Canadian indigenous people have been described as "ghosts of history," spectres lingering in the background, haunting our legacy. This refers to the fact that indigenous people have been ignored to a great extent in Canadian history, yet Canadians are fully aware that indigenous people were here long before the arrival of the Europeans.
As is often said, a photo can be worth a thousand words. The Vimy Foundation is working to help bring a human face to Canada's First World War history. In honour of Remembrance Week.... the Vimy Foundation is launching a unique and innovative project to colourize rarely seen images of the First World War, a project aimed at reengaging young Canadians on defining moments in our history.
The deployment of wildland fire fighters to Fort McMurray is the biggest foreign deployment ever for South Africa (save armed forces' deployments). The South African PR machine casts the aid as "repaying a debt to the Canadian people for their support for the anti-apartheid struggle." It's an interesting re-interpretation considering Canada's weak anti-apartheid record and deteriorating diplomatic relationships with South Africa.
As Canadians look down upon the severe tone of the Republican primary season, they might console themselves by saying: "We would never resort to that kind of hateful dialogue, and it would never work here -- in the multicultural haven that is Canada." Prime Minister Robert Borden might prove them wrong.
No one will be celebrating this, but 2016 marks the hundredth birthday of one of the most vicious show business gossip magazines ever published, edited by a Canadian named Stephen G. Clow. On his death, the US newspaper columnist Westbook Pegler called him "the originator of Saloon journalism." His colourful life can be used as a direct origin for the modern state of tabloid and celebrity journalism. So why don't more people know his story?
In a country that traditionally does not know its own history, young people are often identified as the main offenders. But this poem is different. It represents something that is ours. Written by a Canadian, learned by Canadians and recited by Canadians. The Vimy Foundation is calling on all Canadian schools to help pass the torch of remembrance by reciting In Flanders Fields.
We must pay tribute to the courage and sacrifices of our soldiers, past and present, and highlight their essential contribution to peace and democracy. But we must also highlight the other remarkable aspects of Canadian history. The 150th anniversary of Canadian Confederation is almost here and its preparations are lagging. Mr Harper and his Heritage minister, Shelly Glover, seem unable to give the celebration a clear focus. There is room for concern that once again, they will be content with showcasing Canada's military feats and refuse to acknowledge everything else that has made our nation a source of hope and envy in the world.
In the social context of Canada before the Quiet Revolution (1950s), before Viola Desmond's act of defiance (1946), before Rosa Parks triggered the United States' Civil Rights Movement (1955), Fred Christie stood up to institutional discrimination. A decade before the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1947), Fred Christie exhibited unimaginable courage and perseverance in asserting his civil rights. Though the judicial process did not deliver the desired result, Fred Christie remains a key instigator in Canada's journey towards the establishment of universal rights.
When I see the photo of the Sikhs on the decks of the Komagata Maru, I think of the ones trying so desperately to pry that door open on land. The ones who raised money that they did not have for legal fees, and who rowed out to feed the men aboard with food they scarcely earned. Their story, and reasons for helping those barred from entry is as old as our nation itself.
Sir John A. Macdonald was also a racist who disdained Chinese rail workers, the very same men who helped build his national dream, by imposing a discriminatory head tax on each of them. And it was Macdonald whose policies of forced starvation helped clear First Nations from the prairies in order to build that railway. Indeed, James Daschuk from the University of Regina argues quite cogently in his book Clearing the Plains: Disease, Politics of Starvation and the Loss of Aboriginal Life that Macdonald's starvation policies led to the deaths of thousands.
In the orgy of celebration of the War of 1812, the true legacy of Shawnee warrior Tecumseh has been badly (and perhaps, conveniently) miscast. Far from being ignored, he is now being appropriated by white society and cast as a "good Indian" - brave, heroic, co-operative, and at the ready to do the bidding of his British brethren. He is being placed aside Issac Brock, and the Canadian militia as the great defenders of Canada. His historical role has been reduced to Laura Secord with a feather. A more thorough reading of Tecumseh's life and influence tells a very different story.
Québec's credo is "Je me souviens", which loosely translates to "I will remember". But there is never a bad time to appropriate this mantra in the rest of Canada, to understand where we've come from and appreciate how far we've come as the world's first nation to adopt a federal multiculturalism policy. To that end, here are some low-lights of Canadian history.
Here's the hard truth: no one puts down Canadians with quite as much glee as Canadians themselves. This can range from Canadians who think they are being charmingly self-deprecating to conservatives who hate Canada for not being more American. Plus Canadians in one part of the country love to put down Canadians in other parts (and then use the inevitable backlash as a justification for their initial prejudice).
Are race relations in Canada so much further advanced than in the US that the Trayvon Martin tragedy would never happen here? I'm not so sure. As troubling as it is to face, the Canadian version of the Zimmerman-Martin horror would actually look something like the following scenario: Zimmerman is a South-Asian or Asian male. Trayvon is an Indigenous teen girl who was simply walking to her home in one of Canada's upper-middle-class suburban neighbourhoods. She is brutalized and dumped on the side of the road afterwards. And the Canadian public doesn't bat an eye.
This noxious obsession with one-upping America at every turn, even (especially?) when it requires rewriting history to reimagine America's good ideas as bad ones, and Canada's bad ones as heroic, is the complete antithesis of modesty, or even decency. It's obnoxious, ugly, and dishonest, and certainly not the stuff from which great patriotism is made.