Lessons From Canada’s Apartheid
In this colonizer’s editorial, recently published in the Globe and Mail, (https://beta.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/editorials/indigenous-peoples-and-the-need-for-a-way-forward-made-in-canada/article34568640/?ref=http://www.theglobeandmail.com& ) lies the racist fallacy.
On the one hand the editorialist says it is difficult to assess the population of Canada at the time of contact but then goes on to say, without any evidence, that Canada (and, by implication, North America) “was thinly populated”.
That essentially dismisses everyone else’s view but the writer’s, who has absolutely no basis on which to say it was “thinly populated”.
That argument of low numbers is essential to maintain the mythological doctrines of “terra nullius” and “discovery”.
There are several expert reports which say that the population of the Americas was higher than the population of Europe at the time of contact, and there are experts who assert, with considerable evidence, that Columbus and his conquistadors (“conquerors”) were responsible for the genocide of more than 20 million Indigenous people within a very short period of time. Some estimate that number as high as 90 million. There is no doubt that such a genocide did happen, and there can be no doubt that it was done solely for the purpose of wiping out the larger numbers of Indigenous people (“thinning the population”) in order to sustain the fallacy of terra nullius.
That genocide did not stop until the 1520s when the Pope and the Catholic Church, after much debate, ruled that Indigenous people were “humans” although a lower form of humans.
The editorial then goes on to say that eventually the number of Europeans became higher than the Indigenous population and therefore what happened here couldn’t have been apartheid, since European numbers were higher.
Excuse me, but apartheid is exactly what happened here.
Canada’s apartheid era officially started with Confederation, when Canada was created and the population of Indigenous people outside of the original confederating colonies far outnumbered Europeans.
Through chicanery, lies, and duplicity (i.e. the Treaties) the government lulled the Indigenous leaders in the West into a false sense of security, and after asserting the extension of Canada’s legal jurisdiction, enacted apartheid laws over them. Only after such laws were enacted was Canada able to increase the population of Europeans in the West in order to overcome the much higher Indigenous population.
That apartheid system still exists, and it is what we, who are working for reconciliation, are all working to dismantle.
We do have a lot to learn from the South African experience. They include:
1. Never trust the colonizer’s history.
2. Racism is hard to overcome
3. Tribalism after colonization ends can become the new “problem”.
4. Apartheid is economic as well as political and legal.
5. Even with a supportive government, reconciliation will take a long time.
6. Without immediate economic and social reform, the legacies of racism easily live on.
And so, colonizer editorialist, next time do your homework.
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“Never trust the colonizer’s history.” My father raised us with full awareness of what he witnessed at residential schools. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I realized the history I learned was not the history Canada taught (that would be my white privilege). Thank you for the work you do. This is our shared history. I strive to honour the teachings of my father, and honour the pain, the truth and the hope.