I was getting a haircut the other day and as the stylist was off getting a new towel I checked Twitter and began reading a column by Conrad Black about the Chief Justice’s recent use of the term cultural genocide. I was immediately taken aback by the tone of this editorial– defensive, angry, insecure, racist, confused, emotionally charged, wrong in every way. Poor Mr. Black, I thought.
Arriving home, I knew I had to help out in whatever way I could. I began a re-write, a clarification of what I felt Mr. Black had wanted to say but had perhaps fallen short. In some places, I got so involved in the mind-frame of the man, in his spirit, that I actually imagined myself to be Mr. Black! But that is neither here nor there.
In so many places in the column his prose seemed restrained or, well, confused in one way or another. A working theory I have is that this was due to political correctness. You might find it unbelievable reader, but it is possible that political correctness sapped the virility of Mr. Black in this piece, not allowing him to tell it like it really is. Luckily, I am a free-thinker, so this sort of thing doesn’t apply to me.
So, as you’ll see below, I’ve done my best to get at what I think Mr. Black wanted to say, but just sadly could not. The result of my work is, I hope, a more honest and truthful version of an editorial by a great patriot.
Conrad Black: Canada’s treatment of aboriginals was shameful, but it was not genocide – June 6, National Post (clarifications below each paragraph)
I yield to no one in my fervour to make amends to the native people for violations of treaty rights and other mistreatment, but the phrase “cultural genocide,” as I wrote here last week in reference to the Chief Justice of Canada’s use of it in a speech given in honour of the Aga Khan, is deliberately provocative and sensational. We might as well accuse Canada and the United States and all countries built on immigration (ultimately almost all countries) of cultural genocide, of the natives or the arrivals, though of course immigration is voluntary. All words bearing the suffix “cide” refer to physical extermination: suicide, homicide, genocide, regicide, etc.
I am really angry about everything, but particularly, the stuff that happened to Aboriginal people for the violation of treaty rights and other things I don’t know much about, but I am even more angry about the Chief Justice calling this and all the other things I know about “cultural genocide.” Look, every country has been built by immigrants, so why are we picking on Canada so hard – and I also know that immigration is voluntary, meaning it is by choice. By the way, I learned Latin in grade school so I’m going to razzle-dazzle you with a bit of it here to prove myself a man of culture and intellect.
The native people, or First Nations, were here first, but there were not more than a few hundred thousand of them in what is now Canada in the 17th century. They had a Stone Age culture that had not invented the wheel, and which graduated, however brusquely, to more sophisticated levels of civilization, but the culture was not exterminated. Apart from a few mid-western farming tribes and Pacific and Great Lakes inhabitants of log dwellings, the First Nations did not have permanent buildings or agriculture, metal tools, or knitted fabrics. They were nomads, clothed in hides and skins, living in tents, surviving on fish and game, and usually at war, which included the torture to gruesome death of prisoners from other tribes and nations, including women and children.
Because I am a white man, I will now in a few short paragraphs tell the reader all he/she needs to know about First Nations peoples and cultures ever in Canada. Them were around a few hundred thousand in the 17th century. As I learned in grade school and from watching The Flintstones, cultures move through stages and native people were in the Stone Age a long time ago. I heard someone use Stone Age as an insult once, but here I mean it sincerely and honestly and objectively. Anyways, they didn’t have wheels, which as my textbook in grade five explained, was a sure sign of stone-ageness. God, I can’t believe I remember that from Grade five! So, then what happened is that the white man came and ‘graduated’ (no pun intended) native people up the civilizational scale thus saving them from extermination by the white people… er, themselves, wait, I’m not really sure (Note to self: clarify sentence later). Before this, native people roamed in the woods and didn’t have much of a culture. I know this because I’ve seen a few movies where they’re wearing hides and skins and living in tents. Here I thought about invoking Thomas Hobbes and how everything was nasty, brutish and short at some point, but I want to bring the reader along so I’ll avoid sophisticated allusions like this. But, to prove my point, did you know, native people tortured other people, including, (concerned gasp) women and children. Just how nice were native people really? Do you see where I’m going with this?
They were genius woodsmen and hunters and craftsmen, and had artistic abilities, and I am not suggesting and do not accept that they were anything but the complete natural equal of the arriving Europeans. Some European notables, such as Champlain, were interested in and generally respectful of the native people; some made expedient alliances with them, but generally, traders bought their animal furs for consideration the natives sought, including alcoholic beverages and firearms, and settlers encroached on their land, moving inland from the ocean shores and river banks. There were certainly unjust provocations by the Europeans. The British promised the natives occupancy of the land between the Ohio River and the Great Lakes, even as they signed the same territory over to the successful American Revolutionists (somewhat as, 135 years later, the British promised Palestine, then occupied by the Turks, simultaneously to the Jews and the Arabs. Selling the same real estate to two different buyers at the same time is complicated on every continent).
Despite the fact that native people lived in the stone age, didn’t really have much of a culture and tortured women and children (as I outlined above), they did have artistic abilities and they were the natural equals (note to self: clarify later what is meant by ‘natural’) of the white people. I’m going to let that contradiction sit there – it’s very sophisticated. French explorers were nice to Native people during a period, but really the whole thing can be boiled down to native people wanted guns and liquor and eventually settlers took the land from them. I’m a reasonable guy – I’ll admit it, white people weren’t always the nicest to native people. The English promised land to natives and also to the Americans, but this has happened so many times in history, so why is everyone so damn upset?
Even that eminent humanitarian Thomas Jefferson, one of history’s prototype limousine liberals, described the native people in the Declaration of Independence as ”merciless Indian savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes, and conditions.” The Shawnee chief Tecumseh greatly helped General Isaac Brock and the Canadians and the British in the War of 1812; Colonel Richard Johnson took credit for killing him, being elected vice-president of the United States in 1836 on the slogan “Rumpsey, Dumpsey, Who Killed Tecumseh?” When President Andrew Jackson transported 250,000 native people westwards to open up more land for the importation of slaves, and was found liable by the Supreme Court, led by Chief Justice John Marshall, of treaty violations against the native people, Jackson, in control of the Congress as well as the administration, replied “The chief justice has made his decision; now let him enforce it.”
Let’s cut straight to the chase: Thomas Jefferson, who everyone has heard of and who drove a limousine, knew that Native people were really cold-blooded savages who killed people indiscriminately in times of war. And like obviously, we can trust one white guy’s observation from another century to form an accurate perception of native societies everywhere. And did you know, the Americans are cold-blooded killers too! (note to self: stoking congratulatory Canadian nationalism should get this article trending on The Twitter) And, to throw in one more unrelated example to show I know about History, American colonists were really mean to native peoples in the south. (Note to self: I may have sufficiently played the American card now to distract from what happened in Canada, but we shall see).
As the settlement of the United States by Europeans proceeded much more quickly and on a much larger scale over a more temperate country than the corresponding development of Canada, and the British and Canadian officials dealing with the natives were generally less corrupt than their American analogues, our relations with the native people stayed largely clear of the violence so fabled in American history, including the death of General George Armstrong Custer and his Seventh Cavalry at the Little Bighorn in 1876.
Nope, let’s bash America some more, always a good play. Americans greedily grabbed all the land in sight because it was warmer there, and Canadians were less corrupt and made peace with native peoples. General Custer died for your sins!
Once the white men were indisputably preeminent in this continent, administration of native affairs was largely unsatisfactory, frequently corrupt, and sometimes brutal. The Canadians and Americans did not simply massacre them all, as the Argentinians did (that was genocide), and there were many sincere and entirely benevolent contacts among the natives, including from most of the Christian churches. It was widely assumed that assimilating the native people was the ultimate compliment and service. Lord Durham assumed the same about the French Canadians and the United Province of Canada, Ontario and Quebec today, was set up for that purpose. Of course, it was all nonsense and an outrage, and the French Canadians easily resisted this clumsy and arrogant effort to relieve them of their culture. Their numbers and importance within Canada as a whole were such that they had the political muscle to be a co-equal race when Canada was swiftly launched in 1867 in the tenuous hope that it could retain its independence from the post-Civil War United States and its Grand Army of the Republic.
Once the white men had kicked everyone’s ass everywhere (I mean this as an objective scientific observation, not as a veiled racist self-congratulation) some white people, mostly the bureaucrats, probably driving in limousines, poorly administered the whole thing – really that’s the issue, this is all about mismanagement. Them were not all killed off in Canada, like in Argentina (note to self: keep pointing finger further south of border, this distraction thing is working great!) and the Churches were sincere and benevolent, so can you really blame them for what happened? Isn’t it just about intention? Certainly I have the right motives and always have! Look, everyone was all about assimilation back in the day, in a way it was a compliment, we’ve got to lighten up people! Lord Durham tried to assimilate the French but they were a hardy race (note to self: possibly add part about ‘northern’ origins later) that stood up for themselves, and, Americans! Americans!
The native people were less fortunate, fewer and less politically powerful than the French Canadians, and there is no doubt that they were short-changed, condescended to, and in a heartbreaking number of individual instances, mistreated: the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s belief that five to seven per cent of native students in residential schools died in those schools is a horrifying accusation. But none of it justifies the invocation of the word genocide, which is a contemptible device to tar esteemed people like John A. Macdonald with the brush of Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, and others who set out to murder millions of totally innocent people.
It’s really sad, I know, it’s unfortunate what happened to Native peoples; perhaps they were even just on the wrong side of history (maybe edit this part out, not PC). Look, things happened, people made mistakes, people even died as a result of the policies. But it was not genocide, which is obviously just a plot by people who probably drive limousines to bring down the great heroes of Canadian History because they are spiteful. Hitler!
The policy, which was one of assimilation, acculturation, or even deracination, was misconceived, frequently unjustly administered, and the horror stories of what happened in the residential schools are the very worst of it. But the fact that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission employs the term “cultural genocide” is neither true nor conciliatory, though I wholeheartedly support the official purposes of the commission, and am mortified by the summary of its findings I have seen. We must know the proportions of wrongs committed, and do whatever we can to make amends.
Instead of calling it genocide we should call a spade a spade – it was assimilation, it was acculturation, even deracination and really the real problem was that it was so unjustly administered (as opposed to a just administration of these policies). Again, I will let the sophisticated contradiction sit there for the high level reader. Look, I’m a fan of the TRC, and I’m really sad about the findings, and white people should do whatever they can to make up for it. I’m trying to do my part here.
But we are dealing with a policy of using high office for unctuous national moral self-flagellation; the country didn’t murder native schoolchildren and at every stage would have been just as shocked as we are now to learn of it. In the same address the chief justice lamented that West Coast Japanese Canadians were rounded up without trial, their property seized, and bustled into “concentration camps.” It was a shameful policy, made more odious by it being a heel-clicking imitation of the United States policy devised by some of its greatest modern liberals, including Franklin D. Roosevelt, John McCloy, Felix Frankfurter and William O. Douglas (and was chiefly opposed in that country by J. Edgar Hoover, a fact the left has almost air-brushed from history).
But, the people driving limousines are ruining all sincere attempts to make up for all the stuff that happened. They’re using their limousine privilege to unjustly guilt trip us all – (why they are so determined to do this, I just don’t know – come back to this point later). They just simply don’t understand – if anyone knew about the problems at residential schools, they would have done something about it, and, they did know about the problems…(note to self: this part might need some fine finessing). The Chief Justice, speaking from a limousine, also called the concentration camps Japanese people were sent to concentration camps, which I am upset about. Look, it wasn’t nice, I get that, but the Americans were the real reason behind it and here is a long list of Americans who drove limousines who supported the policy, except J. Edgar, who obviously was a chief defender of the rights of non-white people (double check facts on Edgar later).
But the victims were not in “concentration camps” as the chief justice perfectly well knows; they were in boredom camps, with their families, where they had nothing to concentrate on. It was shameful and was recognized as such in the Mulroney government’s commendable restitution and apology of 1993, but the efforts in high and authoritative places to invoke the Nazi and Communist vocabulary of oppression in respect of the morally insalubrious official episodes in this country’s history, compound, and do not ameliorate, the shame.
The victims of deportation were not in concentration camps because they were bored and travelling with their families, unlike in Hitler’s real concentration camps where no one was bored and no one travelled with their family. I’m not saying I favour what happened back in the day, but the people in limousines just want us to feel shame about this incident. I’m already sad enough about what happened to native peoples thank you very much!
There appear to be terrible strains in the native community between the emotional attachment to traditional life and the notorious temptations and diversions of modern Western life. It is not the case that the Europeans have no right to be here, and we have made vastly more of this continent than its original inhabitants could have done; it was only the mighty continent of North America that prevented the triumph of real genocidal regimes in Europe and the Far East in the great wars of the last century. It ill behoves the chief justice to rail against the proximity to the Supreme Court of a monument to the victims of communism, while imputing to the society whose senior jurist she is the practice of any form of genocide. Nor should the federal government be building superfluous prisons and deliberately worsening the conditions of the incarcerated, especially when it can be certain that an inordinate number of the occupants of these prisons will be native people, a policy that is a triple declaration of bankruptcy: in criminal justice, rehabilitation, and native peoples policy.
Okay, back to the natives. Maybe my few paragraphs explaining everything you need to know about Native peoples in North America needs a few more facts. Here’s some more: native people are eternally stuck between clinging to their antiquated and doomed culture and embracing modern life, which they are not really suited to. These are just the facts! I learned this binary (that means two) understanding of culture from my Grade 5 textbook. White people have a right to be in North America dammit! (A bit out of left field, but oh well), and native people were just letting this whole damn Garden of Eden go to waste! (Note to self: might not be PC but I’ll verify that this is a fact later) This is just common sense! Okay, now I’m going to write a bizarre and undeveloped justification for colonization, not at all because I’m feeling a bit on shaky ground: If we hadn’t colonized North America, we couldn’t have stopped genocides in the “Far East” and Europe in some wars that took place a century ago (add examples later). That should stop those limousines in their tracks! Ha! The communists, as J. Edgar knew are the real threat and the chief Justice, well, I won’t say she is one, but she has opposed the monument that Harper and his boys want to build. Now I will weigh in on prisons: we should build less of them. Case closed.
In fairness to the Harper government, it did its best in agreeing a $2 billion education catch-up program for the native people; their leaders rejected it and forced out the First Nations’ national chief, Shawn Atleo, who negotiated it. The relationship between official Canada and the First Nations is full of sadness, mistakes and dishonour, but both sides share it, and respect for native government often results in grievous corruption and despotism by the native leaders.
Harper and his boys (appear neutral by suggesting you are a critic of the Harper government) tried their best to bring the natives up to speed in the 21st century and preventing their inevitable dying out, but them rejected it! I’m not an emotional man, but really, it’s just so darn sad, and so many mistakes have been made by everyone, and (not sure where to tack this next bit on but here will work, why not) native governments are despotic and corrupt!
Despite everything, even the First Nations should be grateful that the Europeans came here. There has been quite enough shameful conduct to go round, including by some of the natives. Let us all repent past wrongdoing without demeaning histrionics and hyperbole, and be proud of whatever we are ethnically: all cultures and nationalities have their distinctions. The whole country must do what it can to atone for the past, but a continuing orgy of recriminations will be unjust in itself, produce a nasty backlash, and will aggravate grievances.
Look, I gotta wrap this up because it is all just really too sad and I’m emotionally a bit tired from dealing with all this, but let me say one more thing to clarify everything and avoid any misconceptions. Native people should be more grateful rather than crying over spilt milk. Things have happened, which I have clearly outlined above, and stuff will continue to happen, but let’s just get on with things – let’s quit histrionics (look up in dictionary later) and hyperbole (this is a reference to cultural genocide that the astute reader will pick up on). We should all be proud of our ethnicities, if we have been assigned one, and all cultures and nations are different (such an incredible fact!). The people in limousines want us all just to have orgies that will only make things worse and cost us (white people) dollars. It’s all just so sad. Sigh.