VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Where do our national symbols come from? And how have their meanings changed over time? A new book is exploring some of the objects and concepts that help define us as a nation.
“These symbols can mean different things to different people,” says historian Michael Dawson, one of the three editors of Symbols of Canada, an illustrated book of 23 essays covering everything from the beaver to Tim Horton’s.
“Symbols, to me, act as sort of a shorthand reference point,” he explains.
“They help us to define who we are and when we define who we are, we’re most often doing that by defining ourselves in opposition to somebody else, right? Whether it be hockey or the word ‘eh’ or universal healthcare, that’s a group of symbols that are quite often used to distinguish Canadians from Americans, for example.”
Dawson wrote the chapters on the National Anthem, Tim Horton’s, and the Mounties himself.
“Simply, the Mountie is one that has retained its popularity right from the 19th century on,” Dawson says. “It’s consistently been used to express positive things about English Canadian identity to be sure. [But] it’s much less popular amongst French Canadians for a number of historical reasons.”
Other symbols explored in the book include the canoe, the Fleur-de-Lys, the flag, and maple syrup.
Symbols of Canada is published by Between the Lines books.