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September 12, 2012 | Viewpoints | Number 18

Canadians in 1812 were patriotic

In Jonathan Seiling’s series, “Landscapes of War, a People of Peace,” he raises a few matters which are open to debate. Most Upper Canadians were loyal to the crown; many of them were United Empire Loyalists who came as refugees after the American Revolution. They began to arrive in the early 1780s and from that moment onward they were constantly faced with the threat of war from the United States.

Seiling argues, as does American historian Alan Taylor, that in 1812 Canadians did not have a sense of patriotism and identity which was solely Canadian. This theory can be discredited in one song entitled “Come all ye bold Canadians” which was written in 1812 after the Battle of Detroit. At the Battle of Queenston Heights, of the 1366 British who fought, 653 were Canadian militiamen. The British government was preoccupied with the war against Napoleon in Europe and Sir Isaac Brock knew he had to rely heavily on the Canadian militia and Aboriginal allies to defend the province.

There were some disloyal Canadians; the most notorious was Joseph Willcocks, a Member of Parliament and republican newspaper editor. Willcocks was born in Ireland, not America, and was a friend of Brock. He remained loyal to Upper Canada until the American occupation in 1813 when he decided it would be best to side with the Yanks. Willcocks was instrumental in the burning of Niagara (Niagara-on-the-Lake) on December 10, 1813. He and his men torched 200 buildings, leaving 400 women, children and elderly to freeze in a blizzard.

The people of Upper Canada did not want war—the peace churches were not alone in their abhorrence of violence—but neither did they want their property stolen by the American invaders. War is not something to be glorified, but it is something we as Mennonites should learn about in order to reinforce our belief that war is morally wrong. Those who lived through the War of 1812 experienced terrible atrocities. Did they choose to become victims of American aggression? Absolutely not. We must remember them and learn the truth about their suffering.

Julie McCabe, St. Catharines, Ont.

Dress codes for those in leadership could help

I read with interest the two letters to the editor concerning respect for women and women’s dress in the August 20 issue. I was particularly struck by the comments attributed to the female pastor who asserted that every woman has the right to dress as she pleases. Although it is not a problem I have noted personally, I have some sympathy with Mr. Kipfer’s comments that people in the pew don’t know where to focus their eyes, given the dress of some women in leadership.

While I certainly feel that many women could use better judgment, I agree that a woman has a right to dress as she pleases—in her private life. However, as anyone who works in the corporate world will tell you, this right does not necessarily extend to her professional life. Every organization I have ever worked for has a well-defined dress code for both men and women, regardless of their position in the company, and managers are expected to ensure their teams comply. The policy of one of my previous employers was to send offenders home to change if the infraction was especially egregious. As someone who has given “the talk” on numerous occasions, I can assure you it is embarrassing but effective.

Surely it is not unreasonable for a church, or perhaps even Mennonite Church Canada, to provide at least general guidelines, if not a specific dress code, for appropriate attire for both men and women in leadership roles. If guidelines are already in place, then an Elder or Church Council member must take responsibility for addressing problems as they arise. 

Arlene Reesor, Stouffville, Ont.

Special women have shaped care-giving

Re: “Legacy of a holy hostess,” July 9, page 12.

While reading this article I found myself agreeing on so many points. There is also a group of women at my church who are aging and I too fear that this legacy will be lost with them. As a young stay-at-home mom I found myself more than agreeing with the article. I found in myself a desire to reflect and imitate the gracious hospitality of these women in my own life and home. As I look at my lifestyle and priorities I realize that something needs to shift to accommodate such an open and giving lifestyle.

Thank you for acknowledging these very special women who have shaped care-giving in our churches, most of whom are so humble they will fail to recognize themselves in this article. They are a wonderful example to us and I pray that my generation will glean all we can from them before we lose them.

Rebecca Penfold, Tavistock, Ont.

Move to sustainable energy urgently needed

The planet is warming and the climate is changing in dangerous ways. This has happened before, but this time it is caused by humans.

On Aug. 20, 2012 the American Meteorological Society stated, “There is unequivocal evidence that Earth’s lower atmosphere, ocean, and land surface are warming; sea level is rising; and snow cover, mountain glaciers, and Arctic sea ice are shrinking. The dominant cause of the warming since the 1950s is human activities. This scientific finding is based on a large and persuasive body of research. The observed warming will be irreversible for many years into the future, and even larger temperature increases will occur as greenhouse gases continue to accumulate in the atmosphere. Avoiding this future warming will require a large and rapid reduction in global greenhouse gas emissions.”

These climate disruptions are hurting the poor and vulnerable first. This is doubly unjust because they are the ones who have contributed the least to the aggregate human activities which are causing the growing climate emergency. In reflecting on poverty and the environment, Ugandan Bishop Zac Niringiye says that the problem is not poverty but greed, and the global North’s excessive use of earth’s resources. He calls us in the North to change the slogan, “Make poverty history” to “Make greed history.”

In addressing this threat to the planet, Haluza-Delay is right to say that “simple lifestyle changes are only a piece of the puzzle.” As a society we need to quickly transition from a fossil fuel-based economy to a clean, sustainable energy economy. Fortunately the technology needed is already at hand to significantly improve energy efficiencies, and to generate much more power from renewable sources like solar, wind, geothermal and biomass. We can start this transition by removing the $1.4 billion in annual tax subsidies to the profitable fossil fuel industry, as Federal Environment Minister Kent has repeatedly promised to do. We can put a price on carbon emissions and rebate those funds directly to Canadian households so they can finance their own transition to clean energy, as B.C. has begun to do.

“The earth is the LORD’s and the fullness thereof” (Psalm 24:1), and God placed us in the garden “to till it and keep it” (Gen. 2:15). Creation reflects the love and provision of the Creator. Our respect and care for creation reflects in turn our love for the Creator.

Doug Pritchard, Toronto Ont.

Fifty years of Peace

This is the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of the first novel, Peace Shall Destroy Many by Rudy Wiebe. Many Mennonites, especially Mennonite Brethren, were caught up in a wide range of responses to the novel. Some felt deeply dismayed by its appearance, others felt liberated. The Canadian Mennonite magazine of the day, edited by the late Frank Epp, made space for their responses.

In preparation for a historical assessment of the reception of Peace Shall Destroy Many, I am seeking people’s memories and understandings of reactions to that event a half-century ago. Please email your recollections to me at or mail them to me c/o Department of English and Film Studies, Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo ON N2L 3C5.

Paul Tiessen, Kitchener, Ont.

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