Exposing Canadian history’s invisible stain
Aren’t you proud to be Canadian?
As a Canadian child you are taught that ours is a peaceful country. Our schoolbooks recount a benevolent — if not slightly boring — national history. We are taught to take pride in our placid past — in fact, peacefulness is an integral part of our national identity. Our own national anthem describes Canada as "glorious and free."
Ours is a history that is free from the brutality and violence that have plagued so many other nations. Our past is neither bloody, nor controversial. Ours is a country that epitomizes multiculturalism, diplomacy and peace.
Or at least that’s what we’ve been taught to believe.
But could it be true that our peaceful nation has its own shameful legacy? Could there exist some invisible stain, swept under the rug of our national subconscious, lest it shatter our delicate facade of pacific patriotism?
Painful as it is to admit, there are indeed dark chapters that exist in our Canadian history. Our Canadian Pacific Railway was built by Chinese workers who were paid only $1 a day, while their white counterparts earned two to three times as much.
During World War II, more than 22,000 Japanese Canadians were forced into internment camps for fear that they would act as enemy spies. Over three-quarters of the Japanese forced into these camps were naturalized or native-born Canadians, many never having set foot on Japanese soil, according to the Yukon Education Student Network. No German or Italian internment camps were built, despite the fact that the West was also at war with these countries.
Historically, the most brutally treated group, however, has been our First Nations people. From unbalanced treaties, to the reservation system, to residential schools, to most recently, the "starlight tours"; we have at best caused lasting harm to our First Nations peoples, and have at worst committed cultural genocide.
Few schoolbooks delve into the more bleak aspects of our Canadian history. They have been Disney-fied and scoured of any controversy, so as not to disrupt the development of our budding patriots.
Many Canadians tend to remain aloof towards our true past, preferring to believe in the sanitized history of our schoolbooks — the illustrations of smiling Indians feasting with friendly settlers — and keeping the false national identity wholly intact.
Some may argue that we have taken responsibility for these atrocities.
An official apology was offered to the families of Japanese internment camp survivors by the Mulroney government in 1988.
Just recently, our government apologized to our First Nations for the harms caused by the residential school system.
In fact, on June 11 of this year, Prime Minister Stephen Harper offered an official apology to our First Nations people, saying:
"The Government of Canada now recognizes it was wrong to forcibly remove children from their homes. We apologize for having done this."
But what steps, if any, has our government taken to right these wrongs that, after decades, they have finally admitted to?
Apologies are a dime a dozen. It’s easy to say, "I’m sorry." What is not so easy, however, is to truly make amends for our brutal actions. Twenty-five years after the final residential school was closed, an apology has finally been offered. How long now until steps are taken to rectify the damage that has been done, and can the horrors of our past ever truly be amended?
This is our real Canadian history. The lessons of which cannot be ignored, whether for reasons patriotic, prideful or ignorant. If we want to truly be "the true North, strong and free," then we need to ensure that that freedom is available to all.
Now, aren’t you proud to be Canadian?