Right from the top of Rex Murphy’s Saturday column for the National Post it’s clear we’re in for a doozy: the title of his column is “A rude dismissal of Canada’s generosity.” It is about how rude aboriginal people in Canada are being, and how dismissive they are of Canada’s generous apology — sorry Rex, apologies — for almost eradicating them. It’s about as close as you can come to calling a group “uppity” in a national newspaper in 2013.
He begins by briefly and acontextually summarizing the recent standoff between police and environmental protesters, most of them First Nations, in New Brunswick before dropping this gem on us:
From native protestors and spokespeople there is a vigorous resort to current radical jargon — referring to Canadians[*] as colonialist, as settlers, as having a settler’s mentality. Though it is awkward to note, there is a play to race in this, a conscious effort to ground all issues in the allegedly unrepentant racism of the “settler community.”
Well, yes, Rex Murphy. As it happens, there is a “play to race” in the discussion of white Europeans’ displacement and systematic oppression of aboriginal people. Race is a pretty important component of the history to which you’re referring.
But we’ve got a lot to cover, so let’s move past this baffling obliviousness. (Does Murphy, a prominent Canadian media personality, actually not accept that Canadian history includes white people settling on already-occupied land? Or that said settlement involved some not great stuff? That’s not even “radical,” that’s textbook history. Literally.)
The Canadian present is a vastly different place from the Canadian past, and not to acknowledge that, further, not to act on the great benign difference between the two, is willful blindness and reckless distortion. [... Canadians feel] genuine shame in the country that conditions are as they are; there is a residue of guilt that the history of conflict and dispossession wrought such long-term hurt to native peoples.
This must be what Murphy really wanted to get to, because he spends another few hundred words on it. The wacko, violent protesters and the radical academic activists were just his points of entry. What Murphy is truly concerned with is that Canadians are really, truly, double-super sorry about what happened back then! (Although, what happened back then that we’re all sorry about? According to Rex Murphy, apparently not much.)
Most Canadians, genuinely, and in depth, wish better for their co-citizens, are not just open, but intensely eager to the right thing by them and with them — if only one or many right things can be seen and finally agreed upon.
We have so many good feelings about you guys, aboriginal people. We’re all over here just wishing you well and hoping some solutions can be found. (After you figure out your shit and decide on a thing or two! I mean, what do you want? And answer as a group because there are way too many of you to answer for yourselves.) Have you heard of positive manifestation? What about The Secret? Because a bunch of us are doing both for all of you. So, like, you’re wellllllllllcome.
Looks like we’re not all on the same page here, though. Murphy has caught wind of some dissension in the ranks of the pro-aboriginal-equality movement.
When Canadians hear “settler” or “colonialist” or “genocide” tossed scornfully at them, they quite reasonably ask themselves: Have all the efforts to respond to native grievance, both financial and political — the very real and dedicated efforts of so many years to get beyond the distrust and anger — been for nothing?
Those are some hurtful words to use. Did the people calling us “settlers” even get the memo about how sorry white people are? Has all our good work, as white people, to fix our lesser citizens been for naught?
Murphy doesn’t say, so it’s not clear. There may be some hope for all of our efforts, but only if aboriginal people shape up and respect the “meetings, summits, treaties, court decisions, financial support” that we’ve been putting in. And would it kill you, aboriginal people, to recognize “the immense openness and good will of the Canadian citizenry”?????
*Now, you might think aboriginal people are Canadians, but based on the way he uses the word, Rex Murphy does not. “Canadians” are mostly (generous, sensitive) white people. They are the people whose ancestors displaced and mistreated aboriginal people, who are now very regretful and should be forgiven, already, for Christ’s sake. So they’re neither aboriginal nor recent immigrants.
[National Post] [image via PremierofAlberta/Flickr]