The Maple Leaf Forever

FTLComm - Tisdale - Tuesday, January 28, 2003
You will notice that the updating of this web site has been delayed and for that I make no apology for indeed, it seemed most appropriate to wait until the conclusion of the head of the United States government to complete his "state of the union" address, before I discussed with you the most important issue of what it means not to be American.
As boy growing up here in the province of Saskatchewan, in the Dominion of Canada the flag that flew over our school was the Union Jack and though we were all taught the song "Oh Canada" and the "Maple Leaf Forever" the actual national anthem was "God Save The Queen". In those days of the early fifties we were judiciously instructed that we were not only citizens of the Dominion of Canada but we were also British Subjects loyal to our King (later our Queen) and bound by honour to uphold the traditions of the British Commonwealth of Nations.
You can bet this definitely puzzled me, an individual who considered the radio and all who populated the airwaves, as members of the family. Though I loved the sound of James M. Minniffi and Chris Higgenbothom they were beyond me in being able to replicate their cadence of speech, but Earnest C. Manning and Tommy Douglas were easy. But it was strange to notice that one of my favourite speakers was the evangelist Billy Graham whom I could snap off his "The Biiible Saz" with a very convincing Yankee accent. When Elvis came on the scene in 1956 I painted my bicycle pink grew sideburns and was able to sound like I too came from Memphis, I could even get the left side of my upper lip to curl into the Elvis snarl.
I tell you all this because with the United States owning the movie screens and as I was growing up the words and accents of every song, why even Wilf Carter sound like he was from Texas instead of you outside of Calgary. But in high school, I discovered to my utter surprise, that we the citizens of the Dominion of Canada were definitely not Americans and I also became completely convinced that that was a damn good thing. (I had a pen pal in Arkansas who explained at length the inappropriateness of letting those "colored" people integrate the school system.)
In the fall of 1962, at seventeen I set off to college, hoping that in a few years I would do some good in this world as a lawyer. I was a keen hick from a village, but I worshiped another keen hick from a village John Diefenbaker who was the prime minister of the Dominion. As a young Conservative I worked on policy papers and developed a circle of friends, who like myself, were like the leader, true and true "unhypenated Canadians."
That fall the President of the United States darn near cooked us all, as the fanatics of his country had been fanning a flame against communism and Cuba. It was only a short while later that our neighbour to the South began a war against the threat to freedom of the day, Vietnam. As I listened tonight to the boisterous and bellicose harangue of the leader of the United States, the champion of world freedom, who said that his country was winning its struggle against terrorism and would win a battle to stem the rise of threats to his country from Iraq. As I listened to him I could hear the same sort of speech of another Republican president, Richard Nixon declare those same goals as his armed forces were sounding and totally defeated in Southeast Asia.
The irony of that speech tonight and the one of Nixon decades ago was that during the war in Viet Nam the present president of the Union was an air force pilot, AWOL from the force, hand picked by his father's influential friends so that he would not have to face the rigours and danger of actual combat, as he almost casually talked of the certainty of American deaths in the coming conflict with Iraq and of course we all know their greatest danger is their fellow fighters.
Many, much more eloquent than I have set about defining the profound differences that make Canada what it is but there is no need for a detailed and comprehensive explanation. The fundamental issues are these: Canada was founded upon the traditions of Britain and France, it was from its very beginning clearly defined in law and practice that it would respect the heritage of not only those two founding cultures, but of the complex and diverse culture of those who occupied this land from coast to coast, before the European arrived. We are a multicultural society governed by both British Common Law and protected by the Charter of Rights. As a non-militaristic society we believe in a structured society, so that our Canadian identity is not fixed in time, but continues to evolve with the addition of new Canadians and with the process of time.
Neither Quebec nor the United States pose a major threat to the unity of Canada as our most serious problem, as a country, stems from those people, many who live in Alberta, who proudly trace their heritage to the United States, and who do not accept multiculturalism, common law, and the Charter of Rights. Nor do they acknowledge the British system, whereby government makes laws, the traditions of the courts and civil servants administer those laws already passed by governments in the past. Many people actually think it is the role of government in Canada to govern, when in fact that is definitely not the case. Our head of government is not a president, nor is it a prime minister, or premier, but it is the head of state, the Governor General of Canada who is truly the equal to the American President, only in Canada the power of the administrative branch of government is much more restricted. Parliament is a law making organisation with the role of deciding what will happen and not really in charge at all of what is happening.
The "Pearson Pennant" flies on our flag poles, declaring we are different, its maple leaf is there not to tell others about us, but to tell us that where the tree grows that has that leaf is in charge of this country. The red bars are a bold declaration of the British parliamentary and judicial system and the white background is what binds us all together. We are a Northern nation, in which the real adversary is and always will be, the geography and climate of a territory, the third largest in the world. We live in cities and in a fringe clinging to the 49th parallel, but one day with the traditions and spirit we have shown in past, it will continue to be the best place in the world to live.

Timothy W. Shire



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Editor : Timothy W. Shire
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