Canada to commemorate War of 1812

AP News

10/11/2011 6:02:27 PM - AP News

Canada's Conservative government announced Tuesday that it plans a permanent memorial in the nation's capital to commemorate next year's bicentennial of the War of 1812, which it calls a defining event in Canada's history.

Heritage Minister James Moore said Tuesday that Canada owes its existence as an independent, bilingual country to the defense of its territory against U.S. invasions 200 years ago.

Plans call for a permanent 1812 monument in Ottawa and up to 100 events, festivals and re-enactments, as well as commemorative stamps and coins.

In 1812, British troops and residents of what is now Canada prevented several U.S. attempts to overrun the then-British territory. The Battle of Queenston Heights, the war's first major battle and a decisive British victory, was fought across the Niagara River from New York.

"We were invaded, we repelled the invasion and we endured," Moore said in a telephone interview.

Moore said there are those who could in a "very cheap and immature way" gloat about a failed American invasion, but he said the commemoration is meant to raise Canadian awareness of a defining and neglected moment. He said Prime Minister Stephen Harper has been personally involved.

"Mature Canadians, I'm sure recognize, that grotesquely taking shots at the United States is not in Canada's interest and this is not what this project is about," Moore said.

Harper aims to foster a conservative national identity that celebrates its historical roots. He has focused on shifting Canada's ideological bearings from center-left to center-right by stressing such traditional Canadian symbols as the military, its past victories and the monarchy.

Plans call for spending more than $27 million on the war's commemoration, much of it on refurbishing 40 national historic sites.

On June 18, 1812, President James Madison and Congress declared war on Great Britain. For more than two years, the Americans and British battled across North America before reaching peace by singing the Treaty of Ghent in Belgium.