The Militarization of Canadian History

Heritage Minister James Moore is soon expected to announce that the Museum of Civilization, located in Gatineau, Quebec, will be re-branded to focus exclusively on Canada’s past (Daniel LeBlanc, “Museum of Civilization to change name, focus exclusively on Canadian history“, The Globe and Mail, 12 October 2012).  The museum is already dedicated primarily to Canadian exhibits, but does currently house some permanent international collections and plays host to exhibits that showcase various world cultures.

In preparation for the 150th anniversary of Confederation in 2017, however, it is expected that it will be renamed to reflect its new, significantly less global orientation, and its few permanent international exhibits will be replaced with new ones dedicated to the “monarchy and past military achievements”.

Other museums across the country will be called upon to participate in the upcoming celebration using similarly fashioned displays.  In addition to this, the Tories also plan on building a monument to the War of 1812 on Parliament Hill and naming federal buildings after its “heroes”.

The government will likely face resistance in their quest to militarize Canada’s historical narrative.  Columnist Lawrence Martin is just one critic who has voiced his objections to the Conservatives’ plan (Lawrence Martin, “Don’t curate the peacemaking out of Canadian history“, The Globe and Mail, 16 October 2012):

The retooling of museums – the Museum of Civilization, anthropologically dreary, does need a facelift – may well be a commendable exercise. There’s nothing wrong with making our past as storied as possible, especially given the historical vacuum in which large segments of the population reside.

But given the Conservatives’ proclivities, as reflected in their confrontational foreign policy and their affinity for old wars, there’s concern that they won’t get it right, that a lot of our history will go missing.

Martin goes on to list a number of peaceful achievements Canadians have made over the years, and asks that the current government not neglect these significant contributions to the international community:

Our postwar history, before the arrival of the Harper government, is predominantly a story about Canada as peacemaker, bridger of differences, conciliator. We were never a bellicose, aggressor nation, not before this period either, and we should never be portrayed as one.

It remains to be seen if the Tories will heed criticisms such as these and present a celebration of Canada’s past that gives fair treatment to the more peaceful roles, achievements and perspectives of its diverse peoples.

Photo Source: Creative Commons

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