Sunday, June 26, 2005

Bastards & Boneheads

What a great book! Bastards and Boneheads was informative, amusing and had the right amount of depth without being to dry. Ferguson makes some great points about the selective memory of people and how Canadians might want to remember (and, therefore currently experience) the nature of their country. I’ll admit I was quite ignorant of Canadian history, so for those in the know, they probably need not read this book. As for the rest of you ignoramuses (:P), I’ll be happy to lend this to you. I think it’ll even serve as a handy little future reference for various events or people in Canadian history.

As usual (it seems), there are some excerpts below. The passages are not representative of the book as a whole, but contain important facts about our past. Consequently, I chose these mainly for there content instead of their style or humour (save the last one). Page numbers are in parentheses.

If a Black tries to escape, we cut off his ears and we brand a fleur-de-lis on his shoulder with a hot iron; if he tries to escape a second time, we cut the hamstrings on the back of his legs. If his is so bold as to try again, it’s death. – Code Noire, drawn up by French Canadians to outline the proper treatment of Black slaves. The Slave trade in Canada lasted for more than 200 years. (66)

In 1928, after a month and a half of debate, the Supreme Court of Canada announced its decision: women were not persons. Canada had overruled Alberta. (128)
(The following year the Privy Council of the United Kingdom reversed the decision)

Often, the same suffragists who wanted the vote for white Anglo-Saxon women just as vehemently wanted it denied to non-white foreign men. (121)

In 1919, the longest sustained general strike in North American history occurred in Winnipeg. On May 15th of that year, the entire city simply shut down. Almost 30,000 workers walked out, and sympathy strikes soon flared up across the nation… As early as 1917, there had been talk of calling a citywide general strike over conscription, and two years later, the pot finally boiled over… The Winnipeg General Strike was, in the hysteria of the day, seen as a Bolshevik attempt at launching a socialist revolution, and it had to be stopped. Ottawa ordered dawn raids. Union leaders were imprisoned without trial, and when workers gathered to protest, the Mounties fired into the crowd, killing one man and wounding many more. The police then waded in on horseback, swinging truncheons and cracking skulls. Mass arrest followed, as workers were beaten and trampled. By dusk, martial law had been imposed on the city. It was June 21, 1919. Bloody Saturday.
The next morning, workers began drifting back to their jobs. (122-123)

The Government will in time reach the end of its responsibility as the Indians progress into civilization and finally disappear as a separate and distinct people, not by race extinction but by gradual assimilation. –Ducan Campbell Scott, director of Canada’s Indian policy, 1931. (149)

Native Canadians were not allowed to vote until 1960. At the provincial level, some areas had granted the vote earlier, but Alberta held out until 1965, and Quebec until 1969 – at about the same time French-Canadian nationalists were in a rage over being ‘oppressed’ and had taken to calling themselves ‘the white niggers of America.’ (153)

Enfranchisement, the dream that the Indians would someday voluntarily vanish, was not removed as the stated objective of federal Native policy until 1985. (154)

Lower-income Jewish refugees were rejected ostensibly because they would be a drain (even though the Canadian Jewish Congress had vowed to fully support them), and wealthy Jewish refugees were rejected because they would be competition for Canadian businessmen. Instead, Jews were kept in Europe, where their money enriched Nazi coffers and their bones enriched the fields of Auschwitz. (166)

Once Hitler became our enemy, he was hated, but that hatred had nothing to do with his persecution of the Jews. Even as we were marching off to war, anti-Semitism was gaining ground in Canada. (167)

As late as December 1943, there was still a chance to get 6,000 children out of France before the Gestapo arrived. The U.S. offered 4,000 open visas and asked Canada to take 1,000 of them. Canada never replied. Our country could probably say that it had saved not a single child from the gas chambers, even when the opportunity to do so was presented. (167)

The mass evacuations of Japanese Canadians from the West Coast began in February 1942, and by September of that year, virtually every man, woman and child of Japanese descent had been forcibly uprooted and relocated against their will. In the end, 22,000 people would be moved: 75 per cent of them were Canadian-born citizens. (177)

Japanese Canadians lost millions upon millions of dollars in property during the war. It was nothing short of a public looting, and it was supported right down the line by our stalwart prime minister, William Lyon Mackenzie King. (179)

John A. Macdonald, a legend in his own time, was a gregarious man both beloved and reviled. His drinking binges were epic. He once puked on stage during a debate and then blamed his upset stomach on the speeches given by his opponent. (241) (Hahaha)

ps: regarding the excerpts, my only addition was the ‘hahaha’


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