Canada in the World

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A Socialist Project e-bulletin ... No. 2189 ... September 10, 2020

Canada in the World

Tyler Shipley

"When the European settlers arrived, they needed land to live on. The First Nations peoples agreed to move to different areas to make room for the new settlements." -- Complete Canadian Curriculum (Grade 3), 2017.

In 2017, the Complete Canadian Curriculum guide for third graders claimed that "the First Nations peoples moved to areas called reserves, where they could live undisturbed by the hustle and bustle of the settlers." This was a radical and absurd misrepresentation of Canadian history, but it was reflective of a longstanding ideological project to convince Canadians that their country is a well-intentioned contributor to the greater good of the world. In that version of history, Canada has been a haven for refugees, it has been a voice of reason in times of international crisis, it has sought to preserve peace when others wanted war, it has made sacrifices when war was necessary to defeat injustice, and it has helped other nations build prosperous and functional societies like the one Canada built after Indigenous... people, presumably, "moved to areas called reserves, where they could live undisturbed by the hustle and bustle of the settlers."

Canada in the World offers a sober re-assessment of that story, providing a broad history of Canada’s engagements in the world since Confederation (1867). Unlike many such studies, I will treat the relations between the French, British, and then Canadian settlers and the Indigenous nations they encountered as a foundational element of what Canada became, and I will insist that the legacy and logic of Canadian colonialism runs through the entire history of Canada in the world. Canada’s colonial project was driven by one fundamental material goal -- the destruction of Indigenous political economic practices and their displacement by capitalism -- and an equally important ideological foundation in the claim that Europeans were racially and culturally advanced and, thus, that their conquest of the Indigenous Peoples represented ‘progress.’ The interplay between this economic compulsion and its ideological framing has remained integral to the story of Canada.

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