This week’s Vimy Ridge ceremonies were ironic. For a battle credited with marking Canada’s “independence” and “birth of a nation”, Monday’s ceremonies had all the hallmarks of colonial rule.
They played “God Save the Queen,” a foreign national anthem, both at Vimy and in Ottawa, without “O Canada” next to it. They flew the Royal Standard at Vimy, bumping our Maple Leaf flag from the place of honor, and made sure the Queen’s flag flew higher than Canada’s. Prime Minister Harper wanted a Victoria Cross awarded—a British decoration which Canada effectively retired 35 years ago. Then there was the Red Ensign with its Union Jack. I suspect they would have draped the statue of Mother Canada with the British flag (as in 1936, at the memorial’s dedication) if they thought they could get away with it.
Ultimately, Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II was introduced as “Queen of Canada”, providing no better symbol of our 18th Century time warp. There is no doubt she should have been there, for it was her country Canada rushed to defend in the Great War. But she, like France’s prime minister, should have played the role of guest, not host. We should not be calling on London to send us a head of state for such events. As foreign affairs minister Peter MacKay noted at a Halifax ceremony, she is primarily “the Queen of England.”
Yet nearly a century after Vimy, Canada still clings to an overseas monarchy, likely more from inertia than will. The price is a diminishment of the very nationhood we’re told we achieved at Vimy, for as long as we rely on a foreign bloodline to personify our nation, we are that much less Canadian.
Let us honor the sacrifices of 1917, and those being made today, by giving Canada what it has so richly earned—a head of state from our home and native land.
Wayne Adam Toronto, ON
By Wayne Adam