Archives for posts with tag: first nations

St. Patrick’s Day is a good day to think about the settlement of our country. The Irish were of the early settlers who came to this land. Mark Starowicz eloquently describes the unique formation of Canada in the afterword of the two volume work based on the CBC documentary, Canada: A People’s History. Here are some excerpts:

Modern Canada was founded by two unwanted peoples. The first: the French of two separate colonies—Acadia and Quebec—both occupied by the British and abandoned by the French, who didn’t even want Quebec back after the Seven Year’s War and traded it for the tiny sugar island of Guadeloupe. The second: their ancestral English enemies from the American colonies, driven from their homes in the years after 1776.

Thus, the experience of refuge is at the core of the Canadian identity. We are refugees, or descendants of refugees, who have come to our shores like the recurring tides: the Scots left landless by the Highland Clearances… the starving Irish families ousted by landlords and famine… Black people who were refugees from the American Revolution and the Civil War… the landless from eastern and northern Europe: Galicians, Mennonites, Poles, Jews, Russians, Scandinavians, Dutch—all fleeing war, persecution, economic devastation, or famine… Chinese [and Japanese] crossing the Pacific to escape poverty… British orphans were sent here in a systematic relocation of the abandoned… after WW2 came the people the war had displaced, and survivors of the Holocaust… Sikhs, Italians, Portuguese [came] in search of a better life… the boat people from Vietnam… [more recently] refugees from war still arrive—from the Sudan, Somalia, the Balkans… [the past few years from Syria, and today, walking across the American border in the dead of winter’s night].

They were all the debris of history: the expelled, the persecuted, the landless, the marginalized, the victims of imperial wars, of economic and ideological upheavals. In a sense we are all boat people. We just got here at different times.

The major diverging current is the story of the [indigenous] people, the only ones who became refugees on Canadian soil. Even the most cursory reading of our history leads one to conclude that the peoples of the First Nations were systematically robbed and degraded in their own homelands. An equally cursory reading of Canadian history will show that there would be no Canada today without Donnacona, who saved Jacques Cartier’s expedition, without the Huron allies of the French, without Kondiaronk of the Great Peace, without Tecumseh’s warriors, who defended Canada’s territorial integrity, without Brant, without the Six Nations Confederacy, without Mi’kmaq, without the Plains Indians who saved the Selkirk Settlers, [without Louis Riel], and the nations of the Northwest who formed great trading empires. The Canadian idea of redemption and equality will never be realized, and the nation made whole, until this great wrong is righted.

Thanksgiving weekend is upon us in Canada. I am most thankful for family, food, and friends as usual but since I’m blogging “Canadiana” let us give thanks for all the blessings we enjoy in this wonderful political entity called Canada. Canadians complain about the weather, about our politicians, about our hockey teams, about too much of this and not enough of that but really, we have a lot to be thankful for. Here are just ten things:

  1. First Nations. Before there was Canada there were many nations. They have been hospitable and humble hosts even though we brought some really bad gifts from Europe.
  2. Geography: coastal beaches, mountains, deserts, prairies, forests, muskeg, rolling meadows, and the Canadian Shield—a unique collection of rock, lakes, and trees that covers almost half of Canada.
  3. Road Trips to explore the above. The Trans-Canada Highway that runs from coast to coast is the ultimate one. We traveled it in 2007 as a family of 6 in a mini-van [Check out the pictures under “Slide shows”], although we did not do the Newfoundland section which is on my bucket list.
  4. The People. If the USA is a melting pot, Canada is a salad where every distinct people group is encouraged to embrace their uniqueness while still contributing to the whole. Do you see the multi-cultural crowd wearing hard hats behind an electioneering politician?
  5. Winter. Although on the west coast we can hardly claim to have winter, to brave the harsh winter elements is a truly Canadian experience. Other than licking a metal pole at minus 30—which I would not recommend—that feeling of your nostrils and eyelids freezing together beats sunburn any day.
  6. Universal Health Care. Invented by Tommy Douglas, a Baptist pastor turned socialist politician—which could only happen in Canada. He was voted the “Greatest Canadian” in a poll a few years ago. We complain about wait times but the fact that all sick people can go to a hospital for treatment without incurring massive debts is one of the best things about Canada.
  7. Canadian Broadcasting Corporation [CBC]. A state-owned radio and telecommunications network that is more critical of the government than any privately owned network.
  8. Hockey. World’s fastest game on ice and sometimes our national religion. The regular season has just begun. Now if only a Canadian team could win the Stanley Cup. Oops, that was a complaint!
  9. Good neighbours. Although we love to denounce our big brother to the south—mostly because of our inferiority complex—we enjoy the world’s longest undefended border. How y’all doin’ eh?
  10. Self-deprecation. It’s so endearing and it makes for some great comedy. “Sorry for bragging.”

What would you like to add to the list?