Wednesday, February 8, 2023

The Country In The World

 The second referendum on Quebec separation in 1995 is the closest the country ever came to breaking up.

Bilingualism is a way of life here, especially in the Ottawa area. Across the country, one province is officially bilingual- New Brunswick. But French-speaking populations can be found everywhere.

I love that t-shirt.

The next thematic area is about human rights and Canada's place in the world. Multiculturalism is a big thing here, especially starting in the second half of the 20th century when immigration from around the world became the norm.

Mirror Mirror is the title of this installation by artist Laila Binbrek, reflecting her dual nature- growing up in western society with Yemeni roots. Items on the two makeup tables facing each other reflect the two contrasts.

Race and religion have had their own influences in Canada- from the uproar over the idea of a Mountie wearing a turban (which seems to us today to be a meaningless issue) to civil rights pioneers like Viola Desmond, at lower right. The Nova Scotia businesswoman refused to sit in a segregated portion of a theatre, and was arrested for it. Today she graces the ten dollar bill.

Hockey sticks for paralympic athletes and a model of an accessible playground equipment are seen here, along with an odd item- a single worn glove. This was a glove worn by Rick Hansen on his Man In Motion journey around the world to raise awareness of spinal cord injuries.

The Canadian focus on human rights includes the struggle against South African apartheid. It was both a common feeling among the population and a standard policy of multiple governments for decades that the institution was wrong.

The Diefenbaker government opposed South Africa's place in the Commonwealth because of apartheid. This continued to be Canadian policy for decades. In the 1980s, Brian Mulroney took things up a notch by urging economic sanctions against South Africa by the Commonwealth- which had him at odds with his allies, Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, who didn't want to go quite that far. Despite his many flaws as a leader, for that stand on a point of principle, I can respect that about Mulroney.

South Africa abandoned apartheid, freeing Nelson Mandela, who never forgot the support of Canadians. He was named an honourary citizen of the country in a ceremony held in the Museum's Grand Hall.

Another form of service: RCMP officer Christine Briand was part of a UN mission in Haiti at the time of the 2010 earthquake and worked to rebuild an orphanage there.

Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Turmoil Within The Country

This is the powow dress of Amanda Larocque, a Mi'kmaq fancy dance performer. 

The next thematic area deals with Quebec, and with Francophones generally in Canada. It starts with a jersey and hockey stick belonging to one of the greatest to ever play the game- Maurice "Rocket" Richard, a hero and legend worshiped by fans of the Montreal Canadiens.

Albums by various Quebec musicians are seen together.

One of the more insufferable moments of the 1960s involved a man whose entire life could be summed up by that word. Charles de Gaulle had weaseled his way into power in France by making the absolute most of his reputation from the Second World War. In truth, there was nothing he did of any real note that couldn't have been done by another Free French officer. The man was an insufferable egomaniac, impossible to work with, in love with his own place in history. In short, an asshole. 

He came to Canada on a state visit, went to Montreal, where he gave a speech to crowds from a balcony, and ended up feeding into the sovereignty movement by calling, "vive le Quebec libre!"

This of course set off a diplomatic firestorm, and it wasn't long before the old man was out of the country.

Again: an asshole. If there's any justice, he's roasting in hell right about now, griping about why no one's paying attention to him.

The 1960s had also seen the rise of extremism and terrorism in Quebec. The Front de Liberation du Quebec (FLQ) spent years setting off bombs. Their actions culminated in the October Crisis- the kidnapping of a British diplomat, and the kidnapping and murder of a provincial cabinet minister.

The first referendum on the question of separation ensued some years later. For the no side, the Prime Minister of the country led efforts. Pierre Trudeau is seen here speaking to supporters.

On another screen, the provincial premier, Rene Levesque, the driving force for separation, speaks in turn, creating the effect of a political debate.

Monday, February 6, 2023

For Truth And Reconciliation

Early on, there were voices against the residential school system in Canadian society. One of the strongest was that of Doctor Peter Bryce, the chief medical officer for Indian Affairs. What he saw during inspections alarmed him, and he spoke out about it. He was largely ignored. 

Today his grave at Beechwood Cemetery here in Ottawa is a place of particular significance in a cemetery filled with national figures, decorated and honoured by indigenous peoples, even featuring a mailbox where letters are left by visitors.

A photograph that speaks volumes: survivors of the residential school program reclaiming their art.

This is the ceremonial headdress of Phil Fontaine, a former National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, and a survivor of the residential schools.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission was headed by Murray Sinclair, an Indigenous judge. The Commission gathered evidence and took testimony from survivors of the program, and put forward a definitive report, stressing actions that must be undertaken to make amends, and to move forward together. His quote, seen here, is a wise one.

Following the First World War, Indigenous veterans started working with chiefs in political organization. 

A series of items are displayed around this centrepiece- a powow dress.

Elijah Harper was a member of the provincial legislature in Manitoba who stood on principle against the Meech Lake Accord, a proposed constitutional amendment.

The Oka Crisis rose up at this time as well- a standoff between the Canadian military, Quebec police, and Mohawk protestors standing their ground over plans by a community for development of disputed land.

Today I leave off with works by First Nations artists.

Sunday, February 5, 2023

History Has Made Us Friends

This evening dress was made by Marjorie Gehl, the daughter of a Canadian diplomat, as her centennial project, worn to diplomatic functions during the centennial year of 1967. She sewed maple leaf designs into the fabric. Now it is here.

The preceding years had seen much debate about a distinctive Canadian flag. The unofficial flag had long been the Red Ensign. Eventually after much debate back and forth, the flag we have today became the country's official flag.

1200 different designs, as noted at left. Imagine being on the committee going through all that. At right, Prime Minister Lester Pearson meeting with supporters.

The centennial year was a big one for Canada, with Expo 67 hosted by Montreal. The photograph of Parliament Hill dominating this wall was taken on July 1st, 1967.

Sporting and cultural heroes are seen here. Northern Dancer was a Canadian horse that won the Kentucky Derby. Glenn Gould was one of the greatest classical musicians to ever live; a pair of his gloves and one of his caps are included. And Canadian skier Nancy Greene is also seen.

Two quotes by two different leaders sum up our relationship with our southern neighbour. John F. Kennedy's remark is an eloquent one. Pierre Trudeau's comparison is a humorous one.

This period also saw great change for women in the workplace.

The Museum ends its formal collection with a series of themes. The first is that of indigenous peoples, and the great dark stain of Canadian history: the residential schools. Federal governments starting with the Macdonald administration sought to assimilate the indigenous population, as opposed to what had been done before by the British- accommodation through treaties. The residential school program was the result, and one of the worst things we have ever done.