Canada marks the 200th Anniversary of 1812… with a TV commercial

Fort George employees demonstrate British infantry tactics during the War of 1812.

Hey everyone:

No new blog entires this week. I’ll be travelling for the next eight days through the Rocky Mountains and along Canada’s Pacific coast. In the meantime, I thought I’d share with you a few items of interest.

First, the videos below are from a recent trip I took to Fort George near Niagara Falls Canada. The fort is an early 20th Century recreation of the original wooden stockade, blockhouses and earthworks from the War of 1812. It sits on the western shore of the Niagara River as it opens onto Lake Ontario. Here is some footage of the staff of the fort dressed as infantrymen from the British 41st Regiment of Foot firing two volleys from the muskets.

Next, the staff demonstrates the firing of one of the forts many guns (I believe a 3-pdr).

Fort George has been enjoying a good season. This summer marks the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812 and visitors are turning up in droves to learn more about a war that up until recently few have paid much attention. The government of Canada is marking the 1812 milestone with lavish spending on events, museums and (oddly enough) a national advertising campaign that celebrates the conflict. Naturally, Canada’s ever-hawkish Conservative Government is fashioning the largely unknown war as an epic struggle between Canada and the United States. In reality, it was a war between Great Britain the United States. But as can be expected when politicians try to leverage the past for political gain, national mythology is trumps historic fact. Predictably, the results are truly groan-inducing. That’s surely the case with this commercial (see blow) that has been running hourly throughout  the Olympic coverage in this country. Admittedly, it’s hard to tell a story as complex as the War of 1812 in a 60 second TV spot, but anyone with even a passing familiarity with the conflict can tell you that this ad is mostly chest-thumping propaganda. The fact of the matter is “Canada” didn’t defeat the Americans, Great Britain did. And it did so with the help of native warriors and a small number of local militia units. In fact, most Canadian settlers in 1812 were recent immigrants from the U.S. most of which had been lured to the colony by promises of free land. At the war’s outset, Canadians were largely indifferent to the American invaders, while many quietly hoped that the U.S. would prevail. It would only be after the invaders began looting and burning towns along the border that Canadians began to rally to the defence of the colony. The problems with the ad don’t end there. Not only does the commercial get the British uniforms wrong (those red coats are wearing shako hats circa 1815), but it depicts the key “Canadian” players (a sort of War of 1812 dream team of British General Isaac Brock, militia leader Charles De Salaberry, Shawnee war leader Techumseh, and Canadian heroine Laura Secord) as all present and together in some hypothetical battle. In reality, only two of these figures were at the same place at the same time during the war. It’s not all bad though — the cinematography is pretty snazzy! But don’t take my word for it, watch for yourself…

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3 comments for “Canada marks the 200th Anniversary of 1812… with a TV commercial

  1. Russ Hayes
    25 September, 2012 at 9:27 pm

    Who is paying to run this ad every hour every day…….we are!!! This is a monumental waist of taxpayers money!
    Russ and Christine Hayes

    • 25 September, 2012 at 9:36 pm

      I have to admit, I was a little put off buy the ads myself. I’ve spent much of my adult life reading about the War of 1812 — I find it a fascinating and tragically ironic war. My problem with this ad is that it simplifies a complex story into a superficial feel good us versus them narrative that doesn’t do justice to history. The real story of 1812 is far more interesting than this government infomercial. But if it gets more people to pick up a book and maybe read into the story more, then perhaps it’s not all bad.
      Thanks for your feedback.

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