John Ralston Saul talks about Canada’s history and how Aboriginals helped to develop our country. In this startlingly original vision of Canada, thinker John Ralston Saul unveils 3 founding myths. Saul argues that the famous “peace, order, and good government” that supposedly defines Canada is a distortion of the country’s true nature. Every single document before the BNA Act, he points out, used the phrase “peace, welfare, and good government,” demonstrating that the well-being of its citizenry was paramount. He also argues that Canada is a Métis nation, heavily influenced and shaped by aboriginal ideas: egalitarianism, a proper balance between individual and group, and a penchant for negotiation over violence are all aboriginal values that Canada absorbed. Another obstacle to progress, Saul argues, is that Canada has an increasingly ineffective elite, a colonial non-intellectual business elite that doesn’t believe in Canada. It is critical that we recognize these aspects of the country in order to rethink its future.
Part of what makes this book so illuminating is that it insists on being more than a manifesto. In weaving politics with her own life story, themes emerge that challenge the tendency to treat climate change as some new and singular threat. In Watt-Cloutier’s narrative, just as dog sleds have been replaced by snow machines, so the emissions from the entire fossil-fuel-driven global economy are threatening the survival of her culture. And just as pollutants from industrial activities have ended up in the flesh and fat of the animals Inuit people rely on for food, so these same industrial activities are causing global temperatures to rise, threatening the continued existence of these same animals. Climate change, in other words, is nothing new – it is the ultimate expression of the same threats that have been ravaging this part of the world for a very long time.
Inuit culture, however, is far from dead and in fact is thriving despite the odds. That, argues Watt-Cloutier, is very good news, because her people’s hard-won knowledge about how to live sustainably on the land “could serve as a model for all nations, compelling the world to make the strong cuts in emissions needed to mitigate climate change.”
John Ralston Saul lives up to his reputation for breadth and originality of thought, arguing that what are typically presented as “Aboriginal issues,” are actually political battles that matter to us all. For example, Idle No More’s stance against Bills C-45 and C-27 was more than a disempowered group reacting to the infringement on their rights, it was a stand against a corporatist agenda and the type of authoritarian forces in government normally associated with “Argentina’s Peronism.”
When Aboriginal people take to the streets to protest broken treaty promises, it isn’t a national headache, but a public good. The demonstrations remind of us of the complexity of our history, and provide a welcome counterbalance to the corporatist, managerialism that is a growing part of the nation state under a system of global capitalism. The National Post