Getting It Wrong
How Canadians Forgot Their Past and Imperilled ConfederationBook - 1999
On a snowy November day in 1872, the premier of Ontario is speaking in his constituency, and he tells a story - the story of his people's long struggle for liberty ...
With this vignette Paul Romney leads us onto a lost middle ground between conflicting visions of Canada's past. He reminds that both French and English Canadians once regarded Confederation as a compact of provinces and of peoples, designed to permit each partner to cultivate its own distinct society. In English Canada that original conception gave way to a nationalist myth, which alienated French Canadians by its celebration of nation-building and exaltation of federal power. English Canada's forgetting resulted in a "historic blunder" - patriation of the Canadian constitution without Quebec's consent.
How did that happen? Romney presents the politics of nineteenth-century Ontario as a confrontation between two competing myths - one of resistance to subversion, and one of resistance to oppression. The latter sustained a long struggle for local autonomy, leading successively to colonial self-government, Confederation, and the entrenchment of provincial rights. It fitted well with the French-Canadian idea of Confederation. But immigration, industrialization and a growing sense of Canadian nationhood transmuted both myths into rival nationalisms - one liberal and anti-British, the other conservative and anti-American, but both of them centralist in orientation.
Ranging across two centuries, this provocative book reveals Canadians in confrontation with the Americans, the British, and each other. It argues that prospects for Canadian unity must depend on recognizing Confederation's true complexity as a compact of peoples and provinces, and on reconciling English-Canadian and Quebecois understandings of Canada's past.
Lively yet learned, Getting it Wrong is a history book that speaks to Canada's present condition.