Last week Lacey Williams chose to condemn the local Heritage Society fundraiser and wag a finger at those attending, schooling them as to how she sees Canada’s colonial history wrapped up in old logging or fishing equipment. Her letter was so irrational I thought perhaps she was attempting metaphor, but no, after several readings it appears simply to be bigotry. (Merriam-Webster: bigotry, ‘obstinate or intolerant devotion to one’s own opinions and prejudices’).
Let me explain.
It is illogical and offensive to imply a relationship between old things, or indeed attending a fundraiser dinner for ‘heritage’, and what today is popularly categorized under the term colonialism.
The ‘colonial’ past of Canada as well as many nations can certainly be seen as a mix of pride and shame, similar perhaps to the respected Haida of Haida Gwaii whose proud and ancient culture at one time actively retained slaves to support their way of life. We all can learn and change going forward.
But let’s not blame the fishhook for overfishing. If heritage is ‘the background from which one comes’ then one can choose to take the best and leave the rest. It is a cheap shot to imply that an interest in old ‘planes, trains, and automobiles’, means support for actions taken in the colonial past.
My own forebearers have been on this side of the Atlantic for over 250 years. If all non-indigenous Canadians are ‘colonists’ are they all to blame for the treatment of indigenous populations? Statistics Canada tells me that “In 2011, Canada had a foreign-born population of about 6,775,800 people. They represented 20.6% of the total population.” Are they all colonists — all to blame for something? If we are to advance successfully, we must address ourselves to the reality that Canada today is post-colonial growing country, multi-cultural, and with great diversity. When societies interblend, a new world view emerges which accommodates important aspects of the originating societies.
Neighbours having a salmon dinner and raising a few bucks to help with museum projects does not need to be freighted with an overlay of implied guilt.
Take steps towards seeing the whole picture.