This weekend the Canadian Federation marks its 150th birthday – an anniversary that we should all celebrate, writes Alec Marsh
Not so many years ago, one November, I was in Vancouver in British Columbia when I witnessed a number of people walking with purpose in a curious direction. Being a journalist, I followed.
Turning a corner I found myself among a crowd many hundreds strong, arranged around a stone copy of the Cenotaph, albeit one that was 5,000 miles from Whitehall. In a corner stood about a hundred Mounties, in their scarlet uniforms and Campaign hats, on parade.
It was Remembrance Day, of course; and as the seconds approached 11am the entire throng fell silent; after the two minute’s silence a speech or two followed – in which a dedication was made to a former Second World War Victoria Cross-holder who was present. He waved to the crowd. Then the entire assembly sang the first two verses of God Save the Queen – without any handouts being present to help with the words – and the Mounties marched smartly from the square in rank and file.
It was a peculiarly British moment in this corner of British Columbia, one of Canada’s more Anglophile provinces, and was not unappealing to a Brit far from home. Indeed, it brought to home just how culturally integral Britain is to certain parts of Canada and Canadian identity – something which is not acknowledged or even understood over here very often. After all, how many of us have any real awareness of Canada or Canadians, aside from being able to identify a handful of Canuck celebrities? How many Brits know where Saskatchewan is – let alone spell it?
Yet with the 150th anniversary of the Canadian Federation upon us this weekend, it might be worth reflecting on the incipient friendship that this country holds for us and the importance of our starting to reciprocate it more vociferously. For with Brexit fast approaching – even at the lightning speed of EU diplomacy – Britain may soon need all the friends she can get, and who better to turn to than places like Canada? Blessed with people who speak the same tongue, an abundance of natural resources – and not to mention some great skiing and one of the fastest growing economies of the G7 – there’s lots to like about Canada, and not just the Canadians themselves.
So spare a thought for a Canadian friend this weekend, and wish them well on their constitutional anniversary. For, Canada’s story is intricately bound up in our past, just as their past is bound up in ours, and the Canadian story is one of success that we should be proud of, too.
Alec Marsh is editor of Spear’s