Sunday, June 30, 2013

Teaching About Canada's History in the United States History Classroom

Tomorrow Canadians will celebrate their most important national holiday, Canada Day/Fête du Canada, which celebrates the joining of Québec and Ontario with New Brunswick and Nova Scotia creating the federation of Canada. The history of the United States is so closely linked to Canada that it is a travesty that Canadian history is rarely taught as part of a typical U.S. history class. In fact, Americans have very little knowledge of their neighbors to the north. A poll last year in Toronto's National Post found that less than half of Americans can name Canada's capital and very few Americans can name the current Prime Minister.

What events should be discussed in a U.S. history class? First, most Americans do not know that the U.S. invaded Canada at least three times (French and Indian War, War of Independence, and War of 1812). From the French and Indian War (also known in French-speaking Canada as La guerre de la Conquête or The War of Conquest) to genocides committed by New Englanders in Arcadia during the colonial era, Americans have been aggressors toward Canadians before there was even a United States. From being the end of the line of the Underground Railroad to supporting the north during the Civil War and allowing the Lakota Indians led by Sitting Bull to stay in Canada after fleeing from the U.S. government, Canadians have often supported racial justice in the U.S. (in fact, Canada has an incredibly important multicultural provision in their constitution). Finally, the 20th century saw the strengthening of U.S.-Canadian relations as the two countries were allies in World War I and II, and the Korean War, as well as the controversial signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement that was put into effect in 1994 (and to this day has been blamed for massive job losses in both Canada and the U.S.).

Happy birthday Canada, and here is hoping in the next year that Americans learn more about you...

(In case you are American, above is a picture of Ottawa, which is the capital of Canada. It was in part chosen the capital in 1857 because Queen Victoria was advised its distance from the U.S. border could help it be more defensible from a possible U.S. invasion)

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