The Little War that Could – Gerry Nicholls

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Gerry Nicholls
Gerry Nicholls

Gerry Nicholls
Gerry Nicholls

OTTAWA – As you probably know, two hundred years ago a major historic event took place which helped shape the destiny our great nation.

But this posting is not about the discovery of maple syrup.

Instead, I want to discuss another equally important historical event which took place two hundred years ago, a little something we like to call, The War of 1812.

Now some might say this conflict is the Marc Garneau of wars, in that it’s celebrated, but dull.

Certainly it lacks the panache of other famous conflicts such as World War I, World War II or The Clone Wars.

That’s not to say, of course, the War of 1812 doesn’t get any attention. In fact, a respected group of military scholars recently voted it “The War with the most Boring Name Ever.”

But clearly it needs some better PR.

Thankfully the Conservative government is on the case. It’s spending millions of tax dollars on War of 1812 TV commercials, War of 1812 stamps, War of 1812 coins, and War of 1812 lunch boxes, posters and T-shirts.

Word has it, if this campaign is a hit, the government will soon produce a sequel commemoration called “The Revenge of The War of 1812.”

Meanwhile, as a result of all this spending and commemorating, Canadians, who once knew next to nothing about the War of 1812, now realize it was a conflict where, for some reason, guys in red coats shot at guys in blue coats.

Yet, despite all this government-sponsored propaganda … oops … I mean public-spirited education, more needs to be done to inform Canadians about this key clash in our nation’s history.

With that in mind, I have decided to fill in some of the “historical gaps”, mainly with information I just made up.

The first thing you need to know is that technically speaking the War of 1812 actually started in 1813; it got its name due to a careless typo, which is historically significant when you consider the typewriter wasn’t even invented yet. (Nobody has the heart to point out this error to the Conservative government.)

Also interesting is the War of 1812 is known by different names in different countries. For instance, in Britain it’s generally known as “The War of What?”

Anyway, at one point during the War of 1812, invading American soldiers burned down our Parliamentary buildings. This action shocked and angered Canadians who decried it as an “outrage”; the Americans, on the other hand, called it a “parliamentary prorogation,” thus setting an important precedent in Canadian politics.

By the way, rumours are flying that US President Barack Obama may soon come to Canada and apologize for this act of arson. He will reportedly blame it on the Bush Administration.

Of course, later in the war we got back at the Americans when British troops burned down the White House. This is considered to be the worst thing to ever happen in America’s capital, other than the Washington Nationals shutting down the season of pitching ace Steven Strasburg.

So you see the War of 1812 is actually an extremely important part of Canada’s legacy, even more important in some ways than Justin Trudeau’s hair.

After all, because we managed to fend off an American invasion, Canada was able to maintain its cherished status as a backwater colony of the British Empire.

Ultimately, this paved the way for Canada to become a fully sovereign nation, a sovereignty we celebrate today by removing the Canadian flag from the Quebec National Assembly.

And it’s all thanks to the War of 1812. (Really the War of 1813.)

Gerry Nicholls


Gerry Nicholls is a communications consultant and writer who has been called a “political warrior” a “brilliant strategist” and one of the “canniest political observers in Canada.” He has worked as a consultant in both the United States and Canada and was formerly a senior officer in the National Citizens Coalition. A regular columnist with the Ottawa Hill Times, his work has also appeared in the Globe and Mail, the National Post and in the Sun Media chain; and he has appeared on countless TV and radio public affairs programs. He is the author of the book, Loyal to the Core, Harper, Me and the NCC.