Friday, November 13, 2009

Fact checking Discover Canada

A big omission and eight little missteps in the government's new citizenship document.

The Big One is Aboriginal Rights and Treaties. For a document properly concerned with constitutional and political frameworks, the lack of attention to the aboriginal reality in Canada is dismaying. The treaties that set out Canada's obligaions to the First Nations really are a fundamental part of the constitution of the country.

Eight picky-pickies for the second edition, noted on a quick read-through:

page 14. "The Huron Wendat... were hunter-gatherers." Jeez, they ought to know better than that. Go reread the complete works of Bruce Trigger.

page 14. "Vikings explored Canada c1000 AD." Okay, there are not too many Norwegian immigrants to take offence, but the ones who came to Canada were "Norse," surely. Vikings were more those berserk warrior types plundering Lindisfarne.

page 15. "In 1608 Champlain built a fortress..." A fortress? It was a temporary, palisaded shelter for about thirty people. I've worked on building a fortress; that was no fortress.

page 15. "In 1759 the British defeated the French in the Battle of the Plains of Abraham at Quebec, marking the end of France's empire in America." There's a certain metaphorical truth in this, sure. But fighting continued for another year, and the peace wasn't signed until 1763.

page 18. Responsible government was achieved "in Nova Scotia in 1847-48" and in the United Canadas "in 1848-49." This is a big theme for Discover Canada, and deservedly so; they might get the dates (1847-8 might pass muster in Nova Scotia, but it's 1848 or '47-'48 in the Canadas) right. And I wish they would give credit to the British North Americans who devised it, rather than that tourist Durham.

page 19. "Louis Riel led an armed uprising in 1869." As a provisional government, the entity led by Riel at Red River was as legitimate as what Canada proposed to install. As Canada proved by negotiating terms with it.

page 21. "At Confederation, only property-owning white males could vote." Well, close, but some of the provinces already had universal manhood suffrage, and any colour bar was unofficial.

page 23. "Canada liberated the Netherlands in 1945." Well, quite a bit of it, sure, but there were some other forces involved.
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