Moving on with Kellie Leitch’s so-called “Canadian Values”.
We are now on Part 3, still trying to figure out what exactly “Canadian Values” are. As stated in the last part, I grew up thinking that “Canadian Values” were the values of tolerance and multiculturalism. This was a high ideal with which I forged my personal sense of “Canadianness” (is that a word?) So, is this true?
During the Trudeau years (the first Trudeau, not the one who said he’d legalize weed but is now having people arrested, or the one who said oil pipelines will pay for the transition to green energy, or the Trudeau who said he’d introduce electoral reform but now wont because he’s apparently so popular; no, not that guy) multiculturalism was made official policy of Canada. This was in the 1970’s and 1980’s, still relatively recent on a historical scale.
Was Canada always a tolerant nation?
It’s a nice, warm, fuzzy inducing feeling, thinking about that. Personally I went through an uber-patriotic Canadian nationalist phase in the early 2000s. Much of it, and I now realize this, was in response to anti-Americanism during the W. Bush years. In the face of American militarism and lack of social safety nets, I cited the tolerant, pacifistic, pro-free healthcare policies of my home country. Today I wont get into the welfare state or the questionable “peacefulness” of Canada, keeping the focus on the “tolerance” angle. Was Canada always tolerant? The way I saw it, it was, this was a nation founded on immigration, successive waves of which made up the modern national mosaic, each group struggling but being welcomed by the Canadian government and people of the respective eras.
Later on I learned that this was largely a myth. While the idea of tolerance is a good idea, and something I’ve always felt was worth striving for, historically it simply does not add up when one takes a serious look at Canada’s history. Let’s start with our first Prime Minister:
“When the school is on the reserve, the child lives with its parents, who are savages, and though he may learn to read and write, his habits and training mode of thought are Indian. He is simply a savage who can read and write. It has been strongly impressed upon myself, as head of the Department, that Indian children should be withdrawn as much as possible from the parental influence, and the only way to do that would be to put them in central training industrial schools where they will acquire the habits and modes of thought of white men.” – John A. MacDonald, 1879.
As we know, the first immigrants to the land that became Canada were the French and the English. I wont go into the crimes of colonialism here (which is ongoing to this day – and for the record, very intolerant by it’s very nature), instead focusing on the successive waves of immigration and the myth of Canada always welcoming with open arms the newcomers.
Remember when Canada used cheap labour to build the railway across the country? We took in huge amounts of Chinese immigrants, some from China itself, others from recent Chinese immigrants from California. Very tolerant eh? Except as soon as the Pacific Railway was completed the Canadian government introduced something called The Chinese Head Tax, passed in 1885. This was a large fee placed on Chinese immigrants to make sure they didn’t become too plentiful.
So, Canadian Values? Canadian tolerance is: “Thanks for helping to build the country, now get the hell out!”
But that was way back in the 1800’s right? Surely by the 20th century Canadians became more tolerant eh? Let’s go a bit East, out to Halifax, Nova Scotia, to a small community that was founded by black loyalists to the crown. It became known as Africville due to it’s demographic composition and was horribly neglected by the government. According to the wikipedia page:
“Throughout its history, Africville was confronted with isolation. The town never received proper roads, health services, water, street lamps or electricity. Residents protested to the city and called to water and treatment of sewage, to no avail, and the lack of these services had serious adverse health implications for residents. Contamination of the wells was so frequent that residents had to boil their water before using it for drinking or cooking.”
The place became an isolated ethnic enclave. Very tolerant?
How about good old Toronto the good? Toronto today is a bastion of multiculturalism. Surely it was always a hub of tolerance, no?
In 1918 Toronto witnessed an intense anti-Greek riot, on par with deadly pogroms taking place in Europe around the same time against Jews. Speaking of anti-Semitism, in 1932, in an era when Jews were excluded from summer clubs in Toronto, in Christie Pitts, there was an anti-Jewish riot put on by Canadian fascists.
These are just a few examples of Canada’s historical record not exemplifying the so-called tolerance we often assume is part of our history. It is pretty clear that both among the people of Canada and the government there is a clear pattern of exclusion, intolerance, and yes, white supremacy.
Perhaps Kellie Leitch is not being inaccurate when she talks of “Canadian Values” whilst being simultaneously intolerant.
Stay tuned for Part 4 coming in a few weeks.