Hey Everyone, Harry here. This is a part two of sorts of my blog post on The Inconvenient Indian. This one is more focused on colonialism.
Canada has a long history of colonialism. That’s the blunt truth. But nor according to former prime minister Stephen Harper.
Simply put, Stephen, you’re wrong.
I suppose before I get too far into it, I should give the definition of colonialism, as there always seems to be a sense of confusion. A quick google search brings back
the policy or practice of acquiring full or partial political control over another country, occupying it with settlers and exploiting it economically.
And colonisation comes from “to colonise”. With that piece of information, let’s get into this.
I really didn’t want to talk about Columbus. His one claim to fame that everyone knows (even though it wasn’t taught in my school at least) is that he “discovered North America.” It’s questionable if you can even “discover” a continent that has millions of people already living on it, and if you still want to play for “discovery,” a Viking fellow by the name of Leif Erikson came over sometime in the eleventh century. There’s even evidence China visited even farther back. However, Columbus is the face of colonisation, and I suppose the beginning of this mess.
After Columbus came back and Europeans came over, America was formed, and Canada a bit later. The only problem was the aforementioned millions of people already living here, who already had their own relationship with the land which seemed to work pretty well. But, between the diseases that settlers brought over that Indigenous peoples had no immunity to, and the many wars, treaties which reduced the amount of land that Indigenous peoples held, and wars again, the population dwindled enough that you could almost ignore them. Also, sometimes settlers would just claim land, with no struggle, war, or even communication. British Columbia, where I have lived for almost all of my life, is unceded land. No agreement was ever made with the people who lived here to give the Canadian government the land. They just… took it.
And that’s how native land went from being all of Canada and America to becoming reserves. And because reserves aren’t big enough to maintain a population of this size, coupled with the government’s crazy bureaucracy and neglect, poverty is often the result.
So, when someone like Stephen Harper says that colonisation does not exist in Canada, they are lying. Reserves are evidence that colonialism exists. Residential schools are evidence that colonialism exists. Hell, the existence of Canada is evidence that colonialism exists.
And I understand why you may want to try and hide from the past. Colonialism is not pretty, but it’s part of being Canadian. I’m a Canadian citizen, which means I live in a land that was taken by force from the people who were here first. And as long as I continue living here, I need to acknowledge that fact within me.
I’m going to end this off with a question: What can Canada do better? This is a difficult question because I don’t think there’s a perfect answer that would fix this mess. But we can always improve. For me, this means education. I only really found and understood this important part of Canada because I did learning outside of school. And while we always did have some kind of First Nation education, it never dealt with a topic like this. Sure, colonialism was alluded to, was fumbled around, but never taught. And that is tragic in my eyes.
I’ll keep reading The Inconvenient Indian. Expect a couple more blog posts like this.