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John A. Macdonald statue ‘painful reminder’ of colonialism: Victoria mayor

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  • VICTORIA — A statue of former prime minister John A. Macdonald will be removed from the front entrance of Victoria City Hall as a gesture of reconciliation with First Nations, says the city’s Mayor Lisa Helps.

    Macdonald was the first prime minister of Canada and Helps said he was also a “key architect” of the residential school system.

    The decision, which must be approved by council, followed a year of deliberations and consultation with the local Songhees and Esquimalt chiefs and councils, she said in an interview Wednesday.

    “For people who are Indigenous who are coming into city hall, who may have been in residential schools, or their moms or grandmas or dads or grandpas were in residential schools, this statue is a physical manifestation of that painful colonial history that they themselves or their families have experienced,” Helps said in an interview.

    The decision to remove the statue is the first concrete action by the so-called City Family, made up of the mayor, two councillors, and Indigenous representatives, as part of city’s reconciliation program.

    Council will receive the report Thursday recommending the statue removal, and Helps said she can’t imagine it will be rejected since council gave the group a mandate to pursue reconciliation when it formed last year.

    While the statue is in storage, Helps said the city will continue a dialogue about how to tell a more complete story about Macdonald’s history that both celebrates his contributions as the country’s first prime minister at the same time as acknowledging the harm he caused.

    In a post on her campaign website, she points to the following statement that Macdonald made in the House of Commons in 1883, as evidence of his harmful legacy and thinking:

    “When the school is on the reserve, the child lives with its parents, who are savages, and though he may learn to read and write, his habits and training mode of thought are Indian.”

    “It has been strongly impressed upon myself, as head of the Department, that Indian children should be withdrawn as much as possible from the parental influence, and the only way to do that would be to put them in central training industrial schools where they will acquire the habits and modes of thought of white men.”

    Although Helps has an undergraduate, master’s and partially completed PhD in Canadian history, she said she is ashamed that she was unaware of the Father of Confederation’s role in developing residential schools.

    Helps said the city does not propose erasing history, but rather taking time to tell that chapter of Canadian history in a thoughtful way.

    The statue will be removed Saturday and stored until an appropriate way to “recontextualize” Macdonald is determined, she said.

    “History is always being retold and part of the act of removing this statue is the ability to tell a more fulsome history John A Macdonald played, both positive and negative, in the history of our country.”

    A cleansing, blessing and healing ceremony will be held in the space after the statue is removed and a plaque explaining its removal will be installed in its place.

    In the longer term, a piece of art representative of the Lekwungen culture, which includes both the Songhees and Esquimalt nations, will likely go in its place, Helps said.

    Victoria isn’t the only government or institution reviewing its celebration of Macdonald. In August, an elementary teachers’ union in Ontario issued a call to remove his name from schools in the province. And in May, the Canadian Historical Association voted to strip Macdonald’s name from one of its top writing prizes.

    Other historical figures have also come under scrutiny for their roles in the residential school system.

    The Office of the Prime Minister and the Privy Council was known as Langevin Block until Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had it changed. Hector-Louis Langevin, another Father of Confederation, argued that a separate school system for Indigenous youth was needed to assimilate them into Canadian Culture.

    Ontario’s public education system owes its beginnings to Egerton Ryerson, but he is also believed to have helped shape residential school policy through his ideas on education of Indigenous children. Indigenous students’ group and the Ryerson Students Union have called for Toronto’s Ryerson University to change its name out of respect for residential school survivors.

    — By Amy Smart in Vancouver

    The Canadian Press


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    National

    In Canada, the term ‘nationalism’ doesn’t seem to have a bad rap. Here’s why.

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  • OTTAWA — On a historic Remembrance Day, a century after the end of the First World War, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told a Paris crowd that decaying trust in public institutions will lead citizens to look for easy answers “in populism, in nationalism, in closing borders, in shutting down trade, in xenophobia.”

    The implication was clear: if nations turn in on themselves and treat outsiders as threats, we might again find ourselves in a bloody conflict with fronts all over the world.

    But a series of surveys suggest the idea of being a nationalist, and nationalism in general, are viewed fairly positively by most Canadians.

    What the data suggest is that Canadians don’t see the concept of nationalism the way people do in the United States, where the term is often linked with white-nationalist groups, and then with white supremacy and racism.

    Rather, Canadians appear to have constructed their view of nationalism on the idea of feeling connected to our country and ensuring that others feel connected as well — even as we watch the term pilloried globally.

    “It is used in different ways — when people are talking about the Trump nationalism, they would say (it’s) bad. But in Canada, they accept it because it is equated with certain communities and they see it as a way it’s helping vulnerable populations find their place in Canada,” said Kathy Brock, a political-studies professor at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont.

    “Canadians have just acclimatized to this dual view of nationalism.”

    In the 1950s and 1960s, Canadians often reported feeling greater attachments to their particular communities or ethnic groups than they did to the country. In the intervening years, connection to country has strengthened while connection to community has faded, said Frank Graves, president of EKOS Research Associates, a polling and market-research firm. The opposite has happened in Europe, he said.

    Research also suggests Canadians’ attachments to their ethnic groups have weakened over the last 20 years in favour of an attachment to country, Graves said, even as census data shows the country’s population is becoming ever more diverse.

    “We don’t have a common ethno-linguistic homogeneity that produces a definition of ‘the people.’ It’s more civic nationalism,” Graves said.

    “In Canada, national identity has been created through a dialogue between citizens and the state and the public institutions — medicare, the Mounties, Parliament Hill. It isn’t as much steeped in history or common race and identity, which probably inoculates it from some of the more disturbing expressions of nationalism.”

    Newly released survey data from the Association of Canadian Studies says that 60 per cent of respondents hold a somewhat or very positive view of nationalism, compared with about 45 per cent in the United States. The results were similar in both English and French Canada.

    There also appears to be an association between Canadians’ views on nationalism and their views on multiculturalism.

    “In contrast to the European idea of nationalism, having that ethnic component to it, most Canadians don’t see nationalism as ethnically driven. They see it more as a form of patriotism,” said Jack Jedwab, the association’s president. “It doesn’t intersect as much as it does in the European context with anti-immigrant sentiment, or a sentiment against diversity.”

    The Leger Marketing survey of 1,519 Canadians on a web panel was conducted for the association the week of Nov. 12. Online surveys traditionally are not given a margin of error because they are not random and therefore are not necessarily representative of the whole population.

    A day after his Nov. 11 comments, Trudeau was asked how he defined nationalism and where he saw it in Canada.

    “In Canada, we’ve demonstrated many times that identities are complimentary,” he said. “I’m an extremely proud Quebecer, I’m an extremely proud Canadian and like most Canadians, they don’t see a contradiction in that.”

    Experts say the more negative forms of nationalism are nevertheless simmering in Canada. Jedwab’s survey data suggest that respondents who have positive views of nationalism are somewhat more worried about immigration and security along the U.S. border than those who have negative views of nationalism.

    Part of what fuelled U.S. President Donald Trump’s political rise, and his populist rhetoric, was financial worry — or what Graves described as the idea of the everyman versus the corrupt elites. Brock said Canada has thus far avoided similar concerns about class and finances, particularly coming out of the recession a decade ago, and a similar rise of nationalist rhetoric.

    “Now, we’re facing some really serious economic challenges and if they come to pass, then we could see a different manifestation of this,” she said. “So I don’t think those (polling) figures are necessarily set in stone.”

    — Follow @jpress on Twitter.

    Jordan Press, The Canadian Press


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    National

    British Columbia trade trip to China cancelled over Meng detention

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  • VICTORIA — The detention of a top Huawei executive in Canada has derailed British Columbia’s trade mission to China.

    The delegation led by B.C. Forestry Minister Doug Donaldson will no longer be stopping in China, and will instead end its trip after a visit to Japan.

    The decision follows the arrest of Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou, who was detained while changing flights last week in Vancouver.

    “The Province of British Columbia has suspended the China leg of its Asian forestry trade mission due to the international judicial process underway relating to a senior official at Huawei Technologies Co., Ltd.,” the province said in a statement, adding that British Columbia values its strong trade relationship with China.

    “It is anticipated that Minister Donaldson will work to reschedule events planned for the Chinese portion of this mission at the earliest convenient moment.”

    B.C. Trade Minister Bruce Ralston declined an interview request Sunday and Global Affairs Canada did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

    The United States is seeking to have Meng extradited on allegations that she tried to evade American trade sanctions on Iran. A bail hearing began in Vancouver on Friday, and Meng is spending the weekend in jail before it continues next week.

    The Chinese government has warned Canada that if Meng is not released, the country will face “grave consequences.”

    A report by the official Xinhua News Agency carried on the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s website said that Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng called in Canadian Ambassador John McCallum on Saturday over Meng’s detention.

    Huawei is the biggest global supplier of network gear for phone and internet companies and has been the target of deepening U.S. security concerns over its ties to the Chinese government. The U.S. has pressured European countries and other allies to limit use of its technology, warning they could be opening themselves up to surveillance and theft of information.

    Le told McCallum that Meng’s detention at the request of the United States was a “severe violation” of her “legitimate rights and interests.”

    “Such a move ignores the law and is unreasonable, unconscionable, and vile in nature,” Le said in the statement.

    “China strongly urges the Canadian side to immediately release the detained Huawei executive … or face grave consequences that the Canadian side should be held accountable for,” Le said.

    On Sunday, Le summoned U.S. Ambassador Terry Branstad for a similar meeting, demanding Washington cancel the order for Meng’s arrest, Xinhua News Agency said.

    Le called the United States to “immediately correct its wrong actions” and said it would take further steps based on Washington’s response.

    The Canadian Press



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