“Of course, the purpose is to tear down and tear apart the nation for a thousand reasons and in thousand ways, thereby dispiriting and demoralizing the public; undermining the citizenry’s confidence in the nation’s institutions, traditions, and customs; creating one calamity after another; weakening the nation from within…”
Mark Levin was speaking of America, but he might just as easily have been speaking about us. On Canada Day of 2021 The Canadian Historical Association chose to issue a statement to the effect that the word “Genocide” should be applied to Canada’s dealings with Indigenous people and that this was now a settled question. But as Barbara Kay wrote in The National Post on Aug.16th, : “The council’s assertion that its viewpoint had the “broad consensus” of its membership triggered pushback.” A group of 50 of Canada’s most accomplished and well known Historians issued an open letter in contradiction of this “consensus” and instead championed the ideals of open discussion, inquiry, thought and opinion.
In asserting our nation guilty of genocide, the CHA was echoing the sentiment of Marxist Critical Race Theorists. Words such as: “decolonize” and “white supremacist” are the lingua franca of an extreme ideology being forced upon the institutions, students and schools of Canada. Is the characterization of Canada’s treatment toward Indigenous people a “settled question” as the CHA contends, or is the open letter in dispute of this, evidence to the contrary. Basic logic tells us that if well respected, expert historians are willing to risk the ire of illiberal condemnation then the issue is not a settled one.
Here’s what the United Nations has to say:
“To constitute genocide, there must be a proven intent on the part of perpetrators to physically destroy a national, ethnical, racial or religious group. Cultural destruction does not suffice, nor does an intention to simply disperse a group.” (UN.org) Therefore, separating cultural genocide from genocide, did the Canadian government’s action amount to an attempt “to physically destroy a nation, ethical, racial or religious group”? The most quoted passage in support of this contention is John A. Macdonald’s widely quoted response to Liberal member David Mills in parliament on April 27th, 1882. In their exchange, Mills expostulates:
“Then I must say it is pretty evident that the Indians have become pensioners upon the Public Treasury, that we are called upon to feed them, to clothe them, and that they are doing little or nothing for themselves. Now, I believe a barbarous population like the Indians may very easily be made wholly dependent upon the Government…I am of the opinion that the Government is largely responsible for this large sum.”
Earlier in the exchange Macdonald, had made clear the growing cost and seriousness of the problem facing Indigenous people on the prairies in 1882. But in response to Mills’ accusation of profligate spending, Macdonald responded:
“When the Indians are starving they have been helped, but they have been reduced to one-half and one-quarter rations, but when they fall into a state of destitution we cannot allow them to die for want of food...We are doing all that we can by refusing food until the Indians are on the verge of starvation, to reduce the expense.”
Examine the words and consider for yourself: Does this constitute an “intent to destroy physically”?
Macdonald had made other comments in the House of Commons regarding both the expense and necessity of food aid. On Feb. 10th, 1882 Macdonald had admonished:
“It is necessary now, and will be for some time in the future, to provide food for them. That they are suffering from an inadequate supply of food is a matter of deep regret, and I am sure, Mr. Speaker, that the house will cheerfully support the government in any measure of relief, already undertaken or to be submitted for the consideration of parliament. They cannot be allowed to starve.”
And in the same speech:
“The honourable gentlemen spoke of the increased Indian expenditure. He said he had warned.. It was an absolute necessity to any Government to take care that those people should not be allowed to starve, as they were literally deprived of their chief sources of food supply. … there was but one thing to do, either feed the Indian or let him die….of course parliament to one man, and without exception, except perhaps the warning my honourable friend mentions, voted the necessity of supplies…”
And so, was the intent of the Canadian government to “destroy” through starvation, or was it reflective of contemporary economic thinking which viewed food aid as something which should prevent death but not necessarily hunger. In other words, in a world where food aid programs were exceedingly rare, the belief remained that aid should not diminish the incentive to work. A less severe form of this was exacted in the “Means Test” and Unemployment Relief Camps in order to qualify for government assistance during The Great Depression. “Rather than cash, assistance was granted in the form of grocery, fuel and clothing orders. Single, unemployed men were herded into military-style camps reminiscent of the 19th-century poorhouse.”
Economic thinking of the time, continued to severely limit government interventions in the economic lives of citizens. So much so that, 35 years prior, during The Irish Potato Famine over one million Irish had starved and two million had left the country. If the scale was different, The Great Famine on the prairies was similarly disastrous for the people affected,. As Richard Gwyn described: “The suffering was real and widespread. The number of Plains Indians declined from about 32, 000 in 1880 to some 20, 000 five years later…The principal cause of Indian deaths being was European diseases such as smallpox, scarlet fever and whooping cough.” (Gwyn, Nation Maker: p.426).
Professor Liam Kennedy of Belfast University rejects the word genocide being applied to Ireland’s famine:“It was impossible to reconcile facts such as the employment of three-quarters of a million people on public works’ schemes, or the feeding of three million at soup kitchens in the early summer of 1847, with notions of genocide. Then there was the small matter that the British government spent £9-10 millions (in the region of one billion pounds sterling in today’s value) on famine relief. Of course the state should have spent more, but that’s a longer story.” “In the end, the virtually unanimous view of academic historians, based in Ireland, Britain and North America, was that the Irish Famine did not qualify as a case of genocide.”
Within the Canadian context:
Former Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and Professor Emeritus of the University of Edinburgh, Ged Martin conducted a careful breakdown of the Federal Budget in 1882. He found “ six "big ticket" items that exceeded one million dollars. These were debt charges ($9.227 million), subsidies to the provinces ($3.531 million), cost of revenue collection on railways, canals and public works ($2.894 million), other expenditure on railways, canals and public works ($1.423 million), Post Office ($1.91 million) and Indian Affairs ($1.107 million, a total that seems to have included central administration expenses in Ottawa).” The total being “$1.183 million, of which $1.107 million was spent directly on indigenous people. “
Professor Martin calculated the “net figure for expenditure of $21.573 million for 1882.” The two largest expenses being Debt servicing and provincial subsidies which were fixed costs and combined to account for 59.2% of the total budget. This left 39.8% of the budget to be spent on such things as: public works, revenue collection, new railway spending, Post Office, Civil Government, Justice, Militia and Defence etc. Of these discretionary expenses, Indian Affairs was the fourth largest at 5.1% of the total and 13% of discretionary spending. Militia and Defence coming in at 3.5% of the total.
Thus Food aid programs amounted to “a substantial segment of overall government expenditure.” (Martin). The fact that these programs did not adequately meet the needs of all those suffering is clear, but so too is the fact that these programs saved the lives of thousands of Indigenous people between 1878-1885.
The Great Famine:
By the time the North-West Mounted Police completed the “March West” in 1874, life on the prairies was in crisis for a number of reasons. The central one being the noticeably dwindling buffalo herds, but the impacts of cultural malaise, erosion of traditional authority, the alcohol trade, disease and inter-tribal violence between the Cree and Blackfoot all contributed.
When the Cree signed Treaty 6 in 1876, they presciently negotiated an agreement for food aid while they transitioned to farming (this clause was incorporated into Treaty 7 signed with the Blackfoot Confederacy the next year). In the same year, Chief Sitting Bull and the Sioux had won their victory on June 25th at Little Big Horn, but by November they were crossing the 49th into Canadian territory to escape retribution from the US Cavalry. Here Richard Gwyn may be quoted at some length: “The results of any nineteenth-century cross-border comparison would have been quite different. The defining difference was that Canadians did not kill Indians; in the course of the nineteenth century, some forty thousand American Indians were killed, principally by the U.S. Army of the West; above the Medicine Line, the only deaths were the small number killed during the North-West Rebellion. The difference can largely be attributed to the Mounted Police, who arrested many more whites than Indians-the exact opposite of the situation below the border.” (Gwyn, p.427-428)
Nobody seemed truly prepared for the suddenness of the famine which began to take hold in 1878 however. Indian Agent M.G. Dickieson described the situation in stark terms. And so by April of 1878, Dickieson was “sent to Montana on the first of what would become regular missions to secure cattle for the starving population.” (Daschuk, Clearing the Plains: p.107) By May of 1879, over 700 Cree had come to the fort in hope of food aid. Dickieson then “requisitioned at least 20,000 pounds of beef to mitigate the famine.” (Dashuk, p. 109) In September, Dickieson left the frontier with the knowledge of having worked to save hundreds of lives.
The disaster continued into 1879 with the new Lieutenant Governor of the North-West Territories Edgar Dewdney finds “about 1,300 Indians…on the verge of starvation”. (Dashuk, p.110 quoted from Dewdney’s report). In 1879 farming instruction began and between 1879-81 “expenditures on Indian Affairs ‘more than doubled’” (Dashuk, p.109). Meanwhile, at Calgary Cecil Denny the Indian Agent assigned to signatories of Treaty 7 “took it upon himself to purchase and issue beef at the rate of 2, 000 pounds a day.” (Dashuk, p. 111)
James Daschuk’s: Clearing the Plains is highly critical of both the Mackenzie and Macdonald governments’ job of managing the crisis, but he too concedes “rations kept many from starving” (Dashuk, p.117) And when Crowfoot’s band returned in 1881 from their attempt to locate more plentiful sources of buffalo south of the border, the need for aid became even more acute. Rations were issued to Crowfoot’s people were half a kilogram of beef and a quarter kilogram of flour. By way of comparison “The meat consumption of conscript soldiers, 2 pounds per week, was four times higher than that of the typical peasant” on the eve of WWI. (McMeekin, The Russian Revolution: p.27) However, issues of spoilage, inefficient and unequal distribution and corruption impeded these efforts. And in response, the appointment of Lawrence Vankoughnet to the post of Deputy Superintendent of the Department of Indian Affairs led to constraining the budget and reduction of discretion on the part of Indian Agents such as Cecil Denny who resigns in protest.
In the Final Analysis:
As already noted, Gwyn accepted Historian Blair Stonechild’s estimate that approximately 10, 000 Plains Indigenous people died between 1880-85-mostly due to disease made worse by malnutrition. Anyone familiar with contemporary food aid programs realizes they often suffer from a series of misfortunes including, but not limited to: problems of supply and logistics, barriers to communication, corruption, spoilage, parsimony, foreseeable and unforeseeable mistakes and unequal distribution. All of these were factors for the new Dominion of Canada as well. But the historical record is clear that food aid represented a sizeable portion (if not large enough) of government expenditure and that thousands of lives were likely saved as a result.
In 1885, Macdonald introduced The Franchise Act to give the vote to status Indians. Despite months of opposition from the Liberal opposition and from within his own party he stated: ““There should be no reason why the red man…should not have the same privileges as the British subjects either White or Black. “ (Gwyn, p.529) And when asked if those who had just rebelled should also be given the vote, Macdonald responded simply, “Yes.” Macdonald settled with the opposition to enfranchise Eastern status Indians only to see that right taken from them by Laurier’s government in 1898 and not returned until 1962.
It simply does not hold that the government would seek to deliver political power to a people it wished to destroy. What possible reason could a government with genocidal intentions have to extend voting rights and dedicated 13% of its discretionary spending toward Indigenous people? Where genocide has occurred, it has always followed the curtailment of political rights. And while food aid programs from 1878-1885 should have saved far more, they did save thousands.
The word genocide is meant to convey the very worst of targeted mass murder. The Nazi Holocaust and the killing of six million Jews, Stalin’s Holodomor which starved between 5-10 million, Mao’s collectivization programs which resulted in the mass starvation of 45 million. Armenian genocide which was meant to exterminate the Christian Armenian population of the Ottoman Empire. Words matter; and their application steers policy, dialogue, relationships and internal cohesion. We are an immense and multi-cultural nation. We have numerous religions, cultures and beliefs, but what binds us together is respect for our nation, its symbols, history and institutions. We have a good thing, and if some of us have forgotten the world has not.
Critical theorists view Canada as de-legitimate and something which activist leaders have called to “burn down”. OUR civil society is part of that Western Civilization they wish to tear down. . The labeling of Canadian policy toward our Indigenous communities as “genocide” is meant to be the proverbial “stake through the heart” of our national identity. But because of the Open Letter signed by 50 noted Canadian Historians, we are still free to think and reason and decide for ourselves if our country is worth defending.
This post was written by an anonymous supporter of Woke Watch Canada. Also from this author - Don’t Let The Woke Re-Write History and The West Has Entered Its Own Cultural Revolution.
Excellent article. The only genocide in Canadian history was the Iroquois annihilation of the Huron in 1649. Canada’s past is being smeared to give attention to woke virtue-signallers in the present who use and abuse history, which Nietzsche wrote about in his book The Use and Abuse of History.
Most of the Critical Race Theory advocates in Canada have gathered together for a Marxist Scream to tear down Canada. Activist Academics are the highlighters of this Scream and come from all provinces. Sadly the Keystone province has an over abundance of Woke Scream.
John A. Macdonald gave it his best shot to bring the Indigenous Canadians into the folds of this great country.