Brothers and Sisters it is with great pleasure that I was asked to contribute to Faith & Liberty Magazine. Although Ireland was the birthplace of the Orange Order, “The Order” as it commonly referred, was expanded throughout the empire. Among the colonies was that of British North America, which would later become the nation of Canada.
The Orange Lodge in Canada has been active here since prior to the War of 1812. This engagement took place in resistance against the American republic to the south. The War of 1812 would in fact foreshadow Lord Carson’s resistance to Home Rule by almost exactly a Century. The war would forever shape our nation, and would prove the colonialists of British North America had much in common with the people of Ulster. Many of the then recent settlers here were fleeing American loyalists, many of who had been besieged and outright plundered in the euphoria of American independence. These loyalists would risk everything and rebuild their lives in the colonies of British North America. Ironically they would then see the same “independence” movement seek to absolve the freedom of North American loyalists from their right to be loyal to the crown. Added to the external threat the British colonialists faced an internal threat from a large minority of French Roman Catholic settlers. These colonialists, who lost their colony in wars against Britain, had no affection for British rule and whose loyalty was consistently in doubt.
Early British colonialists faced rebellion from these disenchanted entities in the quest to build a nation. Knowing this it is no wonder that Canadians would flock to the Orange Order, a bastion of loyalist sentiment, and Protestant values. Orangeism represented a unified expression of loyalism, an expression that helped shape this vast nation against external and internal threats. The Grand Lodge of Canada was formed officially in 1837 and would grow in numbers and influence and produce at least four prime ministers including one who was a Past Grand Master. The Orange Order was as influential in Canada as it was in Ulster and even in certain areas had a higher percentage of Orangemen within the general population. The “Order” downfall was to come when it was to be devastated by its own patriotism. In the First World War of the approximately 600 000 Canadian troops sent to fight one in eight (over 80 000) were KNOWN to be members of the Orange Association. Being a nation which is comparable to the size of both Eastern and Western Europe combined many small lodges in isolated and small towns simply went dormant. Even larger lodges were not immune as the causalities took their toll on the lodges rolls. This would be repeated two decades later in the Second World War further impacting the Loyal Orange Lodge. Despite the heavy toll paid by the Orangemen in fighting the wars the lodge still had many lodges throughout the country, but was dwindling due to changing demographics and weakening Christian/Protestant/Loyalist identity. Orangeism in Canada however did try and adapt to the change including an Italian Lodge Giuseppe Garibaldi LOL 3115 (still active), and several native lodges such as Mohawk LOL 99 (still active). However the overwhelming change was the growth of Roman Catholic/Non-Christians and the active membership of the Order declined.
Although not the nearly as large or influential as it once was the Order still has a very active roll in Canada and is today seeking to connect with a new generation who are in search of their identity within the multicultural society we are left with.
The term “Canuck” is a descriptive yet non derogatory term to indicate you or someone else is a Canadian. The origin is still a topic of debate and could date as far back as the Revolutionary War in the United States. The word however has been adapted several times over its history for different uses and different purposes, but still carving out an identity among the population. Besides becoming a regularly used nickname that continues to be used today, it was even used for a multigenerational national cartoon named “Johnny Canuck”. This character was used first politically to promote national identity in the late 19th Century, then later in resistance to the Nazis during the Second World War. He was then resurrected as a superhero named Captain Canuck, and in 1996 was brought back as a national stamp to portray honest and upstanding Canadian heroes. The character never really changed his wholesome proud values merely the way the message of those values was passed along. Like the term Canuck, Orangeism has long roots in our country, and has been forced to adapt the way in which it appeals to each generation just like the cartoon hero “Johnny Canuck”.
Orangeism’s strong positive ideals do not change just the way we pass on the message, and connect with a new generation. However it is up to us as members of the Orange Association to follow in the footsteps of Protestant reformers to engage the people locally, nationally, and internationally. With an ever closer world who can intercommunicate between continents Orangeism has the opportunity to reconnect or “re-Canuck” with youths who grew up without a Protestant identity.