Connections to the Past

My oldest daughter, Rebecca, is mad about the Royals. She loved the Tudors and is consumed by all things Henry VIII. She knows all about the castles and what they look like today.

Her father would rather see Canada be a republic, could care less about a wealthy white family being the figureheads of a modern democracy and prefers the drama of the Romanovs to the Windsors and their predecessors.

The important thing here is that we both love history and that connects us.

Today is Canada Day and Rebecca is spending her first Canada Day in Ottawa, not least because William and Katherine/Kate are there.

As a student in Ottawa almost 30 years ago, I believe I was on Parliament Hill for Canada Day once. The place was hot and crowded. There were better places to sip beverages and watch the fireworks, but there was something very special about being able to say I had been there.

I preferred the fireworks and friendliness of New Year’s Eve on Parliament Hill. It seemed much more neighbourly. It didn’t hurt that I lived in cheap apartments unusually close to the Hill and we could often walk to and from there quickly. One memorable New Year’s Eve involved me kissing a Mountie on stage after the concert on the Hill was over and the TV cameras were turned off. Yes, the Mountie was female.

Rebecca doing Royal spotting on Parliament Hill reminds me of an amazing moment for me in Canadian history. I was not living in Ottawa when it happened and it wasn’t even Canada Day, but the picture of the event is forever etched in my memory.

It is the moment when Elizabeth II and Pierre Trudeau sat across the table to sign the documents that meant that Canada was truly an independent nation. On April 17, 1982 Canada no longer required the consent of the British Parliament in constitutional matters.

For some Canadians, it was a humiliating thought that we could not make all of our decisions about our country in our own legislature and courts. For others, Canada was Canada because of the connection to Great Britain. For still others, the patriation of the Constitution and the inclusion of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms is something that they would do all in their power to overturn.

For some of us, me included, it was our proudest moment to know that we were now fully responsible for nation’s progress.

Sure, we have the English Crown as our head of state and keep the Governor General as the Crown’s representative and I would vote in a second to end that relationship, but that relationship animates Rebecca. There is not just a little irony in why she is on Parliament Hill today and my thoughts regarding my greatest memory of the same place.

A Great Day on Parliament Hill


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