Nifty or Nasty
No country is without sin or fault in its history and, for many, in its present as well.
By all means we should recognize and atone for those sins or faults in policy, engaging in remedial action. By our standards today, European colonization of the lands of indigenous peoples represents a moral fault, even where treaties were reached. By the standards of the actual time, colonization was a moral right; cultural assimilation (especially religious conversion) was a moral duty.
When we condemn those standards, we are actually condemning a whole culture within its historical period. Nations have been invading and destroying each other for aeons. Consider whether colonization was a rather less horrific event – for those colonized – than invasion, total subjugation and/or extermination.
And consider also Canada’s cruelty to citizens from other nations: the Chinese head tax and work environment in the late 1800s/early 1900s, the Indian migrants turned back in the early 1900s, the Jewish refugees refused in the 1930s, the Japanese-Canadians interned in the 1940s. We will even imprison unjustly our own citizens, as in the War Measures Act (I mean really, Pauline Julien?). That last fault or sin was brought to you by none other than the father of our current Prime Minister.
But Pierre Trudeau’s egregious theft of civil liberties in 1970 is balanced by his setting in stone our rights and freedoms under the Charter. And this provides a transition to our virtues as a country. We were one of the first to de-colonize in a peaceable and orderly way. We have rushed to the aid, militarily, of our colonizer, suffering much in the process. We are peacekeepers, and warriors when necessary. We seem to work as a multicultural society. We are making progress in gender and orientation rights. We have, though flawed, public health care and public schools. We allow high levels of immigration, and accept many refugees.
Canada 150 is to celebrate what is good in our country, how fortunate we are to be here. And as to our moral faults and failings, part of our virtue as a nation is recognizing our errors and trying to rectify them.
We are a glass more than half full. I say: “Hoist a few for Canada!” G’day.