The Canadian Historical Metanarrative

The Canadian Historical Metanarrative is a real big mess. Even, frankly, defining ‘Canadian’ (big-c) is a bit of a mess. The government tells us that being Canadian is about the Olympics, avoidance of protest, reverence towards members of our armed forces, and the Queen. There is a very carefully edited, whitewashed, and atlanticist narrative that supports these conclusions, and is internally consistent.

This is their story: Canada was discovered basically empty in the 16th century by European explorers. The first inhabitants were missionaries and teachers from France, and then later colonists from Britain and loyalists from the United States. The Canadian population was tiny, but fought loyally for Britain against the United States on several occasions, guaranteeing the colony’s existence separate from the Manifest Destiny.

The population grew over the 19th century from successive waves of immigration from Ireland and later Eastern Europe, then in the 20th century earned its independence from Britain through heroic service in two world wars. After the war, Canada became one of the most diverse countries in the world and an innovative economic powerhouse. It retains deep ties to its parent country Britain and its trusted neighbours in the United States.

That’s it, right? A Canadian is a person who lives in a society created by settlers from Europe, or one who has been assimilated into it. The Canadian historical metanarrative as elucidated by Canada’s New Government is therefore a story of settlement and conquest; it is exclusionary and divisive, disenfranchising millions from their own history.

Now, let’s be clear about one detail- this above narrative is not factually false. The problem is that it is woefully incomplete. The real canadian historical metanarrative depends on you. It depends on where your parents were from, and their parents before that. It depends on when you were born, and where you first lived. It depends if you’ve moved around a lot, or mostly stayed in one place. It is woven together through generations, through tribulations, and through relationships to others.

Our real history stretches back ten thousand years to the first humans who crossed through our lands on their way to populate the Americas. It is rooted in a deep connection with our environment, our natural resources, and our turbulent weather. It is rooted in community, in working together to thrive against the odds. It is something we all belong to, and something that many of us have no contact with, so steeped in the Coles Notes version above. Canada is not one nation, indivisible- it is many nations interconnected through natural systems and free choice.

We need to restore our real history. We need to reclaim the rights of all canadians, English, French, First Nations, Inuit, Métis and New, to speak on the authority of their relationship with our country. It belongs to all of us, and separate we can not drown out the international influences seeking to claim our national wealth for their private gain. The Harper Government’s narrative is divisive on purpose- the more time we spend fighting each other, the less time we can spend fighting those who wish to exploit us.

We need to keep our wealth here, first to bring equality to living standards and access to sustainable economic opportunity across the country, and next to accommodate newcomers from across the globe as climate change intensifies towards the middle of the century. It’s time. It’s long past time. It’s time to learn our history and preserve our future.

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