I’m sorry you took those comments so hard. Bear in mind a couple of things. Many of us here paddle hundreds of miles per year and have come to accept the wear and tear is a fact of life. I’m fussy with my boats, taking greater care to avoid scratches and the like than most people I know, and yet wear and tear is still inevitable when boats are used a lot. Along those lines, until just now, the idea that nothing ever comes into hard contact with a canoe’s gunwales is something I’d not have imagined. If, for example, you looked over old discussions here about protecting wood gunwales from weathering, taking into account how to deal with frequent dings in the finish is a topic that comes up every time.
Still, you are right that it’s your boat and you can feel about it as you like, but having been doing this more than just a short while, I’ve seen plenty of newbies adjust their thinking about such things too. We all speak from our own experiences and backgrounds, and sometimes a lot of the context of attitude gets misinterpreted when all that’s exchanged are a few typewritten lines.
All that said, it occurs to me that there is likely to be fresh, new-looking material just below all that visible weathering on your boat’s gunwales, so if other methods fail and you still want to restore the color, I bet that polishing with some fine sandpaper followed by emery cloth would be something worth trying. You could test the idea in a very small area before deciding to do the whole surface.