Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Red, white and you: Quiet Canadians no more

The closet patriot has been replace by a maple leaf flag-waving, face-painted, tattooed crazy Canuck

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OTTAWA -- July 1, 1927. The grainy, black-and-white photographs show crowds of thousands lined up for a parade or gathered on the lawn of the Manitoba legislature.

It's Dominion Day, the 60th anniversary of Canadian Confederation, and Manitobans marked the occasion with two days of festivities; parades, pageants, baseball and cricket matches, fireworks at Sargent Park. It was topped off with a national Sunday thanksgiving service at the legislature where the Free Press reported "thousands of voices rang out in joyous acknowledgement of their patriotism" as they sang O Canada.

Clearly pride in country was high and the crowds joyous.

But missing from those photographs are any sign of the flag-waving, maple-leaf-face-painted revellers who dominate Canada Day celebrations today.

Anthony Wilson-Smith, head of the Historica-Dominion Institute, said he doesn't think Canadians are truly more proud of their country today; he thinks they're just more willing to shout it from the rooftops.

"We used to have this kind of quiet patriotism," he said. "Now, we're less reluctant to show it, particularly among younger Canadians."

Just look at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, a two-week spectacle of red-mitten-wearing, flag-waving, foot-stomping patriotism, where a gold medal could send throngs of people celebrating in the streets.

It was a far cry from the more quiet patriotism of the Calgary Winter Olympics in 1988, where Canadians were proud but just not as loud.

"We now wear our patriotism on our sleeve," Wilson-Smith said.

In Manitoba this Monday, nearly six in 10 people are very likely or somewhat likely to attend a public celebration for Canada Day. Families with young children are the most likely to hit up a parade or public festival while older Canadians and those without children at home are the least likely to do so.

But whether Manitobans perceive themselves as more patriotic these days seems, in part, to depend on their political leanings.

A Probe Research poll done for the Winnipeg Free Press found Tory voters were more likely than Liberal or NDP supporters to believe they are more patriotic today than they were five years ago and far less likely to say their patriotism has diminished.

Overall, nearly half of Manitobans -- 47 per cent -- don't think their level of pride in the country has changed, while 26 per cent say they are more proud and 25 per cent say they are less proud.

But almost four in 10 NDP supporters and nearly one in three Liberal supporters say their pride in Canada has diminished, compared to 15 per cent of Tory supporters. Almost one in three Tory supporters is more proud of Canada today, compared to one in five NDP or Liberal supporters.

Curtis Brown, senior research associate at Probe Research, said this may be tied, in part, to the fact Liberal and NDP voters are less likely to support the direction the current federal government is taking on issues such as the military and the environment.

"It kind of makes sense," said Brown. "Liberals and the NDP supporters, they tend to have a different world view of what Canada is all about (than the current government)."

The poll was taken by phone of 1,000 people between June 10 and 20, and has a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

Canadians have celebrated Canada Day since the year after Confederation. The size and scope of celebrations have varied depending on the year -- but lately the spectacles have grown to become multimillion-dollar, nationwide expressions of pride in our country.

The federal government will spend more than $8 million on Canada Day celebrations from coast to coast this year -- with $288,305 going to Manitoba for various local festivals, parades and fireworks displays.

On June 20, 1868, a year after Confederation, Gov. Gen. Lord Monck called for all Canadian residents to celebrate the first anniversary of the union of British North American provinces as Canada, on July 1. Small events and celebrations followed. It wasn't until 1879, however, that the holiday was officially established by government statute, but then it was called Dominion Day.

Even then, the events were low-key, with plans for cricket matches and baseball games and a performance at Winnipeg's city hall by the Troubadours.

Over the next few decades, Dominion Day celebrations mainly focused on sporting events and picnics and outings to the beach. Oftentimes, July 1 found trains from Winnipeg to Victoria Beach crammed with people.

Celebrations would sometimes include prayer services at the Manitoba legislature or events on the lawn of Parliament Hill. The federal government would often mark specific anniversaries with commemorations, such as using the 60th birthday of Canada to inaugurate the Carillon in the Peace Tower of the Parliament Buildings.

Annie Romaniuk, 66, has lived in Winnipeg since 1965 and doesn't remember much patriotic flag-waving for Dominion Day.

"We grew up on a farm and nobody celebrated it, until we came to the city. Not even my kids; nobody ever thought of it as a big day."

Official national events began in 1958, often including multicultural and musical concerts, and in 1981 the federal government began funding celebrations across the country, starting with 15 fireworks displays in cities including Winnipeg.

Many times, there has been royalty on hand to help celebrate, including most recently a visit by Prince William and his new bride, Kate Middleton, in 2011.

Queen Elizabeth has been here many times, with her first visit in 1967 including a memorable fake chocolate cake. The four-tier, seven-metre-tall plywood cake was iced with chocolate, which ran in the rain leaving the cake resembling "chocolate sauce spread over a vast sea of vanilla ice cream." Despite that, Prince Phillip reportedly did nibble on the icing.

In 1982, Dominion Day was changed to Canada Day, and the ramping up of pride seemed to begin. Corporate sponsors signed on to help pay for events. Citizenship ceremonies have been added to most major events, and everywhere you go there are fireworks, cakes and a whole lot of red and white.

An estimated 350,000 people hit Parliament Hill on Canada Day now, and as many as 40 per cent of them aren't from the Ottawa area. Last year, estimates had "tens of thousands" of Winnipeggers attending various events at The Forks, Osborne Village, the legislature, Assiniboine Park and elsewhere.

"Now, everywhere you go there's a whole lot of flags out there," said Wilson-Smith.

He said his own family will have Canadian flags all over the outside of their home this Canada Day.

Canadian Heritage Minister James Moore, the man in charge of all things patriotic when it comes to Canada Day, said he definitely thinks excitement is higher about Canada Day than when he was a kid.

"I remember as a kid Canada Day was a small little local community thing," he said. "Now Canadians are a little bit more assertive about it."

He said he remembers getting caught in the rain "hoping for fireworks and seeing someone setting off roman candles from a rowboat."

Nothing like the expensive pyrotechnic displays most major cities put on these days.

Interestingly, many polls, including Probe's, suggest younger Canadians are most likely to say they're less patriotic and less likely to identify with their country first.

But in 2000, it was the growing sense of patriotism among the young that launched one of the most memorable pro-Canadian commercials ever.

Most Canadians of a certain age will remember the Molson beer "I am Canadian" rant that premi®red in 2000: An actor clad in a plaid shirt and jeans, standing at a microphone, shouting with increasing fervour about how great Canada is, professing our love for the beaver and that tuques are hats and chesterfields are sofas and "it is pronounced zed, not zee, zed."

Wilson-Smith said he was a journalist when the ad was released and wrote a story about it, including an interview with then-head of Molson Inc. Dan O'Neill.

O'Neill initially nixed the ad when it was first pitched, thinking it would not work. When the researchers came back to him they had found "support was so high for chest-thumping patriotism," especially among men who were between 18 and 25 years old, the ad should work.

And it did. Movie-theatre audiences spontaneously clapped and cheered when it played and the ad went viral among Canadian young people especially, despite the fact this was before both Twitter and Facebook.

The ad was so successful Molson stock rose and the actor was hired to do a one-day, cross-country stint bringing the rant to Canada Day celebrations from coast to coast that July 1. Some at the Osborne Village street party that year waited hours just to see him, and actor Jeff Douglas did not disappoint the Maple Leaf-lovers.

"This takes pride to a whole new level," he told reporters in Winnipeg.

Moore said this year he plans to co-host the noon show on Parliament Hill, his family at his side, his pride in country on his sleeve.

While he isn't among the 20 per cent of Canadians who would permanently mark his body with the Maple Leaf, he'll still dress the part.

"No tattoo," he said." But I'll have a red tie on."

-- with files from Oliver Sachgau

mia.rabson@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 29, 2013 D8

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