Consider all the jobs that will be lost. Four thousand alone in one sector. And what of the huge investments in infrastructure built up over decades? How will anyone invest if they lose all their capital investment. Major economic centres relying on this industry and trade will be devastated. People will lose their livelihood. The economy will collapse.
Familiar arguments? Sound like some of our politicians, like those defending the fossil fuel industry? These were the arguments that for twenty years British politicians and British society held up for why the slave trade can not be abolished. For decades we’ve allowed these arguments to justify why we cannot shut down fossil fuels. Our own prime minister speaking to oil industry giants in Texas said Canada has millions of barrels of oil in the ground and we aren’t going to just leave them there. And he got a rousing standing ovation.
The slave trade for those decades and before relied for its success on brutal abuse and the lowest demeaning of human life by people in the apparently most sophisticated and certainly most powerful, nation in the world.
Today the planet we depend on is on the brink of collapse according to all the experts, all those who know, now including the ordinary citizen, but still we drive cars and carry on as if it is nothing at all. Knowing what we know about our immediate future, the next 6 or 7 years that if we do nothing we face horrendous environmental disasters, yet last year, aware of this, we, the powerful nations of the world put more hydrocarbons into the atmosphere than any other year before.
Anna Greenwood-Lee points out in the June 2021 Diocesan Post (publication of the diocese of British Columbia) that in 1871 when B.C. was joining the confederation, white people numbered 10,000 in B.C. and non-white people, including Indian and Asian people, numbered 50,000. The legislature passed a law to prevent non-white people from voting, for obvious reasons, and reasons clearly stated at the time and popular enough to be reported in the press without controversy. The premier, J.F. McCreight refused to pass the legislation saying denying the vote based on race or ethnicity was wrong. John A. McDonald, prime minister of Canada overruled him and the law was passed.
The Honourable Mr. McDonald is also responsible for setting up residential schools and a number of other acts asserting the power of the white, British rule. Truth is Mr. McDonald was doing a good job…for his Queen. It is those policies and only policies like those that assured the rule of Britannia, the prosperity of the British People, made the British the most powerful people on earth. Only possible with those policies, as McDonald, performed by loyal servants, valued servants of her majesty.
Finding racism untenable, calls for pulling down statues of McDonald that honour him as the great founding father of this nation are being heard. Support is growing.
Just one problem in all this, I feel. We get very indignant of those in the past such as McDonald, quite high-minded in our criticism of his policy and actions. It seems to me that we equally be critical of the Queen and all she stands for as it was in her name these atrocities were rewarded. Oh, but the Royal family is so nice. They’re different now. The richest family in Britain oversees a country of great poverty abuse and racism. If the statute of McDonald is an affront to our sensibilities, and I believe it is, and we should condemn history and its benefactors for the exploitation and abuse of human lives to achieve its benefit, then today it would seem to me, the changing of the guard before the great Buckingham Palace is no less a symbol of what we want to dishonour as is the bronze cast of the Honourable J.A. McDonald.
Roger Casement, representing the Crown as a diplomat in Africa and South America, exposed severe abuse of human life in the collection and export of rubber to the mother country. He reported back. He received all kinds of criticism for the economy was based on the industry of rubber, huge profits made possible with increasingly heavy loads of rubber to be carried out by indigenous men, women and children. They were given meager pay but only if they carried out a minimum weight. If they arrived light in load, they were flogged. Children were asked to carry their own weight in rubber on the backs for days and days walking through the jungle. Punishment often doled out was to cut off hands and feet.
What Roger Casement found disturbed him deeply. It led him to challenge the society responsible. He wrote in his diary that he wanted to beat and kill every Englishman he was who was beating and maiming other human beings, people who were indigenous to the land that the English had invaded for their profit. Roger Casement was executed for treason.
We can talk about statues and bad people in the past. We can criticize the society that stood behind McDonald and the Queen, who enjoyed a profitable economy of an empire, lived well, had jobs, thrived because of it. But when the mirror is turned on us, today, about what we are doing, driving our cars as if no crisis at hand. Continuing to indulge ourselves on abuse. There are as many slaves in the world today as in the 19th Century when William Wilberforce finally convinced parliament to abolish slavery. Slaver today that we, the white and privileged bunch of us profit from. Our cell phones that we don’t want to spend too much money for, only run with rare metals. And those rare metals we use in our phones are mined by children, indentured people and slaves under unbearable conditions. It’s a lot harder to be indignant, isn’t it, when it’s not the bad McDonald a hundred and fifty years ago and his indulgent voters and citizens, but instead it is us, privileged us, that is benefiting from slavery, not changing our ways even at the cost of the climate running amok and with our coastal cities flooded, and unpredictable weather that decimates agricultural production.
If there is anybody left in the future, they’ll be wondering what we were doing pulling down statutes against racism and slavery and abuse when we act in the very same manner, saving our economy as they say, a two hundred and seventy years ago and today, right now. We need to pull our own statues down, our own edifices that represent our excess and abuse. Not many people are going to like me for saying this. But then Roger Casement was shot for treason. Just saying.