Our quiet northern agenda for 2017 — 150th anniversary of the 1867 confederation in Canada

Jan 8th, 2017 | By Counterweights Editors | Category: In Brief

Emperor Meiji moves from Kyoto to Tokyo 1868, as imagined by Le Monde Illustre.

In the United Kingdom and the United States 2017 will be the year we start to find out just how crazy Brexit and Donald Trump are really going to be. We make no predictions. But we are trying to pretend we’re mentally (and financially) prepared for almost anything. L’histoire a beaucoup de passages astucieux.

Meanwhile, we will be focusing on our own backyard  — up here in what the conclusion to Harold Innis’s 1930 Canadian history classic perhaps somewhat over-exuberantly called “the northern half of North America.” (Or what we have more recently alluded to as “the most northerly part of North America entirely covered by ice 20,000 years ago, now known as Canada.”)

One excuse is that July 1, 2017 will mark the 150th anniversary of the present Canadian confederation of 1867 — in the wake of the American Civil War, and just before the ironically christened Meiji Restoration in Japan.

Toronto Street Railway snowbound — by W.N. Langton in the Canadian Illustrated News, 12 February 1881.

(We agree as well that it is not quite right to call this date the 150th birthday of Canada. Modern Canada is both much older and younger. “Canada” itself is an aboriginal or indigenous word. And as the editor of the admired first volume of the Historical Atlas of Canada explained in the late 1980s, research since the Second World War “has tended to confirm Harold Innis’s general insights … As Innis maintained, the pattern of Canada has been taking shape for almost 500 years … .” And then it is also true that, as noted elsewhere, “Canada today is a much younger country than even many Canadians imagine. There was no such legal status as a ‘Canadian citizen’ until after the Second World War. The first Canadian Citizenship Act took effect on January 1, 1947” — a mere 70 years ago in 2017!)

* * * *

Meetings and more informal talk over the past several weeks have also helped us here in our small corner clarify the more immediate, short to mid term future of this counterweights website.

Until Canada Day on July 1, 2017 — a Saturday, suitably enough — the site will carry on as in the past. But this will include a recent trend toward somewhat less frequent postings on current events, as our contributing staff age and retire and/or take on fresh commitments elsewhere.

After July 1, 2017 the site will remain in place (if that is the correct technical term, which it probably is not). But new postings on current events will become somewhat less frequent again. They may also intermittently take a broader and less narrowly time-sensitive focus.

Whatever else, under earlier ad hoc arrangements that have now been formalized, the site will remain in place until the completion of  Randall White’s current book project, tentatively entitled  Children of the Global Village — Canada in the 21st Century : Tales about the history that matters. And the present “Long Journey to a Canadian Republic” page on the counterweights site will carry the finished project for no less than one year after it has been completed.

As matters stand no one knows just when the one year in question will finally arrive. Warming up on the streetcar yesterday Dr. White confessed : “I would certainly like to finish by July 1 of this year, but that will not happen. It may be July 1, 2018 before it’s complete, or even beyond.”

When it does finally happen there will be another evaluation of the long-term future. Meanwhile almost all the current staff have now signed on until then for somewhat less frequent contributions.

We would also like to thank everyone who has encouraged us to keep something alive for a while longer yet. And our very best wishes to all our esteemed counterweights visitors for all of 2017.

(Even those from Russia who seem to have become more frequent lately! Les hommes font leur propre histoire, mais pas seulement comme ils veulent … La tradition de toutes les générations mortes pèse d’un poids très lourd sur le cerveau des vivants. Et joyeux anniversaire à la Confédération canadienne de 1867.)

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