The new Canadian passport is unveiled at an event at the Ottawa International Airport on May 10, 2023. (The Canadian Press/Sean Kilpatrick)
Revolutionaries often don’t know when to stop. In France of the 1790s, radicals, not content with creating a constitutional monarchy, abolishing feudalism, and establishing a bill of rights, attempted to create a whole new kind of human—utterly rational, uprooted from old loyalties and places, fitted to be a citizen of a new kind of nation.
The old clock, calendar, and measurements were abolished—time and space were decimalized, 10 hours in a day, 10 days in a week, distances standardized. The reckoning of years from the birth of Christ had to go, and what had been 1792 A.D. became Year One. The old provinces were erased, replaced by a grid-work of départements of nearly identical shape, regardless of local history, dialect, or geography.
Christianity was forbidden; in its place came the faceless god of the Cult of the Supreme Being. The fleur-de-lys, for a thousand years the symbol of the country and a reference to the Virgin Mary, was erased from banners and a flag of three blocks of colour took its place.
Even the soundscape of the cities and countryside were altered. Church bells which had signalled time, announced the death of parishioners, summoned believers, or warned of impending disaster were silenced—taken down and melted into metal for the cannons of the revolutionary armies.
The citizenry were told that the taxes, secret police, censorship, bloated bureaucracy, and military conscription were just the price to be paid for liberty, equality, and fraternity.
Later dictatorships learned much from the French Revolution. Attacks on religion marked the Russian, Chinese, and Mexican revolutions. Mussolini in Italy and the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia both began time anew with their versions of Year One.
Just as the French radicals had mandated “citizen” as the only permissible title, so communist regimes ordained “comrade.” Old flags, old songs, old holidays—anything that gave meaning to the past—had to go.
Christmas was particularly targeted. The Soviet Union tried to suppress it, shifting festivities to New Year’s Day and replacing St Nicholas with Grandfather Frost; the Nazi version of “Silent Night” included praise of Adolf Hitler.
In Canada, we have seen a similar, though less violent, series of moves to erase the Canadian past.
Recently, the traditional image of the royal crown has been altered to remove any Christian symbology, replacing the cross and fleur-de-lys with a stylized snowflake and maple leaves. The title of the Canadian monarchy has been stripped of reference to the “United Kingdom” and “Defender of the Faith.”
These initiatives are a reminder that the effort to unmoor Canadians from their history has been a long-term Liberal Party project, begun in the 1960s when the flag under which Canadians had fought in world wars was replaced, a move followed by a switch from “Dominion Day” to the generic “Canada Day”—surely the world’s lamest name for a national celebration. (Imagine the French changing “Bastille Day” to “France Day” or the Dutch changing “Liberation Day” to “Netherlands Day.”)
Since then we have seen a prime minister calling Canada a “post-national state,” a place where “there is no core identity, no mainstream” and a country steeped in genocide. We are told to despise the founders of Canada as racists and discouraged from viewing our past with anything but shame.
Remember the great celebrations for those battles in 1776, 1814, and 1866 that kept us from American domination? Me neither. The value of attaining Canadian citizenship has been devalued to the point where the government proposed to abolish the ceremonial swearing of allegiance to ticking a box online
The latest act of infamy is the change to our passports. Gone are images of the Fathers of Confederation, Terry Fox, the Vimy Ridge memorial, the Famous Five, the Bluenose, Champlain, the Northwest Mounted Police, and the Houses of Parliament—people and things that anchored us to our history and bound us together in pride. In comes pictures of a narwhal, maple syrup, and our most despised species of wildlife, the Canada goose.
These acts are not trivial and they are not accidental. They reflect an attitude on the part of our elites that resents attachments to our past because they hinder their attempts to alter our behaviours, which they view as outdated, parochial, and selfish. It is a stealth campaign that proceeds step by little, undebated, step.
A person without roots, without a memory, without a story can be easily influenced and cause no trouble to the authorities. A nation without a common history in which citizens can take pride cannot long survive.
Gerry Bowler is a Senior Fellow at the Frontier Centre for Public Policy. Originally published here.