Old Stock Canadian vs Newcomer: A Patriot’s View


Old Stock Canadian vs Newcomer




A Patriot’s View


When Prime Minister Stephen Harper used the phrase “old stock Canadians” in the September 17th leaders debate, he sure stepped into it.

We knew what he meant by Old Stock — although he’s tried to publicly redefine the meaning since.

“Being of good stock” has been a European aristocratic phrase for a thousand years and more. “Bloodline” and “stock” are commonly used to express pride in your ancestry.  In Canada, Old Stock really refers to — as Stéphane Dion once commented — “middle-aged old stock French-Canadians or English-Canadians.”

When Stephen Harper blurted out those three little words, Old Stock Canadians, he set off a firestorm throughout the Dominion.

Liberal leader Justin Trudeau responded with “A Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian.”

First Nations Mi’kmaq Elder Stephen Augustine said on CBC Radio that he found the term “offensive and racist.” [1]

So, why am I writing this post?

Because on my Father’s side I’m Old Stock and proud of it.

The first Burhoe joined the British Army in 1776 and mustered out of the Royal Nova Scotia Volunteer Regiment in 1783 to build a farmstead and raise a family right here. [2]

During those seven years of military service, John Burhoe saw a seismic change in the political structure of the New World. From scattered British Colonies and independent First People’s nations — to a young expanding republic to the south and our newly formed British North America in the north. Already, of course, those who lived in British North America were calling our new settled lands “Canada” (a Haudenosaunee, or Iroquois, word meaning “Home Village”) — and ourselves Canadians.

Following the rise of Manifest Destiny and the attempted Invasion of 1812, Canada became a true nation onto itself. Chief Tecumseh led his warriors in staunch defence of the fledgling Canada. John A MacDonald fought hard to create a brand spanking new nation — our Dominion.

And when lawlessness and trading company forts flying foreign flags threatened our western frontier and the very survival of our new Confederation, Prime Minister MacDonald created the legendary North-West Mounted Police — the story of our Mounties becoming our National Epic, giving us some of our greatest heroes. [3]

When Prime Minister John Diefenbaker gave his 1960 “Dominion Day Speech” introducing his magnificent Canadian Bill of Rights, he proudly referred to “the two great basic races” that came together to create Canada.  Although he didn’t quite mean it that way, I always took the Two Races to be the First Nations and the Northern European settlers, especially French and English.  In that stirring address to the nation, he pledged that his Bill of Rights would “give to Canadians the realization that wherever a Canadian may live, whatever his race, his religion or his colour, the Parliament of Canada will be jealous of his rights and will not infringe upon those rights.”  [4]

As I’ve written elsewhere, Dad served in the Algonquin Regiment during World War II — and told me of his friendship and respect for the Northern Cree he served with in the Regiment. As I’ve said, “Out of those yarns, I developed an image of Native and English Canadians, not antagonists, but standing side by side, with the word CANADA on both their shoulders. Fighting our common enemies and building our uncommon nation.” [5]

I’ve always believed that this great nation was built by all of us. Side by side.

And I’m proud of our heritage, and the part my family has played in it.

Which makes me Old Stock, eh?

Well, yes.

Except for this: January 7, 1946.  Pier 21, Halifax, Nova Scotia.   With 300 other British war brides, my mother disembarked from the “Reunion Ship” Stavangerfjord.  After being fed a hot meal by the Red Cross, she said a tearful farewell to other war brides she had befriended and got on a steam train for Saint John, where she was reunited with my father.  Making me, on my mother’s side, an immigrant’s son.

Mum tried to fit in to her new homeland. After five years she grew homesick, and we boarded a big ocean liner bound for England. I lived in Yorkshire from ages 4 to 8 — formative years, for sure.

When we returned to Canada, I considered myself a true Canadian kid returning to my Home and Native Land — a land that was green and alive with wildlife and just as I remembered it.

But by then I spoke like a Yok-shah tyke (if you’ve watched Coronation Street or listened to the Beatles speak, ‘appen you know summat of the Northern English voice, Luv) and quickly learned what it was like to be treated like a stranger from an alien land.  A Newcomer.  An Outsider.

In a sense, I’ve been one ever since.

But I’ve lived here and thrived here and played my part in building our nation. And fallen in love with and married a gal who is part Mi’kmaq and proud of it. And we had children who don’t hide their pride in being Canadian.

We welcome and accept everyone here — everyone who’s willing to contribute to our ever evolving Home Village.

We’re all from the same stock.

– Brian Alan Burhoe


[1] Stephen Augustine, who is Hereditary Chief of the Sigenigtog District Mi’kmawey Mawiomi and Keptin on the Mi’kmaq Grand Council, went on to say, “We have a long tradition of opening our doors and sharing our food and resources to people who are in need. We’ve always done that.  I’m talking about John Cabot, Jacques Cartier, Samuel de Champlain.  All these people arrived here and the Mi’kmaq opened their arms and welcomed them and said ‘you are our brothers.'”

Ron Tremblay, a member of the Wolastoq Grand Council and Wolastoq First Nation, added to the conversation: “The Wolastoqeyiyik signed Peace and Friendship Treaties in the 17th Century with the first Refugees who sailed from France (becoming the Acadian settlers).  They were searching for a better place to live and escape the uneasiness that was evolving in their country.”

[2] To see more of our family history, go to The Life & Works of Brian Alan Burhoe

[3] To get a sense of our Mounted Police in Canadian Culture, see THE GREAT PULP FICTION MOUNTIES: From Corporal Cameron to Sergeant Preston

[4] Conservative John Diefenbaker remains my favourite Prime Minister — even though Brian Mulroney has been justly called “Canada’s Greenest Prime Minister”, a true badge of honour.  We sure could use a Green PM now.

But Dief — he had that fierce belief in individual rights that I, only age 10 or 11, immediately responded to.  And he gave the First Nations the vote.  Popularized the Northern Vision.  Gave powerful speeches that captured even a young boy’s attention.  “I was criticized for being too much concerned with average Canadians. I can’t help that — I’m one of them!”  “As long as there’s a drop of blood in my body they won’t stop me from talking about freedom.”

Dief’s “Dominion Day” address, given on June 30th, 1960, remains one of our great speeches and should be taught in Canadian schools. To read it, go to  www.CollectionsCanada.gc.ca/primeministers/h4-4052-e.html

[5] To read more, see OUT OF MY FATHER’S SHAVING BOX: Dad’s War, Algonquin Regiment & Liberation of Holland


Old Stock Canadian vs Newcomer: A Patriot’s View



About Brian Alan Burhoe

A Graduate of the Holland College Culinary Course, Brian Alan Burhoe has cooked in Atlantic Coast restaurants and institutional kitchens for over 30 years. He is a member of the Canadian Culinary Federation. Brian's articles reflect his interests in food service, Canadian history, imaginative literature, wildlife writing, animal rights, wilderness preservation and our best friends -- our dogs. See his CIVILIZED BEARS!
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