The Shotgun Blog
Tuesday, October 06, 2009
A Word By Any Other Name
the policy or practice of acquiring full or partial political control over another country, occupying it with settlers, and exploiting it economically.
What the Prime Minister said:
Prime Minister Stephen Harper should apologize for saying Canada has "no history of colonialism," some First Nations leaders say.
The prime minister made the statements during a news conference in Pittsburgh last Friday while talking about the virtues of Canada.
"We also have no history of colonialism," said Harper during the G20 summit news conference in Pittsburgh. "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."
"It is not the truth. There should be a retraction for sure and an apology," said Ghislain Picard, grand chief of the Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador.
In a statement, Picard said: "Denying the history of colonialism in Canada is like denying the holocaust."
Well, no it isn't like denying the Holocaust. What the Prime Minister said, within the context he was speaking, was that Canada has never been a colonial power. It would have been sheer stupidity to say that Canada had never been a colony, or had a colonial history. Canada has never had a colony. We never nipped on over and seized a Caribbean island or African port. What Mr Picard is trying to do is stretch a word into near oblivion, in the most theatrical manner possible. Colonialism is the rule of one country or territory by another power. Intrinsically this is not immoral. Canada was technically a colony of Britain until 1931. Yet virtually no one in Canada thought our status some sort of horrible injustice.
Had the Canadian government at any point between 1867 and 1931 politely asked to leave the Empire, no one would have stopped them, except the people of Canada. The Royal Navy would not have blockaded our ports, the Royal Marines would not have seized Quebec or Halifax. We were a colony because we wanted to be one. Because the overwhelming majority of Canadians believed in the idea of the British Empire and the monarchy. They believed the best thing for Canada was to stay under the protection of the leading global power of the age.
On the other end of the spectrum is what King Leopold did in the Belgian Congo. Too often colonialism is painted as being all Leopolds and no Canadas. It's that impression that Picard is using to embarrass the Prime Minister, while pressing his own claims. In a sense Canada has had "colonies," the reserve system, and even a Colonial Office of sorts, the Department of Indian Affairs. If you hold, as some aboriginal leaders do, that the various tribes that were bought off by the British Crown in the 18th and 19th century, and later the Dominion government, are nations then Canada is in fact a colonial power. "Nations" that live off the financial resources of the Canadian state (i.e. the taxpayer), and enjoy the military and diplomatic protection of the same state.
To most people the term nation implies a nation-state, a concept of European origin that had no counterpart in pre-Columbian North America. The various aboriginal tribes are not nations in any sense that word usually implies, except the cultural one. If Mr Picard seeks to deal with Canada as the leader of a sovereign nation, or collection of nations, then he should ask to assume the full responsibilities of a sovereign nation. Nations are sometimes called "imagined communities." To step out of imagination the first thing a nation must do is pay its own way. Something the current crop of aboriginal leaders has no intention of doing. Nationalism, whether of the Quebec or aboriginal variety, is simply a club to beat the taxpayers of Canada - of all races, languages and religions - into submission. A racist shakedown racket. The appropriate response to such a racket is quite simple: "If you're not Canadian, or have no intention of becoming a Canadian, you are a tourist. Tourists aren't eligible to live off the generosity of the Canadian people."
Posted by Richard Anderson on October 6, 2009 | Permalink
Pubis, Pubis, Pubis.... The dipstick doth protest too much, methinks. So at best, Canada was a country that was originally comprised of colonies (land that was acquired by force from the inhabitants, then occupied and economically exploited). But then look at a map of Canada in 1867 and compare it to the map of Canada today. There is a lot of land that in 1867 continued to be colonies (taken by force, occupied, and exploited) that we gradually accepted bit by bit into the country. Which means that if Canada can claim not to be the colonizers per se, we certainly were happy to take over colonized lands. Which means that while we might be able to say we have no history of stealing, we have a long history of happily receiving and keeping stolen goods. What fine moral hair-splitting that is!
But, of course, that is really not the truth. Just exactly who were the colonizers - the people who did the colonizing? Well, they were the very same people who became the first Canadians when the country was formed in 1867. The colonial leaders became the national leaders. Our founding fathers all were colonizers who made the taking of land by force, occupation, and exploitation a permanent fact. Then, from 1867 onward, Canadians were among the people who took by force, occupied, and exploited the rest of British North America. (What? You thought the people who continued to move into the colonies and colonized all came from Europe? Pshaw!) And once the colonies were ready, we happily received them into the Canadian fold, accepting their taking, occupation, and exploitation.
It is true that Canada has no history of colonizing outside of North America, but to claim we have no history of colonialism is stupid. Well done, Pubis!
Posted by: Fact Check | 2009-10-06 8:14:08 AM
Posted by: Publius | 2009-10-06 8:21:22 AM
Canada in 1867 was nothing but a puppet state of the British Crown. One cannot separate the actions of the nation from the actions of the empire by an Act of Parliament. The confiscation of Indian lands continued regardless.
At the same time, we cannot judge our actions then with our modern sense of justice, morality and ethics either. What happened happened.
Now if we could only get rid of the Indian Act. Get rid of reservations and set our Indian people free then we'd be getting somewhere.
Posted by: snowgirl | 2009-10-06 9:11:44 AM
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
So obviously what Harper meant to say was the more factually accurate: "Canada has no history of colonialism, except for the ongoing internal colonization of Indigenous people and the external colonization and occupation of, amongst others, the people of Afghanistan. Not one to break with history, my government too has been making strides in asserting greater dominance over Indigenous peoples lives, lands, and governance. "
At least we can take some comfort in the fact that Harper is just another hypocritical and self-serving politician and not a history teacher.
Posted by: TheTruth | 2009-10-06 9:25:47 AM
"Colonialism is the rule of one country or territory by another power. Intrinsically this is not immoral. Canada was technically a colony of Britain until 1931. Yet virtually no one in Canada thought our status some sort of horrible injustice."
Colonialism is never immoral or a synonym of "horrible injustice" for the colonising side.
« A racist shakedown racket »
I don’t know if it’s because I’m Québécois, but each time Anglo essayists paint Québécois and First Nations as racists, I laugh out loud.
If we ever developed, throughout hundreds of years under Imperialism à l’anglaise (call it federalism if it makes you feel better), reflexes that look like racism...That’s because we’ve learned from THE BEST.
"If you're not Canadian, or have no intention of becoming a Canadian, you are a tourist. Tourists aren't eligible to live off the generosity of the Canadian people."
Posted by: Marc | 2009-10-06 11:44:47 AM
Laugh too Marc.
Posted by: Publius | 2009-10-06 12:48:04 PM
"live off the financial resources of the Canadian state (i.e. the taxpayer), and enjoy the military and diplomatic protection of the same state."...
Canada receives over 24 billion dollars a year in tarrifs and royalties from the natural resources. The taxpayer doesn't pay a dime for the native funding from Canada. Consider it a perpetual rent.
and for your information the Dakota Oyate have taken Canada to court over the theft of the land. If u take a close look at Canada's history, the Dakota protected Canada from the U.S. So what does Canada do after it gets its border? Steal the land from the Dakota by signing treaties with the Saulteaux, the Ojibway and the Cree. These nations have no right to sign treaties with Canada on land that they have no right to negotiate with. These nations were forced out of the treeline and into the prairies. The prairies are natural territory to the Dakota. Learn your history.
Of course you'll need proof and it will be made public when it all comes out in court.
We filed our claim July 24 and Canada has asked for its second extension to respond. You'd think after all these years Canada would have its act together. Apparently not.
Posted by: Dakota22 | 2009-10-06 3:36:02 PM
All the flap about so-called colonialism and the colonised would not be so ridiculous, if it were not that the least suggestion to do away with the Indian Act and reserves always has the professional Natives screaming bloody murder. Some just want it both ways. This is a shame since there are many Native people making it on their own and doing very well.
Posted by: Alain | 2009-10-06 4:55:52 PM
The dutch took over the English Crown via William of Orange.
Before that, the Norman French took over the southern half of England in 1066 while the Norse and Danes took over the northern half
Before that the Angles, Saxons and Danes from Jutland invaded after the Romans left.
The Romans took England from the Celts.
The Celts invaded England chasing off the Picts.
Before that there were at least 3 Indo-European migrations invasions into England including the builders of Stonehenge.
So I have lawsuits pending against 12 nations that have successfully invaded England.
Wish me luck every one!
Posted by: snowgirl | 2009-10-06 9:03:41 PM
->"the policy or practice of acquiring full or partial political control over another country, occupying it with settlers, and exploiting it economically."
While it can, and has, been argued that "the First Welfare Recipients" constitute nations, if you bastardize the meaning of the word nations, they are not and were not countries.
Posted by: Speller | 2009-10-07 7:12:43 AM
It is amazing the degree to which people will go to justifiy and/or excuse oppression when they benefit from it. It is even more amazing how far people will go to defend there position that are based upon ignorance. Or is it...
Posted by: MAH | 2009-10-08 11:07:34 AM
Really, MAH. Just who are the oppressed in Canada other than the working middle class tax-payers? Actually even they are exploited rather than oppressed.
Posted by: Alain | 2009-10-08 4:18:26 PM
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