Thursday, October 1, 2009

Is Canada colonial?

Hello all:

The latest controversy/scandal concerns comments Stephen Harper made regarding Canada as not being a colonial country.
I am divided on this. On the one hand, I think it is a tremendously unhelpful choice of words and I am surprised that HArper's speech writers could not foresee how this could be interpreted by First Nations people.
On the other hand, I think the words are being taken out of context and a look at history will reveal that Harper's comments make sense in context.
Canada itself is descended from a colony. New France was a colony, as was British North America. Up until the 1930s, we still made appeals to the British legislature to change our own laws and our constitution was only patriated in 1982.
First Nation people here controlled and placed under "wardship" similar to a colonial system. In that sense, it was an insensitive thing to deny that aspect.
However, when Harper uttered this remark he was referring to the world financial market. What he meant was Canada has never maintained an overseas empire like so many European powers and created a core-periphery relationship of stripping them of resources for the home country.
Of course, Canada's "Ward-colonial" relationship does continue under the Indian Act system. So, while I understand Harper's context, I think he should issue a more clear statement, acknowledging that indigenous peoples have been under this relationship.
This is the type of incident, unfortunately, that can undermine efforts on the part of the government to gain the trust and confidence of First Nations. This new Conservative Aboriginal Caucus is a good start, but PM Harper will need to clarify this statement and actually respond directly to it, not through a media spokesperson.
Canadians understand so little about their own history as it is; this does not help.
The other side is all the ideological hubbub surrounding "decolonization" exaggerates our colonial history, so there is that aspect too.

1 comment:

  1. Colonization is about reaping economic benefits. Now how about subduing the original inhabitants of this country to where they have no land and resources. Since resources are non-renewable and as the benefits inevitably lessen will it matter what the colonized natives get?

    Since we can safely say only one segment of our Canadian society has benefited extensively from what this country offers. And as long as one people benefits at the expense of another and the other is continually kept out, it seems rather obvious that the colonial life is alive and well. Canada didn’t need to go anywhere when it could colonize right in its own back yard. I think of the treaties and how they materialized; this is propaganda enough and moreover we cannot forget the subversive and strategic Indian Act.
    Colonization is a painful legacy no matter how you white-wash it!