When I first moved to Canada and learned there was a day that marked the reign of Queen Victoria, I was utterly horrified and outraged. As someone who grew up in Ireland, I was quite familiar with Victoria, and she was certainly not remembered fondly.
It is totally disgusting that this murderous figurehead be honoured in any way, and it is a symptom of the ongoing colonial mentality in Canada. Victoria represents nothing short of the attempted annihilation of First Nation people and their culture. Under her watch, the well-honed British colonizing machine finished the task of “settling” Canada, displacing and uprooting First Nations as it went.
The social problems this caused, along with the so-called treaties (treaty suggests choice, unconditional surrender is more appropriate), has laid the foundation for the suffering of First Nation people today.
As is the case in Ireland, Kenya, Uganda, India, the Middle East: the recovery from the wreckage wrought by British colonialism is long and hard. Canada is no different. At least here, the government has begun to apologize for past wrongs, and thankfully, First Nation people are dignified and peaceful enough not to resort to violence as a means of being heard.
Let’s remember Victoria for what she represented: death and global domination enacted by her governments and crown corporations. Hitler is remembered for the maniac he was: over 6 million Jews murdered by his forces. If one were to make the grim calculus of Victoria’s global exploits, I would estimate the death toll caused by her policies and wars would be very similar. In Ireland alone about 2.5 million people died of starvation and hunger-related illness as a direct result of her economic policies.
The creation of concentration camps (Churchill, during the Boer war), various massacres (Amritsar, India; Bloody Sunday, Ireland; two quick examples), and the desire to “civilize” where they went, demonstrate the calculated and murdering ruthlessness of the British Empire. The Irish referred to the British flag, the Union Jack, as the Butcher’s Apron, because of the amount of blood spilt on it.
The current high profile of First Nations issues behooves this nation to look closely at the root causes of this suffering. It is time to acknowledge that Victoria and her wars did not bring freedom, justice, and democracy to everyone. The effect of Victoria Day on First Nation people could be likened to having Hitler Day in Poland. Imagine how the few surviving Jews might feel.
Victoria day gives a clear message, not only to First Nations but other cultures decimated by the British Empire: British colonialism is alive and well, unrelenting, unrepentant, and here to stay. It is time to replace Victoria Day (let’s keep the holiday!) with something like “Reconciliation Day,” or better yet “Atonement Day.”
On “Atonement Day,” perhaps the British Royal family can begin to apologize for their ancestors’ behaviour, and begin redistributing and returning the vast wealth they have stolen, to the countries and people where that wealth belongs.
Long live Chief Theresa Spence, and all those who are fighting the legacy of colonialism around the world.