“We also have no history of colonialism…”
Prime Minister Stephen Harper dropped this outrageous assertion into a response to a question at a G20 news conference on Friday in Pittsburgh. That the PM can not only harbour this delusion in his mind but also feel unembarrassed enough to verbalize it is a shocking testament to his own profound ignorance and to the pervasive racism-fuelled historical amnesia and denial in Canadian society.
This, after all, is the Prime Minister who — finally — made an official government apology for the residential school system that aimed explicitly to obliterate Indigenous culture and identity. Friday’s comment by the PM tells us something about what that apology was really worth.
It is worth sharing the Reuters article in full in which this news was reported. Even the non-editorializing wire story writer can’t seem to help but betray some bewilderment at the PM’s statement, which features both non-sequitur and a grotesque denial of historical injustice.
PITTSBURGH (Reuters) – Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, appearing to forget that his countrymen are generally known for their modesty, declared on Friday that his nation was the envy of the world.
Harper, usually a fairly wooden performer, seized on a routine question at a news conference and used it to deliver an impassioned defense of his 33-million strong nation and how well it has coped with the global economic crisis.
“Canada remains in a very special place in the world. … We are the one major developed country that no one thinks has any responsibility for this crisis,” he said to laughter.
“In fact, on the contrary, they look at our policies as a solution to the crisis. We’re the one country in the room everybody would like to be,” he said at the end of the summit of the Group of 20 advanced and developing nations in Pittsburgh.
Canada, which was running a budget surplus before the recession and avoided major banking problems, has been less affected by the crisis than many of its partners.
Harper said the other G20 nations “would like to be an advanced developed economy with all the benefits that conveys to its citizens and at the same time not have been the source, or have any of the domestic problems, that created this crisis”.
By this stage of his comments, the initial premise of the question had long since vanished and Harper — who leads the right-leaning Conservative Party — was focusing on several other factors that in his mind make Canada so irresistible.
“We’re so self-effacing as Canadians that we sometimes forget the assets we do have that other people see,” he said, speaking with a rare passion.
“We are one of the most stable regimes in history. … We are unique in that regard,” he added, noting Canada had enjoyed more than 150 years of untroubled Parliamentary democracy.
Just in case that was not enough to persuade doubters, Harper threw in some more facts about the geographically second-largest nation in the world.
“We also have no history of colonialism. So we have all of the things that many people admire about the great powers but none of the things that threaten or bother them,” he said.
And his final verdict?
“Canada is big enough to make a difference but not big enough to threaten anybody. And that is a huge asset if it’s properly used.”