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Refreshing Perspective on Canada
on December 14, 2008
I have seen two commentaries on John Ralston Saul's "A Fair Country", both of which make me wonder whether the authors actually read the book. The first was from Margaret Wente of the Globe and Mail, who claimed that Saul's book creates a romanticized myth of strength and sophistication for Canadian aboriginals, with no proof for his arguments. In fact, Saul provides plenty of proof, discussing aboriginal strength and their influence on Canadian society through 100 pages of historical references and insight.
The second review is right here on amazon.ca by "Book Reader" of Vancouver BC. Book Reader accuses Saul of glorifying Canada as morally superior while conveniently ignoring the truth of aboriginal residential schools. Not true. On page 32, Saul writes "I sense that the evil perpetrated in the residential schools -- the deadly health conditions, the banning of language and culture, the sexual degradation and physical violence, the disruption of families -- was the expression of a deep and growing Euro-Canadian anger at the refusal of the noble ancestor to reach for his full apotheosis by disappearing." This is a full and brutal acknowledgment of residential school truth. Far from glorification, Saul exposes and decries Canada's track record in dealing with aboriginals.
Book Reader also claims that Saul attempts to steal aboriginal cultural identity, which is also incorrect. Saul argues that Canada's true identity has been shaped by profound influences of aboriginal society, not by a monolithic European heritage as is taught in our schools today. In other words, Saul doesn't steal aboriginal cultural identity but rather reinforces it by giving our aboriginal ancestors full credit for what is good in Canada. Book Reader is correct that much has been stolen from Canada's aboriginals, but incorrectly directs his/her vitriol at this book.
I have just finished A Fair Country, and I believe Saul has discovered something important about Canadian identity, and how we can realize a fuller destiny as a nation by coming to terms with that identity and its true origins.