Sunday, June 27, 2010

Canada's "Founding" Peoples

A couple of weeks ago, retired Supreme Court Justice John Major released his final report on the aftermath of the Air India crash of more than twenty years ago.  That crash was the result of a bomb.  The Major report itemized the Keystone Cop procedures within Canadian intelligence services and the RCMP that led them to ignore clear warnings of an attempted bombing that very weekend, the destructive squabbles between these two agencies that led to failed prosecutions, and other disgusting breaches of basic competence in the security services that are supposed to protect us.

An interesting sidelight of the report was Justice Major's bewilderment that after the crash Canadian Prime Minister, Brian Mulroney, called the Indian Prime Minister to commiserate with him about India's loss.  Bewildering because by far the larger portion of the people who died in the crash were Canadian citizens and residents.  One commentator said, in a silly and unfeeling, but nonetheless revealing, exaggeration: "All that India lost was a plane."  Native-born white Canadians tended for a couple of decades to treat the Air India crash as if it were an incident that happened in a foreign country (other than England).

I have been seething about this, and doubtless this explains why I was irritated afresh by the plaque that the City of Toronto placed under the imposing equestrian statue of King Edward VII in Queen's Park. 

It reads: 

"Originally standing in Edward Park, Delhi, India, this statue was erected on the present site through the generous subscriptions of the citizens of this area.

"This gift to the City of Toronto was made possible by the Government of India and the former Canadian High Commissioner to India, His Excellency, The Right Honourable Roland Michener CC, CD, Governor General of Canada, and brought to the City through the personal generosity of Henry R. Jackman CC."  William Dennison, Mayor.

The plaque does not say who made the gift, for it equates the role of the Government of India (GOI) with that of Michener. In fact, the story is that the statue had been relegated to a graveyard for imperial statues in Delhi, and Michener begged it for Toronto from GOI.  Then Henry Jackman paid for the transportation, and local citizens for its erection in Queen's Park.

In her disgustingly arrogant memoir, Michener's daughter tells the story, but expresses no gratitude at all, complaining instead of the delays in transferring the edifice which she attributes to Babu bureaucracy.  She writes as if the thing were her property, tied up by some backward Customs poo-bah.

The plaque gives the impression that the local citizens of Toronto are to be thanked ahead of the actual donors -- the people of India.  The latter are never acknowledged, much less thanked.

A small matter, yes: but indicative of the respect that immigrants and non-English foreigners used to receive in Canada and in Toronto.   

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