Closet, Coffin, Canada – Social Studies 2015 Final

There’s nothing left for me here.

I had lived in England for my entire life, since I was a boy, with my father, a butcher and my mother, who stayed at home to do the washing. I used to have a baby sister named Lily, but the typhus killed her. I was twenty-two years old at the time, and since my mother died my father hadn’t really been the same. He was getting on in years, and I didn’t think he had much longer to live. And if I didn’t get out of this cesspool of a country, I wouldn’t either. The smallpox, the yellow fever, the crime and the murder in the street, factories spewing smoke into the air. I made a kind of living working in my father’s butcher shop after he fell into poor health. When my father finally passed, I made the arrangements for him to be buried with my mother and sister. And then I packed my things.

 

As I filled my leather duffel with the only clothes I had besides the ones on my back, I thought about where I would go. I had only thought about leaving, fantasized about stepping onto the deck of one of the huge ships I had seen so much in the harbour, and only stepping off onto the soil of a new place. Somewhere I could start over.

 

I grabbed anything I figured I would use on my journey or in my new home, my compass, my father’s pocket knife, and the stashed pouch of money my parents kept under their bed. I fastened the bag closed, satisfied that I had everything I needed. I pulled my worn boots onto my feet, boots so old, the soles worn so thin that I could tell which part of town I was in just by feeling the cobbles under my feet. I looked back into the cluttered, cramped, but comfortable home I had shared with my parents for my entire life. I was leaving behind my mother’s collection of books, I never was able to read. I shut the door behind me, locked it with the key I had worn around my neck ever since I was old enough to be sent down the street for groceries by my parents. I clutched the key tight as the sense of finality washed over me. As I walked the route to the harbour I had envisioned myself walking so many times, I let the key go as my hand floated past a storm drain, hearing it jingle as it slipped through the metal slats and into the pipes, irretrievable.

 

***

The harbour master was a small, irritable man who seemed to always look like he had just downed a glass of very sour milk. When he spoke with a seriously debilitating lisp, I was just glad he wouldn’t be coming on the journey with me.

I asked him how much it would cost to go to North America. He looked at me, thoroughly unamused, and then spat, “That dependth on where it ith that you want to be thailin’, doethnit?”

 

I subtly wiped a fleck of his saliva off of my chin as I thought about what he said, where did I want to go? I hadn’t considered this before, when it was such an impossibility. I looked to the map that laid on the counter that separated me and the harbourmaster, inhaled through my nose, and smelled the sea. I put my finger on any spot of the landmass I recognized as North America, and looked at him in his small eyes.

“Here.”

 

“Canada? That’d be about what you’ve got in that there purth,” he said, motioning to the fabric coin pouch that hung from my worn leather belt. I untied the knot and dropped the purse on the counter, obscuring a part of Canada known as Manitoba. He slid it off the counter into his palm, and opened it. The harbourmaster nodded, satisfied, “The nektht one leaveth in a couple hourth.”

 

I gave him a short nod and walked away. I was a little panicked. Not only was I blindly setting off to another continent, I was doing it with almost nothing. I had a few coins tucked away into my boots, but not much. The money I had just given the harbourmaster was, I thought, enough to get me started in North America. That wasn’t the case, I supposed.

 

***

Three months on a ship with the same people gets tiring pretty quickly. I found out who I liked (very few people) and who I didn’t (most) I stayed to myself mostly. On the journey I overheard that two people died, yellow fever apparently. They had to throw them overboard in case we caught the sickness. When we made port finally, I packed my things from my packed cabin very quickly. I couldn’t wait to step into Canada for the first time.

 

The first thing I noticed was the trees. Towering green columns, on a scale I had never seen. They were perhaps a kilometre away, but so enormous I couldn’t stop my jaw from hanging. Around the harbour was a small settlement. A few small houses, a shop, a harbourmaster much like the one back in England. I was knocked out of the way by a big man who I had seen on the ship a few times. The several hundred people were finally stepping out onto the alien earth of Canada. Some headed to a small building that I would have bet was a bar, but most just carried on the main road that went through the settlement, I’m sure they had taken this trip before. I took a step forward, an odd, untethered sense over me as I realized I could go anywhere. I walked towards the tavern, thinking it would be my best chance for an idea of what was around. The small house was made of logs of the trees that surrounded the opening by the harbour. Judging by the many stumps that were still rooted in the ground, this clearing was at one point as wooded as the forest surrounding it. I opened the door to the tavern and saw a dark and dingy room. A counter was on the right side of the room, and a few barrels that were meant to be chairs were organized around crates, which stood as tables.

 

I stepped up to the counter, and looked behind. There was no one back there. I gave the counter a gentle knocking, and after a couple seconds, pregnant with expectation, a burly man about as tall as the trees outside and with a beard that tickled his chest when he spoke.

“What can I get you?” He asked, habitually picking up a glass and wiping the inside with a grimy white rag.

 

“I… Uh- A drink.” He looked at me, unamused. God what an idiot I was.

 

He put the glass on the counter and pulled a green bottle, half full of sloshing amber fluid. He poured it to about two thirds the volume of the glass, and then pushed it towards me.

 

I put the glass to my mouth, but as soon as the arid smell rose to my nostrils I set it down. “I’m looking for work. What is there around here?”

 

“Here?” He said, motioning to the bar and by extension, the settlement. “Nothing. But if you keep heading inland, there’s a whole world you’ve never seen.”

 

***

 

It had been a quick two months. I had ended up meeting a man named Xavier, who had been in the next town past the harbour settlement since his voyage to Canada had arrived three weeks ago. He was a young, handsome man from Monaco. He spoke decent English and had been waiting for something to happen as he survived off of his money in the town. We carried on inland together, and about three weeks later, we found ourselves in Quebec. Xavier spoke French when we needed to communicate with the locals who had established themselves. I had, as my more liberal mother sometimes said about my reserved father, fallen for him.

 

In the first nights we had together in Quebec, we stayed up late, just talking. I talked about England, my parents, and Xavier did the same. We never touched anything more than two casual friends might, but the spark I felt with him seemed to burn bright enough to keep us both warm.

 

Xavier found work quickly in a bar, but I had more difficulty. We had grown to like each other’s presence quite well, so we decided to rent a small room together. The cost of rent was only slightly less than what Xavier made working on his own at the bar, so it was clear that I would have to find work quickly to be able to afford everything else we needed. As he was easily able to afford new clothes, decoration for the room, I was scraping by, slowly eating through my meager savings. Xavier said he didn’t mind, and I loved the way he nobly tried to be the breadwinner between us two, but I wanted to help.

 

I searched throughout most of Quebec for the next week, inquiring into every business I walked past. No one needed help. I was hoping to find a butcher, because while I didn’t particularly enjoy doing it, I did know how to do it and could hopefully get started quickly. It turned out there was only one butcher in all of the town, and it was usually quite full. I waited my turn in line, and when I asked the large Scottish brute behind the counter if he needed any help, he simply laughed at me.

 

I left, defeated. It had been yet another full day of walking about the town, asking for work, and the sun was dipping behind the massive trees off in the distance. And I would be coming home empty-handed. As I stepped towards the door of my room, I sighed quietly. I rummaged through my pocket and found the key. It was only when I pushed the key into the cast iron lock of the door that I became aware of the sound coming from the other side. It was clear to me that Xavier was in there, it was also clear to me that he was in there with a woman. My heart sunk. I thought I had been clear to him, my intentions, but what I never did think about was how he only spoke in plain words. To me, our relationship was an unwritten rule, a given that only we had to know about. It was the way I was used to doing it. I guess he mistook us for friends.

 

I gently pulled the key back out of the lock and took a step back. I felt a coin sliding around in my boot, enough to buy a drink or two, probably.

 

I found myself in the bar. It was in the wee hours of the morning. And as I sipped the amber liquid from my slightly grimy glass, I thought about everything I expected Canada to be. I thought about a prosperous country full of opportunity. It was supposed to be everything my home in England was not. I was lonely there, and it appeared I was lonely here. I was friends with a man with whom I thought was something more, and it seemed every job in Quebec was taken. I had money to drink until morning, but after that, it was gone. That meant I couldn’t afford to go to any other towns. I drank until I felt the sun on my back, convincing the barkeep to let me open a tab and stay. He was sympathetic and kept the whiskey coming. I woke up from my sleep hunched over the bar counter when a hand slapped me on the back.

 

It took a minute for my eyes to adjust to the harsh orange light that sliced through the dusty bar air, but only a second for my head to feel like it was split in half. I squinted up, and saw Xavier standing above me. I almost puked.

 

“Good morning, my friend.” He inhaled through his nose, “You smell like a bottle.”

 

“Hello, Xavier.”

 

“I’m sorry about last night, I’ll give you more warning if I plan to have any friends over again. You can do the same.”

 

I touched my forehead to the wooden bar counter, it was mercifully cool against my aching head, “I don’t like women, Xavier.”

 

He laughed, “They are hard to live with, aren’t they?”

 

“No, no. I… Not like that.”

 

He stayed smiling for a moment, then his expression changed to a stoic one with a hint of anger behind his dark brown eyes. He suddenly stepped towards me and stiff armed me off of the bar stool I still sat on. I clattered to the ground, my tired hands hardly breaking my fall as it felt like my brain was rattling in my skull. He launched a foot into my ribs, which l felt hit me squarely. Another hit me right in the kidney, which launched sharp pain throughout most of my abdomen. He grabbed me by my dirty shirt collars, and hooked me in the cheek with his fist. My vision went black and I watched as white stars danced in front of my blindness. He let go of me, and my legs failed as I crumpled to the floor. He spat on the floor next to me, and called me something nasty in French. I heard him stomp outside and slam the door behind him.

 

After a second of trying to hold my pain in, trying to protect myself from being too badly injured, I let out a gasp. Suddenly the tears were there. I sobbed, every heave hurting my bruised torso. After a couple of minutes, I stopped, and sat up. Gingerly leaning against the bar. I slowly reached up, every inch of ascension in my arm shot pain through my ribs. I felt the neck of the bottle I had been drinking from all of the previous night. Bringing it back down with shaking hands I put it to my lips and took a long pull.

 

I left England because my family was gone, because I was hated by most everyone I knew because of the way I was. I thought this could be different, something new. I thought about what I could do next. where I could go. I was out of options, when all I wanted was a good life, something better than what I had. I was boxed in, and my only way out was down into a haze.

 

I took another drink.

 

Political Cartoon – Eagle Spirit vs Northern Gateway

My political cartoon focused on a currently conceptual oil pipeline being proposed to many first nations bands. It is being advertised as a safety-first, environmentally conscience pipeline, geared towards aboriginal nations that the pipeline would be running through. The obvious branding to natives could be taken as satire, after all, what name could be more ridiculous and sounding as though an ignorant white man made it up on the fly than Eagle Spirit? The most interesting thing is that Eagle Spirit is being offered as an alternative to Northern Gateway, but the only differences are that it takes a different route. To me, based on the research I could dig up on the pipeline, it appears to be run by similar people as those in charge of Northern Gateway, rich, profit-driven white men who’s first concern is their own financial benefit. So I drew this simple cartoon which depicts a man in a suit, implied to be a representative of Northern Gateway. All the onlookers are protesting and experiencing great public outcry, which is similar to what is happening currently. In the second panel, it is a near identical scene, with the same man only this time wearing a chieftain hat, which is meant to represent the simple rebranding of it. All the onlookers are cheering wildly and supporting it, which is a representation of all the natives that refused Northern Gateway but now are responding well to this near identical pipeline.

The Blemish of Canada’s History

I think that after all the horror that European settlers put the Native Canadians through, it is remarkable that either faction could live with the other. Even only looking at the literal genocide known by the unassuming term of “residential schools”, these are crimes which are commemorated with solemn monuments in other parts of the world, while the facilities built to “kill the Indian inside” are not nearly as recognized. I believe that very little good came of the interactions between Europeans and Aboriginal peoples. If I were living my own life in the lands that my ancestors had lived on for thousands of years, and then suddenly we were invaded by unfamiliar men bearing diseases that both we and our livestock were vulnerable to, alcohol that we were so easily addicted to, and a will to conquer, I would be wondering why my gods had forsaken me.

Even today, Canadian government, full of people of European heritage like myself are still attempting to recover from the great injustices that were committed against aboriginals. Many  live in reservations, and most are exempt from some taxes, rules, bylaws and regulations. All of this, in my mind is an apology coming much too late.

I would be interested in learning about more positive interactions between the white people and the natives. It seems so much of their interaction was conflict, when were Europeans ever doing a positive action that wasn’t just remedying their previous actions?

As I look at these questions, I have no doubt that I will be addressing most of the A section of the prescribed learning outcomes. These are the general learning ones, applying critical thinking and displaying adequate research skills, et cetera. Inherently, C3 will also be something I will be addressing. It’s looks into more specific groups and individuals in the native category, like the Métis or of Louis Riel. The B2 section looks into more general and overall perspectives on Native Canadians, while C3 is more specific.

 

While residential schools are a stain on Canada’s mostly virtuous background, I believe that the best way to overcome the mistakes of the past is to discuss them, to recognize that they happened. So with this it, it’s good that our school curriculum is prescribing us to learn about them.

The History of Home: Prescribed Learning Outcomes and Me

Throughout this semester of social studies, we have covered much of the prescribed BC curriculum in interesting ways. Some of these prescribed learning outcomes have been met by me quite effectively, while I am still working on getting better at some others. Two learning outcomes that I have become proficiently knowledgeable in are; evaluating the influence of immigration on Canadian society from 1815 to 1914, and applying critical thinking skills such as questioning, comparing, summarizing, drawing conclusions, and defending a position. One outcome that I still need to work on is evaluating the impact of interactions between Aboriginal peoples and European explorers and settlers in Canada from 1815 to 1914.

 

When European explorers first stumbled upon North America, namely Canada, it was prized for it’s huge resource potential. It was rich in resources that Europe was not nearly as plentiful in. It’s massive coastlines allowed large amounts of fishing, it’s forests much lumber, and it’s wildlife plenty of furs and pelts. As Eastern Canada began to evolve from a brand new land to an early colony, and eventually to it’s own country – there was just one resource that it really struggled with: it’s population. Throughout the early history of Canada, Europeans were very unwilling to make the journey to the new world. Going from a comfortable and familiar life in their home countries to an unknown and uncertain one in Canada was not a likely choice for most people. This is a topic I researched in my CRAAP testing blog post. The source I chose was an article called The Peopling of Canada. In it I analysed the immigration of Europeans into Canada, looking at which nationalities came into Canada at what times, and what caused them to immigrate at those times. This shows a proficiency in understanding the crucial part that immigration played in the expansion of Canada. To communicate this however, I had to have a good foundation in applying my critical thinking skills.

Critical thinking skills are listed in the prescribed learning outcomes as questioning, comparing, summarizing, drawing conclusions and defending a position. This was a skill set I demonstrated best in our second debate (currently unavailable on YouTube – here is my blog post about the period of George Brown’s administration as Prime Minister) – when I reprised my role as a father of confederation, George Brown. I communicated my knowledge of confederation-era Canada in the debate, translating what information there was about him into outlooks and opinions he probably had. I had communicated this in writing before the debate, but this was the first time I would be using just what I knew about him as a script, my only preparations for the debate being reading up on George Brown. This was both an individual and a co operative assignment, as I had to pair up with another roleplaying partner, who was playing an aboriginal person. My final learning outcome, concerning aboriginal people in the early years of Canada, is one I need more work in.

The outcome detailing the interactions between Aboriginal peoples and European explorers was one in which I need more work to achieve fuller comprehension. I think this is primarily due to the fact that as a European character I was focusing more on the politics involving the French and British populations of Upper and Lower Canada, rather than aboriginal peoples or the Méti people in Canada. This topic is something I do find interesting, as the aboriginal people were involved in many interesting historic moments after the introduction of European settlers.

 

In the end, I feel quite knowledgeable about many aspects of colonial Canada. I have learned to understand why immigrants made Canada into the land it is today, by being a descendant of one, to think like a politician, by embodying one, and I know that I still need more work in my understanding of aboriginal people in this era. I feel I have a deeper understanding of Canada, while it may not be where my bloodline originates from, it is a home to me now, and one should know the history of their home.

 

It’s Good to Be King

Canada has quickly transformed from a world tossed between the hands of European countries to a place that is quickly becoming a nation of its own. As confederation finally begins to look more and more viable, I am readying myself to become a political leader in Canada. I have reorganized the Clear Grit party, which is also known as the liberal party. This party supports the separation of church and state, as well as representation by population. Because of the support I have given to black people who were formerly slaves, they are an enthusiastic group of supporters.

Only yesterday, John A. MacDonald lost support of his legislative assembly, and was ousted from the position of Prime Minister, and his cabinet was forced to resign. I have taken his role and currently hold the title of Prime Minister of Canada. However, I cannot get comfortable – Sir MacDonald may be a drunk, and a buffoon, but he is very crafty and is actively attempting to retake the position of Prime Minister. That said, with the help of my partner in this administration, Antoine-Aimé Dorion, I intend to not only keep this position, but to make all the changes I have come up with to make Canada the country it deserves to be.

I am hoping that John A’s rein is over, so that I can usher in an era of confederation, to become more independent from England, and for Canada’s people to support themselves through free trade.

The Final Address of The Honourable George Brown

I was shot this morning. I am in unbearable pain, yet here I am, speaking before you all. This pain is entirely the fault of John A. MacDonald. Now, I’m sure even in his drunken stupor his ears perk up when he hears his name. He may be wondering how this is his fault. I’ll tell him – all of you.

When John A. MacDonald lost the confidence of the legislative assembly, he was outed as Prime Minister and I moved in to take his place. For four days the Prime Minister title was held by The Honourable George Brown. Me!

But on the fourth day, John A. MacDonald exploited a loophole, like he is exploiting this nation, and he fired my entire staff. I was robbed of my position, and my political career was over, just like that.

I returned to my failing newspaper. I guess when every day brings the same news, that this so-called country is run by the rich with only their own interests in mind, headlines don’t really sell. I had to make cutbacks and it appears I fired the one Canadian citizen who exercises his right to bear arms.

Mr. Prime Minister, I hope you’re happy with what you’ve turned Canada into. I offer you a toast. To our home and not-so-native land, to the mess on all of our hands, but more specifically Sir MacDonald, to the blood on yours.

END

 

It is in the dark days, where the gunshot wound in my leg grows more putrid and inflamed every day, that I look back and truly regret not taking action sooner. My light is dwindling – and John A. MacDonald stands to be the Prime Minister who made Canada what it was. If only the history books could look back on him in the way he truly was –  a selfish, lazy oaf, carried to victory by his rich supporters whom he promised still more prosperity to. This country has so much potential, but I don’t think it will last.

When children one hundred years from now are learning about this time, learning about the botched confederation of Canada, I pray to God that they will show John A. MacDonald as the man he was, as the man who held an infantile nation in his hands and dropped it in favour of the bottle. I hope George Brown will be seen as the man who accomplished more good in four days than Sir MacDonald did in years.

My two other memoirs of this era can be found here and here.

This Land Needs Able Men

Hello, my name is George Brown. You may place ‘The honourable’ before that if you wish. I’m 25 years old and have just moved to Canada, and while it’s different from Scotland, I do like it a little better. Canada is a virgin nation and there are so many firsts to be taken here, for example it’s first newspaper. I was a reporter and I intend to carry on doing that, which is why I have recently started The Banner. By doing this I hope to bring more infrastructure to Canada, I believe that an informed population will help in forming this place into something more civilized.

The first big story that I am going to be covering will be the state of the local prison, Kingston Penitentiary. I am quite interested in the going-ons of this institution, but without more formal support I believe that it may be a dead-end for the time being. I have reason to believe, however, that this prison is corrupt, and that the warden is abusive. If only I was in charge, then I could make an actual change.

At the moment, Canada is a young place, and there is still much to happen. I desperately want to help Canada in these early years, but I am a journalist, not a politician. Perhaps more time will bring with it a new set of skills that will improve my odds of winning an election.

Colonial Canada Document of Learning

I have eeny-meenie minie mo’d a green article from our incomplete table on the CRAAP test blog post. The resource I found is this – which was Eric’s article. It is entitled The Peopling of Canada, by Professor Phillip Buckner. I may have chose it randomly, but I actually made some connections with it in reading. I found the exact specifics of how Canada, a country rich with resources that many other countries in Europe did not have such a surplus of, struggled most with the one resource that all others are dependent on, the population.

“…The population of Canada at the time of Confederation in 1867 was around 3 ½ million, nearly seven times what it had been in 1815. The migration to Canada was remarkably homogeneous compared with the much larger migration to the United States in this period.”

This particular resource was interesting to me, because I have been taught about the resources that supported Canada’s economy in the times of it’s settlement and colonizing – furs, salmon and other fish primarily, however I never really thought about the resource of population and how crucial it is to a new and developing nation or colony. Without hunters or fishermen, all the furs or fish would still be running around, think of the lost profit! The other interesting aspect is the sheer amount of British people that immigrated to Canada. The article stated that the migration was homogeneous, because almost all of the citizens of what is now Canada were British in the early to mid 19th century.

The question I still have after reading this article is: Why is it that when Canada was a French colony (aptly titled New France) why did it struggle so much in accruing a sizeable population? The article states that after the British took the nation for themselves from the French, population skyrocketed by sevenfold in less than fifty years. How did this immense change come to the British and not to the French?

I believe this resource ties into prescribed learning outcome B, which covers culture. Some places of Canada, like Victoria or Ottawa, are very steeped in British culture. This is undoubtedly due to the heavy hand British immigrants had in forming Canada’s foundations. On the other hand, Quebec is very French based, and this is likely due to the French presence that was at one point the dominant nation in Canada. It is because of heavy and mixed European involvement that Canada has the unique culture dynamic that Canadians experience every day in the 21st century.

The Cotton Eye Joe Socials Post

Where did you come from, where did you go? Where did we come from, where will we go? Where did we come from cotton-eye humanity?

This is a pretty loaded question, in my opinion. There are so many ways I could take such a question, but for the sake of not losing my fingers, I will take it in just one. I am taking the direction of morality in humankind. There are many things that humans have done throughout history  that are seriously terrible, often unquestionably. For example, extreme genocide, slavery of entire races, and many other atrocities that humans have committed against other humans throughout history.

I don’t believe that humans have ever gotten better or worse throughout history, only the things we have done have changed. I have considered the fact that modern inventions that seek to improve general quality of life or to stop atrocities towards humans now exist, but I think that morality and the actions that it so effects have simply transcended more obvious boundaries.

Where did we come from in terms of morality? Slavery is a massive item on this list that occurs time and time again throughout history. The Bible, a book written over 2000 years ago, discusses slaves in some detail. In the Bible, it is spoken of in a very matter of fact way, such as you or I would speak about any typical thing in our daily lives. Slavery was talked about quite candidly, and for the people ‘winning’ (those who benefited from the oppression of slaves) they discussed it like nothing was wrong, and to them, nothing was. No one who was benefiting from slavery likely thought that what they were doing was wrong, because that was just the way things were.

When slavery was at a more modern peak in the time of the discovery of the ‘New World’, slaves were treated as a pure commodity, worked literally to death and then replaced in batches. These days, this is a disgusting notion that nearly every reasonable person would agree is awful, but at the time, these slavers thought of the people they used as slaves as less than human, as an inferior being.

These days, most people think and agree that slavery is terrible and wrong, however other things have become entirely normal that would never have flown in the past. One to five hundred years ago, it was not normal for one person to know the daily goings-on’s in another person, however thanks to the normalization of social media, I can look nearly any person I know (or not) up and find out where they are or what sort of things they like, things you usually had to find out through speaking to them for a decent amount of times. Things you had to find out through becoming their friend (more so than clicking a button on Facebook).

I believe that while some things change, humans and their oddities really don’t.

Voltaire – May I Finally Rest In Peace?

Technically speaking, the revolution has ended. King Louis is dead, and Robespierre’s reign of terror has ended, but France is in a state of recovery. Still reeling from so much death, France is more vulnerable than ever but I believe that the revolution has finally ended and maybe a modern France can begin to exist.

 

I look at the mess that the revolution of France and I can’t help but wonder what it has accomplished. The king is dead, but the reign of terror was even worse than the reign of Louis. They are now vulnerable to any attack and France really must start on making some friends. I think of the revolution has accomplished anything, it is that the people of France can not be antagonized so far, and that eventually they will rise up. I think that the revolution has made history for centuries to come and will be a classic example of uprising.

 

I’m pretty dead by this point, but I hope that I will be remembered as a forerunner of the revolution, poking fun at the royals in the Bastille decades before it was stormed. I hope I’ll be remembered for being the first couch protestor.

 

Au revoir,

 

Voltaire