...it wasn’t criminals who devastated the First Nations. It was priests and teachers and the RCMP and scientists. The virtuous are the scum here. The point of Canadian colonial culture was the extraction and exportation of value, and the destruction of originality. The drive of Canadian colonialism was, first, to pretend that Indigenous people did not exist, and second that, if they existed, they should be made British. Therefore, the best of Canada stole children and starved whole tribes.
The grand evils dribbled down to minor humiliations, as in other countries. I have always wondered why Canadians care so little for their history, why an event like the War of 1812—rich with fascinating characters and heroic incident—should be more or less completely forgotten. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission report explains without explaining: When your country is based on taking away First Nations’ history from them, and replacing it with a history from a country thousands of miles away, why wouldn’t you throw out your own history too? The cliché of Canadian art is that it is obsessed with landscape. The TRC report reveals the terrifying why: Canadian landscapes are visions of country with no people.
He suspects that something has happened, a law
been passed, a nightmare ordered. Set apart,
he finds himself, with special haircut and dress,
as on a reservation.
So A.M. Klein described the existence of the Canadian writer in “The Portrait of the Poet as Landscape.” Why is our culture so derivative? Why are we so unoriginal? The answer is in the country’s foundational annihilation.
- Stephen Marche, from his essay "CanLit’s Colonial Habit" in Literary Review of Canada. You can read the whole thing here.