That I’m less than impressed with our current federal government shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise. With immigration concerns galore that have affected many (including our friends), the latest Stephen Harper gaffe is just one more thing to add to the long list of things I’m not happy with about our government.
Imagine standing up in a forum as important as the G20 and stating that Canada has no history of colonialism. However, as most are aware by now, that is exactly what he did last week. Rather than spout off my own two cents, as I am well tempted to do, I’ll let you read what others have to say, if you haven’t already.
Really Harper, Canada has no history of colonialism?
By Harsha Walia 28 Sep 2009
“We also have no history of colonialism…” – Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
On the heels of a massive exercise of U.S. police repression against G20 protesters, including use of a wartime sonic acoustic weapon also being utilized in Iraq, Stephen Harper made the above declaration during a press conference in Pittsburgh where it was announced that Canada would be hosting the next G20 meeting in 2010.
Perhaps Harper and I are not on the same page – is colonialism not defined as the practice and processes of domination, control, and forced subjugation of one people to another? As most bluntly stated by Duncan Campbell Scott, Head of the Department of Indian Affairs in the 1920’s: “Our objective is to continue until there is not a single Indian in Canada that has not been absorbed into the body politic and there is no Indian question.”
I expect Harper has read the federal government’s own report on the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, which explicitly lays out Canada’s imposition of a colonial relationship (indeed, that is the heading of one of the chapters) on Indigenous people. Measures employed include the Indian Act, residential schools, forcible relocation including to reservations, the imposed Band Council system, institution of a pass system (which was subsequently borrowed by apartheid South Africa), germ warfare, outlawing of ceremonies such as the potlatch and traditional activities such as fishing, failed treaty processes, and other forced assimilation polices including the Act for the Gradual Assimilation of Indian Peoples.
Considering that his government has so ardently voted against it, it would be safe to presume that Harper is aware of the 2007 United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People. If Canada has no history of colonialism, then what else could possibly explain that Canada – along with other settler states such as Australia – have yet to sign on to the Declaration? Other than the glaringly obvious and painful reality of colonization, what would make the Declaration “unworkable for Canada”, as stated by the Harper government?
Read the rest here.
Or there is this article linked to by a friend:
Stephen Harper Denies Canadian Colonial History.
By David Anton Jacks
My initial thoughts:
At the G20 in Pittsburgh, on September 25, 2009, Stephen Harper outlined to the media during a press conference that:
“We also have no history of colonialism. So we have all of the things that many people admire about the great powers but none of the things that threaten or bother them,”
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary (online) defines Colonialism as:
1: the quality or state of being colonial
2: something characteristic of a colony
3: a) control by one power over a dependent area or people
b): a policy advocating or based on such control
The Indian Act comes to mind.
The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy notes that:
“Colonialism is a practice of domination, which involves the subjugation of one people to another”.
Yet Harper clearly outlines Canada’s subjugation of Aboriginal people in Canada to the “dominant culture” in the June 11, 2008 Indian Residential School Apology in which he said:
“Two primary objectives of the Residential Schools system were to remove and isolate children from the influence of their homes, families, traditions and cultures, and to assimilate them into the dominant culture. These objectives were based on the assumption Aboriginal cultures and spiritual beliefs were inferior and unequal. Indeed, some sought, as it was infamously said, “to kill the Indian in the child”.”
Despite forgetfulness over his recent (perhaps insincere) apology, Stephen Harper has referred to British Colonialism in Canada as “brilliant” in an address at the
Canada-UK Chamber of Commerce on July 14, 2006, noting:
“But seriously and truthfully, much of what Canada is today we can trace to our origins as a colony of the British Empire.
Now I know it’s unfashionable to refer to colonialism in anything other than negative terms.
And certainly, no part of the world is unscarred by the excesses of empires.
But in the Canadian context, the actions of the British Empire were largely benign and occasionally brilliant”.
Harper will likely say that we are taking his remarks out of context, and that he meant to say that Canada has never actively colonized another sovereign, independent nation-state in the same way that England, Spain, France or the Netherlands have.
Other than the fact that First Nations were and indeed still are nations, it is the institutional continuation of colonial policies in Canada today that we cannot deny, but are being denied by Stephen Harper in his statements.
Joyce A. Green notes that “Canada is an evolving colonial entity” in Towards a Detente with history: Confronting Canada’s Colonial History. She outlines that “The obscured reality of Canada’s colonial foundations contributes to a contemporary Canadian psychosis as we struggle to account for and deal with the consequences of that same colonialism while generally denying its reality”.
Canada IS a colonial State, both by origin and by practice.
I would say that he owes Aboriginal people in Canada (and all Canadians for that matter) an apology…
But history shows the true value of an apology from Stephen Harper.