Canada Highlights War of 1812, Casting U.S. as Aggressor –

The last good European war on North American soil–also the Kennedy Center’s fall Book of the Semester topic–gets spun by Canada:

David J. Bercuson, a military historian at the University of Calgary in Alberta, does not share Mr. Cohen’s criticism of the government, but he said he found its keen interest in the War of 1812 somewhat mysterious.

“I’m scratching my head for the last year and asking myself: ‘Why is the government placing so much emphasis on this war?’ ” he said.

The answer, according to James Moore, who as minister of Canadian heritage is in charge of the campaign, is that the government simply wants the long-ago war, which few Canadians know well, to be remembered.

“Canada was invaded, the invasion was repelled and we endured, but we endured in partnership with the United States,” Mr. Moore said. “It’s a very compelling story.”

But because Canada did not become a nation until 1867, the War of 1812 was actually a battle between the young United States and Britain. Why the comparatively powerless United States took on the imperial power still remains a matter of considerable discussion. But the conflict did follow British interference with American trade and American concerns about Britain’s intentions in North America.

via Canada Highlights War of 1812, Casting U.S. as Aggressor –


4 thoughts on “Canada Highlights War of 1812, Casting U.S. as Aggressor –”

  1. Until I read this, I had honestly never really thought about Canada’s view of the War of 1812. I found this short summary of how Canada came to be a part of the war at the BBC: The spin both sides put on the War of 1812 is interesting. I remember mainly talking about the writing of the National Anthem and Andrew Jackson in the Battle of New Orleans when I learned about it in high school and not really that much about the actual outcome of the war.

  2. This article intrigued me firstly because Canada is so rarely in the news, and in this instance, they were referring to the US as an “aggressor” in a past war. In the NYTimes article, it was mentioned that the US doesn’t pay enough attention to the War of 1812. As true as that is (I hadn’t even heard of this war until high school), I don’t think that means it wasn’t important to American history. Really, the War of 1812 is in a deplorable position, eclipsed by the American Revolution and the Civil War, both of which affected the US on a larger scale than did 1812 ( On the other hand, while Canada was still only a British colony at this time, many see this event as central to Canada’s independence, while the greatest significance of the War of 1812 for the US (at least that I recall) was that it was the first war the US fought as an independent country. If anything, we celebrate the memory of it whenever we sing the national anthem.

  3. I found Mr. Cohen’s words interesting: “The War of 1812 is part of our history, and that’s fine. But it’s turned into a form of propaganda, and it seems to have married the government’s interest in the military with its interest, some would say obsession, with the War of 1812. It’s clearly, to me, part of a campaign to politicize history.”

    Countries tend to do that sometimes. But what reason might Canada have to “politicize” this war’s history 200 years after it occurred? This commercial was aired during the Olympics, by the way. Here is an op ed by a Canadian who wasn’t happy with the commercials:

    And here’s an article questioning the effect this campaign is having on Canadians. It argues that most “don’t care.”

  4. I’m confused why this is even being brought up again. Like Mr. Bercuson in the article, I’m scratching my head and wondering: “Why is the Canadian government placing so much emphasis on this war all of a sudden?” Why are they suddenly emphasizing “Two hundred years ago the United States invaded our territory”? I’m confused about the message they are trying to send to Canadians, and I’m confused about the message they are unintentionally sending Americans. I have nothing against Canada. I don’t perceive Canada as unfriendly or aggressive. Yet from the sound of the commercial in question ( I kind of get the impression that Canada still feels like the matter wasn’t settled… I guess I just don’t understand where any of this is coming from… I mean, this happened 200 years ago. Are people really still upset about this?

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