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How will Harper mark the anniversary of World War I?

How will Stephen Harper mark the 100th anniversary of World War I this year?


In November 2012, the Boston Globe reported, “Led by Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the Canadian government has fully embraced a vision (of aggressive patriotism), emphasizing the country’s military history and spending millions to promote its image as a nation of uncompromising fighters.” Trent University professor Christopher Dummitt has already commented in the Ottawa Citizen that we should expect to see “Stephen Harper proclaim that there is one interpretation of the war, and it just happens to reinforce (his) ideology…”

And yet University of Cambridge professor Christopher Clark cautions in the Guardian UK today, “It remains important that we challenge manipulative or reductive readings of the past when these are mobilised in support of present-day political objectives.” 

And so given these warnings, the experience of the Harper government’s $30-million advertising campaign on the anniversary of the War of 1812, and that the centennial anniversary of the start of World War I falls just over a year prior to the October 2015 federal election, this question merits our attention.

Another article in the Guardian UK today reports on how the anniversary will be marked in Germany, Italy, France and Britain. “France will invite thousands of descendants of war from 31 countries, from Albania to Yemen, to organise marches commemorating the destiny and suffering of their men. …Britain’s official commemorations will include the centenary of the first day of conflict on 4 August… Funds are being distributed to hundreds of groups and communities for large and small schemes, including a grant that will allow the twinned towns of Newark in England and Emmendingen in Germany to recreate the Christmas 1914 football match in which opposing forces from the trenches on the western front came together in an unofficial truce.”

That article also notes, “Other beneficiaries of funding include, to their surprise, pacifist campaigners who have been allocated £95,800 for projects to raise awareness of the role of the more than 16,000 conscientious objectors. However, the plans are not without critics, most vocally in the form of anti-war activists who have come together in a No Glory campaign backed by high-profile supporters such as the actors Jude Law and Alan Rickman and the poet laureate, Carol Ann Duffy.”

More than 9 million people were killed during the 1914-18 war. Let us be sure that the Harper government doesn’t use that devastating loss of human life and that muddy carnage to advance his ideology and world view, or more pointedly to glorify war and take us into more of them.