Cultural Genocide in Canada

At first I found the accusation that Canada committed genocide to be incredulous. I don’t recall Canadians marching into villages and hacking people to death with machetes as happened in Rwanda. I don’t remember Canadians rounding up families and send them to gas chambers as happened with the Nazis.

Yet, when the chief justice of Canada’s Supreme Court and the head of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission charge Canada with cultural genocide, I have to pay attention.


Strange as it may seem, Prime Minister Harper helped me understand what cultural genocide is. He’s the one who condemned it in Turkey and Russia.

Mr. Harper did not hesitate to call what the Ottomans did to the Armenians as cultural genocide. Doug Saunders makes the comparison (Globe and Mail, June 6, 2015):

“There is at least a functional similarity (albeit at a slower and less lethal scale) to the acts committed by the Ottomans against Armenians on Turkish territory in 1915: Those acts involved the mass, violent uprooting, force-marched relocation and forced-labour institutionalization of an entire people, with considerable disregard for life (as well as some considerable acts of outright murder).”

What happened in Russia was similar too. The Soviets forced families into collectives to grow food for Russia even as those families died of starvation. Children were removed from families and stripped of their language and culture. Sounds familiar.

Our first prime minister, John A. Macdonald made it clear what his intentions were when removing 150,000 children from their families and sending them to residential schools; it was to “acquire the habits and modes of thought of white men.”

These institutions were more along the lines of British child-labour reformatories than they were like schools. When children were unable to grow their own food, 4,000 died of starvation and disease.

“In other words, Canada’s crime fits into the historical pattern of a certain sort of genocidal act,” continues Saunders, “one that has been recognized and condemned by Ottawa when it has taken place in other countries. By acknowledging the validity of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s label, Ottawa would gain credibility in applying it to other countries.”

Depressing as it may be to live in a country that committed cultural genocide, there is a way forward. It starts in the distant past, before the 1870s when the shoe was on the other foot. Back then when native people were in the majority, European explorers would not have survived without the generosity of their hosts. Newcomers were not herded into camps and their wild British ways whipped out of them in lessons taught to the tune of the hickory stick.

Canada needs to return the favour shown by our hosts. It almost happened with the Kelowna Accord in 2005 when then Prime Minister Paul Martin reached a $5 billion deal with first nation leaders to improve the health and education.

Former Canadian Assembly of First Nations Chief Phil Fontaine called the Kelowna Accord a breakthrough for his people but calls for implementation  have fallen on deaf ears. Our PM has defined what cultural genocide is by his condemnation of it in other countries. It’s time we dealt with it in our own back yard.

Privy Council Office corrupted by Harper

It’s not surprising that most Canadians don’t know what the Privy Council Office does. The PCO is designed that way. Gordon Robertson, a former Clerk of the PCO, says that it should be “kept deliberately small.”

Privy Council Office

However, under Prime Minister Harper the PCO has become a bloated propaganda arm of Conservative Party. You will have seen the Conservative ads produced by them pretending to be public information.

The number of officers in the PCO has grown from ten in 1945 to 128 officers in 2008 with a budget of $10.4 million says Professor Kozolanka from Carleton University in the CCPA Monitor. The PCO received an extra $7.5 million to advertise the government’s so-called Economic Action Plan.

While the advertising of government programs is a legitimate function of the PCO, Harper’s corruption of it extends well beyond legitimate. Ads for the Economic Action Plan extended well past the stimulus spending they were meant to advertise.  They are awash in Tory blue and were brought to us, not by the Government of Canada as they were supposed to but by the “Harper Government.” I don’t recall becoming a citizen of Harperland.

The Economic Action Plan has been exploited to sell everything from the federal budget to Conservative campaigning. In the first quarter of 2011, the government spend $26 million on ads that had nothing to do will stimulus spending and everything to getting themselves re-elected. In the same year, the budget for the PCO hit a record high of $160 million.

The PM’s misappropriation of the Privy Council Office serves to educate Canadians on how this obscure branch of government should work explains former Clerk Gordon Robertson.

“The Prime Minister’s Office is partisan, politically oriented yet operationally sensitive. The Privy Council Office is non-partisan, operationally oriented yet politically sensitive.”

The Prime Minister’s Office is still partisan, politically oriented, but now the PCO has now become a partisan propaganda arm of the PMO.

If this kind of misuse of government agencies seems familiar, think back to the sponsorship scandal. That’s when the Chrétien inflated the Cabinet Committee on Communications to serve his own partisan ends.

Like the PCO, it was a good idea gone bad. While the distribution of Canadian flags seemed like a good way of promoting the Canadian brand, the Gomery Inquiry found that most of the money went into Quebec to shore up crucial Liberal support and that $145 million went into inflated fees of crony ad agencies and $100 million back into the pockets of the Liberal Party through kickbacks.

Now the Conservatives are up the same tricks as the Liberals. Instead of using the Committee on Communications to shovel money into their own ridings, they are using the PCO.

Opposition Leader Tom Mulcair is on to something when he suggests a fresh start. His government should be given a chance to sweep the bad smell out of Ottawa left by the Liberals and the Conservatives. I even have a slogan Mulcair can use. “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, vote NDP.” No kickback required.