One of Canada’s most versatile historians and writers has conflicted views about celebrating Sir John A’s 200th birthday.
Christopher Moore, a Toronto-based writer and two-time Governor General’s Award winner who has written about Canadian history for non-specialist audiences for more than 20 years, says he is generally in favour of historical commemorations, particularly if they are clever and surprising and not too pedantic.
“Yet at the same time, a lot of my work on the confederation period emphasizes how Confederation was a parliamentary project, that many people shaped it,” he says. “Opposition members as well as government members were deeply involved—imagine that today.”
Moore says it was legislatures, not First Ministers, who genuinely had the ultimate authority over the process.
“If I’m a little conflicted about the anniversary, it is because I think themes like those are likely to be de-emphasized in favour of The Man, The Leader, which I think is not good history or good public policy,” says Moore.
“We live today in a profoundly leader-centred political culture, in which [to oversimplify a bit] Premiers and Prime Ministers have nearly unlimited powers and everyone else is mostly cattle,” he says. “I think many Canadians project that into the past, and want to make John A. the One Leader, because today we understand Canadian political life to be about Leaders."
“Since I think anniversaries are good times for discussion and debate and not just uncritical celebration, I’ll probably engage in that discussion to some degree. I expect to be publishing a book this winter about the Quebec Conference, and some of these ideas will be in it,” he says.
And will he do something to celebrate Sir John A’s 200th?
“Well, I have already attended several of his birthday dinners over the years, even gave the speech at one of them. I’m attending a fundraising event in Picton in a couple of weeks, and will doubtless attend various other events coming up over the next year, particularly if they look like fun,” he says.
But he issues a challenge:
“September will mark the 200th anniversary of the birth of George-Etienne Cartier. Does your organization have plans to mark that?”
For more information, visit Christopher Moore's website (http://www.christophermoore.ca/) and blog (http://christophermoorehistory.blogspot.ca/)