First Published: New Canada, Vol 4, No 6, Nov-Dec 1973
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Malcolm and Paul Saba
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This year during November and December, Canadians are celebrating the revolutions in Upper and Lower Canada 1837-39. Not only are we holding specific events to commemorate the uprisings, we are celebrating by following in the footsteps of our ancestors – fighting for Canadian independence.
Across Canada, the people are organising to stop the U.S. takeover. Workers, especially in British Columbia, have been leading the struggle for Canadian independence by throwing out U.S. unions and forming militant independent Canadian unions. Students have been organising against the Americanisation of Canadian universities by opposing the Ontario government’s Wright Report and the invasion of U.S. professors. Farmers are militantly opposing the takeover of Canadian farming by U.S. Agri-business.
Canadians have a long history of anti-imperialist struggle. The revolutions of 1837-39 are the best example of the fighting spirit of Canadians. Today if we are to succeed in liberating Canada, we must revive that fighting spirit.
For a number of years, the Canadian Liberation Movement has promoted the slogan “Revive the Spirit of ’37”. What does this mean?
In order to revive the Spirit of ’37, the CLM first organised “Anti-Imperialist Day” in 1971. In that year a parade was held in Toronto – the centre of revolutionary activity in Upper Canada in 1837. Since then the celebration has been held on the Saturday closest to December 4th – the day the patriots marched on Toronto. Anti-Imperialist Day is unprecedented in Canadian history – a day in which Canadians honour the heroes who fought for Canadian independence and resolve to complete the struggle.
In 1972, the parade set out from Toronto’s City Hall square. The skirl of the bagpipes, the stirring beat of the drums and a large red and gold banner reading, “Revive the Spirit of ’37” led the way in a spirited march.
The modern-day patriots first marched to King and Toronto Streets where Samuel Lount and Peter Matthews, two leaders of the revolution, were hanged. Lount, a blacksmith and Matthews, a farmer, were executed as an example to those still fighting in London, Windsor, Welland and Prescott. The visit to the site of the hanging was the first public remembrance in 134 years. There is no plaque at the site to commemorate these heroes.
The march continued to the Toronto Necropolis where Mackenzie, Lount and Matthews are buried. Descendants of the patriots of 1837 and people active in the present struggle for Canadian liberation laid wreaths at the graves. At the monument to Lount and Matthews, Gary Perly, CLM national chairman laid a wreath on behalf of the movement and pointed out that the column is broken off, unfinished, to symbolise that the work of Lount and Matthews is not yet done. Today it is our job to complete their work and free Canada from foreign domination.
In 1972, the CLM Thunder Bay club celebrated two other Canadian heroes. Rosval and Voutilainen, two Finnish-Canadian workers were murdered in 1929, while organising lumber workers in the Port Arthur area in North-Western Ontario. The present-day patriots laid wreaths at their graves.
This year patriots will hold Anti-Imperialist Day celebrations in other cities across Canada. They will commemorate their local heroes in an attempt to show their community the living, breathing excitement of Canadian history.
Anti-Imperialist Day thrills and inspires everyone involved. It makes them proud to be Canadians. It gathers people who have been involved in particular anti-imperialist and progressive struggles throughout the year in a general manifestation, serving to remind us of our revolutionary heritage as well as developing a growing feeling of hope in our future and the struggle for Canadian liberation.