Education for Citizenship in Canada
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
IDEAL citizenship may never be reached, though an approach to it may, but it can only come through education. Already there are indications of improvement in this regard, especially as it pertains to patriotism and probably also with respect to loyalty, though Canadian loyalty has ever been of a high order. With regard to patriotism Canadians have been very deficient in the past. No truly patriotic people could change their allegiance so readily as do Canadians to become citizens of a country where their native land is almost constantly insulted. No truly patriotic people could so prefer the products of a foreign country before those manufactured in their own land, as Canadians have largely done in the past. An American label is to a great many the determining factor in the choke of an implement or an article, to the detriment of the home product. Even this might be excusable if there was a corresponding difference in the merits of the articles, but this is seldom or never the case ; they are charmed and sometimes cheated by the magic word " American," and a lack of patriotism is the cause.
Canada needs a National Consumers' League, by which Canadians would become pledged to use only Canadian products when the circumstances made it at all possible.* The whole country suffers financially and otherwise by this great lack of patriotism. The present Finance Minister struck the true note in an address before the Manufacturers' Association when he said I have one thought further to add. I do not believe the people of Canada have done their duty by the private purchases of the Canadian manufactured article."
It is a misfortune that we should still hang on to the old idea that a thing must be better if we only bring it from a distance. There is the old saying, " Distant hills are green," and " Distance lends enchantment to the view." I know how prone people in Canada are to buy foreign goods, not because they are any better, but because that seems to be the right thing—to buy goods that are imported.
Our gracious Queen, on the occasion of the coronation, expressed the opinion that the people of England should honor the coronation by dressing in the products of the people of England. No matter what government may be in power, whether they are something, better, sometimes worse, let us show that we are loyal citizens, loyal to the factories of the country, by purchasing Canadian goods, and that we are voicing the feeling of every loyal and patriotic Canadian.
It is also doubtful if any truly patriotic people, possessed with a national spirit in adequate measure, could so complacently regard the use of a foreign flag as is constantly permitted in this country. Go into any Canadian town or city, especially in the summer, and the sight that greets the eye must be humiliating to every patriotic Canadian. It would be difficult to tell in some cities whether we were in the United States or Canada, so conspicuously displayed are the Stars and Stripes. Flagstaffs are generally made in such a way that the two flags may fly side by side in positions of perfect equality. Most people have much love and great respect for Americans and their flag, but it has its proper place and use, and that is not in being flaunted so freely in this country. The wonder is that there has not been a reaction against this wrong to the extent of perpetrating some insult against the American flag similar to what is almost constantly shown to the British flag in the United States. Such an attitude, of course, would be regrettable, but it would not be wholly without provocation.
We are told that the American flag is displayed in this country out of deference to American visitors and tourists. If so, it is a deference that must make us despised and misunderstood in the eyes of those for whom it is professedly done. There is a suspicion that it would be more in harmony with truth to say that it is sometimes done out of deference to the dollars that are supposed to be in the pockets of visiting Americans, and, if so, this fact only makes it the more contemptible. The absence of the American flag would not make one particle of difference with the number of Americans coming to seek health and rest in our country. Besides, " We are not cotton spinners all, but some love England and her honor yet." How can we expect to retain our young people, or inspire them with a true patriotism, when such foolish and unnecessary familiarity is made of a foreign flag. Let Canadians have some self-respect in matters of this kind. Did you ever see the British flag displayed in the United States except officially or in religious gatherings ?
Great lack, if not of patriotism, certainly of national sentiment, is evidenced in the sectionalism which characterizes us. In some provinces it is common to speak of everything that originates outside, even though it comes from a sister province, as being foreign and as something imported. It is quite common in the Maritime Provinces to refer to Quebec and Ontario as being " Up in Canada "; and Ontario and Manitoba flour is styled " American." To a large extent this sectional feeling is shared by the people of Ontario with regard to Eastern Canada. A Canadian statesman referred to the Maritime Provinces as the " shreds and tatters of the Dominion." Such narrowed sectionalism manifests great lack of rational spirit, and, indeed, we might say, true patriotism. The time has come for Canadians to regard themselves as one from ocean to ocean, with less tendency to restrict their vision to merely provincial boundaries.
How, then, are we to teach true Canadian patriotism? This is a question of great importance, and he who shows and leads the way will be a true benefactor to his country. There are no more potent or appropriate influences existing for the inculcating of these ideas than the home, the school, and the church ; and these have all been sadly deficient in the past.
Hundreds of homes in our country are adorned with the pictures of George and Martha Washington, and other American statesmen, while the family names are perhaps Garfield, Cleveland and Grant. Now, these are not bad names, but there are others more befitting the children of this country. Many a patriotic face has blushed while attending local school examinations listening to the declamations of the scholars, who have evidently made their selections from some American reciter, as the very events to which our national life stands opposed are recited with gusto and evident admiration. No teacher should be permitted to teach where the school is devoted in this way to the undoing of national sentiment. It is, of course, lack of thought, but it is also lack of patriotism.
The church is, to a large extent, open to the same charge, not that her ministers or members are disloyal, but they are often lacking in a true national spirit, and fail to recognize its place even in religion. Sabbath-school helps and general literature are, in very many cases; imported from the United States, and have " Yankee Doodle " written large on almost every page, thus the church, which is supposed to teach love of country as being next to love of God, becomes recreant to one of its most sacred trusts and opportunities. Let these great institutions, the home, the school and church, which touch the lives of our future citizens in their formative period, guard with sacred care their obligations in these important respects.
There are, however, other institutions and customs of our country which, in a very powerful degree, might be expected to influence the minds of the people to a very large extent, but have not lived up to their privileges, and consequently have failed to exert the educative influences that would naturally be expected of them. Perhaps this might not now be said of the public press of the country, but while the Canadian press has, generally speaking, been perfectly loyal, it has not always been as patriotic as it is to-day. It is now, however, making amends for its sins of omission. Our public national holidays have not in the past, and do not now, exert the educative influence or evoke the enthusiasm they should. Much more should be made of them for this purpose.
Dominion Day, our national holiday, is in great contrast, so far as the ardor of its celebrations are concerned, to the Fourth of July, as celebrated across the border. In many parts of the country, except in large towns and cities, it is scarcely observed at all. Surely the press and public schools are partly to blame for this. The landing of the United Empire Loyalists in this country at the close of the American Revolution laid the basis of our present population and our institutions. And these truly great and heroic people, who sacrificed all for the integrity of the Empire, have, in their descendants, been the saving salt to our national prosperity and life, and yet, so far as known to the writer, in only one city * in the whole Dominion is their place in our history recognized by a holiday, and that only in a local sense. Here has been a great opportunity to perpetuate a noble idea, and to keep alive the fires of patriotism, but it has been neglected, though it is not too late to make reparation. Should not Canadian children celebrate a Forefathers' Day as well as the children of the United States, or are our forefathers not so worthy?
Though there is a distinct Canadian flag, its influence on deepening Canadian sentiment has been far from what it should have been. This is largely due to the fact that the design has never been very popular with Canadians, so that the Union Jack, with out any distinctive emblem, is frequently substituted. Nothing is more promotive of patriotic feeings than an ensign that is popular and distinctive. Surely, after thirty-four years of united Canada, a design for a flag might be decided upon sufficiently simple and sufficiently characteristic for a symbol of Canadian patriotism. If there is to be a change in the present flag it seems a pity it had not been made before our soldiers went to South Africa. The events of the last few years would have helped to have given it a place in the hearts of our people' and associate with it the sentiment of valor. It is quite true that " the flag is more than a piece of bunting ; it means all that is best in the history of a people."
Another institution of our national life which in all countries greatly influences public sentiment, and which with us is not above criticism, is our coinage and general currency. It is not as distinctive or complete as it should be. This is not intended as an objection to the decimal system, which is altogether satisfactory. Neither is any objection made to our banking system, which, in some respects, is unique, while the design for our bank notes, generally speaking, is in harmony with national sentiment. The same may also be said of the silver and copper coinage, as far as the mere design is concerned. But the trouble is, the terms used to designate the coinage are not as distinctively national in character as they should be.
In other words, we have simply borrowed the American system, and with the system, which is good enough, we have also borrowed American names. The American gold dollar is the Canadian standard, and about the only gold coin Canadians know. No objection whatever is apparently made to the fact that it bears the aggressive spread eagle. Canada is the fifth gold-producing country in the world, and should have a mint and a standard gold coin of her own. Australia, much younger and less populous, is much ahead of us in this respect ; and so is the little colony of Newfoundland. It is gratifying to know that this long-delayed institution is about to become an established fact.
The designation of a coin, however, is another matter and worthy of every consideration. It may be regarded as too late now to make any change in even the designation of our coins, since they have become so established by custom. There are, however, some who think the matter of the designation of our coins and general currency is quite as important as that of the national ensign, so far as influencing sentiment is concerned. Various countries of Europe have their florins, francs and roubles, as the case may be ; Great Britain has her pounds, shilling and pence ; the United States the dollar—all as a sort of working standard.
There seems to be no good reason why, if we gave up the British pound, we should have accepted the American dollar, though we adopted the decimal system. The word dollar has no meaning for us as expressive of any sentiment or fact in our past history ; indeed, the word is of doubtful origin. The Americans having adopted it, it became distinctively expressive of the United States, and we became poor imitators. Our currency, therefore, loses a part of its educative value, or rather tends to educate us in the thought that we have more in common with the United States than we have with England, and there is almost absolutely nothing about our coins that speaks to us of the land in which we live.
A very good and truly Canadian monetary system was being evolved in our own country through the trade relations which existed between the fur companies and the Indians. This system had reached, so far as names and values were concerned, a good degree of perfection, and was based on the decimal idea. Nothing could have been better or wiser when the change in our currency was made than to have adapted this truly Canadian currency to the needs of our national system. To this it would have readily lent itself, and the standard could have been precisely the same as it is now, thus bringing us in harmony with the American system, though with different names for our various coins. The beaver, pack, bail and many other expressions could have readily been woven into our national system of currency. As the beaver, or castor, was the standard of value of the great Hudson's Bay Company, so it could have taken the place of the dollar in our national system. This would certainly have been more distinctly national and better in every way than the somewhat clumsy expressions now in use, such as quarters, fifty-cent pieces, and so on. But greatest of all, the educative value of such a coin-age would have been simply incalculable.