny Assay (119 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite

 
Canada exists to keep America halfway honest.
posted by symbioid at 7:42 AM on February 20, 2012 [15 favorites]


The War of 1812, also known as Revolutionary War Part II: The Revolutioning.
posted by Faint of Butt at 7:44 AM on February 20, 2012 [15 favorites]


I have no idea why the Conservative government is choosing to remember this of all wars this year. I'm sure there will be a bunch of jingoistic Canadians who will claim that we kicked ass (in reality, the war resulted in a draw), and that we're so much better than our southern neighbours.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:45 AM on February 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


It's high time that Canada annexed the U.S.
posted by item at 7:45 AM on February 20, 2012 [15 favorites]


It's high time that Canada annexed the U.S.

If Obama loses, I intend to do my best to make that happen. Or I might just move.
posted by empath at 7:48 AM on February 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


I loves me the US, don't get me wrong, but a not-so-small part of me wells with pride (especially after listening to the likes of Tucker Carlson and Ann Coulter talking about how irrelevant and subordinate Canada is) when I recall that we occupied your capital and burned it to the fucking ground.

We are indeed separate for many good reasons. The fact that Americans tend to forget that from time to time is neither here nor there, eh.
posted by jimmythefish at 7:49 AM on February 20, 2012 [17 favorites]


Jesusland map
posted by jeffburdges at 7:50 AM on February 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


KokuRyu: "[...] and that we're so much better than our southern neighbours."

Well it's the country that birthed my wife, and by this most important of all metrics it is surely the finest nation in the world.
posted by vanar sena at 7:54 AM on February 20, 2012 [6 favorites]


I'm moving that BC annex Portland and Maui. That would be a helluva funny war.

"Woahhhh...dude. Way?"
"Totally."
"Duude."
posted by jimmythefish at 7:55 AM on February 20, 2012 [4 favorites]


The War Of 1812 (Arrogant Worms)
posted by tspae at 7:57 AM on February 20, 2012 [4 favorites]


Canada is the control group for the American experiment.
posted by bonehead at 7:57 AM on February 20, 2012 [120 favorites]


By declaring war, the Republicans intended to make the Federalists look anti-patriotic and undemocratic.

The version I had learned played up the "unresolved issues of maritime law" but this motive does seem sadly plausible.
posted by RobotHero at 7:58 AM on February 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Canada is the control group for the American experiment.

Oh man we are going to have to throw some heavy duty regressions on this shit
posted by theodolite at 8:00 AM on February 20, 2012 [8 favorites]


"Canada exists for no natural reason"

Agreed in full.
posted by Cyclopsis Raptor at 8:01 AM on February 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


My mother's ancestors arrived in Quebec in the early 1660s. A large number of that very extensive family, not all, started coming across the border in the Great Migration to the US at the turn of the last century, driven by economic and a sense of repression by English Canadians. You can't miss the French influence if you live or travel in the New England states. We are more united than we realize through history but Canada deserves more respect than it gets as a force in our own story.
posted by etaoin at 8:02 AM on February 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


It's high time that Canada annexed the U.S.

If that means Swiss Chalets and poutine available everywhere, I'm game.
posted by kmz at 8:05 AM on February 20, 2012 [4 favorites]


If it means more Flashpoint and Corner Gas I'm all for it.
posted by infinitewindow at 8:06 AM on February 20, 2012


No natural reason, perhaps. But it exists for strong political reasons. Canada has defined itself as "not America" from a very early point.

Also, on the commemoration, it's not just the federal (conservative) government. The war of 1812 was a defining moment for what is now Ontario and specifically Toronto (then York) because so there is a lot of local interest in the anniversary.
posted by dry white toast at 8:08 AM on February 20, 2012


If it means more Tyre Centers I'm all for it.
posted by Mad_Carew at 8:08 AM on February 20, 2012


Gotta link to the relevant "Hark, a vagrant!" comic.
posted by history_denier at 8:09 AM on February 20, 2012 [10 favorites]


Yeah, the problem with the "maritime law" issue being the rationale behind war - and impressment *was* a real issue - is that all of the War Hawks came from the South and West, the areas least impacted by the practice. War of 1812 was an attempted land grab, pure and simple.
posted by absalom at 8:10 AM on February 20, 2012


Canada's had its eyes on Spokane and Fargo for quite some time now.
posted by The White Hat at 8:13 AM on February 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


...who will claim that we kicked ass (in reality, the war resulted in a draw)....

How on earth do you figure that, KokuRyu? The Amaricans agreed to peace very, very shortly after the British Army was freed up from its European commitments, and the only reason the boarder is anywhere nearly as far north as it currently is, is that the British were trying to get on who they saw as likely the next world power's good side.
posted by Canageek at 8:13 AM on February 20, 2012


Canada's had its eyes on Spokane and Fargo for quite some time now.

"Mr. President...I...I...I have some terrible news..."
posted by jimmythefish at 8:15 AM on February 20, 2012


War of 1812 was an attempted land grab

Isn't most of the history of the United States a series of land grabs?

(originally mistyped as "a series of land crabs", which I think I actually prefer.)
posted by benito.strauss at 8:17 AM on February 20, 2012 [15 favorites]


I'm curious what exactly constitutes a natural reason for two countries to be separate, politicaly, in the eyes of this author?

"Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness..."

"Peace, order, and good government..."

If anyone actually thinks the above sets of foundational principles are somehow uniformly similar, I suspect they're either sleepy or don't have a full command of English.
posted by trackofalljades at 8:17 AM on February 20, 2012 [10 favorites]


There have been some hilarious annexation attempts over the years, I love the ones where they sent untested fanatics into the woods and then not send them any backup r support or info.
posted by The Whelk at 8:18 AM on February 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


One word: Hockey.
posted by jonmc at 8:18 AM on February 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


I always thought of Canada as an ottoman.
posted by phaedon at 8:19 AM on February 20, 2012


after the British Army was freed up from its European commitments

without Napoleon, North America would be a very different place... not least of which there would likely be more indians.
posted by ennui.bz at 8:19 AM on February 20, 2012 [5 favorites]


The war of 1812 may have resulted in a draw between the US and Canada (nee Britain), but there was one clear loser: The American Indian Confederacy. Lest Canadians get too smug, Tecumseh was killed after we abandoned his army retreating retreating from Southern Ontario.
posted by Popular Ethics at 8:24 AM on February 20, 2012 [4 favorites]


Canageek: Yes, and if the British had had the morale and capabilities to reasonably send a force across the Atlantic to press the war on to victory, then the Treaty of Ghent never would have happened.

Status Quo Ante Bellum. This war was a draw in every meaningful sense. Both countries, however, managed to accomplish some degree of what they set out to do (America reaffirmed their position as a serious and sovereign nation; Canada demonstrated that it was no longer dependent on Britain's teat and, perhaps more importantly, that Canadians did not intend to become Americans) which is why both Canadian and American schoolchildren consistently get taught that their nation won the war (to the degree that the war of 1812 is even mentioned in American schools).
posted by 256 at 8:25 AM on February 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Any time you're ready, we can do a rematch.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:31 AM on February 20, 2012 [7 favorites]


Huh, I wonder what the effects of not selling off Louisiana would have been ( I mean, I assume the Americans would've just taken it anyway cause that's what they do but still) from sea to shining sea wasn't a given, and could've had a US that more or less stopped at the Mississippi and a larger New France buffering the Spanish empire from the US...then again the territories didn't have a lot of organized settlement, maybe if you had a Cherokee style " civilizing " where in the natives agreed to organize under a single banner you might have a stronger base for the area, and having a nation state that's a mix of native and French traditions would, of course, be fascinating.
posted by The Whelk at 8:32 AM on February 20, 2012


I'm curious what exactly constitutes a natural reason for two countries to be separate, politicaly, in the eyes of this author?

"Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness..."

"Peace, order, and good government..."

If anyone actually thinks the above sets of foundational principles are somehow uniformly similar, I suspect they're either sleepy or don't have a full command of English.


They have similar scansion.
posted by grobstein at 8:33 AM on February 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


A lot of missing the point on purpose here. The author is not attacking Canada or its right to exist, nor is he saying there are no differences between Canada and America.

The point is, most of these differences resulted not from linguistic, cultural, racial or geographic differences, as is usually the case. They are the result of some historical quirks. Canada defining itself as "not American" is the result of these artifical reasons, not the cause.

It's pretty easy to imagine scenarios where Canada joins the American republic; in 1783, 1814 or slowly over the course of the 19th century. That it didn't is pretty interesting, and not, possibly, the most likely outcome.

and the only reason the boarder is anywhere nearly as far north as it currently is, is that the British were trying to get on who they saw as likely the next world power's good side.

This might be true after the Civil War, but it absolutely is not why the border is as far north as it is in the East. Britian couldn't care less about getting on the good side of a 4th rate power at best. Mexico was a bigger force to be recokened with in 1814. The war ended because there was no advantage in either side to continue it; Britian wasn't going to get the colonies back, and trans-Atlantic war was a money drain.
posted by spaltavian at 8:33 AM on February 20, 2012 [4 favorites]


without Napoleon, North America would be a very different place... not least of which there would likely be more indians.


Would be an interesting bit of alternate history, there. French revolution descends into an orgy of blood from which it doesn't recover, Austria and the UK invade and restore the king, and then the UK goes on to retake the colonies from Canada and the Carribean.
posted by empath at 8:33 AM on February 20, 2012


Lest Canadians get too smug

I was always under the impression that Canada's actions toward natives weren't any better than the US's. But my Canadian history knowledge mostly centers around the delicacy that is poutine.
posted by DigDoug at 8:35 AM on February 20, 2012


then the UK goes on to retake the colonies from Canada and the Carribean.

That's a distinction without a difference until 1867 for Canada, even later for the Caribbean possessions. All of the colonies were run out of London. Empire, remember.
posted by bonehead at 8:37 AM on February 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Would be an interesting bit of alternate history, there.

Any good "War of 1812 as inflection point" Alternate History novels out there?
posted by Rock Steady at 8:40 AM on February 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


One only has to compare US and Canadian Oreos to know there is a HUGE difference between the countries. Sure, bring poutine to the US - I'd be all for that. But for the love of god, send Canada some real Oreos in exchange!
posted by routergirl at 8:41 AM on February 20, 2012 [5 favorites]


My [US] school history classes about the War of 1812 coincided with Johnny Horton's song about the Battle of New Orleans. I remember the burning of the capitol, the Star Spangled Banner, the Battle of New Orleans, and the capture of the HMS Penguin.
I don't ever recall being taught that we started the war.
I had always assumed (or maybe was told) that it was the British, trying to get back control.
Of course, I remember being told that the Civil War was 'all about State's Rights', so that's American History for you...
posted by MtDewd at 8:43 AM on February 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


the only reason the boarder is anywhere nearly as far north as it currently is, is that the British were trying to get on who they saw as likely the next world power's good side.

This also explains why Alaska is as big as it is.
posted by jeather at 8:43 AM on February 20, 2012


Any good "War of 1812 as inflection point" Alternate History novels out there?

Imagine a platoon of Marines sent back in time...could they conquer Canada?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:44 AM on February 20, 2012 [7 favorites]


The article kinda glosses over how badly the Loyalists were treated by Americans (and how the government favoured Loyalists over Canadians), which may have something to do with the root of Anti-Americanism bias in Canada. Speaking of which, in the past week I have had TWO salepeople at my door trying to convince me to switch ultility companies "because your company was sold to Americans and we are still Canadian". I am not impressed with xenophobia.

I'm actually surprised how little attention the War of 1812 is getting this year. Maybe this summer will finally be the year I go see the Battle of Stoney Creek (yes, I know next year is the -actual- bicentennial.)

My little hometown, was settled by the great Thayendanegea (Joseph Brant), so the War of 1812 has always had a soft spot in my heart.
posted by saucysault at 8:46 AM on February 20, 2012


Pierre Berton wrote a couple of excellent books about the War of 1812. The war in Michigan was actually pretty savage, due to attacks and reprisals on civilians.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:49 AM on February 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


"a series of land crabs",

I kind of want to see a movie of that. ;)
posted by usagizero at 8:50 AM on February 20, 2012


"a series of land crabs",

I kind of want to see a movie of that. ;)


Ask and yee shall revive.
posted by Pink Fuzzy Bunny at 8:57 AM on February 20, 2012


Or receive even, though really revive works.
posted by Pink Fuzzy Bunny at 8:58 AM on February 20, 2012


If that means Swiss Chalets and poutine available everywhere, I'm game.


I went to Vermont for the first time this winter and was truly startled to see poutine on menus. No Tim Horton's, though.
posted by hoyland at 9:03 AM on February 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Actually, Tim Horton's is making pretty serious in-roads in the US. It used to be just a couple huddled against the border, but now you can find them in Connecticut and New York City. I'm sure VT has a couple.
posted by 256 at 9:07 AM on February 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


the only reason the boarder is anywhere nearly as far north as it currently is, is that the British were trying to get on who they saw as likely the next world power's good side.

This also explains why Alaska is as big as it is.


The US bought Alaska from Russia in 1867, the year of Canada's confederation. Coincidence?
posted by Sys Rq at 9:08 AM on February 20, 2012


West Virginia exists for no natural reason.... [This] is not to say that no significant differences exist between West Virginians and Virginians — just that our shared state border, unlike those of Europe, was not shaped by linguistic and ethnic variations. The Civil War made all the difference here...
posted by notme at 9:13 AM on February 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm sure VT has a couple.

Nope, we are ironically both heavy with Dunkin Donuts and vaguely anti-chain shop. So, it looks like Tim hasn't pushed in yet. Have to find your poutine in the local shops.
posted by meinvt at 9:14 AM on February 20, 2012


The point is, most of these differences resulted not from linguistic, cultural, racial or geographic differences, as is usually the case. They are the result of some historical quirks. Canada defining itself as "not American" is the result of these artifical reasons, not the cause.

Battle For Quebec -- 1759. Long story short.

After two particularly bloody battles that didn't resolve much, Quebec finally surrenders to the English mainly because the home country (France) was in such a mess that it couldn't continue to carry the colony.

The English, realizing that there was big trouble brewing down south, cut a particularly "friendly" deal with the "conquered" Canadiens. Keep your language, your church, your schools -- just stay the fuck out of what's coming.

And so on.
posted by philip-random at 9:15 AM on February 20, 2012


Sys Rq, she was probably referring to the Alaska boundary dispute.
posted by Orange Pamplemousse at 9:17 AM on February 20, 2012


The comparison between "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" and "peace, order, and good government" is not a good one. The statements are talking about two different things.

POGG comes from s.91 of the Constitution Act, 1867, and isn't intended to list off the "foundational principles" of Canada. It's intended to delineate the federal legislative power. Its American equivalent is something like the Necessary and Proper Clause, or perhaps a reversed Ninth Amendment.

It's funny that trackofalljades used the words "foundational principles", though, because the Constitution Act 1982 uses similar wording when it says (in the preamble): "Whereas Canada is founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God and the rule of law". Kinda hard to get enthusiastic about that one.

LLPH comes from the Declaration of Independence, and Canada doesn't have a parallel to that document (perhaps the preamble to the CA1867, though it's much less dramatic). The Fifth Amendment has "life, liberty, and property." Canada's parallel to that would be in s.7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms - part of the Constitution - which protects "life, liberty, and security of the person".

So yeah, if you're going to be making an apples-to-apples comparison, it's: "US stresses property rights and Canada stresses security of the person." I guess that isn't without some significance, but it's not the kind of difference that POGG vs LLPH would suggest.
posted by Clandestine Outlawry at 9:17 AM on February 20, 2012 [8 favorites]


Tim's doesn't have poutine anyway, does it? When I lived in Canada if I wanted fast food poutine I usually went to Harvey's.

And oh, if we're getting annexed I want real Smarties. I like American Smarties OK for what they are, but international Smarties kick M&Ms' ass.
posted by kmz at 9:18 AM on February 20, 2012


Note before I read the (very interesting sounding) article: European boundaries were also shaped by war, and never by linguistic and ethnic boundaries. Thus Gaels and the Welsh in an anglophone Britain, Bretons in France, Basques anywhere.

The idea that there are any natural "nations" in the world is a pernicious and dangerous myth. Better to have agreed-upon, unnatural nations, and then we have so much less killing.
posted by jb at 9:18 AM on February 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Honestly, though, as important as the War of 1812 is to the east, the Oregon Boundary Dispute (of 54-40 or Fight! fame) was to BC.

(The only reason there wasn't a war over it is because of a couple of somewhat more pressing border disputes to the south.)
posted by Sys Rq at 9:19 AM on February 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


"I loves me the US, don't get me wrong, but a not-so-small part of me wells with pride (especially after listening to the likes of Tucker Carlson and Ann Coulter talking about how irrelevant and subordinate Canada is) when I recall that we occupied your capital and burned it to the fucking ground."

You know, before you get too smug, the Royal Navy only transported the small force that marched through DC and immediately marched right back out the next day as a response to us taking, sacking, and actually occupying Toronto right?
posted by Blasdelb at 9:19 AM on February 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


A Brief Timeline of Canadian History for Americans:

25,000 BC, give or take: Natives show up. Things are good for nearly 26,000 years.
995: Erik and Leif show up, leave the place in order.
1492: Christopher Columbus makes it across the ocean and starts a new fad.
1496: The English show up.
1605: The French decide to establish themselves.
1670: The Hudson's Bay Company starts up. After over 300 years of glorious history, now just a department store.
1763: Treaty of Paris. The French decide to eat cheese and surrender.
1791: Constitutional Act. Canada becomes... Canada.
1812: Fires are started, by the end the US and Canada get along.
1842: US and Canada stop fighting over Maine.
1846: US and Canada stop fighting over the Oregon Territory.
1867: Canada becomes more Canadian.
1873: MOUNTIES!
1875: Hockey's first organized game. Also: the beginning of the decline.
1893: Lord Stanley of Preston sends over a cup. Raving lunacy over a decorative punch bowl ensues.
1898: People move to the Yukon. Find out it indeed exists, gold doesn't exist, and it's really cold.
1901: The mythical land of PEI decides to start Prohibition. Real-life provinces flirt with the idea until the 1920's when they all get wise and start rum running to the US.
1917: NHL begins.
1949: Newfoundland gives up and joins Canada.
1966: Tim Hortons founded. Weak coffee spread around all of Canada.
1983: Bob and Doug discover that the Elsinore Brewery has been engaged in brainwashing techniques, major scandal discovered.
1988: High Crimes and Treason: Prime Minister Gretzky traded to Los Angeles.
1997: Terrance Henry Stoot of Toronto and Phillip Niles Argyle of Montreal begin their long running hit comedy show on the Canada Channel.
2004: US President Alfred E. Neuman enacts policy requiring a passport to travel to and from Canada.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 9:20 AM on February 20, 2012 [62 favorites]


If that means Swiss Chalets and poutine available everywhere, I'm game.

Unfortunately it does not. There exist even within Canada itself provinces where a Swiss Chalet is a fairly rare sight and poutine is a specialty item, seldom on menus and often incorrectly prepared. It's...not right.

One word: Hockey.

I know it's not true for everyone, but hockey is one of the few things in this country that has a direct line to whatever small trace of national pride I have. Once international hockey is on, I'm dressed in red cheering with the crowd despite the fact we totally cheat. Canada takes the same approach to hockey that the US does to foreign affairs: if you get in our way we will hack, slash, and fight to get what we want. Hockey is SERIOUS BIZNESS.
posted by Hoopo at 9:23 AM on February 20, 2012


Also, Canada exists because when you populate Place A heavily with people who have been thrown out of Place B because they wanted to stay hanging out with Place C, they really don't react when when Place B shows up and wants to take their property - again. Loyalists were loyal for good reasons, and were all the more loyal to the British empire for what they lost in the American Revolution. They still fly Union Jacks in Kingston for a reason.

/disclaimer: I am a descendent of UELs. We really did not want to be in that republic, even if their houses look more like ours than the ones in Britain.
posted by jb at 9:24 AM on February 20, 2012


as a response to us taking, sacking, and actually occupying Toronto right?

That was your mistake. Botched intelligence, as usual. Most Canadians hate Toronto.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:29 AM on February 20, 2012 [8 favorites]


Tim Horton's in VT
Looks like the closest is in Plattsburgh NY, although I've seen some on Route 2 in Maine.
Montpelier has OK poutine at The Skinny Pancake. I assume Burlington does as well.
I like poutine a lot, but I don't see how it squares with national health care.
posted by MtDewd at 9:30 AM on February 20, 2012


Smarties vs Rockets.
posted by davebush at 9:38 AM on February 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hell, the Missouri - Iowa border is an unnatural construct shaped by war.

To their credit, the guys sent to fight said war held a meat shoot, sat around fires, got drunk, then went home and reported "Mission Accomplished".
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 9:43 AM on February 20, 2012


Most Canadians hate Toronto.

Most Canadians are nuts on that one. I used to hate Toronto for no good reason. I imagined some sense of smug superiority emanating from there; probably because of Leafs fans or something. But Toronto is great. It's a fun city with lots to offer, and contrary to popular belief it's not all grey and dreary.

Smarties vs Rockets.

This is one area where America is just wrong. Smarties, 1937. "Smarties", 1949. Trademark squatters!
posted by Hoopo at 9:43 AM on February 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Note before I read the (very interesting sounding) article: European boundaries were also shaped by war, and never by linguistic and ethnic boundaries. Thus Gaels and the Welsh in an anglophone Britain, Bretons in France, Basques anywhere.

Yes. I came here to say something along these lines. In a thread where so many are commenting on the quality of history education in the United States as compared to Canada, it's shocking and disheartening to see so many people just blithely accepting the outrageously stupid premise that Europe's national boundaries are shaped by linguistic and ethnic differences.

People: The national borders of Europe's countries were carved out as the result of wars that happened more than a hundred years after the War of 1812, for crying out loud. And the uniformity of linguistics in, for example, France and Italy, are the result, again, of concerted political action well after 1812 to impose a national language (Parisian and Florentine, respectively) rather than the regional and city dialects that, in many cases, are mutually-unintelligible languages.
posted by The World Famous at 9:44 AM on February 20, 2012 [15 favorites]


Most Canadians hate Toronto.

Most Ontarians hate Toronto. But people from Ontario often forget there are a heck of a lot of other Canadians out there who don't even think about Toronto.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:54 AM on February 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


Any good "War of 1812 as inflection point" Alternate History novels out there?
posted by Rock Steady at 11:40 AM on February 20 [+] [!]


Eric Flint wrote 1812: The Rivers of War. It's a very Eric Flint-y book, if you are into that kind of thing.
posted by Comrade_robot at 9:56 AM on February 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


I think the key difference between Americans & Canadians is this: an American will look at a rich braggart and want to emulate him. A Canadian will snort derisively and say, "Well now, and who does he think he is?" I suspect this could be because we haven't forgotten that most of our moneyed elite started out as two-bit smugglers with stealthy boats.
posted by Mary Ellen Carter at 9:59 AM on February 20, 2012 [4 favorites]


One word: Hockey.

I know it's not true for everyone, but hockey is one of the few things in this country that has a direct line to whatever small trace of national pride I have


Definitely not true for me. I played the game for 12 years, took it to Junior-B level, loved it while I was doing it but never quite understood the surrounding fanaticism, which has only grown (it seems) of late. Don Cherry's a clown, Wayne Gretzky's a well meaning shill for mega-corporations, I lose interest in the Stanley Cup the first time I feel some genuine summer heat (usually around the quarter-finals).

At least motorsport knows it's effectively a motor for advertising ... and it has way more spectacular hits.
posted by philip-random at 10:03 AM on February 20, 2012


our shared national border, unlike those of Europe, was not shaped by linguistic and ethnic variations

Bah. To the extent that Europe is different, it is the exception. The US/Canada border exists and is where it is for the same reasons as most national borders today across the globe; war and compromise among competing teams of sea pirates who came to chop the place up a few hundred years ago.

Hockey and Tim Hortons came later. Strewth, you could look it up, eh?
 
posted by Herodios at 10:12 AM on February 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


...most of our moneyed elite started out as two-bit smugglers with stealthy boats.

Canada has Kennedys, too?
posted by ZenMasterThis at 10:13 AM on February 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also, Canada exists because when you populate Place A heavily with people who have been thrown out of Place B because they wanted to stay hanging out with Place C, they really don't react when when Place B shows up and wants to take their property - again. Loyalists were loyal for good reasons, and were all the more loyal to the British empire for what they lost in the American Revolution. They still fly Union Jacks in Kingston for a reason.

/disclaimer: I am a descendent of UELs. We really did not want to be in that republic, even if their houses look more like ours than the ones in Britain.


I'm also (partially) a descendant of UELs - Anglo-Dutch from the Hudson River valley who relocated to St. John, NB. In a bit of historical irony, my great-grandfather moved the family down to the Boston area about a century ago, for economic reasons probably not unlike those motivating the great Quebecois migration to the New England mills (the Maritimes didn't have the greatest economy, either), not long after my grandmother was born, and she ended up marrying a descendant (my maternal grandfather) of a man who fought in the Massachusetts branch of the Continental Army, and whose induction papers were signed by John Hancock. (My grandfather reportedly used to refer to my grandmother affectionately as "my little alien"; she always had to go in a separate line in customs whenever they traveled abroad.)

The presumption - that oh, of course, they'll want to be "liberated" - more than anything else encapsulates the un-self-reflective nature of many Americans' attitudes towards Canada, then and now. What kind of arrogance do you have to have to assume that people whom you kicked out only a generation or so earlier, not to mention the others, who'd never lived under your government's rule, would accept your conquest?

Even the Québecois seem to have been cold towards the idea of being absorbed by les anglais du Sud; even though a generation later some of them did launch an abortive revolution against the British overlords, the idea was to establish their own sovereignty, not swap out one set of tête-carrées for another. And they certainly didn't want to lose their local control; as stultifying as it was having the Catholic Church running schools and hospitals and policing a retrograde vision of pious pastoral (in all senses of the word) life, thus helping to perpetuate Anglo dominance of all the most lucrative (and urban) sectors of the economy, at least it was a French-speaking culture they could hold onto. (The Quiet Revolution of the 1960's was all about finally waking up from the two centuries of Catholic-enforced sleep; the Québecois are still quite ambivalent about the remnants of Catholic infrastructure: almost no-one goes to church anymore (weddings and funerals, maybe), and they certainly don't want to return to the old days, but the buildings have great symbolic nationalist resonance.)

When I was going to school in New England, a lot of my classmates and friends had French last names that I now recognize all over Québec, but that was the only French thing about them. (In contrast, at least a Cajun friend of mine from New Orleans speaks a little French.) Even the pronunciations of their names were anglicized to varying degrees. It's illustrative of American insularity that nowhere in history classes did we hear anything about Québec, New England's next door neighbour, let alone Canada as a whole. I only earned about the great desperate southward migrations on my own, years later. The Québecois who came south found economic opportunity at the cost of their culture and language for the most part. (There were some in northern Vermont, for instance, who kept their language and culture; I know an older person here who has passports from both countries because her family was on both sides of the border and she was born in VT.)
posted by Philofacts at 10:28 AM on February 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


The Canadians liberated Amsterdam, and for that we should all be grateful.
posted by The Whelk at 10:32 AM on February 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Lest Canadians get too smug, Tecumseh was killed after we abandoned his army retreating retreating from Southern Ontario.

We atoned by naming a street after him with some swank lofts and a decent art gallery.
posted by Beardman at 10:33 AM on February 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


You Americans will love our Canadian Tire stores, too.....
posted by milnews.ca at 10:40 AM on February 20, 2012


Any time you're ready, we can do a rematch.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:31 AM on February 20 [1 favorite +] [!]


Ummm.... I hope you realize that by now most of our oil comes from Canada, yes sir! They surpassed Saudi Arabia quite some time back.

OTOH that would be an interesting rematch :)
posted by ding-dong at 10:49 AM on February 20, 2012


From the article:

"Let’s begin with an obvious fact no one will admit: Canadians and Americans are more or less the same people. A Torontonian in New York does not stick out, while a Kentuckian well might. Neither does a resident of Medicine Hat, Alberta, feel out of place in Butte, Montana, though a Vancouverite definitely would. Which is not to say that no significant differences exist between Canadians and Americans — just that our shared national border, unlike those of Europe, was not shaped by linguistic and ethnic variations. The War of 1812 made all the difference here. A complicated and unpleasant struggle, mostly forgotten, sundered our two countries. And that struggle is now 200 years old, which makes this as good a time as any to start remembering."


The first part of this reminds me of something the writer Joel Garreau, in the Québec chapter of his book of 30 years ago, "The Nine Nations of North America" (which, btw, is an excellent stab at defining what the "natural", or at least de facto, cultural nations of this continent are), had to say about the question of Canadian identity from a Quebecois perspective:

"In Quebec, for example, a discussion of whether the province will make it on its own economically, when it gains some sort of a divorce from Canada, is not considered a discussion about nationalism. It's regarded as a practical discussion about what one should do about this pre-existing nationalistic "French Fact." The point of this distinction is that it is logically possible to demonstrate that Quebec could do badly, in economic terms, as a nation. But it would be dead wrong thus to draw the conclusion that nationalism does not, or should not, exist. For, ultimately, nationalism is a human, not an economic, reality.

Conversely, Quebecois would point out, all the arguments in the world which lead to the conclusion that Canada makes sense economically cannot logically convince you that the diverse collection of entities called Canada is a nation. It's clear as consommé to the Quebecois how they are different from English Canada, not to mention the United States and, for that matter, France; and the rest of this chapter will examine these differences. What's less clear to them and, for that matter, some Americans, is in what sense English Canada is so different from the United States in the deepest, gut terms in which they describe nationalism. Some Quebecois have come to refer to English Canada's collective identity as "mapism," not "nationalism." The idea is that, compared to Quebec, the only thing Canadians hold in common are the same maps, with the same arbitrary surveyors' lines drawn on them. "Canada," the government of Quebec has observed archly, "is obliged to use a certain ingenuity to define itself as a distinctive culture."

Thus, discussions of French-English separation in Canada start off on a fundamentally wacky basis. The minority says of the majority, as one Quebec poet said, "Canada does not exist - just does not exist - other than on paper, and it has never existed and it will never exist."

When English Canada is forced by this argument into the incongruous position of attempting to explain what a poor Prince Edward Island fisherman has in common with an Alberta rancher who has oil interests, it starts skating dangerously close to the admission that they, for example, both watch reruns of "M*A*S*H," and both admire full-sized Chevrolets."

posted by Philofacts at 10:51 AM on February 20, 2012 [5 favorites]


The Canadians liberated Amsterdam, and for that we should all be grateful.

Indeed. Vancouver, in particular, and Amsterdam should probably be sister cities (best buds?) if they're not already.
posted by Philofacts at 10:55 AM on February 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


Lest Canadians get too smug, Tecumseh was killed after we abandoned his army retreating retreating from Southern Ontario.

We atoned by naming a street after him with some swank lofts and a decent art gallery.


...and spelling it wrong.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:58 AM on February 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


FIFTY-FOUR FORTY OR FIGHT, FUCKERS!

No, seriously, as a fan of Canadian literature (and increasingly your TV), I would live some suggestions of comprehensive but lay-readable books about parts of Canadian history. I've read a lot about Canada in WWI and about he settlement of the Maritimes. But I very much want to understand the nation's history better -- what would you assign me? Fiction ok too.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:58 AM on February 20, 2012


Okay... what is wrong with this picture?
posted by deanklear at 11:03 AM on February 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Great post, thanks.
posted by arcticseal at 11:05 AM on February 20, 2012


Eyebrows McGee: If fiction is okay, then the top of the list should be Ondaatje's "In the Skin of a Lion." It's a pretty great history lesson on Toronto (and, to a lesser extent, the rest of Ontario) in the 1920s-40s.
posted by 256 at 11:06 AM on February 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


Eyebrows McGee: Already mentioned upthread, but Pierre Berton was sort of an unofficial national historian who wrote Canadian history books people actually read. He also had awesome muttonchop sideburns and smoked weed.
posted by stinkycheese at 11:09 AM on February 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Berton's two-part history of the building of Canada's national railways (The National Dream and The Last Spike) is a great starting point. Berton's an easy-reading popular historian, so it won't feel like homework.

On the fiction side, Wayne Johnston' Colony of Unrequited Dreams, a fictional memoir of Joey Smallwood, is an excellent overview of the history of Newfoundland.
posted by gompa at 11:18 AM on February 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Canada exists for no natural reason

Au contraire. Mon pays ce n'est pas un pays, c'est l'hiver.
posted by No Robots at 11:18 AM on February 20, 2012 [10 favorites]


Pierre Burton interviews Bruce Lee
posted by stinkycheese at 11:18 AM on February 20, 2012


Canada: A bilingual country that speaks only one language.
Quebec: A unilingual province that speaks two languages.
posted by Vindaloo at 12:02 PM on February 20, 2012 [7 favorites]


Canada also exists so that we may have the NFB which is right and natural and the best thing.

I tend to stick out when I am in Canada because I get unnaturally excited about being able to buy Kinder Surprise Eggs.
posted by louche mustachio at 12:54 PM on February 20, 2012 [4 favorites]


Most Canadians hate Toronto.

Being from BC, I can't say I disagree. I had nothing more than a passing irritation at the place whenever I had to visit or hear about it.

When my wife went to McMaster in Hamilton, however, I grew to actively dislike Toronto. I didn't mind Hamilton, but the knee-jerk Hamilton hating by the fuckers in Toronto simply because it was dismissed as a dirty industrial town was just not right.

I now just refer to it as 'that place where they lose at hockey'. That much doesn't change.
posted by jimmythefish at 1:10 PM on February 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


I moved to Toronto for an internship and I was pleasantly surprised that I LOVE it here and there are droves of wonderful people, lots of beauty, and something for everyone of any community.
There are haters here, as there are everywhere, which is unfortunate, but human. We have the choice to rise above it.
posted by beau jackson at 1:19 PM on February 20, 2012


AFAIK most people in Quebec don't really care about Toronto, one way or another. It's a city. There's a tower and it's on a lake.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 1:40 PM on February 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Toronto could taste like bacon for all I care, but it still thinks itself the centre of the Canadian Universe and for that it must be punished through unrelenting teasing about its hockey shortcomings. Sorry.
posted by furtive at 1:50 PM on February 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Ummm.... I hope you realize that by now most of our oil comes from Canada, yes sir!

Yes, I know they're holding our oil ransom. We have to go liberate it, for the children.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:07 PM on February 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Let’s begin with an obvious fact no one will admit: Canadians and Americans are more or less the same people. A Torontonian in New York does not stick out, while a Kentuckian well might.

a michigander in ontario doesn't stick out - a michigander in nova scotia doesn't stick out very much, although some of the scots dialect is puzzling - a michigander, especially one who doesn't speak french, sticks out like a sore thumb in montreal

at least that's my experience

ps - i grew up around hockey, too - it used to get cold enough that one could play it on the lakes, but not this year ...
posted by pyramid termite at 2:17 PM on February 20, 2012


All the Americans I know who lived in Toronto loved it!
posted by jeffburdges at 2:25 PM on February 20, 2012


Re: the border. Canadian historian Harold Innis pointed out years ago that the US/Canada border mostly follows natural geographic features and the places where it doesn't (Red River in Manitoba, Columbia/Fraser confusion in BC) have been the site of problems between the two countries.

I took a US Diplomatic History course once and it was stated outright that the Americans lost the war, but won the peace -- the reverse of a once-accepted American myth ("America has never lost a war and never won a peace.") The US had some primo negitiators at work, the English didn't really care that much; their first empire was going down the tube and they were just getting started on the second (Suez, India, all that).

Two major differences that helped make the two nations unlike one another was the absence of wide-spread slavery in Canada and an entirely different situation with regard to native peoples. The Canadian frontier began as a fur enterprise and Indians were necessary to maintain it. The American frontier was agricultural, Indians were a nuisance to be removed. There was a large Mètis population in Canada by the mid-19th Century, enough to become a problem unlike any the US ever faced but very similar to situations in some Latin American nations (particularly the Sertanejo conflict in Brazil). First Nations genes are widely spread among Canadians whether they identify as Indian or Mètis or whites. So the assertion that there are no ethnic differences between the two nations isn't quite true. Recent immigration patterns have been different, too, with South Asians going predominantly to the north, SouthEast Asians to the south.
posted by CCBC at 3:06 PM on February 20, 2012 [4 favorites]


Pedant point: the accent's the other way: Métis.

The Métis problem leads us to the fact that after the WWI memorial, the closest War monument to Parliament celebrates the putting down of a Métis rebellion.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 3:45 PM on February 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Canadian historian Harold Innis pointed out years ago that the US/Canada border mostly follows natural geographic features

I'm sure there's some qualifier there, right? Not that Innis just didn't notice the gazillion miles where it's the 49th parallel?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 4:07 PM on February 20, 2012


A Torontonian in New York does not stick out

It's like being a stealth immigrant. Canadians, we walk among you.
posted by ceribus peribus at 4:14 PM on February 20, 2012


The Métis problem leads us to the fact that after the WWI memorial, the closest War monument to Parliament celebrates the putting down of a Métis rebellion.

On the bright side, today is Louis Riel Day in Manitoba, a civic holiday.
posted by KokuRyu at 4:15 PM on February 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


I still say we should invade Point Roberts.
posted by philip-random at 4:49 PM on February 20, 2012


Speaking of Canadian history, stories don't get much stranger than that of Louis Riel, who we celebrate today, and a few years ago Chester Brown did a pretty amazing graphic novel on the subject.
posted by stinkycheese at 5:17 PM on February 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Canada exists for no natural reason....

Oh, fuck right off. If anything, it's America that's the dodgy one of the pair.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:21 PM on February 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


If anything, it's America that's the dodgy one of the pair.

Yeah, this is one of the implicit points of "The Nine Nations of North America". As an American myself, there are large portions of the "country" ("empire" makes more sense to me) which genuinely feel foreign to me, common language or no. On the other hand, the Maritimes, where some of my ancestors lived, feel quite familiar to me as an erstwhile New Englander, which Garreau's map reflects.

I suppose it's analogous to being a South American; a Chilean can function just fine in, let's say, Venezuela, but he'll be unlikely to feel at home there. It's true that the thick layer of cultural homogenization that's spread over the US in recent generations (block that metaphor!) makes it easier for Americans to move around and get re-established in very different areas, but real differences remain.

As Garreau's map (and the Walrus article) also implies, some of the same cultural fault lines continue north of the border, with Québec as a special case, a North American anomaly.
posted by Philofacts at 6:41 PM on February 20, 2012


> (originally mistyped as "a series of land crabs", which I think I actually prefer.)

The secret to repelling any such invasion will be to attack their weak point for massive damage.
posted by The Card Cheat at 7:56 PM on February 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Probably will work better than my planned defense of drawn butter and sourdough.
posted by benito.strauss at 8:28 PM on February 20, 2012


Having grown up in Detroit, visiting Fort Malden a few times a year, it was a huge shock when I moved to Baltimore, and found out the War of 1812 happened there, too. Went a lot better for the Americans in Baltimore than it did in Detroit, too.

I tend to get weepy about the War of 1812, being as it was the last chance Detroit had to rejoin its natural country, Canada.

I'm not sure this war put an end to brotherhood across the border. During the Upper Canada Rebellion of 1837, a bunch of American militiamen from Ypsilanti got drunk one night, and decided to go to the aid of their rebellious friends on the other side of the Detroit River. They marched to Detroit, borrowed a couple cannon from Fort Wayne (they explained they needed practise), rowed across the river to Sandwich (now Windsor) and attacked the regular British Army troops there.

The redcoats, being disciplined and sober types, took the cannons from the Ypsi militiamen and sent them back across the river. You can still see the cannons at Fort Malden.
posted by QIbHom at 10:48 AM on February 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


ROU_Xenophobe: the 49th parallell runs almost exactly along the height of land that separates drainage into Hudson's Bay and the Arctic from that into the Gulf of Mexico. The reason that the Red River area in Manitoba created difficulties is that it flows south, into the Mississippi/Missouri system. Understand now?
posted by CCBC at 2:28 PM on February 21, 2012


The reason that the Red River area in Manitoba created difficulties is that it flows south, into the Mississippi/Missouri system.

What are you talking about? The Red River flows north, into Lake Winnipeg.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 3:06 PM on February 21, 2012


Flint has a sequel to 1812 called 1824: The Arkansas War.

This month's Analog has a story that reminds us why it might be important to American citizens to have a second government on North American soil.

On reorganizing North America, here's a map and posting by Tim Bray (a Canadian) and an enthusiastic followup by me (an American). Short version: the Obama blue states go with Canada, the Obama red states (plus Calgary and San Diego) don't, Quebec goes its own way.

On Tronno-hating: All cities are hated by their hinterlands, and the hinterland of Toronto is all of anglophone Canada. I forget who said this.

And here's the American's Guide to Spotting the Hidden Canadians who surround us all, from Peter Jennings to the recorded voice on the phone survey I took this morning:

1) If your suspect says a boat for about, congratulations! You've spotted a Hidden Canadian. (If he says a boot, he is not Canadian but Scottish.)

2) If your suspect pronounces rider and writer differently, you may have spotted a Hidden Canadian, but it may just be a Western Pennsylvanian after all.

3) If your suspect says "eh?" at the end of every other sentence, you've spotted a Hidden Canadian who's mocking you for an ignorant Yank.
posted by johnwcowan at 3:12 PM on February 21, 2012


The 49th parallell runs almost exactly along the height of land that separates drainage into Hudson's Bay and the Arctic from that into the Gulf of Mexico. The reason that the Red River area in Manitoba created difficulties is that it flows south, into the Mississippi/Missouri system.

I think you're thinking of the Milk River, which is in Alberta, not Manitoba. The Red River drainage basin, meanwhile, drains a fair amount of North Dakota & Minnesota into Hudson's Bay. And, of course, that's not why the 49th parallel is where it is; in fact, the border was effectively the height-of-land between the Mississippi & Hudson's Bay basins until 1818.
posted by Johnny Assay at 7:32 PM on February 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


You are right; I am wrong. I withdraw.
posted by CCBC at 12:37 AM on February 22, 2012


1) If your suspect says a boat for about, congratulations! You've spotted a Hidden Canadian. (If he says a boot, he is not Canadian but Scottish.)


This ("a-boat") is close, but still not quite there. After half a decade of immersion, I'm come to the conclusion that it's more like "a-bah-oot", with particular emphasis on the last phoneme, but quite sped up. Try it. ("Out and about from the house.") The Scottish influence is definitely there, but softened. (Lotta names beginning with "Mac" in Canada.)

Another marker is pronouncing "process" with a long "o". (Québecois, on the other hand, tend to pronounce it the way Americans do: prah-cess.)

Anyone who wants to get a feel for a kind of Anglo Canadian nationalism should read Robertson Davies' novels. It's both admirable and faintly silly the degree to which he studiously ignores the existence of the USA; his characters roam from Canada to Europe but almost never south of the border. I think a protagonist goes to New York City once or twice in one of his series, but NY could also be considered an exception, kind of an international zone.
posted by Philofacts at 6:19 AM on February 22, 2012


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