The True North

You may not know this, but the original name for Canada, dreamed up by a parliamentary committee in London, England, was that of “Cold North Dominion”. However this was too long, so they abbreviated it to C.N.D.  The King’s Royal Governor then presented the new name to the inhabitants of the land, but they didn’t say a word. “Well, what do you think?” asked the Royal Governor? “C, eh?” said the first fellow, and just looked at the Governor. “N, eh?” said the second guy. “D, eh?” said a third one.  Then silence. “Hey,” thought the Governor. “I like that.  It’s a lot easier to pronounce when you spell it that way – C(eh)N(eh)D(eh).” And that’s how Canada got its name!

Well, the above isn’t accurate, but the following is.  In O Canada, the nation is described as the True North.  Where did that come from and what does it mean?

First, it is a secondary reference of America to the south and their refusal to support the monarchy when the British ex-patriots formed the United States in 1776.  As I have written in a previous pastor’s page:

One of the common mistakes we make in the 1776 American Revolution, is to see it solely a bloody battle between the independence-minded Americans and the tax-determined British.  However, such is far from the case.  In reality, there was a great divide within (back) the colonists themselves between loyalists (pro-Britain) and patriots (pro-American) – pitting many towns, churches, neighbours, friends, families, even couples and siblings against each other.  Historians have even called this America’s first real civil war – of the 2,500,000 colonists around 20% (500,000) were loyalists.   And when the patriots proved victorious, these monarchists fled north to Canada realizing that they could not, either in safety or in philosophy, remain in a country that did not give allegiance to the crown.  In so doing, they had to leave everything behind, taking only what could be carried.  So it wasn’t just America that came into being in 1776,  in many ways so also did Canada.

Second, it is a primary reference to Canada in the north and her decision to oppose the “Little Englanders” movement in Great Britain and remain a tried-and-true subject of the English world-wide crown when Canada became a nation in 1867.  The Little Englanders were English nationalists who opposed the idea of a British Empire (and the taxes paid to support it) and wanted England to stretch no further than the boundaries of the United Kingdom.  (Thus their 1867 wish was that Canada would become part of the United States and so  the Americans would foot the bill for developing  and defending the then northern wilderness.)  But when Canadians chose – not once, but twice (1776 & 1867) the Brits over the Yanks, the poet laureate, Alfred Lloyd Tennyson penned a poem in honour of the occasions calling Canada  the True (loyal) North to Queen Victoria as opposed to those south of the border.