The killing of George Floyd nearly drowned the discussion about Covid-19. The current conversation is about a man who was killed by a man whose duty it was to protect him, even as he arrested him. The police have duties to everyone. Therefore, it was racism at its worst. George Floyd’s life didn’t matter.
Racism in the United States is a complex topic because the economy of the United States depended, in certain southern states, on slavery. Blacks travelled packed like sardines in the hull of a slave ship and, on their arrival in North America, they were sold. Slavery took away a person’s life. A human life belonged to the owner of a plantation, which means that life was taken away from a human being. Black lives matter. The mindset of Americans is therefore rooted in colour and status.
Racism exists in Canada. A the moment, the question is whether it is “systemic” racism (racisme structurel) or racism. Our Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, says racism in Canada is systemic. At first, monsieur Legault of Quebec stated that racism in Canada is not systemic, but it seems he changed his mind. Premier Doug Ford of Ontario also believes that racism in Canada is systemic. For my part, I need to read further before I position myself. As for Dr Theresa Tam, Canada’s top doctor, she urges protesters to stay safe.
Because the Black in the United States were slaves, racism in the United States cannot be the same as racism in Canada. Canada’s racism may be systemic, but Canada’s economy did not depend on the work of slaves. Diamonds were not found on the shores of the St Lawrence River. Canada’s diamonds where its precious pelts at a time when men wore high beaver hats.
In other words, in the 17th century, survival in Nouvelle-France depended on agriculture and fur-trading. Logging was also important. Some houses were log cabin. It should also be noted that, in New France, settling would not have been possible without the Amerindians. Jacques Cartier the official discoverer of Canada made three trips to Eastern Canada. He first travelled to Canada in 1534. He took to France chief Donnacona‘s two sons and returned them to their father in 1535. They had learned French.
Cartier waited too long to return to France, so his ship(s) was locked into the ice and his men were rapidly dying of scurvy. Amerindians provided thuya occidentalis, white cedar rich in On his first trip, the French could not have gone to les pays d’en haut, the countries above or to the north, as voyageurs, in particular. They needed bark canoes and, snowshoes and the guidance Amerindians could provide. A canoe could be made in a matter of hours and the French had to work with the natives. “Survival” is a keyword in the history of Canada.
The fact remains, however, that the fur trade in Canada did not preclude abuse. The French gave trinkets and alcohol to natives who were prone to alcoholism, which outraged Monseigneur Laval, François-Xavier de Montmorency-Laval (1623-1708). But their land was not taken from Amerindians.
However, in the United States, settlers deprived aboriginals of the land they had inhabited for centuries, if not millennia. American natives were sent West forcibly west of the Mississippi. The Louisiana Purchase (1803) would facilitate that process. Moreover, the French had settled in New Orleans, Nouvelle-Orléans, but the population of the rest of Louisiana consisted primarily of Aboriginals. In Canada, their land was not taken from Amerindians until what is known as Confederation (in 1867), or the birth of Canada.
There was hostility between tribes which affected New France. Iroquois captured and killed a number of French-speaking citizens of New France. Iroquois also tortured and killed eight Jesuit missionaries. They are the Canadian Martyrs. To defend the citizens of Nouvelle-France, France sent le Régiment de Carignan-Salières. Le Régiment de Carignan-Salières, soldiers, who arrived in 1759, which is during the ten years or so when les Filles du Roy, the King’s wards were sent to New France.
Before the arrival of the Filles du Roy, the French resorted to marrying the natives, which explains why some Québécois have Amerindian ancestry. Métissés Québécois never formed a nation and are not recognized as Métis. Therefore, I am métissée, but I must pay my taxes, and look after myself. Québecois are considered culturally French and we identify with France. However, I am proud of my Amerindian ancestry. It makes me feel a legitimate inhabitant of the North American continent. It appears I am also a descendant of Alix de France, Eleanor of Aquitaine‘s daughter with Louis VII, a Bourbon king.
The French lost the Seven Years’ War, called the French and Indian War in North America. France had to give some of its colonies. So when Nouvelle-France was officially ceded to Britain, Amerindians feared for their lives. They were rescued by George III’s Proclamation of 1763, which did not please Americans.
Ironically, Amerindians in the what would be Canada lost their waterfront lots beginning in 1867, when four provinces of Canada when Nova Scotia, New Brunswick Québec and Ontario confederated and bought Rupert’s Land. It was land that belonged to the Hudson’s Bay Company. The HBC retained its trading posts, but Amerindians were eventually placed on reservations, a mixed blessing.
Louis Riel was a Métis, the most famous among Métis, and he was elected three times to Canada’s Parliament. Riel was executed on 16 November 1886 for the execution of Thomas Scott, an Orangeman (Protestant) from Ontario. The Métis thought they would participate in the creation of Canada and that it would be bilingual and Catholic, in the case of Catholic Métis. Between the Conquest, 1763, and Confederation, 1867, voyageurs were employed in the fur trade and when the beavers were nearly extant, they accompanied explorers, such as David Thomson, who married an Amerindian.
The Métis in Canada live West in or near Winnipeg and are the descendants of the voyageurs, persons who went west to collect fur from the Amerindians. But voyageurs also retired in Minnesota. When the border between Canada and the United States was traced, after the War of 1812, voyageurs trading posts were suddenly located in Minnesota, where a significant number of voyageurs retired. One of the voyageur who settled in Minnesota is Gabriel Franchère, a hero to Americans. (See Gabriel Franchère, a Hero to Americans.)
Voyageurs married Amerindians, because they could be away from Quebec for three years. Some had two wives, one west and one in Quebec. As the picture above illustrates, some had two Amerindian wives. Derek Chauvin has a French name, which suggests voyageur ancestry, but not necessarily Amerindian ancestry. Derek Chauvin has a French name. Other Métis are the descendants of the baron de Saint-Castin, who was an Amerindian chief. (See Jean-Vincent d’Abbadie, Baron de Saint-Castin.) One of my readers is a descendant of Jean-Vincent d’Abbadie, Baron de Saint-Castin.
Several Quebecers are métissés but they are not considered Métis. French-speaking Canadians identify with France, their motherland. We are culturally French, so despite our ancestry, we must pay our taxes. I like being métissée because it makes me feel that I belong just a little more than others.
© Global News Chief Allan Adam of the Athabascan Chipewyan First Nation
The Blacks in Canada
Mathieu da Costa, an African-Portuguese translator, was “[t]he first Black inhabitant of Nouvelle-France. He was a member of the exploring party of Pierre Dugua, the Sieur de Monts, and Samuel de Champlain and arrived in Nova Scotia sometime between 1605 and 1608 as a translator for the French explorer Pierre Dugua, Sieur de Mon(t)s. He was the first recorded free black person to arrive on the territory of today’s Canada.” (See Pierre Dugua, sieur de Mons, Wikipedia.) Mathieu da Costa died in Quebec City in approximately 1619.
Ironically, Pierre Du Gua de Mons travelled to North America in 1599 with Pierre Pierre de Chauvin de Tonnetuit who had a house built at Tadoussac. But Pierre de Chauvin probably returned to France. (See Pierre Dugua, Sieur de Mons, Wikipedia.)
Nova Scotia has a black population some of whom are part Amerindian.
However, I stand by George Floyd. His colour is an accident of birth and his ancestors. The only justice is eradicating racism and the process must start at home and in schools. We must not let children bully others.
- From the Red River Settlement to the North-West Rebellion (8 May 2018)
- American Tragedies (8 October 2017)*
- Walter Crane: from Slavery to Wage-Slavery (21 December 2015)
- Jean Vincent d’Abbadie, Baron de Saint-Castin (11 September 2015)
- Comments on Racism (2 February 2015)*
- Freemasonry & Abolitionism (31 January 2014)
- Ignatius Sancho & Laurence Sterne: a Letter (14 December 2013)
- The Abolition of Slavery (15 November 2013)
- The Noble Savage: Lahontan’s Adario (21 October 2012)
Kind regards to everyone. 💕
© Micheline Walker
8 June 2020