Langevin, Ryerson, Cornwallis: Is our past unfit for the present? – Peter Shawn Taylor

More good commentary by Peter Shawn Taylor (The case for keeping ‘Langevin Block’ – Peter Shawn Taylor, Begbie’s Statue – Bill McKee) and useful citing of historian Witt’s test questions on renaming:

Yale University has long wrestled with similar complaints about Calhoun College, named for benefactor John C. Calhoun, a U.S. senator from South Carolina and outspoken proponent of slavery during the pre-Civil War era. Last year, Yale asked historian John Fabian Witt to resolve the controversy. His response was a unique series of questions meant to gauge the validity of renaming demands. It’s a first stab at a coherent, standardized system for settling commemoration disputes, and other U.S. institutions have quickly grasped its significance. Last month, the University of Mississippi employed Prof. Witt’s test in removing some controversial names from its campus, while letting other remain. In the absence of anything similar in Canada, we should adopt the Witt test to settle our own namesake dilemmas.

Prof. Witt begins with the overarching principal that name changes should be considered “exceptional events” and not frivolous or political acts. “Renaming has often reflected excessive confidence in moral orthodoxies,” he observes, pointing with caution to the Soviet Union. Then again, not every urge to rename is Orwellian: post-Apartheid South Africa or post-Nazi West Germany, for example.

To decide what deserves to be removed and what should stay, the Witt test applies four questions, modified here for domestic use, that weigh the actions and time periods of commemorated individuals.

  • First: Is the principal legacy of the namesake fundamentally at odds with Canadian values? This requires a broad understanding of the life’s work of the individual in question.
  • Second: Was the relevant principal legacy significantly contested during the namesake’s lifetime? Isolated statements or actions considered controversial today may have been conventional wisdom at the time. Context matters.
  • Third: At the time of the naming, was the namesake honoured for reasons fundamentally at odds with Canadian values? Why was this person commemorated?
  • Finally: Does the building play a substantial role in forming community? The more prominent the edifice, the greater the casefor retaining names of historical significance, Prof. Witt says.

Using the Witt test, Yale announced in February the removal of Mr. Calhoun’s name. White supremacy, it concluded, was his principal legacy. Mr. Calhoun claimed slavery was “a positive good” and that the Declaration of Independence erred in stating all men are created equal. For this, he was criticized in his own time and today.

Applying these same standards to Mr. Langevin, however, yields a different result. As an important French-Catholic Conservative federalist in the Confederation era, Mr. Langevin’s principal legacy was building a bicultural Canada, something once considered a great virtue in this country. This is why his name was placed on an important building in Ottawa. Though his name is today often paired with residential schools, Mr. Langevin was primarily involved with constructing the buildings, not championing the policies. The infamous speech he gave in Parliament on the subject was actually parroting what his boss – Sir John A. Macdonald – had said days earlier. While his comments are grating to modern ears, he was merely repeating widely accepted views from his time. The Witt test exonerates Mr. Langevin.

The legacies of Mr. Begbie, Mr. Ryerson, Mr. Cornwallis and the rest of Canada’s historically accused deserve a fair trial as well.

Source: Langevin, Ryerson, Cornwallis: Is our past unfit for the present? – The Globe and Mail

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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

Government accused of hoarding Canadian history in ‘secret’ archives

Hard to know whether deliberate policy or, what I think may be more likely, lower priority and capacity constraints:

Some of Canada’s leading historians say the federal government is putting the country’s historical record at risk by hoarding piles of documents inside secret archives that together would make a stack taller than the CN Tower.

Historian Dennis Molinaro of Trent University discovered ministries and agencies are stockpiling millions of decades-old papers rather than handing them over to Library and Archives Canada for safekeeping and public access. He’s launched a petition to try to convince the government to set them free.

The Canadian Historical Association (CHA) has joined his campaign and is calling on the government to mark Canada’s 150th anniversary by overhauling the laws on access to government records.

“It’s very disturbing that there are caches of documents about which we know very little. We don’t even know the extent of this,” said CHA president Joan Sangster, a colleague of Molinaro’s at Trent in Peterborough, Ont., where she teaches labour and women’s history.

As part of his research, Molinaro has been asking government departments to hand over information about Canada’s Cold War domestic spy and surveillance programs run by the RCMP. Last fall, the federal government initially refused his access-to-information request for the papers (which were never transferred to the national archives) concerning a 65-year-old top secret RCMP wiretapping program dubbed Project Picnic.

One day after CBC News reported on Molinaro’s battle with the bureaucracy, officials notified him they would release the 1951 “secret order” that authorized the wiretapping program targeting suspected Soviet spies and other subversives, signed by Prime Minister Louis St-Laurent.

‘Secret or shadow archive’

Access-to-information officials have told Molinaro the Privy Council Office holds at least 1.6 million more pages from the era, many of which could concern Cold War counter-espionage programs. He’s also learned many more intelligence-related records dating back four, five and six decades are being held by the Communications Security Establishment (CSE) and the departments of Justice and Foreign Affairs.

He’s been told in email exchanges that there’s currently no public list to help him — or any other researcher — understand, let alone access, these mountains of papers kept inside closed government storerooms.

“The government seems to be, in essence, running some kind of secret or shadow archive,” Molinaro told CBC News.

Keeping millions of records from the national archives is “appalling,” he said.

“You’re hiding the historical record from the Canadian people.”

He says the problem extends far beyond his own research interest of domestic surveillance.

“Think of how many events from the Cold War … The Cuban Missile Crisis … RCMP counter-intelligence operations, foreign intelligence operations,” he said. “What else is there on other topics? On Indigenous affairs and relations? What else is in different government institutions on a variety of topics?

“We don’t know.”

CBC News asked various government departments to identify how much historical material they keep that’s more than 30 years old — and why.

The Privy Council Office (PCO) revealed it has “1,430 cubic feet” (40.5 cubic metres) of government records dating back many decades.

docsgraph

PCO says transfer of these cabinet documents, discussion papers and records to Library and Archives Canada (LAC) is “time-consuming” and first requires wide consultation to ensure classified information isn’t released improperly.

The office says it’s looking at recommendations to declassify a large block of “legacy” information from 1939-1959, and considering transferring cabinet minutes and documents from the 1980s to LAC.

The CSE, Canada’s electronic spy agency, acknowledges it, too, is struggling to sort 128 linear metres of boxes of “legacy” records that are more than three decades old before handing them over to LAC.

The Foreign Affairs Department, Canadian Security Intelligence Service and the RCMP all declined to say how much historical material they continue to store.

Source: Government accused of hoarding Canadian history in ‘secret’ archives – Canada – CBC News

Quebec minister refuses to sign off on new, controversial history course

Positive move:

A proposed high school history course that critics said ignored minorities in Quebec and promoted a rigid, nationalist ideology will not be implemented province wide as planned, the Education Department confirmed Thursday.

Instead, the department will make changes to the program to better reflect the province’s cultural and linguistic minorities, according to a government official as well as other well-placed sources.

The contentious plan was introduced by the Parti Quebecois government before it lost the 2014 election and was being piloted in a few Quebec schools.

Department spokeswoman Marie-Eve Dion said schools that want to try piloting the new program in August 2016 will be allowed to do so while all others will stick to the old curriculum until further notice.

“Many consultations have been done and improvements are constantly being implemented,” she said in an email. “The goal is to make the course as representative and inclusive as possible.”

The program was to be introduced province wide in the 2016-17 school year, which begins in late August.

“This is absolutely good news,” said Sylvia Martin-Laforge, head of the Quebec Community Groups Network, a federally funded organization that advocates for the province’s anglophone community.

“We understand that the minister was not happy with the material. It would seem that people were eager (in the Education Department) to roll out this program and the minister had the courage to say ‘No. We will not roll this out.’”

The proposed two-year program, called History of Quebec and Canada, was widely panned by First Nations groups, as well as by cultural and linguistic minority communities across the province.

Documents obtained by The Canadian Press revealed that non-European francophone immigrants are scantily mentioned.

In the guidelines teachers use to craft their lesson plans, Confederation in 1867 is not a theme, but tucked into the larger section called “1840-1896: The formation of the Canadian federal system.”

Moreover, the only discussion of former prime minister Pierre Trudeau, considered the father of multiculturalism in Canada, is in the context of him “inviting the provincial governments to reopen the Canadian Constitution,” after which Quebec left “empty-handed.”

Martin-Laforge said “we can only hope that the depictions of minority communities will not be stereotypical and that the new program doesn’t characterize us as bad guys.”

Jacques Beauchemin, who helped write the proposed curriculum, told The Canadian Press earlier this year the purpose of the program was to remove mentions about Quebec being a diverse society that promotes multiculturalism.

Source: Quebec minister refuses to sign off on new, controversial history course – Macleans.ca

No longer buried: Rio’s slave past unearthed at Valongo Wharf during Olympic renovations

One of the likely enduring legacies of the Rio Olympics, a greater understanding of the past:

In an abandoned train depot near Rio de Janeiro’s derelict port area are stacked dozens of black plastic boxes. Two young researchers are sorting through their contents. Inside one box: a ceramic pipe. Inside another: a plate used in a traditional religious ceremony.

All of the objects belonged to former slaves and most of these finds wouldn’t have been discovered if it hadn’t been for work related to the Olympics.

In 2011, the city of Rio embarked on an extensive project to rejuvenate the long-neglected port area. Among the planned projects: the Museum of Tomorrow, an Olympic village for judges, light rail to carry the tourists expected during the Games, as well as better housing for the area’s residents.

To their surprise, they began unearthing hundreds of artifacts dating from the early 1800s.

“These objects prove the existence, the materialization of this terrible process in the human history — the history of the slave,” says Claudio Honorato, a historian with the New Blacks Institute for Research and Memory.

I meet Honorato at a spot rife with historical import: the Valongo Wharf, where close to half-a-million slaves were off-loaded during Brazil’s slave trade. It was built in 1811, then later buried, only to be unearthed again during a $2-billion excavation project.

Port Area Rennos-2

“The development work was really to be done faster but they had to stop the process,” Honorato says. “The Museum of Tomorrow and the Mauá Pier were expected to be opened in 2011 with a big party and were only opened now. When they came upon all the African-Brazilian materials — these archeological traces — the development work had to stop.”

That’s because developers have to comply with legislation passed in Rio relatively recently that says no development can go ahead on land where evidence of historical interest has been discovered, without doing further archeological research.

“This port area was a place where a lot of ships from Africa came, bringing 500,000 slaves,” says Ondemar Dias, with the Brazilian Archeological Institute. “The amount of materials related to these cultures demonstrates, along with other research, that it’s a very important place to tell the story of this culture that came to Brazil.”

….”We have lots of objects in the museums here that are, for instance, gifts of African embassies to our emperor, and even other objects that were conquered in wars in Africa,” Honorato says. “These, on the other hand, were objects built here. They are part of the culture of these individuals who lived in this society, who contributed to this society.

“I think this is a material that reveals the day-to-day life, the common life, in the places that these Africans lived, where they’ve worked, where they’ve celebrated. And that’s why we call this the ‘slavery paths in Rio de Janeiro.’ It reveals the aspects of this ‘Little Africa’ — what they were actually doing in their daily life.”

African history, he says, has rarely been valued in Brazil. At other sites of historical importance, discoveries have been quietly covered up to enable construction to continue. But now advocates are hoping to turn the area’s African history into an important tourist attraction.

“That’s why Brazil is requesting that this place go on the World Heritage list,” Dias says.

There are already tours incorporating the area’s African history, including an area where the bodies of dead slaves were dumped. Honorato says he hopes this will lead to a change in attitudes; that African history will no longer be buried, like the Valongo Wharf.

“[It’s important] to preserve this history, to preserve this culture, this memory,” he says. “And also ensure the memory of those who resisted, and are here, until the present moment.”

Source: No longer buried: Rio’s slave past unearthed at Valongo Wharf during Olympic renovations – World – CBC News

Ontario lauded for high school history curriculum

While I expect the debate over the teaching of history, and which histories and interpretations, will continue, this improvement over the past five years is noteworthy.

I can only wonder, given Alberta’s poor score, whether it had some influence on the increased emphasis on history in Discover Canada (which was needed), the citizenship guide introduced by former minister Jason Kenney, and the requirement, for teenagers, to take the citizenship knowledge test (not needed):

Ontario stands at the top of the class for its strong Canadian history curriculum in the latest ratings by this country’s history education watchdog — and we trounced Alberta, whose fuzzy timelines and lack of compulsory high school history credit landed it dead last.

Ontario’s rich Grade 10 history credit course — so jam-packed the report suggests it be spread over two years — plus its mandatory half-course in citizenship helped earn it a mark of 82 per cent on the Canadian History Report Card, to be released Monday by Historica Canada, a group that promotes awareness of Canadian history.

Also strong were British Columbia (81 per cent), Quebec (80) and Manitoba (80). However Alberta scored just 62 per cent, and Saskatchewan 69 per cent, in a report that calls for schools to work harder to help students understand their country.

“We tend to be lacking at either the front end — recent history — or the back end before 1867, but we’re getting better, which is important because understanding history helps you understand why we are the way we are,” said Historica president Anthony Wilson-Smith.

If anything, Ontario’s Grade 10 history course tries to cover too much, he said; “from the early 1900s to now — both world wars, the great influenza epidemic, the injustices done to immigrants like the Chinese who didn’t get the vote till 1947… let’s think of that scope! It would be better spread over two years.”

Canadian schools have pulled up their educational socks since 2009, when Historica’s last report card handed out failing grades to five provinces and territories, with two more squeaking by with only 50s.

This report card looked at history curriculum from Grades 4 to 12 to see how well it balances the teaching of timelines with deeper themes like diversity, gender, aboriginal peoples and national identity — and from a range of perspectives, from global to local, social to national.

It also measures how well each province teaches students to think about history using the six “historical thinking concepts” that have to do with historical significance, considering evidence, examining continuity and change, cause and consequence, looking at broader historical perspectives and the ethical dimension.

Wilson-Smith said Canadian schools are moving beyond the perspective of European settlers to include First Nations, women and non-European immigrants’ perspectives, and consider more than just military and economic milestones by discussing ethics and social responsibility.

Historica also consulted classroom teachers, and some in Ontario expressed their frustration at having little time for a deep look at events such as the FLQ crisis, the Cold War, the Korean War, the Indian Act, residential schools, the Montreal Massacre, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, OPEC crisis, the Oka crisis and the Meech Lake Accord, said Historica’s program manager, Bronwyn Graves.

Source: Ontario lauded for high school history curriculum | Toronto Star

The Uses and Abuses of History: Tacitus’ Germania

Interesting history and impact of the work of the Roman Tacitus on Germans:

Tacitus wasn’t a satirist himself, but in the Germania he was working one of Western moralism’s most enduring tropes: contrasting the noble savage beyond the border with the decadent civilized man within. The Germans, he wrote, were all of a phenotype, red-haired, blue-eyed and huge in stature; they were warlike, but honourable and loyal to death, fighting only for truth, justice and the German way. Overall, their moral standards put Romans to shame: “nobody laughs off vice, and to corrupt and to be corrupted is not called ‘modern times.’ ” As that line reveals, Tacitus meant his work as a call to Roman renewal, not a paean to the barbarians, whose faults as he saw them—in culture, manners and personal hygiene—drew sneers to match his praise for their virtues.

But the sneers were easily ignored in the first stirrings of the German nationalism that would prove so potent during the Reformation, especially among intellectuals envious of the French and English nation-states. One of the few to play both themes was an Italian papal envoy sent north to rally support for a crusade against the expanding Ottoman Empire. In public he stressed German warrior prowess as set out by his illustrious Roman predecessor; in private the envoy sent whining letters home, begging his friends to pull enough strings to get him out of a frozen hell hole of inedible food and “dead men who are still farting.”

German thinkers simply embraced the positive aspects. By the 19th century, racial theorists were taking Tacitus’s judgment that the ancient Germans preserved their virtues through their refusal to intermarry with other peoples as Gospel—and as proof that Jews were poisoning the very blood of the volk. By the time the Third Reich arose, Nazi theorists considered the Germania “a bible that every thinking German should possess,” in the words of one, and its author supremely trustworthy because he was both ancient and an admiring enemy of the Germans. Nazi gatherings had “Tacitus rooms” with particularly choice quotations about blood purity and the supreme virtue of manly loyalty unto death written on the walls for the contemplation of young. Adolf Hitler aimed to call the new capital he aimed to build Germania.

For true believers like Heinrich Himmler—who sent an SS team to steal a manuscript copy of the Germania from an Italian villa even as the Allies were advancing up the peninsula—Tacitus was a racial genius on a par with the Fuhrer himself, and his work one of the foundations of Nazism. Some of the old monks of Corvey, those who agreed with the long-running medieval argument that no good could come from preserving the works of pagan authors, would have said “told you so.”

The uses and abuses of history

Le gouvernement Couillard peut sauver la réforme de 2006

Good commentary by Christian Laville on Quebec’s “history wars” in relation to public education and the historical narrative used. The PQ government had plans to revise the curriculum, in line with their objective of creating long-term disengagement from Canadian history, a more balanced approach may come from the new Liberal government:

Comme on pouvait s’y attendre, le rapport Beauchemin–Famhy-Eid est bien conforme aux voeux du Parti québécois et de la Coalition. Ce qui est central dans ce rapport, c’est la proposition de revenir à un programme ordonné selon la trame nationale. En veut-on une illustration ? Dans la partie argumentative de ce petit rapport, quarante pages bien aérées, on compte 25 fois les mots « trame nationale », dont 13 fois « la trame nationale ». Comme il est expliqué, la trame nationale doit servir de fil conducteur vers la question nationale « qui organise et singularise l’histoire du Québec, depuis les premiers balbutiements d’une communauté découvrant sa singularité jusqu’aux méandres de la “ question nationale ” telle qu’elle circonscrit aujourd’hui nos conflits et nos rassemblements » (p. 41).

Il est donc facile de reconnaître ce que cela implique. D’autant plus facilement que dans les milieux nationalistes-conservateurs, ladite trame nationale apparaît souvent comme synonyme de cheminement vers la souveraineté. Ainsi, chez un des principaux animateurs de l’opposition au programme actuel, l’historien Éric Bédard, qui, commentant la défaite du Parti québécois du 7 avril, explique : « On annonce un peu vite la défaite du mouvement souverainiste. Cette trame nationale traverse notre histoire. »

Le ballon est maintenant entre les mains du nouveau gouvernement. Durant la campagne électorale, Philippe Couillard a déclaré : « Je veux m’assurer qu’on est dans une direction de mieux informer les gens de notre histoire, et qu’il n’y ait pas de teinte politique partisane, qui est parfois subtile. » Le moment est venu de s’en assurer. Et de procéder pour sauver un enseignement de l’histoire de qualité qui peut encore être sauvé, un enseignement de l’histoire moderne sachant tenir compte des réalités de notre époque et des besoins des élèves d’aujourd’hui.

Sauver l’enseignement de l’histoire en préservant la forme moderne du programme en vigueur, cependant, n’empêcherait pas de corriger certains des irritants que les enseignants ont constatés dans leur pratique, et dont plusieurs, il est juste de le dire, sont mentionnés dans le rapport Beauchemin–Famhy-Eid. Nous pensons par exemple au rétablissement d’une chronologie continue, à une rédaction plus claire du programme, à la clarification des connaissances à faire acquérir… Le rapport propose aussi d’accroître la part de l’histoire dans la formation des maîtres, ce que nous appuyons.

Le gouvernement Couillard peut sauver la réforme de 2006 | Le Devoir.

Critics accuse the Conservative Party of ‘politicizing history’ as national museum mandates change | National Post

More debate on the mandate of the new national history museum. Removal of the phrase ‘critical understanding’ is significant, and reflects a change in substance and tone. Ironic, given one of the valid criticisms of the Canada Hall was its Disneyland-like airbrushing of Canadian history.

All governments struggle with how to cover and portray their history and the balance between reinforcing a national narrative while being honest about the less uplifting parts. See Margaret MacMillan’s The Uses and Abuses of History for a great discussion and examples

via Critics accuse the Conservative Party of ‘politicizing history’ as national museum mandates change | National Post.

How Stephen Harper is rewriting history – Canada – Macleans.ca

Good overview on the remake of the Canadian Museum of Civilization into the Canadian Museum of History, and the likely narrowing of focus and messaging. While the CMC was ‘content light’, my experience taking visitors around from many countries is that the Canada Hall gave them a powerful image of the diversity and evolution of Canada.

And some of Jack Granatstein’s lament in Who Killed Canadian History seemed exaggerated as our kids went through their primary and high school education with a reasonable amount of ‘traditional’ history in addition to social history. Not to say a refresh is not warranted, but hopefully less jingoistic than the War of 1812 celebrations.

How Stephen Harper is rewriting history – Canada – Macleans.ca.