Langevin Renaming: Memo raises doubts about who was ‘architect’ of residential schools

Good analysis and advice by the public service, with apparent overly hasty political symbolism by government:

Federal officials raised doubts about accusations Hector-Louis Langevin was an architect of the residential school system four months before his name was ignominiously stripped from the prime minister’s building, as the Liberal government acceded to complaints from Indigenous groups.

An internal briefing note says Langevin had a “complex” relationship with Canada’s Indigenous peoples and even tried to spare the life of Métis leader Louis Riel, who was hanged in 1885 for leading a rebellion in Western Canada.

The Feb. 27 memo for Public Services Minister Judy Foote reveals the government grappling with a troublesome tangle of historical accuracy, Indigenous grievances over the tragedy of residential schools, and the symbolic significance of public building names.

Langevin

Hector-Louis Langevin, a Father of Confederation, was a prominent member of John A. Macdonald’s cabinet. In 1883, as public works minister, he allocated $43,000 for the construction of three schools for Indigenous boys, linking him to the residential school system. (Library and Archives Canada)

“While he has been referred to in the media as an architect of the Indian residential school system, a historian at Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada indicates that his relationship with Indigenous peoples is more complex,” says the memo, obtained by CBC News under the Access to Information Act.

“Various histories and academic articles written on residential schools make no mention of his role or impact in the development or execution of the residential schools policy.”

“Moreover, during the 1885 Northwest Rebellion and the subsequent trial of Louis Riel, he attempted to intercede with the prime minister for Riel’s clemency and the commutation of his sentence.”

The memo, signed by deputy minister Marie Lemay, was triggered after National Chief Perry Bellegarde of the Assembly of First Nations wrote to Foote asking that the Langevin Block, the building at 80 Wellington St. in downtown Ottawa that houses the Prime Minister’s Office, be renamed.

4 Indigenous MPs seek removal

Bellegarde’s Feb. 6 letter said that “key architects of the devastating Indian residential school system include prominent leaders of the past such as Hector Langevin.”

Ten days later, four Indigenous MPs also wrote to Foote, pressing for the removal of the name because “Langevin was also the creator of residential schools.”

“We do not believe this way of thinking should be celebrated by naming a building after Langevin,” said the letter, signed by the NDP’s Georgina Jolibois, Liberal Don Rusnak, the NDP’s Roméo Saganash and Hunter Tootoo, formerly a Liberal and now an Independent.

The memo to Foote suggested preserving the name of Langevin on the building, but adding a plaque about his contributions to Canada “while also highlighting the contested aspects of his legacy.”

‘It is reasonable to anticipate opposition.’— Memo from deputy pubic services minister

Lemay also said the name could be changed to that of an Indigenous person, a non-Indigenous person, a place or an event in Canada’s past.

“It is reasonable to anticipate opposition from those who wish to preserve the commemoration of the name and contributions of Sir Hector-Louis Langevin, as well as support from those who want the name changed, including Indigenous groups,” she wrote.

Government officials declined to release to CBC News material from the historian at Indigenous Affairs who is cited in the memo as unable to find evidence of any role Langevin played in establishing residential schools.

Source: Memo raises doubts about who was ‘architect’ of residential schools – Politics – CBC News

Une version « décolonisée » de l’histoire – Including Indigenous history and culture

Interesting and thoughtful approach to increasing awareness and understanding of Indigenous peoples:

Où étaient les autochtones avant l’arrivée des Européens ? Comment vivent-ils aujourd’hui  ? Connaissez-vous des artistes autochtones ?

Ce sont des questions auxquelles les élèves du collège John Abbott sont désormais confrontés. Depuis un an, un groupe de sept enseignants de ce cégep anglophone de Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue a entrepris un projet visant à « décoloniser » son programme.

« La décolonisation consiste à défaire les effets de la colonisation, désapprendre la pensée dominante colonialiste, inclure du contenu autochtone dans le curriculum, en apprendre davantage sur eux et reconnaître leur contribution dans la société », résume Debbie Lunny, enseignante en philosophie qui a dirigé le projet.

L’initiative a commencé de façon informelle. Les sept enseignants se sont rassemblés pour échanger des lectures et parler de différentes manières de décoloniser l’éducation au cégep. Par la suite, ils ont consulté des élèves et des experts autochtones pour connaître leur avis. Le projet était lancé.

« Dans le domaine de l’enseignement, la décolonisation consiste à questionner les relations de pouvoir, les hypothèses eurocentriques qui privilégient les perspectives eurocanadiennes. »

Dans ses cours, Debbie Lunny demande à ses élèves de nommer leur chanteur autochtone préféré, leur personnage de télévision autochtone préféré, leur auteur autochtone préféré. La plupart d’entre eux remettent une page blanche.

« On invite les élèves à réfléchir à travers des questions. Ce n’est pas que ces artistes n’existent pas, c’est qu’ils sont marginalisés des médias et de la société canadienne », estime l’enseignante.

UNE MEILLEURE COMPRÉHENSION

Lizzie Tukai est une élève inuite qui vient d’Inukjuak, au Nunavik. Elle vient d’obtenir son diplôme en sciences sociales à John Abbott. Pour elle, la mise en place de la décolonisation dans les cours permet aux élèves de mieux comprendre la réalité des autochtones. « Il y a souvent des gens qui sont mal informés, dit-elle. Ça cause des préjugés. »

Pour Lizzie, 41 ans, cette initiative est une occasion de réconciliation entre les autochtones et les allochtones.

« Lorsqu’on révèle la vérité de l’histoire, cela redonne du pouvoir à toutes les parties impliquées. »

« Ils nous ont appris l’histoire telle qu’elle s’est produite, révélé des choses qui étaient cachées, nous en ont appris davantage sur l’histoire des autochtones », dit-elle à propos de ses enseignants.

Les instigateurs du projet tâchent d’inclure dans la matière qu’ils enseignent des éléments des cultures autochtones. « Les autochtones ont besoin de trouver leur sens de soi, ils ont besoin de passer à travers la valorisation au lieu de l’humiliation », estime Jimena Marquez, enseignante en anthropologie qui fait partie de l’initiative. D’ailleurs, elle commence ses cours en reconnaissant la valeur de la chasse et de la lecture des étoiles, des valeurs importantes pour ces peuples.

UNE INITIATIVE À RÉPÉTER ?

Le cabinet de la ministre de l’Éducation et de l’Enseignement supérieur, Hélène David, estime que l’initiative du cégep John Abbott est une bonne façon d’encourager les élèves des Premières Nations à se sentir inclus dans le système scolaire. Toutefois, aucune réponse n’a été fournie par le Ministère quant à l’application de mesures décolonialistes dans l’ensemble des établissements scolaires québécois.

Source: Une version « décolonisée » de l’histoire – La Presse+

Insistence on French for SCC judges could block historic appointment of first Indigenous judge – The Lawyer’s Daily

Hard one to balance:

The Trudeau government’s pledge to fill the Supreme Court of Canada’s impending western vacancy with a bilingual jurist who can function in French is liable to block the historic appointment of its first Indigenous judge, lawyers say.

The Indigenous Bar Association (IBA) has pressed Ottawa for years to make an Indigenous appointment to the 142-year-old court and will do so again for the spot that is opening  up when Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin retires Dec. 15, said IBA president Koren Lightning-Earle of Maskwacis, Alta.

However the Trudeau government’s insistence that all its Supreme Court appointees be able to read and understand French, without translation, is an additional and unfair hurdle for Indigenous candidates and a “detriment to Canada,” Lightning-Earle told The Lawyer’s Daily.

If the government “starts to think outside the box on what the language prerequisite actually means to Indigenous people, and [to] truly understand history and reconciliation … then they’ll understand why the [French] language prerequisite is ridiculous,” she explained. “Our first language is our Indigenous language. And then we were sent to residential school where we were told we were not allowed to speak our language, and we were forced to speak a colonial language [English]. And now we have to speak another colonial language — just to get a seat at the table!”

The Trudeau government vowed during the election to appoint only Supreme Court judges able to function in both English and French. This was in response to concerns expressed by Quebecers, Acadians and other francophones outside Quebec that it does a disservice to their appeals when the top court’s anglophone judges can’t understand nuanced French oral argument (because interpretation is not always perfect) or read French written briefs and supporting materials (which are usually not translated).

However Lightning-Earle points out the prime minister and his government have also committed to reconcile with Indigenous peoples, as a top priority. “You don’t just get to put up a barrier and say ‘Well this is our requirement’ — without acknowledging the history — which is the spirit and intent [of] the reconciliation that the government supposedly signed on to,” she remarked.

Certainly the language prerequisite is a major obstacle for Indigenous candidates. There are, at most, a handful of Supreme Court-calibre Indigenous jurists in the west who are able to understand and read French without translation. Saskatchewan provincial court judge Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, who is Cree, is one, as is Vancouver litigator and Indigenous law expert Jean Teillet, who is Métis.

“There are barriers that Aboriginal lawyers and judges face that non-Aboriginal people don’t face,” Teillet told The Lawyer’s Daily. “And language is always one of those things. And so putting that kind of qualification on a Supreme Court appointment … will mean, as a fact, that we will have not an Aboriginal judge on the Supreme Court of Canada for a very long time. It won’t be because there are not really excellent Aboriginal lawyers and judges who are capable — more than capable — of doing the job. It will be because of the language barrier.”

Among those who appear to be affected is internationally acclaimed Indigenous law scholar John Borrows, 54 — who many see as a star candidate.

A member of the Chippewas of the Nawash First Nation on Georgian Bay, Borrows is currently in immersion French studies in Montreal. He is a visiting professor at McGill University’s faculty of law where he is learning about the civil law while on sabbatical leave from his post as Canada research chair in Indigenous law at the University of Victoria’s faculty of law, where he is co-developing the first joint program in Canadian common law/Indigenous law, expected to start up in 2018.

Osgoode Hall Law School dean Lorne Sossin believes Borrows “would be an outstanding choice to join the court.” He should not be blocked as he gets his French up to speed, Sossin opined.

Source: Insistence on French for SCC judges could block historic appointment of first Indigenous judge – The Lawyer’s Daily

Is ‘assimilate’ offensive? Legal battle pits Star Trek fan against Indigenous activists | National Post

Both sides make valid arguments in sharing their perspectives.

But understand for Indigenous peoples the particular sensitivity regarding the word assimilate given Canada’s history.

For immigrants, of course, the long standing Canadian approach is based upon integration, not assimilation:

At issue is a legal battle that has just been launched that pits the right of a Star Trek fan to have it on his licence plate against Indigenous groups opposed to the word.

The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms has filed a lawsuit on behalf of Nick Troller, a Winnipeg man whose licence plate — ASIMIL8 — was rescinded by the provincial government for being offensive to Indigenous people.

“It’s another case that pits the Charter freedom of expression against the new, phoney right not to be offended,” said JCCF President John Carpay, a former Alberta Wildrose party candidate.

Carpay said he can understand why the plate might offend someone, but the word still shouldn’t be censored.

“There’s a difference between words that are inherently offensive regardless of how you use them, such as vulgarities, obscenities, four-letter words, versus words like ‘war’ or ‘assimilate,’ which can have positive or negative connotations,” he said.

Troller said the licence plate is clearly a reference to the Borg, a fictional race from Star Trek that forcibly assimilates other cultures. The plate holder says, “WE ARE THE BORG” and “RESISTANCE IS FUTILE.”

“The word ‘assimilate’ is just a word — it is neither good nor bad. We assimilate nutrients into our bodies in order to live,” Troller said in his affidavit.

But Indigenous activists say Canadians should do more to understand why the word could be considered offensive.

Anishinaabe Nation member and University of Manitoba assistant professor Niigaan Sinclair called free speech a “bogus argument” and said that Indigenous people are having “a very understandable reaction.”

“If Indigenous peoples feel triggered by a licence plate or a sports logo, or the name of a historical figure on a building, Canadians would be best served to listen to why Indigenous peoples are triggered, and show some care and sensitivity when they express themselves,” he said.

“You can’t just say whatever you want to say without any worries of consequence or responsibility.”

Source: Is ‘assimilate’ offensive? Legal battle pits Star Trek fan against Indigenous activists | National Post

Indigenous advocates slam Trudeau for comments about Patrick Brazeau

Ironic that the most balanced reaction to the PM’s comments appears to come  from Brazeau, not the activists. Brazeau had built up his personal narrative along the lines the PM stated and was a controversial figure to many Indigenous activists and others:

Indigenous advocates are denouncing Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s recent comments about Senator Patrick Brazeau in Rolling Stone magazine, saying his remarks could damage the Liberal government’s relationship with aboriginal people.

In the U.S. magazine’s August cover story, which asks “Why Can’t He Be Our President?,” Mr. Trudeau describes his surprise victory in a 2012 charity boxing match against Mr. Brazeau, a former Conservative who hails from the Kitigan Zibi First Nation in Quebec.

“I wanted someone who would be a good foil, and we stumbled upon the scrappy tough-guy senator from an Indigenous community. He fit the bill, and it was a very nice counterpoint,” Mr. Trudeau says in the article. “I saw it as the right kind of narrative, the right story to tell.”

First Nations leaders say the Prime Minister’s remarks about Mr. Brazeau fly in the face of his government’s commitment to a renewed relationship with Indigenous people.

“I was actually shocked to read that coming from someone who’s been speaking about reconciliation and repairing relationships,” said Pam Palmater, an associate professor and chair in Indigenous governance at Ryerson University in Toronto.

“To read this super-arrogant, super-racist comment was really disgusting.”

Assembly of First Nations regional chief Roger Augustine, who represents New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, said Mr. Trudeau’s comments about Mr. Brazeau could undermine his government’s message.

“To describe him like that is demeaning,” Mr. Augustine said. “It’s not a professional way for anyone to talk.”

Cindy Blackstock, a First Nations’ children’s advocate and social-work professor at McGill University, said Mr. Trudeau’s comments play into a narrative about colonialization “where Indigenous peoples are the savages and the non-Indigenous people are the civilized.”

“It’s unfortunate,” Prof. Blackstock said. “He’s using Indigenous peoples to try and emphasize the good qualities about himself.

“That really reinforces a lot of negative stereotypes about Indigenous peoples,” she added.

She said Mr. Trudeau’s remarks lead to more questions about the Prime Minister’s commitment to an equal relationship with Canada’s Indigenous peoples. Mr. Trudeau recently suggested the government is not providing First Nations with the same level of funding for child welfare and health services available off-reserve because native communities do not yet know how they would spend additional funds.

“As a pattern, it’s concerning,” Prof. Blackstock said. She called on Mr. Trudeau to clarify his remarks to ensure they aren’t repeated in the future.

Robert Jago, a First Nations activist and writer, said many minority men are familiar with the stereotyping that Mr. Brazeau faced because of his race.

“It’s sad to see Trudeau not just buying into that stereotype, but using it for political gain,” he wrote in an e-mail. “If Trudeau believed in reconciliation, I’d think that he would be striving to show common cause with his fellow parliamentarians of Indigenous ancestry, not objectifying them as he has Brazeau.”

A spokesman for the Prime Minister’s Office said Mr. Trudeau’s commitment to reconciliation can be measured by his actions. “He has made it clear that there is no relationship more important to him – and to our government – than reconciliation with Indigenous peoples,” spokesman Cameron Ahmad said in an e-mail. This includes launching a national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women, which is now seen by many as troubled, as well as billions of new dollars promised for education, health and social development on reserves.

“We are fully committed to a renewed nation-to-nation relationship and to reconciliation,” Mr. Ahmad said.

Mr. Brazeau declined an interview request. In a message to the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network last week about the Rolling Stone article, he wrote, “I’ll take it as a compliment.”

Source: Indigenous advocates slam Trudeau for comments about Patrick Brazeau – The Globe and Mail

Canada wasn’t — and isn’t — ready for an Indigenous governor general: Robert Jago

An overly negative take or a realistic one?

Did Indigenous-origin provincial lieutenant governors such as Ontario’s James Bartlemen make a difference or not?

Jago is correct to note the dangers of assuming that such an appointment signals the end of racism and discrimination, as in his citing of Obama. But do symbols have no value? Can they not contribute to greater awareness and thus lead to some measure of change, or help enable change?:

While it’s good to see these views present in the governing party, and good to see Indigenous MPs free to speak publicly in support of this position, their conclusion — that the appointment of an Indigenous governor general would be a positive symbol of a changing Canada — is wrong.

Sure, an Indigenous governor general would be a symbol, but primary one to non-Natives — to white Canada — and a dangerous one that could derail reconciliation, at that.

Canada might receive its first Indigenous governor general in much the same way that the U.S. received its first black president. When Barack Obama was elected back in 2008, the message to American people of colour was that change was possible and that we’re powerful enough to elect one of our own: a person who knows our struggles and our ambitions, and who can help to pave the way for others.

But while a symbol of hope and change to black America, Obama was also a symbol to many in white America that racism had been conquered. In a 2008 Forbes Magazine article entitled “Racism in America is Over,” Manhattan Institute fellow John McWhorter wrote: “Our proper concern is not whether racism still exists, but whether it remains a serious problem. The election of Obama proved, as nothing else could have, that it no longer does.”

In the same vein, I have no doubt whatsoever that had an Indigenous person been appointed as governor general, Canada’s mostly white commentariat would be falling over themselves to declare that racism in Canada is “over,” too. Especially since, even now, the idea that racism in Canada never really existed is mainstream enough to be given space in a newspaper. In the Vancouver Sun, for example, Douglas Todd recently wrote, “It’s hard to think of a more treacherous single story about B.C. than the one alleging racism is alive and well.”

Racism clearly exists in Canada today, and it is far from over. The week that Payette was named governor general was the same week that Barbara Kentner — a victim of what many Indigenous people see as a racially motivated murder — was buried. At the time of writing, Thunder Bay police has yet to file murder charges in her death (the only charges laid so far have been of aggravated assault).

And while many non-Natives work to downplay the existence of racism in Canada, Kentner’s death, along with that of Colten Boushie in Saskatchewan, and of Cindy Gladue in Alberta, are just a few recent examples of what Indigenous people see as racially motivated killings.

These acts of racism demand urgent action, and signalling to white Canada that the job of reconciliation is done, and racism is over, is not the urgent action required. Instead it is a window dressing: camouflage for a state of affairs that treats Indigenous lives cheaply, and one in which the change that Indigenous people need is no closer than it was under the Stephen Harper regime.

All of the symbolism, none of the power

Unlike in the case of the first black president, the first Indigenous governor general would have no power to make any changes whatsoever. True, some past governors general have been able to highlight or bring greater attention to certain issues, but they can’t direct funding, write policy or introduce new laws. He or she would have all of the symbolism with none of the power.

The Trudeau administration has burdened Indigenous peoples with one symbolic gesture after another. As with the failed inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, these symbolic gestures have stripped important issues of urgency in the imagination of the non-Native public. Changing the name of Langevin block does not restore clean drinking water to one First Nations home; seeing Justin Trudeau in his buckskin fringe acknowledging unceded Algonquin territory does not prevent one suicide. When it comes to “real change” on the ground, this government is short on results.

There will come a time when Canada is ready for an Indigenous governor general, but that appointment should be a capstone to mark real achievements toward equality; not just another symbolic gesture that gives the illusion of progress, while distracting people from the real work we all have to do.

Source: Canada wasn’t — and isn’t — ready for an Indigenous governor general – CBC News | Opinion

Alt-right’s jocular façade attempt to deny responsibility: Southey, Proud Boys’ behaviour goofy, but hardly ‘deplorable’: Blatchford

Interesting contrast between Tabatha Southey’s description of the “Proud Boys” and Christie Blatchford’s.

Starting with Southey:

The Halifax incident made national headlines, as a story like this should, particularly as all the men involved – who later celebrated at a local Halifax pub, posting pictures of themselves making the “okay” symbol with one hand, a beer in the other – turned out to be members of Canada’s Armed Forces. As a nation, we are now forced to ask ourself the question “Who the hell are these jokers?” and, always anxious to serve, I present A Brief History of Slime, the story of the Proud Boys.

It’s best to think of the Proud Boys as a group of guys possessed of a seriously shaky grasp of history and a burning desire to wear the same shirt as the guy next to them, who want a white supremacist to tell them when they are allowed to masturbate.

It’s not a fetish I’ve encountered before, but were the Proud Boys not also a far-right group of self-described “Western Chauvinists who will no longer apologize for creating the modern world,” who are against “racial guilt” and who “venerate the housewife” and believe “that the last 50 years have been a disaster for women” (one doesn’t have to be Alan Turing to break thatcode), I wouldn’t kink-shame.

As it is, I have concerns.

The Proud Boys were launched and are headed by Gavin McInnes, Vice magazine co-founder (although they parted long ago) and current contributor to The Rebel Media, the right-wing website founded by Ezra Levant; and yes, a strict limit on masturbation is one of their many peculiarities.

They “believe that this energy,” the energy spent masturbating, “is better spent … getting married, and having children,” and I suppose that’s their call but I can’t help thinking that if you truly believe that by not masturbating you’ll be able to save enough energy to raise a child, you are doing one of these things very, very badly.

Some of you may remember Mr. McInnes as the man who made a bit of a splash with neo-Nazis in March when a number of videos he recorded on a recent trip to Israel were posted.

In these videos, one of which was called “10 things I Hate About the Jews,” Mr. McInnes variously put the word “Holocaust” in air quotes, complained that Jews, who he said “are ruining the world with their lies and their money and their hooked-nose, bagel-eating faces,” have a “whiny paranoid fear of Nazis.” He repeatedly spoke in a grotesque cartoon Jewish accent and said that people in Israel spit when they talk and that “Middle Easterners reek.”

Ensconced in his hotel room in Israel, which he believes was likely paid for, along with the rest of his “propaganda tour,” by private Israeli donors and the Israeli government, Mr. McInnes told viewers that while they “assume we’re going to listen to all this shit we get fed” it’s “having the reverse effect on me: I’m becoming anti-Semitic.”

“Well, we’re at the Holocaust museum, and we’re being told, ‘The Germans did this. The Germans are horrible people …’” he sulked, apparently irritated that Holocaust deniers might not be getting a fair hearing at Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial.

“Well, they never said it didn’t happen,” he said, in an attempt to remedy this perceived injustice. “What they’re saying is it was much less than six million and that they starved to death and they weren’t gassed …”

Mr. McInnes was quick to ask that the viewer not “take that clip out of context.” He’s not saying “it wasn’t gassing” – that’s just what the “far-right nuts are saying” and, being “sick of so much brainwashing,” he felt compelled to articulate the theories of said nuts.

Mr. McInnes worries that we’re too caught up on the Holocaust in general. “There’s been a lot of genocides,” he says, most notable to him being the Soviet Holodomor, of which he says, “I think it was 10 million Ukrainians who were killed. That was by Jews. That was by Marxist, Stalinist, left-wing, commie, socialist Jews.”

It seems that the major distinction between the alt-right and Mr. McInnes’s preferred “alt-light” is that the former are very concerned about “Judeo-Bolshevism,” the Nazi conspiracy theory that Jews were secretly behind the rise of communism; and the latter just wish to inform you that the Soviet Union (or at least the more genocidal aspects of it) was secretly run by Jews.

Jews have been very busy in the Proud Boy’s founder’s bizarre understanding of history. When not engineering the downfall of the Russian Czar, they were “disproportionately” influencing the Treaty of Versailles, forcing terribly unfair terms of surrender on Germany. The treaty “sucked and the Germans hated it” Mr. McInnes says, indicating that “Jewish intellectuals” were, at least in part, responsible for the Second World War, and the Holocaust, such as it was.

If this sounds extreme, anti-Semitic, or perhaps dangerous to you, it’s okay: Mr. McInnes chortles when he says these things, allowing his fans to assure us that it’s just harmless comedy.

If much of what you see on the alt-right side looks and sounds so ridiculous, such jocular goose-stepping, these days, that’s deliberate. Share a photograph of you and your be-polo-shirted buddies flashing the Nazi salute, and the popular discourse knows just what to do with you. Substitute the “okay” gesture – unofficially but lovingly adopted by this crowd – and anyone who points out the white-supremacist imagery is just a crazy leftist snowflake who probably thinks a cartoon frog is a hate symbol too.

What we’re seeing here, and in Halifax, is white supremacy painted over with a coat of irony, euphemism and plausible deniability. All of that just barely thick enough that Mr. McInnes still gets airtime on CBC’s Power & Politics. He used this airtime, speaking in his capacity as the Proud Boys’ founder and leader, to ask the host “Can you see why Cornwallis issued a bounty on Mi’kmaqs?” and spread, pretty much unchallenged, a number of hateful and damaging historical inaccuracies about the Mi’kmaqs. (The CBC has since apologized for the segment.)

Source: The alt-right’s jocular façade is an attempt to deny responsibility – The Globe and Mail

Blatchford’s alternative universe:

A small crowd was gathered around the statue, one of them carrying an upside-down Canadian flag with the word “decolonize” written on it, there to mark the various atrocities committed against Indigenous people while Chief Grizzly Mamma, who is originally from British Columbia, shaved her head.

According to what McInnes later told the CBC, the five were in a bar on July 1, heard rumours of an anti-Canada protest, and decided to go check it out.

Also for the record, the men were well-spoken, polite and respectful; they were met by a young woman, from the protesters, who was equally polite and respectful. The men explained they were curious and wanted to see what was going on; she said they’d be welcome to listen quietly if they didn’t disrupt things.

But a couple of other protesters were not similarly inclined.

One snarled, “This is a fucking genocide.” Someone else said, “This is Mi’kmaq territory, to which one of the Proud Boys replied, “This is Canada.” Members of each side tossed about historically inaccurate facts in the manner of the young and unschooled. Another young woman bristling with hostility kept moving closer to one of the men until she was practically touching him. “You don’t seem to like me standing so close,” she said. “You’re very close,” he replied calmly.

But then the Proud Boys left, having been chastised for their pronunciation of Mi’kmaq and for their disrespectful tone, or, as a protester put it, got “the —- out of here.”

There were no harsh words from the Proud Boys. There was even some humour; once, told by a protester to speak more softly, one of the men said, in effect, “What? This is a library now?” But he did as he was asked.

Not a blow was struck. Not a disrespectful word was uttered, unless, of course, one counts the mere questioning of Indigenous protest as disrespectful. Not a gram of cereal was consumed or thrown.

Source: Christie Blatchford: Proud Boys’ behaviour might be goofy, but is hardly ‘deplorable’

 

Egerton Ryerson doesn’t deserve an anti-Indigenous label: Smith

Good historical account of Ryerson’s life and relationships with some Indigenous persons by Don Smith:

A variant of the line “those who forget history are condemned to repeat it” could be “those who are ignorant of history are condemned to ignorance:”

As a Canadian historian of nearly half a century’s standing, I find the current controversy over Egerton Ryerson, the namesake of Ryerson University, totally baffling. I wonder how deeply his critics have probed into the past of the founder of the modern Ontario public-school system. Their portrayal of him as anti-Indigenous misrepresents the man completely.

Egerton Ryerson (1803-1882) was a Christian minister. Perhaps this is the central problem. As the University of British Columbia anthropologist Kenelm Burridge said so well in his book, In the Way: A Study of Christian Missionary Endeavours (1991): “Whatever missionaries do or have done will be perceived as good by some, otherwise by others.”

At the Credit Mission, located in what is now Mississauga, young Egerton set out in 1826/27 to learn Ojibway. As he later wrote: “I must now acquire a new language, to teach a new people.” The first Methodist (now the United Church) minister to the Mississauga (Ojibwa, or Anishinabeg) acquired a basic speaking knowledge. The future Mississauga chief, Kahkewaquonaby (Sacred Feathers), known in English as Peter Jones, became a close life-long friend. The Credit Mississauga liked Ryerson. He rolled up his sleeves, worked beside them in the fields, ate and lived with them. He gained their respect. At a council meeting in December, 1826, they gave him the Ojibway name of one of their deceased chiefs: “Cheechock” or “Chechalk.” The name meant “Bird on the Wing.”

A decade later, Ryerson did his best to advance the studies of Henry Steinhauer or Shahwahnegizhik, an Ojibwa from the Lake Simcoe area, at the Methodist College that is now Victoria University in the University of Toronto. In the 1850s, Ryerson, as the superintendent of education for Canada West, welcomed Allen Salt, a Mississauga from the Rice Lake area near Peterborough to the Toronto Normal (teacher training) School, the predecessor of what is now Ryerson University.

So grateful was Steinhauer for his assistance and encouragement that he named one of his sons Egerton Ryerson Steinhauer. At Rev. Salt’s last mission on Parry Island (Wasauksing) on Georgian Bay, the mission day school bore the name Ryerson. Only recently was the First Nations day school renamed, to Wasauksing Kinomaugewgamik.

As educational historian Robin Harris wrote in 1959: “Ryerson was Christian, first, last, and all the time; his religious principles were his first principles.” Yes, he had a Christian agenda, but he also supported the Credit Mississauga’s fight for a title deed to their Credit River reserve and their efforts to build a strong economic base for their community.

Ryerson was not the creator of the Indian residential-school system. The Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, vol. 1. The History, Part 1. Origins to 1939 (Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2015), pp. 75-78, clarifies his outlook toward Indigenous education. In 1847, he did write a short report on Indian boarding schools where older male students could learn European-style agriculture.

In preindustrial Ontario, farming was the motor of the economy. As his educational model, he favoured the respected Hofwyl School for the Poor near Berne, Switzerland.

Jones and Ryerson were true friends, perhaps best described as “blood brothers.” Toronto’s Dundas Square borders Victoria Street. The site ofRyerson’s home 150 years ago is located toward the eastern end of the urban park. Its actual site is now under Dundas Street East.Ryerson welcomed Mr. Jones and his wife to stay with his family for a month in the spring of 1856 while Ryerson sought the best medical advice to restore Jones’s health. After the attempt to find a cure failed, Jones returned to his home in Brantford, where he died two weeks later. As Jones had requested while he stayed at the Ryerson’s that spring, Ryerson gave the eulogy at his funeral on July 1, 1856.

To describe Egerton Ryerson, or Chechalk as the Mississauga called him, as anti-Indigenous misses the mark. Back to you, Ryerson Students’ Union, for further study.

Source: Egerton Ryerson doesn’t deserve an anti-Indigenous label – The Globe and Mail

The case for keeping ‘Langevin Block’ – Peter Shawn Taylor, Begbie’s Statue – Bill McKee

I agree with Taylor on the risks of ignoring the historical context and focusing only on one aspect of their role in Canadian society. Those who forget (or erase) history, are condemned to repeat it, albeit with twists. McKee’s point on interpretative panels is a better way:

Taken on its own, Langevin’s quotation is a devastating indictment to modern ears. But what if we let the tape roll a bit longer? Later in that same speech, for example, Langevin said it was his intention to give every native child who graduates from residential school a free homestead. And in response to Langevin, Edward Blake, the leader of the Liberal party of the day, not only used words to describe Indigenous men and women that would be considered horrific today, he also complained that Ottawa’s plan was overly generous. The Liberal party of the day wanted to spend far less on the native file.

Extreme narrow focus on a few sentences of one speech may provide damning evidence of Langevin’s unfitness for present-day memorialization. But in the context of his time, Langevin actually stands among the more enlightened representatives of the federal government. As for the accusation that Langevin believed in assimilation of the Indigenous community—a concept now properly and universally considered abhorrent—he is guilty as charged.

But assimilation was conventional wisdom among all elite thinkers of his era. If statements in support of it are to be considered sufficient reason for removal from the historical record, then every politician of note in Canada prior to the 21st century must eventually be struck from the record—from Macdonald to Sir Wilfrid Laurier on down. Even Pierre Trudeau, often considered the father of an inclusive, multicultural Canada, was a confirmed assimilationist. His 1969 White Paper on “Indian Policy” planned to eliminate Indigenous status entirely. When such a plan was firmly rejected by the Indigenous community, Trudeau replied bitterly, “We’ll keep them in the ghetto for as long as they want.” Is the legacy of Trudeau senior next on the list for erasure?

And entirely ignored within the current debate over Langevin and the residential school issue is his stature as a key Francophone Quebec federalist during the crucial pre-Confederation era, which was the reason his name ended up on a federal building in the first place. Reconciliation between French and English was once considered a great Canadian virtue. It should still count for something today.

As for Cornwallis, in 1749 he did declare a bounty of 10 British guineas for every Mi’kmaq scalp delivered to him during a colonial-era conflict known as Father Le Loutre’s War. Like Langevin’s speech on residential schools, singular attention on this one act seems sufficient to declare him unfit for present-day consumption. By any standard, scalping is an horrific act. But once again history throws up some uncomfortable facts.

Father Le Loutre’s War (1749 to 1755) was the handiwork of French Catholic priest Jean-Louis Le Loutre, who goaded local Mi’kmaq tribes into conflict with the British in hopes of reclaiming New Brunswick and Nova Scotia for the French. For added motivation, he explicitly promised to pay Mi’kmaq warriors a bounty for English scalps. And they delivered. In 1753, for example, Le Loutre was reimbursed 1,800 French livres by the colonial government in Quebec City for sums he paid to the Mi’kmaq for 18 English scalps.

The payment of scalp bounties was unsettlingly common throughout North America during the entire colonial period. It was, in fact, standing French policy to offer payments for the scalps of the English—men, women and children—as a subsidy to ensure the continued loyalty of allied Indigenous tribes. Scalp bounties in the English-speaking colonies generally only appeared when a war was on; and their value waned and fluxed depending on the public’s panic level. It thus seems unfair to use Cornwallis’s scalping proclamation as conclusive evidence against him when both sides in this ancient conflict, including those Mi’kmaq nations who today demand Cornwallis’s expulsion from the public square, were fully engaged in the repulsive tactic.

And while Amherst is widely considered to be the father of modern germ warfare for allegedly handing out smallpox-infected blankets to Indigenous foes, this is a falsehood. There is no proof he ever did such a thing. Amherst responded positively to the suggestion from a fellow officer in a letter dated July 16, 1763, but this came a month after the one and only time British troops actually stooped to such a tactic—during a native siege of Fort Pitt (near present-day Pittsburgh) on June 24, 1763.

Finally, Begbie was indeed responsible for sentencing six Indigenous leaders to hanging for their role in the killing of 20 non-natives during B.C.’s Chilcotin War. Yet condemning him into oblivion on this basis ignores his vast record of support and understanding for the province’s Indigenous communities at all other times. He was fluent in several Indigenous languages, recognized the concept of Aboriginal title in his rulings and took a strong position against racism. Begbie was perhaps the most liberal and native-friendly judge of his time. As for his controversial hanging decision, which the B.C. government recently apologized for, he had no choice. The death penalty was mandatory for murder cases. Despite all this, his own law society has removed him from the firmament.

To our great disadvantage, Canada has become obsessed with replaying a slow-motion, high-definition version of our past. Historical figures are now judged by intense focus on individual statements or actions. One ‘infraction’ at odds with current acceptable standards has become sufficient evidence for expulsion from present-day society. Yet it is reasonable, if not inevitable, to expect that every notable figure from the past has probably said or done something that will grate against modern sensibilities, particularly with respect to Indigenous relations. It is therefore only a matter of time before every statue, park and street named for an historical character in Canada is declared incompatible with the present.

But while the fraught relationship between colonial Canada and Indigenous peoples is an important component of our history, it is not its entirety. We should not allow current attention being paid to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s findings, necessary and disturbing as they may be, to become a mechanism that strips Canada of our most significant characters and events. Or removes the context and detail from the stories of who we are and where we came from.

Source: The case for keeping ‘Langevin Block’ – Macleans.ca

Bill McKee, the former curator of B.C. history at the Museum of Canadian History in Ottawa makes a sensible suggestion on how to keep historical names and statues while acknowledging the less savoury aspects of their legacy:

Removing his [Begbie’s] statue will accomplish nothing of general benefit. It would help to hide this sad part of our history. In its absence, no one will remember or learn a lesson to understand the native side of the Chilcotin War, and the complex story behind the execution of the chiefs.

I would suggest, rather than removing this important statue, a more useful step would be to provide interpretive panels explaining all parts of the life of Matthew Baillie Begbie, around the statue, similar to an interpretive exhibition in Vancouver’s Chinatown, just east of Carrell Street. The exhibition could highlight his impact upon our history, and focus on his impact upon First Nations, not as an aside, but a central part of our history.

Another important way to recognize the cost of the arrival of the British and Canadian fur traders, the participants in the several gold rushes and of the British colonial society upon our First Nations would be to erect another large statue recognizing the story of the Chilcotin War and the resulting executions of indigenous leaders. The funding could come from the public, as well as the City of New Westminster and the governments of B.C. and Canada. It could be located on the site of the former cemetery next to the new high school or near the courthouse, where the remains of the chiefs were possibly buried. I would think the site near the high school would be a chance to highlight the story of our First Nations to young people in New Westminster.

I also want to point out that the statue of Sir Matthew Baillie Begbie was created by Elek Imredy, a refugee who came to Canada from Hungary, after the Soviet suppression of the Hungarian revolution. Many people will recognize his “Girl in a Wetsuit” statue off of Stanley Park, at the entrance to Burrard Inlet, which was created at the request of the City of Vancouver. These statues are a reflection of the contributions of the many immigrants and refugees who have contributed to our history.

Please don’t remove the statue of Matthew Baillie Begbie.

Source: Opinion: Removing statue of Judge Begbie benefits no one

Renaming Langevin Block isn’t rewriting history – it’s unearthing it: Tabatha Southey

I tend to be more in the third camp that maintaining historic names and monuments may be better than erasing them as we can’t (nor should we) erase history (with appropriate interpretative plaques). But I understand the views of the Indigenous MPs and related factors that led the government to make the name change:

The building, constructed in 1889, was named after Hector-Louis Langevin. Mr. Langevin, a member of Sir John A. Macdonald’s cabinet and one of the Fathers of Confederation, was also one of the fathers of the Canadian residential school system, which he saw as the best way of ensuring that Indigenous children didn’t “remain savages.”

Of the resulting residential school system, I can only say this: If you haven’t yet, read the report, especially if you’re in a panic about us misremembering our past. Residential schools are part of Canada’s history, and in removing Mr. Langevin’s name from a building – one from which we are partly governed, no less – at a time when Canada must attempt reconciliation, we’re not burying our past. We’re unearthing it.

There has been an incredible level of hand-wringing about the name change, as there is about many name changes these days, and there seem to be three schools of lack-of-thought around monuments, statues, tributes, and the renaming and removing thereof.

The first is that change is simply impossible, or at least immoral. “Don’t trust that lying song, it’s still Constantinople,” this argument goes. “Or are you denying that Constantine the Great ever existed?”

The second argument is that we mustn’t apply modern standards to old heroes, and that everyone objecting to the perpetual celebration of people who tormented or enslaved their ancestors or their living relatives, like their auntie over there knitting them a scarf, is being far too sensitive.

Generally, this “don’t be such a snowflake” argument somehow manages to come around to not wanting to hurt the ghostly feelings of whatever dead hero’s statue or honorifically-named school is under discussion. Often, there’s a codicil that the once-celebrated figure meant well, or at least only meant as badly as everyone else did at the time, so don’t be such a meanie, snowflake.

The third line of defence takes one look at Defence Number Two, standing there boasting, “Look how bizarre I am, I am a complete freak of logic,” and simply says, “Hold my rhetorical beer.”

“Yes,” says Defence Number Three, “the old dead person in question was in fact horrible, you’re right. He was not at all the sort of person who deserves a great big statue or a major street named after him, and clearly the only the way to ensure future generations remember how horrible he was is to keep a lot of statues of him around and name an assortment of streets, schools, bridges and other miscellaneous public property after him. Not that I like the guy or admire his politics or anything, but lest we forget and all …”

Close observers may note that Defence Number Three and its devotees generally draw a line at which specific historical figures we must keep around under the guise of not repeating them.

…Some have pointed out that, given the issues still to be resolved, if we are to achieve reconciliation with Indigenous people, renaming a building is merely a distraction. But it is a gesture asked for by Indigenous MPs. In February 2016, Liberal backbenchers Don Rusnak and Robert-Falcon Ouellette and NDP MP Romeo Saganash, as well as Independent Hunter Tootoo, called on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to take Mr. Langevin’s name off the building. Do it, it was argued, in deference to survivors of the residential schools who shouldn’t be subjected to constant reminders of a man who “devastated their lives.”

It’s hardly a gesture that could be said to drain resources from other initiatives. Be wary of anyone who claims that the potable water budget was all spent on new PMO stationery, and perhaps not negotiating from a building basically called “In Your Face!” will help in some small way.

Some delicate flowers are seriously claiming that renaming a building in Ottawa is a grave insult that will cause irreparable damage to their culture. These highly selective stalwart defenders of culture and community ought to consider the fact that the man for whom that building was named insisted in a speech to Parliament that while Indigenous children left with their families could learn how to “read and write”, they must be separated from them if they are to “acquire the habits and tastes … of civilized people” – and pipe right down.

Anxiety about preserving our culture might be better spent on renaming something. Nothing threatens our culture more than refusing change; toppling statues is one of our traditions, and history is renaming. If you’ve spent any of the past week whining about the renaming of Langevin Block, you better have done so as a proud citizen of Turtle Island.

Source: Renaming Langevin Block isn’t rewriting history – it’s unearthing it – The Globe and Mail

The other related debate was regarding the appropriateness of the former US Embassy as an Indigenous “space.” The symbolism of the location, across the street from Parliament, contrasts with the symbolism of the architecture.

My take is that a creative architecture should be able to “repurpose” the space in a manner than includes Indigenous identity, much as the Global Centre of Pluralism’s renovation of the former war museum on Sussex Ave did with its Islamic screen motifs and choice of materials, colours and finishes.

Andrew Cohen’s critique is one of the better ones even if I don’t agree:

Beyond the venue, the building itself is unsuitable. It was designed by an American architect and finished in limestone, mimicking Beaux Arts. John Ralston Saul, the provocative writer and philosopher, calls it “an imitation of an imitation,” inconsistent in tone with the parliamentary precinct.

If it is questionable artistically, symbolically it’s awful. Do we want to offer Indigenous organizations an outpost of the American Empire, which deceived, displaced and murdered native Americans? Do we want Indigenous Canada to bury its heart on Wellington Street?

Let us recognize, as well, that this centre is not conceived in yesterday’s Ottawa, which was deaf to the aboriginal story. It comes amid a spirited effort to reverse a history of sorrow. Last week, for example, the National Gallery of Canada opened its new galleries of Canadian and Indigenous art. Next week, the Museum of Canadian History will open its new Canadian History Hall. Its president, Mark O’Neill, says that “Indigenous history is incorporated into every part of the most comprehensive exhibition of the Canadian story ever presented.” The National Arts Centre has announced its first artistic director of Indigenous theatre. The other day the Governor-General gave awards to 29 Canadians showing “outstanding Indigenous leadership.”

No, all this does not put things right. But institutional Canada, in its earnest way, is starting to embrace the Indigenous reality. Indeed, the elevation of the relationship between the government and first peoples may become the proudest legacy of the Trudeau government. But this repurposed Indigenous space is a bad idea. On the 150th anniversary of Confederation, why not think more boldly? Mr. Saul suggests razing the old embassy. He proposes a larger, elegant building, flowing from a rigorous international design competition. It would echo the motif of Parliament, draw on its materials and produce something modern and arresting.

It might hold two museums of political and aboriginal history, and offices for parliamentarians. Or serve as a repository of our founding documents, like the Quebec Act and the BNA Act. This would be the right building in the right place at the right time for Canada. It would make, in itself, a dazzling moral statement about this country and the people we are.

Turning an embassy into ‘Indigenous space’ is a classic government misjudgment