This week in Canada, Queen Elizabeth II and Queen Victoria bit the dust. Literally. At least their statues did, torn down by an angry mob in Winnipeg. That’s a line in the sand for me. Enough of this cancel culture nonsense!
Okay, I admit to being an old white dude, a class of people some say should just keep their mouths shut when it comes to what is happening in our world today. But I am not going to do that. I actually believe it’s time that some of us old timers, folks who have been around the horn a time or two, stood up and spoke up. It’s time for some hard truths.
Canada’s history, the good and the bad, should be left alone. It cannot be changed, and it should not be ignored. We should learn from the mistakes of those that came before us, and there are many. We should also learn from their achievements. There are a bunch of those as well. But we cannot continually beat our breasts over something about which we had no control.
We should not whitewash the past, nor should we rewrite history to change the facts to suit current activist agendas. Actual truth still matters.
One hard truth is that we do have a history of colonization. The only real way to apologize for that is to get back on the boat. Our ancestors, unless they were aboriginals, were not born here. They came, they saw, they conquered, and they colonized. Many of us are here only because of them. Others have followed because they have admired much of what succeeding generations of Canadians have accomplished. Colonialism is not a dirty word. It is the reality of the manner in which much of our world has been settled.
Another hard truth is the tragedy of residential schools for Indigenous children, established before confederation and existing well into the second half of the twentieth century. They were ill-conceived to say the least, with next to no oversight by successive governments who were ultimately responsible for them.
The discovery in recent months of so many unmarked graves of young people has underlined the stark consequences of these terrible times which have been known for decades but only recently marked by the reality of the remains of thousands of these children who died, away from their families, and were never returned home. We cannot forget that. It remains forever part of our collective heritage as Canadians.
However, it is also true that we cannot be held hostage by those who now want radical change in our current society and would capitalize on mistakes in our past, revise and amplify them, and then use them as an excuse to create havoc in our country today for their own purposes.
For example, statues of Sir John A. Macdonald, are being desecrated or torn down in many parts of Canada because those with a vested interest in stirring up guilt and anger in Canadians have succeeded in labelling him as the architect of residential schools and the resulting tragedies that occurred.
In reality, residential schools for Indigenous children existed in what is now Canada well before Macdonald became prime minister. It is true he condoned them, but they were not made mandatory and children were not torn away from their parents until twenty years after Macdonald was dead and Sir Wilfred Laurier was prime minister of Canada. To the best of my knowledge, his statues still remain upright.
For those who want a more balanced and accurate viewpoint about residential schools and our founding fathers, I recommend an article by Tom Lowman, a Toronto lawyer and historian. You can see it here.
Cancel culture is getting out of hand.
In spite of his imperfections, Sir John A. Macdonald was the architect of Canada, not of residential schools. Without him, our country would be very different today, if it existed at all.
It was Queen Victoria who gave consent to Canada becoming a nation and it was she who refused to bow to the demands of the Americans to return fleeing slaves who had fled to Canada for freedom, thus paving the way for the northern end of the underground railway.
As for our Queen Elizabeth, tearing down her statue makes me sick to my stomach. Again, for whatever imperfections she might have, she is without question one of the most admired woman in the entire world. Whether one supports the monarchy or not, Queen Elizabeth represents a form of democracy that has been critical to the western world for centuries.
And so, one must ask, why are we allowing this to happen? Tearing down statues, burning flags, damaging buildings, and burning churches is occurring in many places in Canada. It is a textbook definition of anarchy and bordering on mob rule.
Why are people who willingly desecrate public property and monuments not being arrested, charged, prosecuted, and sentenced? Why are people who burn Catholic churches for what happened long ago not being held accountable for hate crimes when we would not hesitate to do that if it was a mosque or synagogue that was attacked? What is happening to the rule of law here? Is that what we really want? Is this who we are?
Canada is not perfect. It never has been, and it never will be. While we acknowledge our past, we must resist those who would push us toward a dramatic swing of the pendulum to a more ‘woke’ society where we are ashamed of who we are. We cannot perpetually keep our flag at half-mast. We can only apologize so much. As long as we look only in the rearview mirror, we can never look forward.
If we don’t move forward, we can’t fix the problems that we face today: equality for the marginalized, providing people with the opportunity to succeed, potable water for Indigenous communities, climate change, a widening economic gap between layers of our society, and a strong economy. Because Canada is on balance a great country, we are equipped to address these problems without radical change. Indeed, we have much to celebrate but we also have much work to do.
In writing this article, I have been careful to be non-partisan because I do not believe it is a partisan matter. It behooves all of us to stand up for our country, to acknowledge our past (perhaps in part, by annually remembering those who died in residential schools), to celebrate what we have accomplished, and to work toward a better and more influential Canada.
Having said that however, I cannot think of a better way to close this piece than in the words of the Member of Parliament for Parry Sound-Muskoka, Scott Aitchison, who said, “There is nothing wrong about Canada that can’t be healed with all that is right about Canada.”
Amen to that.
Hugh Mackenzie has held elected office as a trustee on the Muskoka Board of Education, a Huntsville councillor, a District councillor, and mayor of Huntsville. He has also served as chairman of the District Muskoka and as chief of staff to former premier of Ontario, Frank Miller.
Hugh has served on a number of provincial, federal and local boards, including chair of the Ontario Health Disciplines Board, vice-chair of the Ontario Family Health Network, vice-chair of the Ontario Election Finance Commission, and board member of Roy Thomson Hall, the National Theatre School of Canada, and the Anglican Church of Canada. Locally, he has served as president of the Huntsville Rotary Club, chair of Huntsville District Memorial Hospital, chair of the Huntsville Hospital Foundation, president of Huntsville Festival of the Arts, and board member of Community Living Huntsville.
In business, Hugh Mackenzie has a background in radio and newspaper publishing. He was also a founding partner and CEO of Enterprise Canada, a national public affairs and strategic communications firm established in 1986.
Currently Hugh is president of C3 Digital Media Inc., the parent company of Doppler Online, and he enjoys writing commentary for Huntsville Doppler.
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