As the world rides off into the sunset of our own yet to be dystopian future, the entire history and what it means to be a human being on the planet is at a cross-roads. In fact, the decisions we collectively make over the next twenty years will stretch backwards and forward in time and possibly define us forever.
“May you live in interesting times” and as I write this, reflecting on the fact that all 7 billion of us are on a runaway train through history together and it appears that no one is at the wheel.
Writing this in a comfortable, European style apartment in Montreal, the sounds of the city, animals and the summer waft in through the open balcony. It’s a very romantic scene; Montreal celebrates its 375th anniversary (which seems a bit of a curious hallmark but fun none the less) more special still, “Canada” the great nation state, celebrates 150 years of confederation and 35 years of constitutional democracy. Why does any of that matter?
Well, if you are the descendant of a non-aboriginal “immigrant” to this continent it means one thing–and something else if your ancestors were in North America prior to 1492.
In an entertaining and understandable attempt to forget the blood soaked past of European encroachment and ongoing violent colonialism in North America, Canadians have developed the custom of canonizing the heros of confederation as forward thinking developers of “a just nation” when they were in fact genocidal monsters with a knack for politics and public speaking. Look no further than our first Prime Minister Sir John A. McDonald for proof of this devastating history. As MacDonald, the first Prime Minister of Canada himself said, “the executions of the Indians ought to convince the Red Man that the White Man governs.”
Economic, social, and technological change in the past 150 years has been at break-neck pace. The entire surface of the planet has been transformed, rain forests recede and globalized Chinese megacities spread across the countryside like coal smoke belching cancer. We live as a “global community” even though not everyone is equally represented in that “global” situation. Society and its values have shifted so much in such a short time that people today have almost nothing in common with their ancestors, nor the ability to listen to their elders. Forces of globalization and the pace of change created the social mosaic of “Canada” and so it seems almost conspiratorial to suggest that Canada was founded by violent, patriarchal, racists; however, after even peripheral investigation, it is obvious that it was and continue to be.
Sir John A. still dawns the blue $5 note in Canada. How often does an aboriginal child on a reserve in “Canada” (one of the richest nations in the world) go without an essential necessity because their parent is $5 short?
As the 150th anniversary of “Canada” is celebrated, how does the Indigenous population feel? How do they feel to know the government is forcing through pipelines on Indigenous land despite their objections, and given Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s election platform for social justice, ‘reconciliation’ and conference with our Indigenous citizens.
Is it difficult to understand that First Peoples of Canada may harbour resentment that so many treaties are left un-honoured, the cases of murdered and missing sisters and brothers go uninvestigated, racialized incidents of police brutality and misconduct continue to be the norm, or the living legacy of residential schools in every community in “Canada.”
Personally I wonder how it feels, are you at least curious?