Tory MP denounces Louis Riel

20 02 2010

A Conservative MP had denounced Louis Riel, the leader of the 1885 rising in western Canada, as a villain. I don’t that this MP will sway how any serious historian regards Riel, but it’s kinda interesting that the Reformers Conservatives no longer regard Riel as the first of a long series of western protest leaders. Preston Manning once tried to depict Riel as sort of an ancestor of the Reform party and all the other Prairie populist movements upset with Ottawa. I guess that since the conservatives are now in power in Ottawa, they no longer identify with the opposition and regional discontent. I guess they identify more with Macdonald.

Peter Goldring MP compares the efforts of rehabilitate Riel to the right-wing nationalists in Japan who have succesful lobbied to remove/tone down all references to Japan’s Second World War atrocities from that country’s school textbooks. This is a bizarre comparison: one of the things that separates Western countries from Japan is a willingness to acknowledge historical injustices perpetrated by the national government. Nowadays, American schoolkids hear a lot about slavery, Australians hear about the stolen generation, and German kids hear about the Holocaust. Canadian students ought to learn about the suffering of First Nations people.

You can read Mr Goldring’s anti-Riel diatribe here.


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4 responses

20 02 2010
Jay

The PMO has condemned Goldring’s statement, and Winnipeg Conservative MP Shelly Glover also spoke out against it yesterday. If these utterances can be taken as more than cynical political manoeuvres, then it would be going a bit too far to suggest Goldring represents the views of the Conservatives generally.

22 02 2010
Claire

Nice observation about the shift from regionalist to centrist self-characterization.

Now, if only we agreed about the monarchy … 🙂

22 02 2010
andrewdsmith

Jay. Will the real Conservative Party please stand up? I suspect that Goldring’s views are fairly representative of the conservative base. It would be interesting to know whether his comments were vetted in advance by the PMO. In the past, Mr Harper loudly praised the British Empire, imperialism, and the monarchy. (For some choice quotations, see my chapter in Contesting Clio’s Past). More recently, he has tried to identify with Lester Pearson, peacekeeping, Canadian nationalism. (He even described himself as “Pearsonian”!). It is hard to know what the Conservatives really think. I suspect that the Tories will continue to make outrageous statements related to Canadian history as way of appealing to their base and distinguishing themselves from the Liberals, whose policies they have essentially adopted. The politics of social memory are a relatively safe way of appealing to the hard right of the Canadian electorate because the issues are symbolic.

22 02 2010
Brian Busby

Whether or not Mr Goldring’s comments were vetted by the PMO, they most certainly were known. Missing in the news coverage is the fact that the bulk of what was circulated is nothing more than a reprint of two earlier pieces (from 1999 and 2002) written by the MP when he sat as Veteran’s Affairs critic for the Canadian Alliance:

http://teachers.colonelby.com/bduncan/history/against.html

What I find most interesting is the statement that the brochure is part of a “series intended to highlight special issues that Member of Parliament, Peter Goldring, has been involved in.” If true, there is most certainly more.

Given Mr Goldring’s concern for history, I find his haziness intriguing. We have references to an article in Canadian Lawyer, but are left to wonder about the issue, the date, the author and the title. The MP is just as vague when discussing a “CBC initiative some years ago to ‘retry’ Riel”. Is it this Mr Goldring refers to when employing the quote “unhanging program”? If so, whom is he quoting? And while we’re at it, who is the person claiming “refined legal enlightenment”.

Give the events of the past few days, I suppose we may never know.

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