I found the reaction of Conservatives, such as Brian Pallister and others, to the toppling of statues on the Manitoba legislative grounds telling. First, Conservatives have not been loud opponents of residential schools. They have been content with formulaic statements without much vigor or apparent sincerity. Ever since the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (‘TRC ‘) issued its report in 2015, which outlined an astonishing history of abuse, not just by a few bad apples, but decades of systemic abuse, the Conservatives seldom, to my knowledge called strongly for the 94 calls to action of the TRC to be implemented. Nor did they berate the government for their lack of action. Just like most Canadians, they were quietly acquiescent with the largely inactive file on the part of the Canadian government. Few people in Canada were calling for action. They were silent in other words. That is what I mean when I say that Canadians were largely silent. They seemed to be satisfied with the fact that Prime Minster Harper apologized on their behalf (though some Canadians thought he went too far), but they were also satisfied that nothing was being done to implement or fulfill the calls to action. Very few were calling for action in other words.
The Liberals, as they tend to do, were quick to endorse the report of the TRC and quick to say all 94 calls to action should be implemented, but then did little to actually do what they promised to do. Again Canadians by and large did not hold the Liberals to account, any more than they held the Conservatives to account. Canada largely ignored the TRC report, until 2021 when unmarked graves began to be discovered on the grounds of various former residential schools in Canada.
Yet when a few statues were toppled Conservatives, like my own Premier Brian Pallister and my own Member of Parliament Ted Falk, were quick to loudly claim that the indigenous miscreants or their allies, ought to be held “accountable”. To me it seemed the Conservatives, like so many Canadians, were much more interested in the loss of property than they were interested in the loss of lives at residential schools.
In an editorial the Carillon News actually got it right. As editor Greg Vandermeulen said,
“The toppling of the Queen Victoria statue at the Manitoba Legislature on Canada Day has revealed we still have a long way to go when it comes to reconciliation. Yet that realization wasn’t from the vandalism itself, but from the reactions of we’ve seen from politicians and many Manitobans…
To be clear, there are no significant people that are defending vandalism. But there is still a very big difference in how the news was greeted.
Premier Brian Pallister demonstrated a massive lack of leadership in his July 2 statement. In it, he said nothing about understanding where the anger was coming from, nor did he point out that the loss of a material thing like a statue has absolutely no comparison to the horror of human lives being snuffed out.
Instead, he simply lashed out, saying the vandalism was “unacceptable” and a “major setback” for those working toward real reconciliation. He advocated that those who did the vandalism be “pursued actively” by the courts.
His reaction, captured in his statement showed his priorities, and it’s frustratingly clear he’s not the only one.”
As I said about Judge Giesbrechts comments, these comments by our Premier are wooden-headed, wooden-hearted, or both. They demonstrate the profound ignorance of powerful and comfortable whites who are blind to their own privilege.
Today I heard Premier Pallister repeat the comments he made and which were instrumental in part in his Minister of Indigenous Affairs resigning. Pallister said we should build together. What he does not get is that although there is nothing wrong with this statement, for him to suggest that settlers or their successors always built together with Indigenous people is just not true. Pallister just does not get it. Frankly, I think he speaks for other Manitobans in this respect. They just don’t get it either.