Author: Longhurst, John
Date published: March 5, 2012
Growing up in the Niagara of Ontario, I heard a lot about Isaac Brock, the British general who was killed repelling American ers at the battle of Queenston Heights during the War of 1812.
As a child, my father took me on many pilgrimages to the old battlefield. We followed the path of Brocks dash by horseback from Fort George to the village of Queenston, up the heights past the Redan and Vrooman batteries, to the spot where he was shot down while leading a failed charge against American forces.
Later, we'd go to the nearby museum to reverentially gaze at Brock's tunic, the one he wore that fateful day, the bullet hole above his heart still clearly visible.
Yes, I heard lots about Brock, and how he helped save Canada from American invasion. And I expect to hear a lot more about him this year, the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812.
It is only fitting to remember that war, and the people who fought- and diedin it. That conflict shaped our nation. It helped create Canada as we know it today.
But the commemoration won't be complete if it doesn't also celebrate the two centuries of peace between Canada and the U.S. That's no small feat when you consider all the wars that have occurred over the last 200 years.
It will also be missing something if, in addition to remembering the exploits of people like Brock, Laura Secord and Tecumseh, we don't also hear about people like Duncan McCoIl, a Canadian Methodist minister in the Maritimes prevented people in his area from fighting each other.
When war was declared, McCollwhose members lived on both sides of the border in New Brunswick and Maine- called together the men from Canada and the U.S. in his parish and persuaded them to declare they wouldn't fight each other.
According to one report, McCoIl said: "I've baptized you and married you, and I don't believe you want to fight each other." They agreed that they did not.
Later, he personally confronted both American and British soldiers who came to the area, and sent them elsewhere to do their fighting.
McCoIl wasn't the only one to oppose the war. Mennonites, Quakers and Tunkers, now known as Brethren in Christ, who lived near the fighting in Ontario, also refused to fight. Their peaceful witness is being marked this year by the 1812 Bicentennial Peace Committee.
"We wanted to raise public awareness of the presence of these non-resistant Christians during the War of 1812 and to help people learn more about their understanding of what it meant to them to be Christians in a time of being invaded by a neighbouring country",' says Jonathan Selling, a member of the committee.
Among other things, the committee plans to hold events, post information on the web about the role of peacemakers during the conflict, and place historical markers in the region about their peaceful witness.
In 1936, during a visit to Canada, then president Franklin Delano Roosevelt put the decades of friendship between Canada and the U.S. this way: "On both sides of the line, we are so accustomed to an undefended boundary 3,000 miles long that we are inclined perhaps to minimize its vast importance, not only to our own continuing relations, but also to the example which it sets to the other nations of the world."
And that, along with the war that helped create Canada, is also worth commemorating.
John Longhurst is director of resources and public engagement for the Canadian Foodgrains Bank and the author of oped pieces for a number of publications, including Canadian Mennonite.