Saturday, June 27, 2015

About the CBC and that African-Canadian war hero from 1857

HMCS William Hall named after first African Canadian to win Victoria Cross declares the headline at the CBC. It's all part of the Harper gang's program to reinvent Canada as a "warrior nation" by celebrating war heroes of the distant past.

We are celebrating Mr. Hall's exploits in 1857 by attaching his name to a not yet built ice-breaking vessel in the many times announced but not yet begun Arctic Patrol Vessel program. His name is to go on ship number four. Whether the Arctic Patrol Vessel program ever builds four ships is a matter of conjecture, but there's no denying that the selection of an "African Canadian" certainly underlines the fact that Canada is not only a Warrior Nation, but a diverse and inclusive one.

Whether it's kosher to call a man born 38 years before Confederation an "African Canadian" is a minor quibble at this remove. Seems to me there couldn't have been "Canadians" of any ethnicity before there was a Canada; we were just subjects of the British Empire; but let's get back to our Warrior Nation past...

1857 was a tense and trying time for the British Empire. Here in British North America the colonial government introduced the Civilization of Indian Tribes Act, the precursor to the Indian Act and the entire project of assimilation that was recently labelled cultural genocide by the Chief Justice of Canada's Supreme Court.

At the same time, in another part of the British Empire, those other Indians rose up against their colonial masters in what has become known as the Indian Mutiny of 1857. The uprising was ruthlessly suppressed by the colonial masters, and India remained a British colony for another 90 years.

It was in the context of suppressing that mutiny of the Indian people against their colonial oppressors that William Hall, an Able Seaman in the Royal Navy, was awarded the Victoria Cross.

That may say rather more about our glorious warrior past than the Harper clique intended.

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