It’s a war that didn’t change any borders, but in many ways it shaped Canada, speeding it along the road to Confederation.
The War of 1812 will be commemorated on its 200th anniversary over the next three years with re-enactments, displays, books and stamps supported by the federal government.
“The heroic efforts of those who fought for our country in the War of 1812 tell the story of the Canada we know today—an independent and free country with a constitutional monarchy and its own distinct parliamentary system,” said Canadian Heritage Minister James Moore in making the announcements in the Fort George historic site at Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont., Oct. 11.
Activities will officially start June 18, on the 200th anniversary of the United States declaring war on Great Britain and its British North American colonies.
Moore will oversee a special War of 1812 Commemoration Fund which will support community groups in commemorative activities and projects. Among the projects supported are:
- a pan-Canada educational campaign focused on the importance of the war to Canada’s history;
- up to 100 historical re-enactments, commemorations and local events;
- a permanent 1812 memorial, located in the National Capital Region;
- interactive tours, six exhibits and improvements to three national historic sites across the country;
- investment in infrastructure at key 1812 battle sites, such as Fort York and Fort Mississauga in Ontario;
- celebrations honouring the links that many current militia regiments in Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic Canada have to the war.
The federal government is also supporting the City of Toronto in creating a new Book of Remembrance that lists those who died in the Battle of York. York, as Toronto was called during the war, was attacked by American forces that burned the original parliament buildings of Upper Canada.
The book will include the names of the fallen, the places and dates of birth and death, their service records and a brief biography. The book will be on display on a temporary basis in Toronto Market Gallery during 2012 and will later be displayed permanently in Fort York.
Parks Canada and Infrastructure Canada have already set aside $20 million for upgrades and renovations at several War of 1812 national historic sites.
In St. Andrews, N.B., the St. Andrews Blockhouse, one of three fortifications built by the citizens of St. Andrews in 1813 in case of an American invasion, will be restored.
The Shannon-Chesapeake Memorial in Point Pleasant Park in Halifax will be refurbished.
It commemorates the HMS Shannon’s capture of the USS Chesapeake in Boston Harbor in 1813. Its arrival in Halifax marked a turn in the fortunes of the Royal Navy which had surprisingly suffered a number of losses early in the war.
Also being commemorated is Fort Gibraltar in Winnipeg. The fort was originally built in 1810 at the forks of the Red and Assiniboine Rivers. Although it did not see action during the War of 1812, it was captured during the Red River Rebellion. A replica has been built in Whittier Park in the St. Boniface area of Winnipeg.
October will be designated as a month to commemorate the heroes and key battles of the War of 1812.
Other government departments and agencies will also commemorate the war. Canada Post Corporation will issue two stamps commemorating heroes from the war.
The Canadian War Museum in Ottawa will open one of its largest and most innovative projects to commemorate the war. An exhibit, with the working title of Four Wars of 1812, opens in June.
Four Wars of 1812 will weave together the perspectives of the four central participants in the war; Canada, the United States, Britain and First Nations. It will include about 150 artifacts, including the tunic that Sir Isaac Brock was wearing when he was fatally wounded during the Battle of Queenston Heights. The museum will also develop travelling and virtual displays in conjunction with the exhibit and a companion publication.
Other details will be posted as they become available on the website www.1812.gc.ca. Information will also be available through a government mobile application and mobile site. The official War of 1812 iPhone application can be downloaded free at the iTunes App Store. Blackberry and other mobile platform users can access War of 1812 content at m.1812.gc.ca.