Our prime minister, the Right Honourable Stephen Harper, addressed the leaders of the 20 richest nations on earth in Pittsburg on September 25. Reuters reported that Steve boasted to the G20 that our great Dominion is “the envy of the world.” This shameless statement was made in regards to Canada’s handling of the global economic meltdown we currently find ourselves struggling out of. While these comments drew a Reuters’ headline, it is a comment buried further in the report that shocked me out of an afternoon Internet stupor last week.
Stephen Harper told the G20 leaders that not only was Canada “not responsible” for the current economic crisis, but that we in Canada enjoy “one of the most stable regimes in history” and “have no history of colonialism.” I read that last bit twice and then felt my blood begin to boil. Foot firmly in mouth, Steve went on to say “we have all the things that many people admire about the great powers, but none of the things that threaten or bother them.”
Was this some twisted joke the renowned Reuters news service was playing on the PM? Surely the elected leader of “one of the most stable regimes in history” knew at least a little bit about the clearly colonial history of his own country? The Reuters story ended shortly thereafter, with no mention of the crowds’ reaction, or any further explanation.
I began to search the Interweb for more on the story and, curiously, found very little on the matter from Canada’s major news providers. I found nothing from the CBC or CTV, nothing from the Winnipeg Free Press either until page A19 on October 3. The only further reading I could find on the subject was from independent media outlets like Rabble.ca and The Dominion. Their commentaries on our prime minister’s remarks were apt and biting, and addressed the falsehoods inherent to Steve’s statement.
After reading through everything I could find, the question in my mind remained: Why in the hell would he say such a thing? Was the prime minister lying for kicks, or is he just an idiot? I’m told the man maintained a top-notch GPA throughout his university days, so I’d like to think that rules out the latter, but I guess you really can’t put it past the man.
After all, he seems to have forgotten that he apologized publicly to survivors of Canada’s colonial (some would argue genocidal) residential school system just over a year ago. Indeed, Assembly of First Nations Chief Shawn Atleo has demanded a meeting with Harper to discuss the matter, stating “the prime minister must be held to the highest standard, especially when speaking to the international community. There is no room for error.”
The PM’s office has refused to comment on the errors in Harper’s speech, saying only that Steve’s words were taken “out of context.” Indian Affairs Minister Chuck Strahl’s people are likewise keeping quiet, a recent CanWest article has reported. While I’d like to think this silence is due to both office’s being involved in round-the-clock emergency removal of Mr. Harper’s wing-tip from the back of his throat, I’m sure they are just waiting for the issue to fade away.
However, I doubt they’ll be so lucky. At least, I hope they won’t. As Shawn Atleo’s statement made clear, the effects of colonialism remain today. While the federal government pays lip service to these effects with empty words and photo opportunities, by making false claims about our nation’s history to the international community the feds show their true colours. Jean Crowder, the NDP’s aboriginal affairs critic, said as much when she told the House of Commons that “Canada does have a history of colonialism. Reconciliation won’t happen until our prime minister admits that.”
And so we are back to my initial question: Why in the hell would our prime minister say something so asinine, and publicly at that? Does he really believe those words, or is he just lying? If he’s lying, then to whom is he lying?
It seems to me that our prime minister is lying not only to the international community, who may not be well versed in the history of a backwoods resource park, but he is also lying to himself and those in Canada who find it easier to tell fairy-tales about our past than to deal with our colonial history head-on. These people are not interested in building a strong society, in working towards a better tomorrow for all Canadians; these people are interested in maintaining a status quo that benefits from hundreds of years of colonialism. In my Canada, there is no room for people like this; these dinosaurs should be culled from the herd, and quickly.
Sheldon Birnie is the Comment Editor at the Manitoban.