Reckoning with Canada’s colonial past
Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 20/07/2021 (680 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
It was an arresting sight for anyone to behold – the statue of Queen Victoria removed from its pedestal, its head removed from its body.
It was also one of stark contrasts between the toppled, headless statue, the 215 orange flags on the lawn in front of it, and the 215 pairs of shoes on the steps behind – solemn and moving memorials to the 215 children whose remains were discovered in an unmarked grave at a former Indian Residential School in Kamloops, B.C.
Looking down on them and shining under the brilliant sun was the Golden Boy, firm atop the dome of the Legislature, still clutching a bushel of wheat, still facing true north down Memorial Boulevard toward Colony Street.
For many people, it probably evoked a mixture of complex feelings; for others, it obviously did not.
“This is not the path forward for our province, or for reconciliation,” said Manitoba Justice Minister Cameron Friesen, to which he added “accountability matters a lot.”
Easy for him to say.
For his part, Premier Brian Pallister said “the people who came here to this country before it was a country, and since, didn’t come here to destroy anything – they came here to build.”
It has already been pointed out to the premier that he is denying the truth of what, as a country, we are currently reckoning with.
What can’t be denied is that this was quite unlike any other Canada Day in the holiday’s 39-year history. Prior to 1982 it was known as Dominion Day – a change that some people at the time called a “renunciation of the past.”
For the record, a “dominion” is “that which is mastered or ruled” – a term used by the British to describe colonies or territorial possessions dating back to the 16th century.
The treaties that were negotiated and signed in the name of Queen Victoria allowed the government of her newest Dominion to actively pursue agriculture and resource development in the “north” – seen as the keys to Canada’s “wealth.”
Maybe it’s ironic that the statue of Louis Riel, who was hanged for high treason against her, still stands. Maybe it is a fitting metaphor that it has its back towards the Legislature, facing south towards Osborne, the same street that is called Colony on one end and eventually becomes Dakota on the other.
There are signs that times are changing. For the first time, an Indigenous person, Mary Simon, has been appointed Governor General of Canada. The right of Manitoba’s Métis to self-government has also finally been recognized.
Critics say these are token gestures, signs that a federal election is just around the corner.
If true, it’s a sign today’s politicians no longer see Canada’s “wealth” in agriculture and resources, but simply in the political power they can try to exploit from people who are refusing to lay dormant any longer.
South Osborne community correspondent
Andrew Braga is a community correspondent for South Osborne.