The White House aflame and not a Canadian in sight on the night of Aug. 24, 1814 (Illustration:

I blame Stephen Harper.

Face it, Canada’s latest trade troubles wouldn’t have happened without him!

If Mr. Harper hadn’t spent $30 million or so of our tax money “commemorating” the War of 1812, who would’ve known our side burned down the White House and sundry other buildings in Washington, D.C., in August of that year?

Stephen Harper, the former Republican or something prime minister of Canada (Photo: World Economic Forum).

Certainly not a lummox like Donald Trump, the current occupant of the building we Canadians have been bragging about burning down for nearly 204 years now.

The $30 million spent by the Government of Canada on Mr. Harper’s watch as prime minister during the bicentennial year of the War of 1812, by the way, seems to have been part of a misguided effort to make Canada more like the United States by emphasizing military campaigns over other Canadian accomplishments. This was done, presumably, to make it easier for Trump-like characters like Doug Ford to get elected in Canada. We’ll have to wait for a few more hours to see how that worked out.

The Harper Conservatives, for example, had very little to say about the 40th anniversary of the Official Languages Act or the 30th anniversary of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, both of which fell in the same year as the War of 1812 bicentennial.

Both of those, however, could be fairly described as the accomplishments of Liberal governments led by someone named Trudeau, so it’s no surprise the hyper-partisan Harper Conservatives wanted them to just go away, along with the distinctly Canadian accomplishments they represented.

Donald Trump, the current conservative or something President of the United States (Photo: Gage Skidmore, Wikimedia Commons).

It was just bad luck (as it turns out) that the military bicentennial that came up while Mr. Harper’s Republican-like Conservative Party of Canada was in power happened to be one that involved a confrontation with the United States in Washington, D.C., albeit a Washington that was not yet the imperial planetary capital.

Never mind that Canadians had little or nothing to do with the burning of the White House. You can blame the Royal Marines for that, along with a little help from the Royal Engineers and sundry regiments of the British Army. As far as anyone seems to know, there wasn’t a single Canadian on the job inside the as-yet-unimagined Beltway that night.

Indeed, you could probably credit Canada with putting the fire out. After all, the destruction of Washington was mostly a dud as a result of a heavy rainstorm, and as all Canadian TV watchers know, our American cousins almost always blame bad weather on Canada.

That notwithstanding, we own the White House fire now, having been taking unjustified credit for it for nigh on 204 years. Even so, if Mr. Harper had used our money to celebrate the adoption of the Charter, it’s hardly likely his buddy Mr. Trump – who the Conservatives liked so much better than President Barack Obama for some reason – would even have heard about it.

By the way, if you don’t like me blaming Mr. Harper personally for dumb spending decisions by the Canadian government that had unintended ironic consequences, I don’t care. If that kind of treatment is good enough for President Vladimir Putin, who gets personally blamed for everything Russia is accused of doing, it’s good enough for the leader of the Munich-based Neoliberal Internationale.

Now that President Trump has apparently told Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, a chip off the old Liberal block, that he can put a huge tariff on Canadian steel and aluminum for reasons of “national security” because we are the guys who once burned down the White House, it’s fair to put the blame for this idea squarely where it belongs: on Mr. Harper and his Conservatives, some of whom even crossed the border to campaign for Mr. Trump.

As for the appropriate Canadian response to Mr. Trump’s pronouncements at this point, we could always show some spine and stick it to Mr. Trump by celebrating Aug. 24, the 204th anniversary of the burning of the White House in 1814. We could declare the 24th a national day of observance to mark The Day We Burned Ole D.C. Down.

I’d suggest lighting bonfires all along the 49th Parallel to remind our neighbours of what “we” once did to them and how we feel about what they’re doing to us, but thanks to the global climate leadership of Mr. Harper’s Conservatives and Mr. Trump’s Republicans that would probably be too risky, especially if a stiff wind is blowing!

The War of 1812 was fought between Britain and the United States over something like the Royal Navy’s bad habit of kidnapping American merchant sailors and impressing them into naval duty or the way the Americans were casting their greedy eyes at Canada. Depending on whom you talk to either way, it was a definite sideshow to the Napoleonic Wars, which ran from 1803 to 1815 and featured a French guy named Bonaparte.

Napoleon eventually met his Waterloo at, well, Waterloo. That was on June 18, 1815, and there is no doubt about who won that day, although like the Ontario election today, there was still some when everyone got up on the morning of the battle.

There remains some disagreement however, about who won the War of 1812. Canadians have said to each other for years that we did (meaning the British, seeing as Canada wasn’t officially a country until 1867) while our next door neighbours apparently learned another story in school. Whatever.

But who knew they’d be paying attention to what we were saying?

Thanks, Harper!

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  1. Exactly what I thought when I heard Trump was muttering about something that happened 200 years ago.

    I went so far as to complain by email to the PM about those stupid ads Harper put out in 2012. Canada wasn’t even a country then. I pointed out that even Johnny Horton got it right in his 1959 hit The Battle of New Orleans calling them British.

    I received not even an acknowledgement. Harper wanted to be a complete revisionist, much as Albertans want to dun David Suzuki. Ignore facts, full steam ahead over the cliff.

  2. We (the Brits) won the war but lost the negotiations – gave back everything gained, including Michigan Territory that was promised to our Indian Allies. Focus was on Napoleon instead. As for the Battle of New Orleans – meh. The war was already over.

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