#199 – Confederation was a Crock of Shit

The story of Confederation is not an easy one to tell, and because of this caker logic has filled the narrative gaps in Canada’s formation with revisionistic mortar and a solemn promise to not delve any further into the topic. The make-believe surrounding Confederation is so absurd that I couldn’t help but cite this crystal-clear instance of caker doublethink. I want to direct your attention to these two lines within the above-linked piece:

The historical moment we will commemorate next Saturday is Confederation — a bunch of old white guys signing a document that bound a loose collection of provinces controlled by the British Empire into a vague and discontented unity without the slightest consideration of or participation by the First Peoples…

Confederation was an attempt at compromise between peoples within a unified political framework.

Problem, Stephen: the “compromising” parties are making compromises on occupied land. Hitler and Stalin compromised on the partitioning of Poland. And instead of acknowledging foundational problems like segregation of blacks in the Maritimes and, y’know, the Indian Act, this guy decides to try and sneak the word “peoples” into the notion of compromise while noting directly that Indigenous peoples had no input and imputing that they were the victims of this “compromise” is a wonderful way to pay the white-guilt penance while trying to gloss over its implications.

So that’s the kind of doublethink we have to contend with – a bunch of unsubtle attempts to brush Canada’s unsavory past under a polite, mundane little rug. Let’s list off some of the actual stories of Confederation:

  • Nova Scotia elected an anti-Confederation government and appealed for the reversal of Confederation
  • Despite Canada’s interest in them Newfoundland and P.E.I would resist attempts at annexation
  • Quebec was practically held hostage with the prospect of greater local authority
  • The British were sick of supporting a bunch of useless podunk colonies whose useful purpose (the fur trade) had been expended and hoped that amalgamation would provide cost savings

First up, Nova Scotia. In September of 1867 there was an election in Nova Scotia, wherein 36 of the 38 elected to the lower house were against Confederation. Joseph Howe even went so far as to appeal to the Throne to reverse Confederation. Even better – Charles Tupper, the useless sack of shit I wrote about long ago? Yeah, that asshole was the leader of the legislative assembly and approved Nova Scotia’s annexation immediately before that election result where his ideas and shitty plan were rejected wholesale by the people of the province. Because London said “no takebacks lol”, Nova Scotia was dragged by sleight of hand into Canada. Such a lovely compromise – the obvious will of the people subverted by a guy who would gain personally from the Confederated project.

As a side-note, the phrasing of the government-written link I listed above there is kind of odd: “After failing to secure a repeal of Confederation in 1868, Howe recognized the futility of further protests”, it reads. Protest is futile. You will be assimilated.

Next, Newfoundland. It’s worth noting that Macdingus the Drunk and his motley synod of synchophants, sadsacks, jesters, fools, and profiteers sought more than just the four provinces they managed to absorb into their shitty idea. Indeed, Newfoundland has always taken to Canadian identity tenuously, and despite electing a pro-Confederation government led by Frederick Carter in 1865 the Anti-Confederation Party of Newfoundland under Charles Fox Bennett would win in 1869, and the issue died on its feet.

Another swing and a miss for Confederation came from Prince Edward Island (in fact, the only province in Atlantic Canada to willingly cotton to Confederation the first time was New Brunswick, and even they’re saying that they’ve gotten a raw deal), whose Premier James Colledge Pope basically called Canada’s bluff and demanded more money while also holding (ultimately pointless, because P.E.I would need royal assent in order to do again; the Crown straitjacketing her colonies into line is a common theme to Confederation, you see) negotiations with the United States that ultimately scared more funding out of Ottawa. It was ultimately a failed railroad project that would force P.E.I to take Ottawa’s money and sell itself into mendacious mediocrity.

On to Quebec, a province which was forced into Confederation by way of that most classic point of Canadiana, failing civic governance caused by civic failure. This piece from Claude Bélanger at Marianopolis College speaks to the hostage-taking that transpired in Quebec. With the previous mechanisms shackling Quebec to Ontario collapsing and increasingly unable to function, the terms of a new union had to be made. Indeed, there were elements overtly supporting annexation into the United States, like the Parti Rouge. And despite Quebec’s powerful landed English elites and having few alternatives, 40% of the population still voted against Confederation. At some point the rational calculus of the Quebecois voter turned to “turds all around me, and I’d rather faceplant into any other cowpie than the caker cowpie”. Fantastic compromising skills, Stephen!

And finally, the big ugly truth rumbling underneath the entire Confederate project. This is the point cakers hate to be reminded of, in no small part because Canada becomes a lot less romantic when it is revealed to be a child of accounting more than anything else. I’ve been pointing to several instances of the English royalty effectively enforcing Confederation, and the reason for that is simple – the British didn’t want to pay for the defense of Canada. The British too brought their finest Mafioso techniques: Ged Martin writes of the bind that the erstwhile Confederates found themselves in, writing that there would be “a question mark” over British committment to Canada should the union not succeed.

All this is to say that this week’s narratives, complete with bait-and-switch white-guilt tithes and eager to forget how fractuous, non-consenting, and unsatisfying Confederation has been for all of its members save Ontario. Fully 30% of the provinces were bribed into union; with Nova Scotia being hoodwinked and Quebec choosing out of desperation, at least half of Canada had serious doubts about the very idea of Canada. Be sure to remember that when some mouthbreathing caker claims that “Canada was built on orderly negotiation”, because it fucking wasn’t.

Fuck John Macdonald, and fuck Canada.

 

#195: The Strange Tale of Amor De Cosmos

Oh, have I been relishing this moment for a long time. One of the benefits of living in a country as massive and disunited as Canada is that I rarely have to give a shit about any provinces. Here in Ontario it’s kind of assumed that you came from Ontario or from another country because Ontario has a very weak provincial identity by virtue of fact that it sees itself as “Canada writ small”. British Columbia is nothing but provincial swagger, which is perhaps the single most annoying kind of swagger in existence. If Canadian pride is bush-league know-nothing bullshit coupled with smug self-assuredness, imagine how much worse that pride gets when affixed to a province. Cakers are a smug people, but even among the cakers British Columbia is known for  how fucking smug it is. Which makes tearing down this province a particular joy. And what better way to start that task than by ripping apart the precious mythology that British Columbia was destined to join Canada?

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(S) Spoilers: a bear in a Victorian costume is involved.

Fortunately for us, it’s not hard to tear down that myth. The province was cursed to join Canada by the hilariously-named Amor De Cosmos. De Cosmos was an advocate for unifying all of Britain’s North American colonies because he felt humiliated by the idea that he was to “die a tadpole British colonist“, without the same rights and sense of nationhood that those in the United Kingdom had. He was a key proponent of unifying Vancouver Island and British Columbia and pushed for British Columbia’s entry into Confederation. I always love showcasing how little interest there was for a united Canada in the early years. In fact, a petition was sent to Washington, DC in 1869 seeking annexation by the United States. And though British Columbia’s government was not especially democratic, the Confederation-focused forces were crushed in 1868’s elections:

In the November votes, pro-confederation candidates were successful on the mainland but not on Vancouver Island. There they were defeated by an alliance of the governmental and HBC élites, who upheld the status quo, with the European-born businessmen who favoured annexation to the United States rather than to Canada. De Cosmos was himself defeated in Victoria City…The next meeting of the Legislative Council reflected these results. The colonial officials and magistrates who made up the majority joined with Vancouver Island anti-confederates in passing a motion calling confederation “undesirable, even if practicable.” Only the five popular members from the mainland dissented.

But what could save the Confederation project and ensure that British Columbia wouldn’t experience the horrors of being a part of a successful and relevant country? Two things: the realization that the British didn’t give a shit about BC, and Canada basically buying the place with promises of a railway and debt relief. As British interest in defending a distant port in the middle of nowhere faded, BC knew that if it wanted the protection of the Royal Navy (and if it wanted to ever be able to repay its debts) it would have to sign up with the nearest polity of stinking Englishmen. Canada seemed to fit the bill, so BC shacked up with the fat, balding ass that we call Canada.

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(S) If everything in this picture is purchased on credit this is the Cliff Notes version of BC’s entry into Confederation

In typical Canada fashion, the terms of the agreement were pretty loosely followed. The railroad project upon which the deal hinged went so poorly that De Cosmos threatened to seek annexation by the United States if Ottawa wasn’t going to get its shit together. De Cosmos would ultimately be deposed and removed from politics because he dared to suggest that Canadians should act less like Brits and try to instead formulate its own coherent collection of identities. Oh, and he also went insane.

Next up, we’ll watch the relationship between floozie province and sugar daddy country devolve into the slithering form it takes today. Stay tuned!