Last Thursday was Canada Day…The equivalent of the 4rth of July for Americans. For many, it is just a day off of work. For some it is working for time and a half pay and a banked vacation day. May be it is the launching of summer holidays. To some, it is an excuse to get together with friends and family…COVID messed that up last year but it is slightly better this year…at least where I am.
Some people actually take the time to consider why we like Canada. The land itself is lovely with loads of scenic variety. We have plenty of resources: water, farmland, and oil to name a few. I’m pretty fond of our democracy and our health care system. We are known world wide for being fairly decent humans as a whole (but I’m the first to admit that not everyone is the stereotypical polite Canadian. We have our share of “butt orifices” too.) By enlarge, Canada has treated me and mine well.
But this year Canada has been forced to look at our butt holeary in a historical sense. We have to face the fact that in the not so distant past, Europeans sailed over here and looked around and thought “this is a nice place…I can use this.” And they started taking things: pelts, land, women…. And they abusively used the land, the people, the plants and the animals for their own gain. To the indigenous peoples, the colonizers were cruel, even when they thought they were being kind. Trading can be a nice thing…except when you are ripping people off and dealing in things that was ultimately harmful (alcohol for example). Sharing of ones culture and faith can be a nice thing if it is a mutual sharing but not when it is rammed down someones throat!
The ultimate example of this “ramming” was the residential schools which were started in the Victorian era (1890’s I believe) and continued into my life time. The idea was the Europeans weren’t going anywhere and in fact they were moving in like cockroaches. The indigenous would benefit from an education that helped them adapt to the Western way of doing things. Nice concept…NOT! The residential schools ripped children away from their parents-often under threat of incarceration if they did not comply. The children were stripped of their home, family, community and then stripped of all reminders of that. Their clothing, hair, adornments and mementos were removed. They were punished for speaking their own language. The treatment in general was neglectful at best and commonly it was abusive.
My ancestors were here for the start of this. Were they actively engaged in this? I don’t think so. Were they unaware of this process? Possibly. If they were aware of this, there is a good chance they thought this was a good idea. And that idea is unsettling. But, we Canadians can not say, “this was the past. Don’t hold our fore father’s past sins against us”. We can’t say it because this was going on, to some degree, in my life time. There are still people alive today that had to go to residential school and now are living with trauma. There are people alive today that were raised by people who were ripped from family only to be abused. How do you learn to parent in those conditions? The negative repercussions have rippled across generations marking the people even when they themselves haven’t been to residential school.
So why are Canadian’s thinking about this now? Because unmarked graves are being found at these residential schools. Some are saying “don’t automatically think they died from abuse and neglect”. That may be true but the questions remain: Why unmarked graves? Did they get an honorable burial? Were the people that loved them there? Did their loved ones get satisfactory information on the life and death of this child? Did the family get the opportunity to bring their loved one home for burial? Did they get the opportunity to set up a grave marker? And the ultimate question…why weren’t they safe at home in the first place?
So in their grief and outrage for these children and in the relived memory of their own trauma, the indigenous community spent Canada Day saying out loud that the creation of this country has not been a good thing for them and theirs. Colonization has not been a blessing. And the symbol of colonization…Queen Victoria…got knocked off her pedestal in front of the government building in my location.
Honestly, I’m surprised she has stood as long as she has. People around the world have begun to look at statues celebrating people and victories and realizing that not everyone is happy about the results of these memorialized events and people. The confederate statues in the States are the most obvious examples of this.
I don’t know the long term plans for this statue. I hope it isn’t destroyed. It is part of history. But have it displayed in a museum with perhaps the paint still on her (because that is now also part of the history that shouldn’t be lost).
The name of my blog is a play on the words “I want to be Victorian.” But in actuality that isn’t true. They health care then was dreadful. Though I would be part of the “in crowd” (white, middle class or better, and Protestant) I’m still a girl and therefore would be little better than property. If I lived in the Victorian era with my current world views I’d be even more horrified by the crap I would see in the 1800’s than I am seeing now! And I’d likely be put in a mental institution or jail for my radical thoughts. If I were Victorian, I’d have no internet (heaven forbid!), Netflix, electric sewing machine with dozens of stitch options, and no car.
I just like the clothes, furniture and architecture. But these things didn’t come about in a void. The clothing styles demanded top hats for men, which demanded beaver pelts, which demanded the fur trade which demanded the colonization of North America, which demanded the native population “problem” be dealt with.
I want to be respectful to the trauma of the original peoples. I’m not sure that the respect of that trauma wont taint my enjoyment of Victorian costuming. That’s were I’m at. Wondering how I fit into this fu*ked up world.