When a mob vandalizes or tears down statues that have been in place for generations of nation-builders, whether statesmen like Sir John A. Macdonald, Father of Confederation and first Prime Minister of the Dominion of Canada, or educators like Egerton Ryerson, one of the chief architects of the Upper Canadian – Ontarian for the hopelessly up-to-date – public school system, back the in days when schools were a credit to their builders rather than a disgrace, this tells us much more about the mob than about the historical figures whose memory they are attacking. It is far easier to tear something down than it is to build something, especially something of lasting benefit. It is also much quicker. What these acts tell us is that the members of these mobs, whether taken individually or collectively, who are howling for the “cancelling” of the memories of men like Macdonald and Ryerson, do not have it in them to achieve a thousandth of what such men accomplished. Driving them down this quick and easy, but ultimately treacherous and deadly, path of desecration and destruction, is the spirit of Envy, which is not mere jealousy, the wish to have what others have, but the hatred of others for being, having, or doing what you do not and cannot be, have, or do yourself. It was traditionally considered among the very worst of the Seven Deadly Sins, second only to Pride. This makes it almost fitting, in a perverse sort of way, that last weekend’s mob assault on the statue of Ryerson at the University that bears his name, took place at the beginning of the month which, to please the alphabet soup people of all the colours of the rainbow, now bears the name of that Sin in addition to the Roman name for the queen of Olympus.
The toppling of the Ryerson statue came at the end of a week in which the Canadian media, evidently tired of the bat flu after a year and a half, found a new dead horse to flog. Late in May, a couple of days after the anniversary of the incident which, after it was distorted and blown out of proportion by the media, sparked last year’s wave of race riots and “Year Zero” Cultural Maoism, and just in time to launch Indigenous History Month, yet another new handle for the month formerly known as June, the Kamloops Indian Band made an announcement. They had hired someone to use some fancy newfangled sonar gizmo to search the grounds of the old Indian Residential School at Kamloops and, lo and behold, they had discovered 215 unmarked graves.
The Canadian mainstream media was quick to label this discovery “shocking”. This speaks extremely poorly about the present state of journalistic integrity in this country. When used as an adjective, the word shocking expresses a negative judgement about that which is so described but it also generally conveys a sense of surprise on the part of the person doing the judging. There was nothing in the Kamloops announcement, however, that ought to have been surprising. It revealed nothing new about the Indian Residential Schools. That there are unmarked graves on the grounds of these schools has been known all along. The fourth volume of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Final Report is entitled . It is 273 pages long and was published in December of 2015. According to this volume the death rate due to such factors as disease – tuberculosis was the big one – and suicide was much higher among aboriginal children at the Residential Schools than among school children in the general population. The TRC attributed this to the inadequacy of government standards and regulations for these schools which fell under the jurisdiction of the federal government rather than the provincial education ministries like other schools, as well as inadequate enforcement of such standards and regulations, and inadequate funding. Had the TRC been the impartial body of inquiry it made itself out to be it would also have compared the death rate among Residential School children to that among aboriginal children who remained at home on the reserves. At any rate, according to the TRC Report, unless the families lived nearby or could afford to have the bodies sent to them, they were generally buried in cemeteries at the schools which were abandoned and fell into disuse and decay after the schools were closed. All that this “new discovery” has added to what is already contained in that volume is the location of 215 of these graves. One could be forgiven for thinking that all the progressives in the mainstream Canadian media who have been spinning the Residential School narrative into a wrecking ball to use against Canada and the men who built her are not actually that familiar with the contents of the TRC Report.
The Canada-bashing progressives have been reading all sorts of ridiculous conclusions into the discovery of these graves that the actual evidence in no way bears out. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission was hardly an impartial and unbiased body of inquiry. Its end did not seem to be the first noun in its title so much as painting as unflattering a portrait of the Indian Residential Schools, the Canadian churches, and the Canadian government as was possible. Even still, it did not go so far as to accuse the schools of the mass murder of children. The most brazen of the progressive commentators have now been pointing to the discovery of the graves and making that accusation, and their slightly less brazen colleagues have been reporting the story in such a way as to lead their audiences to that conclusion without their outright saying it. This is irresponsible gutter journalism at its worst. The Kamloops band and its sonar technicians have not discovered anything that the TRC Report had not already told us was there, and bodies have not been exhumed, let alone examined for cause of death. as innumerable media commentators have falsely stated, with some continuing to falsely say this despite the band chief having issued an update in which she explicitly stated “This is not a mass grave”. The significance of this is that it shows that the media has been painting the picture of a far more calloused disposal of bodies than the evidence supports or the band claims.
The media, of course, are not acting in bona fide. This time last year, they were using the death of George Floyd to promote a movement that was inciting race riots all across the United States and even throughout the larger Western world. Coinciding with this was a wave of mob attacks on the monuments of a wide assortment of Western nation-builders, institutional founders, statesmen, and other honoured historical figures. The New York Times, the American trash rag of record, had been laying the foundation for this for months by running Nikole Hannah-Jones’ 1619 Project, a revisionist distortion of American history that interprets everything by viewing it through the lens of slavery, in its Sunday Magazine supplement. What we are seeing up here this year is simply the Canadian left-wing gutter press trying to reproduce its American cousin’s success of last year.
Those who use their influence to support statue-toppling mobs have no business commenting on history whatsoever. By their very actions they demonstrate that they have not learned a fairly basic historical lesson. Movements that seek to tear down a country’s history – her past cannot be torn down, but her history, her “remembered past” to use John Lukacs’ definition, can - never end well but rather in disaster, destruction, and misery for all. The Jacobins attempted this in France in the 1790s when they started history over with their Republic at “Year One”, and endued up with the Reign of Terror. It has been a pretty standard feature of all Communist revolutions since. Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge, when they took over Cambodia in 1975, declared it to be “Year Zero”. Watch the film “The Killing Fields” or read my friend Reaksa Himm’s memoir The Tears of My Soul to find out what that was like. Anybody who fails to grasp the simple historical fact that these are terrible examples and not ones to be emulated has no business passing judgement on the errors of the historical figures who built countries and institutions, led them through difficult periods, and otherwise did the long and difficult work of construction, enriching future generations, rather than the short and easy work of destruction that can only impoverish them.
There are undoubtedly those who would feel that this comparison of today’s statue-topplers who are now likening our country’s founders to Hitler with the Jacobins, Maoists, Pol Pot and other statue-toppling, country-and-civilization destroyers of the past is unfair. It is entirely appropriate, however. It is one thing to acknowledge that bad things took place at the Indian Residential Schools and to give those who suffered those things a platform and the opportunity to share their story. It is another thing altogether to use those bad things to paint a cartoonish caricature so as to condemn the schools, the churches that administered them, and the country herself, wholesale, and to silence those whose testimony as to their experiences runs contrary to this one-sided, un-nuanced, narrative. It is one thing to acknowledge that admired leaders of the past were human beings and thus full of flaws, or even to point out examples of how they fell short of the standards of their own day or of timeless standards. It is something quite different to use their flaws to discredit and dismiss their tremendous accomplishments and, even worse, to condemn them for failing to hold attitudes that are now all but ubiquitous but which nobody anywhere in the world held until the present generation.
When the so-called Truth and Reconciliation process began – I don’t mean the appointment of the Commission but the proceedings that led to the Indian Residential Schools Settlement which brought about the creation of the Commission, so we are talking about two and a half decades ago – the discussion was primarily about physical and sexual abuse that some of the alumni of the schools had suffered there, over which they had initiated the lawsuits that led to the Settlement. With the creation of the TRC, however, the discussion came to be dominated by people with another very different agenda. Their agenda was to condemn the entire Residential Schools system as a project of “cultural genocide”.
The concept of “cultural genocide” is nonsensical. Genocide, a term coined by Raphael Lemkin in 1944, means the murder of a “people”, in the sense of a group with a common ancestry and identity. The Holocaust of World War II is the best known example. The mass murder of Tutsis in Rwanda towards the end of that country’s civil war in 1994 is a more recent example. The concept of “cultural genocide” was thought up by the same man who coined the term. It refers to efforts to destroy a people’s cultural identity without killing the actual people. Since the equation of something that does not involve killing actual people with mass murder ought to be morally repugnant to any thinking person, the concept should have been condemned and rejected from the moment Lemkin first conceived it. Soon after it was conceived, however, the leaders of certain Jewish groups began using it as a club against Christianity. Christianity teaches that Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ, the Messiah, the Redeemer prophesied in the Old Testament Who established the promised New Covenant through His death and Resurrection and Who is the only way to God for Jews and Gentiles alike. Christianity’s primary mission from Jesus Christ is evangelism – telling the world the Gospel, the Good News about Who Jesus is and what He has done. While not everybody believes the Gospel when they hear it and it is not our mission to compel anybody to believe, obviously the desired end of evangelism is for everybody to believe. Since rabbinic Judaism has long taught that a Jew who converts to Christianity ceases to be a Jew, the Jewish leaders in question argued that evangelism amounts to cultural genocide – if all the Jews believed the Gospel, there would be no Jews any more. On the basis of this kind of reasoning they began pressuring Christian Churches to change their doctrines and liturgical practices as they pertain to the evangelism of Jews. Sadly, far too many Church leaders proved to be weak in the face of this kind of pressure.
Canada’s Laurentian political class showed a similar lack of backbone when it came to defending our country against the smear that the Residential Schools were designed to wipe out Native Indian cultural identities. Indeed, their attitude throughout the entire “Truth and Reconciliation” process was to accept the blame for whatever accusations were thrown against Canada and to refuse to hold the accusers accountable to even the most basic standards of courtroom justice. Imagine a trial where the judge allows only the prosecutor to call witnesses, denies the defense the right to cross examine, and refuses to allow the defense to make a case. That will give you a picture of what the trial of Canada by the TRC over the Residential Schools was like.
The reality is that had Canada wanted to erase Native Indian cultural identity she would have abolished the reserves, torn up the treaties and declared the Indians to be ordinary citizens like everyone else, insisted that they all live among other Canadians, and that their children go to the same public schools as everybody else. In other words, she would have done the exact opposite of what she actually did. The Canadian government’s policy was clearly to preserve Indian cultural identity, not to eradicate it. Had they wanted to do the latter, residential schools would have been particularly ill-suited to the task. The TRC maintains that the idea was to break Indian cultural identity by taking children away from the cultural influence of their parents. If this was the case one would think the government would have had all Indian children sent to these schools. In actuality, however, in the approximately a century and a half that these schools operated, only a minority of Indian children were sent there. This was a very small minority in the early days of the Dominion when Sir John A. Macdonald, whom the TRC et al seem more interested in vilifying than anyone else, was Prime Minister. The government also ran day schools on the reserves and in those days the government only forced children to go to the residential schools when their parents persistently neglected to send them to the day schools. The Dominion had made it mandatory for all Indian children within a certain age range to attend school – just as the provinces had made it mandatory for all other children within the same age range to attend school. It was much later in Canadian history, after the government decided to make the schools serve the second function of being foster group homes for children removed from unsafe homes by social workers that a majority of Indian children were sent to the residential schools. Even then, the eradication of Indian cultural identity is hardly a reasonable interpretation of the government’s intent.
The TRC, in the absence of serious challenge from either Canada’s political class or the fourth estate, created a narrative indicting our country and its founders for “cultural genocide”, featuring a one-sided caricature of the Indian Residential Schools. Now, after a discovery that adds nothing that was not already contained in the TRC Report, left-wing radicals egged on by the mendacious and meretricious media, have gone far beyond the TRC in their defamatory accusations of murder against the schools and their Pol Potish demands that we “cancel” our country, her history, and her historical figures. It is about time that we stood up to these thugs who in their envy and hatred of those who did what they themselves could never do by building our country wish to tear it all down. It is slightly encouraging that the Conservatives were able to stop the motion by Jimmy Dhaliwal’s Canada-hating socialist party to have Parliament declare the Residential Schools to have been a genocide. I didn’t think they had the kives – the Finnish word for “stones” the bearing of which as a last name by a local reporter brings to mind how the biggest man in Robin Hood’s band of Merry Men was called “Little John” – to do so.
For anyone looking for more information about the side of the Indian Residential Schools story that the Left wants suppressed I recommend Stephen K. Roney’s Playing The Indian Card: Everything You Know About Canada’s “First Nations” is WRONG!, Bonsecours Editions, 2018 and From Truth Comes Reconciliation: An Assessment of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report, edited by Rodney A. Clifton and Mark DeWolf and just published by the Frontier Centre for Public Policy here in Winnipeg earlier this year.
Since the progressive wackos are calling for Canada Day to be cancelled, I encourage you this July 1st to fly the old Red Ensign, sing “God Save the Queen” and “The Maple Leaf Forever”, raise your glass to Sir John and celebrate Dominion Day with gusto. The only thing we need to be ashamed of in Canada is the way we have let these ninnies who are constantly apologizing for everything Canada has been and done in the past walk all over us. While I seldom recommend emulating Americans in this case I say that it is time we forget about our customary politeness and take up the attitude of old Merle, who sang “When they’re runnin’ down my country, man, They’re walkin’ on the fightin’ side of me”.