Happy Canada Day! That’s the first thing my wife said to me this morning. I responded: Rabbits! It is part of my heritage. When I was a kid, my English mother used to tell us that if the first thing we said on the 1st day of the month was “Rabbits!” we would get a present that month. It worked too, though mostly because I only remembered in December and on my birth month. Self-fulfilling prophecies are the best kind.
But back to Canada Day. Until 1982 it was called Dominion Day not because Canada has ever had dominion over any one else but because we were a dominion – that is the property of the Queen. With the repatriation of the constitution (though Canada became an independent country in 1867, our foreign policy was controlled by England until 1933 and the power to amend our own constitution only came to us in 1982), it seemed appropriate to stop basing our national holiday on our former colonial status and refer to our country instead. Hence the name change. That’s how things work when you have evolution rather than revolution: Canada Day (115 years on) rather than Independence Day right away. That’s why they call us the peaceable kingdom, I guess.
Of course, not everyone agreed. Some people wanted to cling to the old name – were quite outraged as Canadians go – the same way I cling to my mother’s quaint superstition. It was part of our heritage, they claimed, and shouldn’t be tampered with. Of course it was only part of our heritage if you came from the British Isles. If you were French or Aboriginal or an immigrant from around the world – it was only a part of your heritage in a negative way, as a reminder of when we all had to tug our forelock to our lordly English masters and to the Crown. That’s often the problem with “Heritage” – it’s history for some people and a present-day reminder of oppression and grievance for others. But everybody who wraps themselves in the flag – whatever that flag might be – knows that too well. Or is too delusional to be allowed out on the streets, let alone be given access to guns. Right, America?
But I digress. Now the Queen is a lovely old dame and is a better head of state than most – she at least doesn’t think she should actually run things. She is a relic of the past and should, perhaps, be respected for exactly that, rather than be considered an actual solution for the future. We should never forget our history – lest we be forced to repeat it – but neither should it continue to dominate our lives, either as farce or tragedy.
So, my fellow Canadians, embrace Canada Day and keep your eyes firmly fixed on a better future. After all, time’s arrow only moves in one direction and you can never return to the good old days – which were mostly miserable in any case.
By the way, don’t forget to send your presents to the correct address. I didn’t say Rabbits for nothing, you know.
And that’s ten minutes.