Yesterday, The Times of Wellington, ON published my response to David Frum’s Letter to the Editor (The Times, September 16, 2020) regarding the legacy of John A. Macdonald. In my view, Mr. Frum stands in the way of Canadians finally accepting and beginning to reconcile ourselves to the awful truth that Canada committed genocide against Indigenous Peoples.
First, here’s Mr. Frum’s Letter:
“I want to congratulate The Times for its thoughtful defence of the John A. Macdonald statue, raised in Picton thanks to the good efforts of so many patriotic residents of Prince Edward County. It seems incredible that people who live in Canada, enjoying Canadian peace and freedom, would begrudge an honour to the founder to whom they owe so much.
“We build a better future by studying our past. Where mistakes have been made, or wrongs done, they should be acknowledged and remembered.
“But the project to remove Macdonald’s statue from Picton Main Street is not remembrance. It is libel.
“You can blame, if you wish, John A. Macdonald for not devising better answers to the food emergency faced by the Plains Indians in the 1880s. By all means, teach Canadians to reckon with the whole of their national story in all its complexity. It is naive to sugarcoat the past. But to misappropriate the word ‘genocide’ from the state-sponsored mass murder of the worst regimes of the twentieth century and apply it in Canada— that is a slur upon Canadians and an insult to the memory of the victims of Nazism and Communism.
“In most other nations of this hemisphere, national independence was achieved by men of war: Washington, Bolivar, Morelos, Belgrano, O’Higgins. Uniquely in Canada, nationhood was built by peaceful means. The founders of Canada compromised and haggled and knocked on doors for votes—much as Canadian politicians still do after 150 years of successful and continuous democratic self-government, undefiled by coups, revolutions, and civil wars. Almost nowhere else in this hemisphere from Alaska to Argentina can such a thing be said.
“That proud history should be remembered with honour. And where better to remember it than right here in Prince Edward County, where a young Macdonald argued the first case of his legal career?”
And, the response:
“David Frum is a former speech-writer for President George W. Bush, perhaps best known for his /bons mots/ “axis of evil.” Recently, Mr. Frum has seemed intent on distancing himself from the worst of neo-conservative politics, economics, and imperialism. In his Letter to the Editor (The Times, September 16, 2020) regarding John A. Macdonald wastes a good opportunity to showcase his new persona for local readers.
“Mr. Frum remains a master of disguising a crime against humanity as a technical problem. He grants that someone might want to blame Macdonald ‘for not devising better answers for the food emergency faced by the Plains Indians in the 1880s.’ But he’ll have no truck with the truth: Macdonald used famine and hunger as weapons against Indigenous Peoples who resisted his determination to clear them from their lands and sweep them onto reservations.
“Canada needs to be accountable for committing genocide against Indigenous Peoples. Mr. Frum stands in the way of us finally accepting and beginning to reconcile ourselves to this awful truth.
“Mr. Frum complains that ‘to misappropriate the word “genocide” from the state-sponsored mass murder of the worst regimes of the twentieth century and apply it in Canada – that is a slur upon Canadians and an insult to the memory of the victims of Nazism and Communism.’ Indigenous Peoples are as worthy as any other victims of genocide. Remembering them this way insults no one. Forgetting this dishonours us all.”