I have had a lot of strange jobs. I’ve written about some of the important true things I learned working as a technician, which are still widely ignored (and in some quarters outright despised – like thermodynamics). I’ve also mentioned some curious lessons which came to me from trying to be a leftist rebel in a time when the left was very much on the back foot, politically.
Today I want to anchor my ideas in another area where I spent many interesting years – education. Along the way, I hope to touch on some key (and non snooze-worthy) Canadian history, and help some quiet but still crucial tendencies become more apparent to others.
One of the saddest chapters in Canadian history has to do with our treatment of Canadian born citizens of Japanese ancestry, during the second world war. Like our American neighbours, we rushed into an orgy of disgusting and often violent racism, destroyed generational businesses and livelihoods and traumatized huge numbers of loyal citizens based on their appearance. It wasn’t just years of living that were stolen from those who were imprisoned and forcibly relocated (90% of the Japanese-descended in British Colombia) it was their growing sense of belonging and acceptance, which had to be restarted all over again from zero, out of the pyre of a bonfire of racial hatred.
I know for certain that Mr Trudeau taught his students about this, and I’m willing to bet he taught them it was wrong (as he was supposed to).
Now let’s be really clear here – the idea that China is Canada’s enemy in any way at all is utterly insane. China is simply not an expansionist power, our best friend does most of that. When a Canadian politician indulges in that sort of rhetoric they aren’t representing Canadian interests, they are serving racist foreign killers-for-profit – faithfully and with great big smiles!
All talk of conflict with China (which is very popular again on K street) is a betrayal of Canadian citizens of east Asian descent, guaranteed to increase racism and decrease the sense of complete belonging which their extraordinary and ongoing contributions to Canadian society have fully earned them.
There were also some grotesque examples of racist rhetoric in the first world war, many Canadian towns with German names changed them, to avoid the stigma (thankfully, most still celebrate Oktoberfest to this day). But there was no concerted federal governmental effort to use political rhetoric to create a class of instant sub-humanity out of Canadians of Germanic descent until just after the war (indeed, thousands of the German descended fought in Canadian uniforms).
Where was “Kaiserite Influence” cited, in order to justify the use of state violence and anti citizen terror? That would be the Winnipeg General Strike of 1919, when workers in the steel and building trades failed to reach a fair agreement with employers and walked out in unison, demanding safer working conditions and enough pay for basic dignity for workers, and pretty much the entire city of Winnipeg walked out in sympathy with them, looking for a better deal for the little guy.
Arrogant imperial Ottawa saw no reason to sit down and talk with workers, in order to improve conditions for all Canadians – instead they smeared the angry workers as agents of an evil foreign power and then sent armed Royal Canadian Mounted Police to put down the workers demonstrations by force – which they did by firing their 45s directly at the assembled crowd.
Many of the leaders of the strike were prosecuted (persecuted) by the state and effectively destroyed, but elections following this catastrophic failure of respect and listening in Ottawa brought unprecedented numbers of leftist and unionist leaders into office, and the state was scared into changing policy for workers for all time (and the whole country) as a result (one could also convincingly argue that this was the workers political power base which brought universal healthcare first to the western provinces, then the nation as a whole).
Mr Trudeau taught this ‘unit’ also, but one really has to wonder if he ever read it himself, or if he was just using the answer guide in the teachers edition, when marking homework.
We must also remember (as those strikers certainly did) that Manitoba, the province of which Winnipeg is the capital, is the location of the greatest tragic missed opportunity in all of Canadian history.
I wrote about Louis Riel awhile ago (go check out the exhibit at the Fort York ‘vault’ – heartbreaking and terrific). The short version is that back when Canada was made up of what we now call Ontario and Quebec (then upper and lower Canada), Riel proposed the creation of a new Canadian province to the west of Ontario (much as America was gradually extended westward by the incorporation of new states and territories). As a Metis (a cultural group created by the intermarriage of early French settlers and trappers with the indigenous citizens of the first nations), Riel was uniquely positioned to create a genuine respectful accord between the Metis, First Nations, French and English.
As with any piece of history which is controversial, there are a lot of ideas about “main reasons” for what happened. Riel’s strong insistence on respect for all, definitely irritated the powerful in Ottawa, who ignored his assurances that he would never seek American help (and risk Canada itself) but wanted only to negotiate a fair deal for his people in good faith. (All of which was, we should remember, entirely consonant with Simcoe’s original anti racist anti slavery mandate for the foundation of Upper Canada).
Ottawa’s first attempt to put Riel down by main force failed in a humiliating and disastrous way. The troops which were sent from the east to quell the restive westerners were badly hurt by the cross country journey in winter (railway link still very spotty), and then utterly routed when Riel’s force of four hundred trappers took their main fort and sent them running!
Property rights were a big issue. The system they were using (and Riel intended to continue, since so many had already established their homesteads and farms) was the old French system which cut land into long but somewhat narrow strips, which guaranteed everyone on either side of the river direct access to water (in other words, self sufficiency, instead of dependence on some commercial entity with the ability to restrict and exploit their exclusive access).
Racism was a big issue too. The Orangemen (who pretty much ran Toronto politics for about a century, until Nathan Phillips broke the new ‘family compact’ for good) sent some especially odious provocateurs, one of whom outright demanded to be hanged (and by the standards of the time, more than deserved it). Riel resisted, knowing it would be misunderstood, but in the end the local demands for just punishment of this racist thug overwhelmed his political intuition. The man was hanged, and was then instantly made into a false martyr by the determinedly and proudly racist (and politically powerful) press in “Culturally Sophisticated” Toronto and Ottawa.
Religion also played a part in the grand schism – which is why the established political and economic centres of Quebec were far more favourably inclined toward the idea of an inspiring new Catholic friendly compromise, whereas the protestants of English Canada in particular feared any diminution of their own control.
If you look at the news that people in the East were getting at the time, you find Riel – literally the last chance Canada had to avoid a fundamentally racist foundation – portrayed as a murderous racist madman. Never mind that the man he reluctantly had hanged was himself a racist murderer. Also – even though he was fiercely devoted to the idea of adding Manitoba to Canada, and absolutely not the US – he was again and again portrayed as a foreign agent. Because, well – why just hate for racist and religious reasons, when you can add incendiary and completely honourless lies as well?
All of this lead to Riel twice being overwhelmingly elected to sit as a member of Parliament to represent his newly incorporated constituents, even though he was also being actively pursued by the maniacal RCMP for conspiracy to murder.
By the time Riel returned from an extended period of forced exile to try to lead a similar rebellion in the next province west (which would become Saskatchewan) with his much younger ally and protege Gabriel Dumont, he was suffering from a fair amount of mental illness, and his much wilder messianic rhetoric now worked against the native/settler alliances which he had once been able to create so easily and make so powerful.
- Also the railway was more or less done, which meant troops could move west in days and arrive fresh, instead of the journey taking weeks, and weakening all involved greatly.
- Also the large eastern corporate landholders had asserted even greater political influence. Citizens rights were a clear threat to profit, and the assumption of rights to water access was still seen as deeply corrosive to their own preferred ‘block’ system in which some got fantastically valuable land with all necessary supports, and some just got badly screwed.
Riel was hanged to death by the racists in Ottawa for daring to believe Canada could transcend old European racism violence and imperialism. Nobody out West forgets this.
And once again, there is no such thing as a teacher in Canada who is so mediocre, that they have never had to read and consider a student paper on Riel (always a fave of mine). So we can say with absolute certainty that mister Trudeau has ‘access’ to the kind of information which might guide a sensible statesman to wise action. He just ignores it – completely.
I have to admit I was among the idiots who was hopeful when Justin entered politics. I voted for him for one reason in particular – he promised a new deal for our first nations people (who do not all yet even have access to clean drinking water – let far alone things like fair justice and outright prosperity, to which they can be no less entitled than anyone else).
He sounded as if he was serious about the environment too. I was more cautious about my optimism there, but expected him to at very least hold the line.
I also liked his talk about returning decision making to parliament (where it has always belonged) and returning to governmental transparency, something which suffered a lot under our previous conservative prime minister. That is, showing some respect for the fact that we are supposed to be a representative democracy. Prime ministers aren’t meant to be kings.
But we have to remember something here. Justin’s father Pierre Trudeau was an extraordinary politician, but remains incredibly divisive to this day, because he was the one who started that kingly subversion of parliament, in favour of an undemocratic concentration of power in the PMO (prime minister’s office). When I visited the magnificent Cathedral which hosted his funeral in his home town of Montreal, they made a sour face at the mention of his name, and much preferred to talk about the funeral of the hockey great Maurice Richard. Many out west regard Trudeau pater with outright hatred to this day, for his nationalization of Albertan oil projects, after which followed decades of mismanagement.
But the positives of Trudeau’s legacy are almost all stolen. What was really unique about him was that despite his keen legal mind, what he offered to the Canadian people above all was a Kennedy sort of celebrity charm. It wasn’t so much what he was going to do for us in terms of policy, but rather how he would make us feel about the country, with him at the helm.
I don’t want to say he didn’t get anything done – but Lester Pearson is the true hero of post war Canadian politics. Not only did he enshrine universal national medical care – with a minority parliament – he personally solved the single most challenging problem in Canadian politics. How do you deal with our slightly crazy pal next door? I’ll quote an American, Michael Moore, to make the point in pithy terms: “Canada is like a really nice apartment with a meth lab downstairs.”
I’ve ranted enough about the military industrial complex to make clear my complete and profound opposition on every level – moral, social, economic, political, environmental, judicial, cultural, even aesthetic. Eisenhower had it spot on, and in his original speech actually wrote military industrial congressional complex, before an aide suggested he delete the word congressional, a change I can’t help thinking he regretted, since this statement still rings so powerfully in the historical record.
Now and then, for reasons I have explored elsewhere several times, American corporations decide American courage should be abused to destroy a country they don’t even understand.
It took almost forty years for the American policy establishment to admit that they never believed the Domino theory at all, that was a false story designed to win public support for the war in Vietnam. Fear is always a good way to make people assent to things they would resist on moral grounds in calmer times. Variations of “If we don’t fight them over there, we will have to fight them here” are still used to this day, even though in the post world war two period no one has attacked anyone nearly as often as the US has itself.
I love a ton of American people, and I don’t know a single one of them who voted for – please send Raytheon Boeing and Lockheed Martin enough money to completely solve national homelessness forever, because I want to make sure that we still have tragic numbers of homeless friends family and neighbours in five years, and still in ten also, because what is much more important is that we have more and more lovely missiles with which we can kill people overseas, when they get out of line (or are standing in the way of available profit).
That never seems to be on the ballot, but somehow it is always on the agenda. The same creeps keep coming back, over and over again, with the same evil racist madman (and madwoman) schemes.
Since Canada is nationally just as close a friend as many Canadians and Americans are personally, we have long sought a balanced accommodation with American excess. Specifically, how do we stay friends, even when our pals are having one of their crazy-times? I grew up around sweet-hearted hippie American refugees, known then as draft dodgers, and was profoundly glad we offered our American friends (so many important artists, especially) that all-important safe refuge.
Before he was prime minister, Lester Pearson was the foreign minister under Louis St Laurent, where he worked with the early idealists of the UN to create something entirely new – the idea of a peacekeeping force which could come in after a conflict, allow partisan troops from both sides to withdraw from civilian areas, and give peace some time to take root again.
Every war has to end, which means every place where two armies face one another could make use of this new intermediary, and indeed the idea of an organized neutral stabilizing force has made a serious global contribution in many places around the world, usually without adding to conflict (though it has definitely sustained it unhelpfully, in a few places).
This gave Canada a key role in world events which would aid our American friends again and again, without drawing Canadians under arms into their outright aggressions.
Later, as Prime Minister, Pearson not only kept Canada out of the Vietnam war, he cautioned Johnson from the very outset that that war was a terrible mistake which would lead to tragedy for all concerned.
In response, Johnson (who was both tall and hot-tempered) actually lifted Pearson by the collar and almost throttled him, “How dare you come into my house and piss on my carpet!”
We dared the truth because we’re real friends. Because we knew that exerting power in Vietnam, in a struggle which was always far more about nationalism than communism, was not a great way to send a message to China about western resolve. Especially because the war could never be won, since they fought it against people who would never accept defeat.
What message exactly was sent, other than order after order to the aerospace firms for more planes, bombs, napalm, helicopters, guns, ammo and bodybags? Will to spend and kill?
Does anyone believe that anyone in Vietnam is EVER going think it was reasonable that millions of them had to die, just because the Democrats and the unelected National Security Council were afraid of Mao?
Canada’s job is to say, cool it my friend, you’re running too hot there, step back, you’re risking way more than you should, for a goal that isn’t really there to be won anyhow.
We were in South Korea, but could not follow into Vietnam. We were in Afghanistan (under false pretences, to our eternal shame), but knew Iraq was pure disaster from before it started.
We have failed in some peacekeeping and stabilization missions quite spectacularly, and had considerable success elsewhere.
We are a minor power and sinking fast in relative importance, in every respect except our obligation to offer key resources to the world like fresh water and hope for genuine multicultural harmony.
Adding a reliable step back, a safe pair of hands, a corps of experienced de-escalation diplomats, a safe refuge for those driven out by conflict, and the all important steady remittances back home, have all helped in uncountable situations around the world. Not solved, but helped.
Turning Canada into an obedient honourless twisted lickspittle lapdog for demented American PNAC warmongers (who have now made their home in the democratic party, two decades after brilliantly leading the W team to utter ruin and war crimes in Iraq) is as great a betrayal of our national legacy, and the liberal diplomatic legacy in particular, as can be imagined.
Seven years in power now. And Trudeau recently cheerfully announced that the first nations people would have to wait five more years before all would have clean drinking water.
What we can do right away though, is find forty billion (actually a hundred billion, if accounted honestly) for American attack aircraft (you don’t need to waste all of that extra money on stealth, for bomber defence or territorial patrols) which are defective anyhow (congressional committees are currently debating whether to authorize BILLIONS for a whole new engine to replace the lousy original and try to rescue the FUBAR F35 project, or whether they should instead find some face-saving ‘out’ and quietly kill the pork-barrel behemoth altogether).
And this just a couple of years after Boeing tried its best to use deep pockets and Trumpian trade disruption to completely massacre the (peaceful) Canadian aerospace industry.
(No one serious could conclude that any current plane in the world is more suited to Canadian conditions than the latest from SAAB – which we could also have built here under license).
Oh, and those environmental credentials? Yeah, not only massive new deep ocean oil projects, the idiot went and nationalized a multi billion dollar boondoggle pipeline that will probably never pump a drop (but will certainly be paid-for plus massive profit at taxpayers expense, as will all of the corporate bonuses paid out to the shareholders and executives).
I’m honestly confused at this point. Who is this guy working for? Canadians? Which ones? (no one i know). Or is it more like some combination of Lockheed Martin and the CIA? Heck, maybe those goofy old Angleton paranoids at “The Agency” had it right all along, and he’s really a glassy eyed Castro flunky. Darned hard to say at this point. No plan or character in sight, just endless patronizing contempt and unprincipled expedience.
I was especially impressed by his insistence on lockdowns, then his call for a snap election a year before schedule, just to try to advance his personal power by one notch (this folly right in the middle of the particularly lethal delta wave, mind you). The results? Still a minority parliament – plus an absolute certain boost to covid spread, thanks to his insanely timed idiocy.
Who or whatever it is which has guided his actions in government – as our leader he has made it very clear that the homeless can just fuck off (and get ready for way more company). The West of the country can just screw itself (and with force instead of talk? OMG, you idiot!). The first nations don’t really count after all, even after thousands of unsolved murders the RCMP recently said it wasn’t even worth looking for the victims of a serial killer of indigenous women, because it was too expensive. I’m struggling to imagine a murder investigation about a white middle class person in Toronto that the police would or could ever dare say that about.
Clearly, the only thing that matters with Justin is the momentary but glorious glint of Celebrity gamesmanship. Great hair is his best trick. At least his dad had hilarious one-liners.
If Trudeau Jr wants to reject the national interest, betray our long forward thinking diplomatic heritage, sabotage our economic future at the centre of the fast growing economies who all have established thriving expat communities here, and throw away much of our remaining prestige (dented though it is), all so that he can bend over and turn himself into a prophylactic for the war crazies who our best and most courageous Americans friends are always trying their hardest to rein-in, then that is his right, in his capacity as a human being.
But dude, if you want to be that stupid, please leave office first. Bleat as a citizen, not as a representative – because toadying to American warmongers does not represent us.
We probably do deserve the peals of international laughter and derision (condescending preaching about human rights elsewhere, while in the process of uncovering mass graves of children really is especially rich, even on the clueless-cosmopolitain-imbecile-technocrat scale), but please dig deep and find one tiny bit of class and spare us instead.
We have an enormous amount of work to do to repair the damage your lack of wisdom has already cost the entire country, in unity dignity and sovereignty, most especially.
Which tempts me to go back to that lovely pithy send-off they gave Chamberlain, but we are Canadians still, so I think I’ll paraphrase instead.
Go away, please. Now, if you don’t mind.