Stephen Harper celebrates the 200th birthday of John A. Macdonald
Stephen Harper. (ANDRE FORGET/QMI AGENCY)
KINGSTON, Ont. -- Prime Minister Stephen Harper marked the 200th anniversary of the birth of the country's first prime minister here Sunday with a speech that connected John A. Macdonald's legacy to the character of the country Macdonald helped create.
He was "an ordinary man of whom little was expected but who, given the opportunity, did extraordinary things," Harper said in a speech in the room at Kingston's 172-year-old city hall where Macdonald lay in state upon his death in 1891.
"That is what Canada is really all about, like none other in the world, a country where what you've done and where you're going matter more than where you're from or who you know, a country that thus embodies the story of its founder."
Harper's speech was part of an event organized by the city of Kingston to mark the 200th anniversary of Macdonald's birth on Jan. 11, 1815 in Glasgow, Scotland. Among the dignitaries invited to attend was Tricia Marwick, the presiding officer of the Parliament of Scotland. Former prime ministers John Turner and Kim Campbell were also among the 250 invited guests.
For Harper's visit, there was a heavy visible security presence of municipal and RCMP officers. A handful of demonstrators with anti-Harper placards protested peacefully outside the building.
Inside, Harper was praised for using his office to promote Canadian history, whether it be through his support for the search for the lost ships of the Franklin expedition or the program of activities surround the 200th anniversary of The War of 1812. Harper has been accused by some academics and by his political opponents of using these historical events to further his and his party's political goals.
In his speech, Harper encouraged more Canadians to learn more about Macdonald and the creation of modern Canada.
"Without Sir John A. Macdonald, Canada as we know it, the best country in the world, surely would not exist," Harper said. "There was nothing certain or inevitable about what he and his fellow Fathers of Confederation accomplished. It was in fact remarkable. And it is truly a story every generation should know."
At end of the ceremony, Canada Post unveiled a new commemorative stamp and the Royal Canadian Mint unveiled two new commemorative coins.