Seamanship Quotation

“In political activity, then, men sail a boundless and bottomless sea; there is neither harbour for shelter nor floor for anchorage, neither starting-place nor appointed destination.”
— from Michael Oakeshott's
Political Education” (1951)

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Another hole in the Canadian myth

Inventing historical differences is one of the upside-down consequences of being a Canadian liberal and, at the same time, being against integration with the world’s greatest liberal republic just next door. They are also doubly burdened with the obligation of upholding Tory myths.

We’re not repelled by America’s mission statement: “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.” How could any Western liberal or contemporary conservative? And, in truth, we’re not serious monarchists because we treat our prime minister like a president. We simply have a separate mission statement of our own.

“Peace, Order, and Good Government” came in our first constitution in 1867. Popular mythology teaches that it shrewdly reflects our relatively temperate ways. It’s flat on purpose, our quiet offering to a reckless, foolish world.

Neil Reynolds of the Globe and Mail, wonderfully, has no time for comfort food for Canadians of any stripe. Yesterday, he brought to the attention of Globe readers the truth about what we thought we were all about:

“As a matter of historical fact, it (peace, order, and good government) was imperial boilerplate that dated back to the 1700s – more than a century before it made its way into Canada’s constitution, the British North America Act, in 1867. Aside from Canada, this ubiquitous phrase turned up in the colonial constitutions of Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Ireland – and of lesser British territorial domains. It is as uniquely Canadian as kippers.

“As used in Section 91 of the BNA Act, the phrase merely confirmed Queen Victoria’s right – through Parliament – to govern: “It shall be lawful for the Queen … to make laws for the peace, order and good government of Canada.”


POGG is in Canada’s constitution because busy English legal draftsmen put it there.  It’s not a North American idea. As such, it’s a feeble symbol to use to uphold Canada’s independence. 

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