Canada and the End of Empire/With Good Intentions: Euro-Canadian and Aboriginal Relations in Colonial Canada

By Marshall, Peter | British Journal of Canadian Studies, September 2007 | Go to article overview

Canada and the End of Empire/With Good Intentions: Euro-Canadian and Aboriginal Relations in Colonial Canada


Marshall, Peter, British Journal of Canadian Studies


History

Phillip Buckner (ed.), Canada and the End of Empire (Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 2005), vi + 328pp. Cased. $85. ISBN 9780-7748-0915-3. Paper. $32.95. ISBN 9780-7748-0916-0.

Celia Haig-Brown and David A. Nock (eds), With Good Intentions: Euro-Canadian and Aboriginal Relations in Colonial Canada (Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 2006), x + 358pp. Cased. $85. ISBN 0-7748-1137-8. Paper. $32.95. ISBN 0-7748- 1138-5.

Old empires never die; they only fade away: at least that might be said of Britain's in North America. Not that this is to be lamented. Better by far that disappearance should take place against a rustle of memoranda than to the sounds of warfare. The flag and anthem issues might have aroused much passion but they did not threaten recourse to violence. Change, though fundamental, was accomplished peaceably.

This does not, however, make the historians' task easier. A lack of drama is not redressed by descriptions of the impact of the Fulton-Favreau formula. The 1837-8 Risings may not have amounted to much but they offer more opportunity than events in the next century. Diefenbaker and Pearson are no literary rivals to Mackenzie and Papineau, nor do the contributors to Canada and the End of Empire engage in historiographical conflict; their views are predominantly complementary.

Two themes attract particular attention and general agreement. The administrations of Diefenbaker and Pearson marked the definitive decline of imperial and British influence, while the economic and international ascendancy of the USA came to surpass that of the old country at its zenith. There is some room for divergence in assessing the precise motives and expectations of both prime ministers, but little uncertainty as to the outcome of their duel. In essays that examine and illustrate aspects of this period, ample proof is afforded of the changes that accompanied, or were recognised as marking, the process. An abundance of scholarly documentation is provided, which (it might be said by one who, in various stages of maturity and attention, observed these developments as they occurred) supports rather than challenges such superficial judgements. The detail is valuable, and the conclusions provide confirmation of what was generally thought.

The contribution of J.R. Miller that closes the volume - on attempts of the First Nations to secure aid for their interests from London - could serve as an admirably crisp and concise introduction to With Good Intentions, a collection of essays dealing with Indian affairs up to 1914. Ranging from Ontario to the Pacific, the contributors' emphasis falls on the activities and efforts of friends of the Indians. However, there is little ground for rejoicing. Endless journeys to and from Ottawa and hopeful pilgrimages to London result only in bureaucratic evasions, shuffling of responsibility and outright skulduggery. These studies, scholarly and thorough, confirm beyond question the injustices inflicted upon the First Nations by the second-comers.

If a reservation is to be entered, it is one that applies in part to both volumes: context. …

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