Meanwhile, Up In Canada — A Guest Post By Rawgod

We here in the U.S. are so absorbed in the daily dose of Trumpism that rarely in the past two years have most of us looked outside our own borders.  Oh, sure, we have the most basic knowledge of the Brexit battle, and we make note of such things as the two recent mosque shootings in New Zealand, but for the most part we are so inundated in all things “trump”, that we are almost buried in the detritus.  But, our situation is not unique in this, the year 2019.

Our friend rawgod lives in the western Canadian province of Alberta, and they have problems that are very similar to our own, and in many ways tied directly to our own.  I have long argued that no nation can afford to take an isolationist view, for this is a global world now, and no nation can survive without cooperation in many areas:  technology, trade, national security.  So, when rawgod offered me this guest post, I was happy to be able to present a first-hand, up-close-and-personal view of what is transpiring outside the U.S.  By the way … I always welcome guest posts any time somebody feels so inclined!  Thank you, rawgod, for helping to open my eyes about what is going on up north!Text dividers800px-Alberta_in_Canada.svgIn Alberta I am told that over 100,000 people are out of work because the Oil Sands production has been reduced. This is partly because of Paris Accord commitments to cleaner air, but that partly is too small. The biggest reason is because we are producing more oil than we can move to places whose people are willing to process our oil into usable form. The province’s population is crying for pipelines to move our oil, not caring whose land the pipelines might cross or what ecologies might be damaged. Mostly the land they want to use is owned by First Nations people, and government-protected wildlife areas.

Meanwhile, it is mostly white people who are clamouring for these pipelines to be built without ecological studies. Who cares how the pipelines hurt Mother Nature or First Nations people OR THE ATMOSPHERE WE BREATHE as long as they make their money. Oil Sands wages are extremely high, as wages go these days. The people who want those wages do not want to be retrained to make clean money or clean air, they want to keep on making their dirty money for dirtying the atmosphere. They care nothing about others, they care only about themselves and their wallets.

Alberta has an election coming up in April, and who is making the loudest noise about pipelines–you guessed it, the United Conservative Party, led by a man named Jason Kenney, who cheated to get the party leadership, a man who may have actually broken the law, one who definitely broached political ethics, to make sure he won. Now he wants to become Premier of our province. AND PROBABLY WILL! Alberta has, until the last election, always been a conservative-voting province since its inception.

Yesterday this party did a big flip flop, it went from wanting to expose non-straight children in our school systems to saying it wanted to protect them from exposure, after years of loud politicking that non-straight kids needed to be exposed. Does this sound like a true policy change to anyone? Or does it sound like an insincere political attempt to attract more liberal-minded voters to its march to taking over the province.

After just one day, the leader of the UCP changed his tune about Gay Straight Alliances in schools, which are what I was talking about yesterday regarding exposing those who feel they are not heterosexual. For most of the past three years he has been demanding that schools expose kids who join Gay Straight Alliances, no matter what their reason. He wanted to promote homophobia. Yesterday, he said kids needed to be safe from exposure. We all knew he did not mean that. Today, ONE WHOLE DAY after saying kids needed to be safe, he clarified his policy. IT SHOULD BE UP TO THE TEACHERS TO EXPOSE GSA MEMBERS IF THE TEACHER THOUGHT IT WAS NOT IN THE STUDENTS’ BEST INTERESTS. Who would get to decide that? Religious teachers? Of course. The teachers themselves do not want that responsibility, as a group, but particular teachers do, the ones who believe it is their right to tell parents their children might think they are gay. Or the children may want to just understand their friends who think they might be gay. That is what GSAs are for. To promote healthier relationships. To stop homophobia before it starts.

So much for a new UCP policy. The politicians want to hide behind the teachers. Gutless wonders. Homophobes every one. Suppress healing. Divide. Divide. Divide!

Oh, did I say many of their party faithful have had to pull out of the race after having their racial hatred and white superiority statements brought to light, or even just threatened to be brought to light. They made statements on social media sites before they decided to run for office, and now those chickens don’t want to be roasted with their own bigoted words. Surprise! Surprise!

These are the people who mainly make up the UCP, including their cheating leader. These are Alberta’s Trump-lovers. And these are the people who are probably going to win the election, because their policies of hatred and greed resonate with a huge portion of Albertans.

Vive Jason Kenney! Vive Donald Trump! Vive the death of humanity! Vive climate change! Barf… Barf… Barf…

America In The Eyes Of The World — A Guest Post By rawgod

Last month I started a project called Coexist, and I asked for guest posts from readers outside the United States to give us their view of the U.S. as it stands today, and also how our recent behaviour has affected their own country.  I received and published several excellent contributions from David, Gary, and Colette in the UK, and John in Canada.  At the time, rawgod expressed an interest in writing a post but needed a bit of time.

His words are sobering and remind us that we are indeed a global community, that we are under the microscope and what we do here in the U.S. has far-reaching consequences.  I suspect that most of us are completely unaware of the incidents rawgod tells of, and I think it is important for us to see.  Thank you, rawgod, for your words, as I know how much you struggled to keep it ‘short, sweet and to the point’.

Anonymous Letters, Surreptitious Visits, and Other Events

Edmonton is a metropolitan city of about 1.8 million citizens, capital of the province of Alberta in the nation of Canada. And quite possibly the most hating city in Canada. In 2018 there were two anonymous letters sent to Aboriginal Canadian families telling them their presence was not wanted by white persons in the areas in which they lived. The first letter was sent on condominium board letterhead to owning residents of one of the condos. It basically said that red-skinned Canadians were not wanted by white residents of the condo, and they should go back to whatever reserve they had come from. They were not worthy of living among civilized people. Violence was threatened. A few months later a similar letter, unsigned, was sent to another Aboriginal Canadian family. This time the family had been living in the same house for over 20 years. Violence was not directly threatened, but is was suggested as a possibility if the family did not go back to the reserve. The police are “still investigating” both letters, but no persons have yet been designated as persons of interest.

A few days before the 2nd anniversary of the shooting in a Montreal mosque in which 6 were killed and 19 wounded, four men were discovered infiltrating Edmonton mosques. All four were members of a white racist group called The Clan. The Clan is an offshoot of The Sons of Odin, a member of which committed the shooting in Montreal. Was it any coincidence these 4 persons were snooping around mosques? One man said he went inside to use the washroom. Yeah, sure. Police were notified, and surveillance was increased. Fortunately, nothing further has happened since, but what if these men’s visits had not been discovered?

Meanwhile, in Edmonton, there have been a number of instances on Edmonton Transit buses where people of non-white appearance were harassed by white passengers, told to go back home, threatened with violence, and basically mistreated while trying to go about their own business–this includes teenage school and university students, most of whom were born in Edmonton. White people seem to forget they were not the original inhabitants of this land. They seem to think it belongs to them by divine right, or some religious sin. How dare they forget they are the invaders here!

These are not all the hate crimes that have occurred in Edmonton, they are only samples. These feelings have no doubt been around for over a century, but mostly they were hidden. No one dared to declare themselves as the outright bigots they are … And then Donald J. Trump came along, and gave them permission to voice their opinions aloud, with force, and with open hatred.

And then this:  J.M.-hate-letter.jpgI’ll let you make up your own minds. By the way, it was written on United Conservative Party letterhead. No one has been fired.

This post shook me … it breaks my heart to know there are people with so much hate in their heart, with such a sense of arrogance and entitlement.  Did it start with Donald Trump?  No, it’s been there all along, but it was the rhetoric of Trump and others who unleashed the storm.

America In The Eyes Of The World — A Guest Post By John Fioravanti

I have been so pleased by the excellent guest posts I have received from friends in the UK — David, Gary and Colette — as a part of Project Coexist, giving us a chance to see how people outside the U.S. view us these days, in light of the changes in our nation.  Today I am happy to share with you another excellent point-of-view from Canadian friend, John Fioravanti!

America Today: A Canadian View

I appreciate Jill Dennison’s generous invitation to be a guest on her blog site. As a retired high school history teacher, I don’t presume to be an expert on this topic or any other – nor do I claim to speak for any Canadians other than myself. Having said that, I believe that many Canadians are profoundly saddened and anxious by developments on our southern border since the Trump Administration took power.

Having taught American history for many years, I have some understanding about the events and ideas that shaped America from its colonial days. Like all nations, the United States has evolved throughout its history in many significant ways. Today, I see America at a crossroad as many of the foundational values are being tossed aside for political expediency.

U.S. President Donald Trump meets with Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in a bilateral meeting at the G7 Summit in Charlevoix, Quebec, Canada, June 8, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis

Diplomacy is a dirty word in the Trump White House and I am horrified that the president resorts to bullying and personal insult in his conduct of relations with Canada and the other Allies. Where is the dignity and respect that normally characterize international relationships – especially with allied nations? These were the tactics used against Prime Minister Justin Trudeau throughout the NAFTA negotiations. The worst part about that episode was that it utterly destroyed the trust that existed between Canada and the United States throughout the 20th Century and into the 21st.

Mulroney and Reagan sing “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling” at the 1985 Shamrock Summit.

I never expected Trudeau and Trump to become fast personal friends since they are divided by their political ideologies. Brian Mulroney and Ronald Reagan were both conservative leaders and good friends. Stephen Harper, a conservative, did not become friendly with the liberal-minded Obama. Yet, Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau became good friends with Obama. My point here is that the political leanings of our national leaders often determine the temperature of the relationship. Under Donald Trump, that temperature has become decidedly frigid, and that benefits neither nation.

As I consider Trump’s poor behaviour in Washington and on the world stage, I am most concerned with his complete break with truth and honesty. I am appalled that so many millions of Americans still support him. Do they not value truth and honesty? Or are they just willing to subvert those values as a fitting sacrifice to achieve their political agenda? These are very troubling questions. I fear for my American cousins and for the rest of the free world.

Much has been written about the divisions within America. Donald Trump did not create those divisions, but he has single-mindedly exploited them to appease his base. In like manner, he has driven a wedge of distrust between the United States and her traditional allies. At the same time, Trump pays public homage to authoritarian leaders around the globe. His chaotic foreign policy has resulted in trade wars with allies and foes alike and the result is the isolation of America on the world stage.

I live a short two-hour drive from our southern border at Niagara but I have not driven across to visit friends in New York State since Trump took power – nor will I until America votes him out of power. That makes me sad. His mercurial policies cause me to be anxious and fearful about travelling in the States. Perhaps that is silly but it is my truth.

As a youngster, I remember being glued to the TV news as America’s cities burned during the race riots of the 1960s. As I listen to the white supremacist rhetoric and watch news reports of children and minority groups being targeted in mass shootings in America today, the old horror of those bygone days rears its ugly head.

Canada has its fair share of problems too. We have racial divisions of our own. There are people in Canada who think Donald Trump is a great example to follow. As a liberal, I’ve always done my best to accept that others have differing political and social views to my own, but I fear that American conservatism characterized by dishonesty and a total lack of integrity has made inroads among Canada’s conservatives.

Today, America is writhing in the midst of a political stalemate that has caused a partial shutdown of the federal government. Neither Trump nor the Democrat leaders in Congress are willing to blink. Meanwhile, thousands of federal workers find themselves used as political hostages who may lose their savings, their homes, and their peace of mind as a result. This is morally reprehensible!

Presupposing America can emerge from the next two years in one piece, will American voters elect leaders who will take steps to heal the nation and heal the broken relationships with the allies? Who can be certain? The divided house called America is frightening to behold. The fate of the free world hangs in the balance.

Thank  you so much for your perspective as one of our two closest neighbors, John!  I’m wondering if there are plans in the works in your own government to take steps, such as building a big, beautiful wall, to protect your southern border, for under our current circumstances, many of us may be fleeing to the north to escape political persecution here!

America In The Eyes Of The World — A Guest Post By Colette

Today I have another guest post in response to my plea for readers around the globe to share with us their views of the U.S. in today’s world.  Colette has generously taken the time to write a thoughtful analysis of how the U.S. fits … or doesn’t fit … with the rest of the world today, and how our policies and leadership have affected the rest of the world.  Thank you so much, Colette, for this excellent and sobering analysis!


How did America Lose its Way in the World?

The USA, for many decades, maintained leadership in the world of economics, politics and living standards.

In 2008, that all changed when a poor economy, during the end of the Bush administration, triggered job losses and foreclosures on newly purchased real estate. The Prime Rate Mortgage scheme unravelled spectacularly, as people walked away from their homes. Financial Institutions holding the debt load across the world, fell like dominoes, crippling the world economy. The Bush administration had allowed for a scandalous mortgage scheme to exist. Outrageously, Senator John McCain exonerated Republicans by falsely pinning the blame for the financial fallout on the Democrats. Trust was lost in America.

Then, the rise of Chinese, Russian, Brazilian, and Indian (BRIC) economies created the global financial growth once enjoyed by the USA. They, and the fifth member, South Africa, have developed enormously. These nations are forming stronger inter-development alliances with interested parties and no longer depend on the EU and the US economies for survival.

America, despite the best efforts of Barack Obama to rebuild confidence, has lost the respect of other nations. With the loss of trust in America, came the loss of safety for political allies. America was no longer a major player in the World. Barack Obama was unable to adequately rebuild those fractured relationships. There were no viable Democrats waiting in the ‘wings’ who had a definitive strategy for bringing back jobs and rebuilding the economic status that the American public wanted. A political void existed.

I don’t like Donald Trump. I read his ‘Art of the Deal’ when it was first published in 1987. It didn’t take me long to realise that the man could use spin to sell any abhorrent idea to anyone. I also noticed how he manipulated officials to win planning permission for constructing his ostentatious buildings.

I thought Donald Trump to be the perfect TV host of the American version of ‘The Apprentice.’ His bullying, bellow of ‘You’re Fired!’ to contestants was an accurate personification of his real self. Donald Trump is not the perfect man for the position of President of the United States.

Trump, fresh from his instant TV stardom, rode in like a cowboy with guns blazing. Mowing down friends and foes alike, he boasted to his TV audience, “We’re gonna Make America Great Again!” It was a terrible ‘John Wayne’ imitation, but it was enough to mobilise poor-town Americans into lifting their heads up from dusty bars across the Nation. They recognised Trump from his appearances on their living room screens as someone who knew business and how to make money. As a collective, they put their fists in the air and said, “Yeah, we’re gonna make America great again! They were not seemingly aware of the debts that Trump had incurred in his own dealings, nor of his use of tax avoidance and double dealing tactics.

My husband, a financial man for much of his working life, saw a visionary Donald Trump providing hope for a better economy. His view, was to give the man a chance! He tells me that Donald Trump, whether you like him or not, has made progress on his pre-election promises.

I don’t really think my husband knows Trump’s full history, nor do I think that he cares, so that may also be true of Trump’s many supporters.

Unfortunately, Donald Trump is full of old ideas, old philosophies, and old tricks. And he believes that he, ‘The Donald,’ is above the law, above the Constitution, and above any need to be diplomatic with other nations. He plays the Presidency as he did his own empire. He believes that his only hindrances are the Democrats and a few million Hispanics on his southern border. He does not personally like or feel any compassion for economic migrants because he is a covert racist and doesn’t want them in ‘his’ America.

The lack of trust in America has extended into the very real issue of world climate change. There is hesitation on global action as America, under Donald Trump’s instruction, has now left the bargaining ‘table.’ Other nations mumble verbal commitments, but their trust in American leadership has been abused yet again. Suspicion and hostility about how the Paris Agreement might work without US involvement has ground proceedings to a halt.

I watched a May 2018 interview with ‘Stephen Fry,’ a British actor. How did he see America today? He dropped his head saying, “Oh it’s terribly unfortunate! ” He also went on to say that Donald Trump used gangster and criminal tactics to force his agenda. He says Trump’s popularity is driven by ‘clickbait’ issues posted on social media, that is then reiterated over and over again, in televised news.

Stephen Fry also predicts that Donald Trump will run a second term, and so does my husband. Why? Because Donald Trump commands attention. He keeps his fingers working on his Twitter account so that he makes world news every day! A certain percentage of Americans see Donald Trump’s constant barrage of media blustering as ‘the real thing.’ They are fooled into believing that ‘America IS Great Again! ” So, they will vote him in again because Trump’s fake news fiasco is working!

Donald Trump tosses out outrageous propaganda which the media just gobbles up and feeds to us wholesale. Stephen Fry said that if nobody listened, and nobody clicked on the social media links, all the propaganda would disappear, and so would Donald Trump’s success.

Brits in general, feel that they hear far too much about American politics, especially during elections. And in truth, not many ordinary people on this side of the pond care what Donald Trump does, but those same people lap up the articles written about Trump because they reinforce some parallel issues that arise with Brexit.

Trump’s firings of his staff, the withdrawal of troops, the detention and degradation of migrants, the threat to keep the government in lock down, and his never-ending tirade about the ‘wall,’ all invoke fear. Trump hopes to trigger a state of emergency in a paralysed nation fearful of attack. These are the ‘plays’ of a man desperate to have the rest of the world take notice of America and see her power. Trump wants to build the economy using the steel industry to build the ‘wall’ and to create an arsenal of new weapons (in the event of a war that he will likely instigate). It is so unfortunate for the American people who must endure the consequences of the lies churned out by Trump. They may see the economy build, but it is not building for them.

The sinister side to all of this, is that Trump may eventually use his bullying tactics one too many times with China. It could backfire spectacularly in 2019 as a China/Russia alliance becomes a mega joint strategy against the perceived US threats. Donald Trump is playing with fire. His military commanders know it, and so do his allies. Other countries are quickly backing away from Trump’s influence as he drags the good citizens of America down a very dark black hole whilst chasing his own empire.

 ‘Trust’ and ‘Safety’ no longer exist in my vocabulary for describing Donald J. Trump’s America. And the consequences of Donald Trump’s flawed plans could herald a change of leadership on the political world stage. If so, it will not be the United States of America in that lead role.

America In The Eyes Of The World – A Guest Post by Gary Metcalfe

Today I am happy to present the second guest post in response to my plea for friends outside the U.S. to give us their insight about how they view the U.S. today.  This one is by Gary Metcalfe, who blogs as bereavedandbeingasingleparent, or as I call him, Bereaved Dad.  Thank you, Gary, for taking the time and effort to write this illuminating piece!


IS YORKSHIRE CLOSER TO WASHINGTON OR PARIS

Geography doesn’t really come easily to a simple Yorkshire chap like myself. I’m lucky to find my way round the house never mind circumnavigate the globe.  But distance wise I am pretty sure we are closer to France than America. It has always puzzled me if I should call America – America or is it the USA? Let’s go for America. So, although we are physically closer to France, in terms of relationships are we closer to Washington or Paris?

This is such a difficult question given the fact that my own country has clearly gone barking mad. So badly divided over Brexit. Increasingly violent and seeing the worrying rise of extremism. Less tolerant. Without any effective leadership. Obsessed with the cult of personality over substance. A country with ever widening inequalities. Happy to criticise others yet reluctant to cooperate or make any meaningful international contribution.  Occasionally sending a few war planes into the Middle East does not really count as a constructive policy.

To be fair if Washington and Paris had any sense they would distance themselves from the UK. I suspect the leaders in Europe secretly can’t wait to get rid of us. When I worked for the NHS I went to a conference and the Secretary of State for Health started slagging off our European partners. He held up a European Competition Framework and complained that it was 300 pages long and was a clear sign of European bureaucracy gone mad. Unfortunately, he failed to mention that the vast majority of the bureaucracy in that document had been inserted at the request of the U.K. to protect our own interests. That document will be much slimmer when we have left.

Although we talk as if we are European we have historically seen our closest ally as America. America is often portrayed as vibrant, modern, yes a bit brash but also so very inclusive. Yes, we have seen things which make us shake our heads. The obsession with guns … what is all that about. Wouldn’t an obsession with something like Tea or Old Car Restoration be an awful lot safer for your kids. But still we could trust America. Then Obama came along and suddenly our closest ally became a real beacon of hope.

In 2011 the American President said a few simple words that resonated (he had a brilliant talent for that):

“We should do everything we can to ensure this country lives up to our children’s expectations”

 The words came at such a tragic time for the American People, but Obama was the leader we all wished we had. Intelligent, caring, passionate and someone who understood he had obligations to the upcoming generations. That’s a great look for country and certainly a friend we can work with.  Then the hope appeared to fade, stagnated by a divided country. Principles had to be compromised.  But still America was a trusted partner. Someone we could turn to when we fell out with Europe.

 Then we all got trumped.

 When Trump received his nomination it never really sunk in. We knew of him. A billionaire, a golfer, luxury hotel owner, someone who appeared in Home Alone 2 and the winner of the WWE Battle of the Billionaires with Vince McMahon – didn’t get his head shaved. That was it.

We didn’t focus on him too much as obviously Hillary would win, as obviously the UK would vote to stay in Europe. Then even after he won he wasn’t taken that seriously. He won’t last long, people started placing bets on how long he would be President. Most people seemed to think anywhere between 6 months to 1 week. But he stayed.

For the first period of his presidency it appeared from the U.K. that if you just ignored his frequent twitter rants then things would be ok. He hadn’t blown anything up. Apart from the noise nothing seemed to be happening. Yes, the revolving door approach to presidential appointments seemed vaguely amusing. Moving the White House engine room to a golf course (as clearly a golf course is where a President can do his best work) was not really a surprise. In fact, all we really heard was how much time he spent playing golf.  But slowly the news of the what trumping really meant started to filter across the pond.

  • Apparently dangerous links with Russia and certain Middle East tyrannies existed. But we couldn’t lecture on this as we have equally close links with Saudi Arabia.

  • The Paul Manafort saga (too confusing to really follow as we only heard about snippets of the story) but it clearly implied incompetence or something more sinister. Whatever the underlying cause it’s not a great example to the world of American Ethics.

  • The handling of the Puerto Rico natural disaster was just really insensitive, self-centred and despicable.

  • The apparent haste to fall out with your historic partners like Canada, France and Germany. But you have found a new buddy in North Korea.

  • He bizarrely started to openly condemn his own Intelligence Agencies and the FBI. Yet he didn’t seem as willing to condemn the Extreme Right operating in his own country.

  • The Complete disregard for international climate change commitments. It really felt like he was saying ‘stuff you’ to the world and future generations. Maybe he thinks it’s not my problem as I will be gone by the time the world burns. Contrast that with Obama’s approach. Monumentally stupid or colossally selfish.

  • Favouring the interest of the NRA over child safety. Seriously arming teachers….

  • Attacks on the Free Press and attempts to stifle debate. These are particularly worrying as some of our politicians are clearly starting to copy Trumps strategy. What happened to the Leader of the Free World role.

  • That Wall. That Magic Wall which will solve all of America’s problems. The Wall which is so precious that it’s worth freezing Government for. That must be some Wall. But the sight of a modern Leader seemingly taking personal delight at the shutdown. Probably thinks it makes him look like a big man. We are talking about people’s lives here being sacrificed for a few bricks.  Kids are dying on the border. Oh, I forgot they are just migrants. Are the golf courses still open?

To the vast majority in our country your President appears to be at best a misguided clown at worst a dangerously unbalanced self-obsessed bully. Either are not a good look for a leader and certainly not as a leader who we are trying to forge a partnership with. Many in our country feel that Trump has gone too far. That we should be distancing ourselves from him. But our PM is desperate, she sees an American trade deal (regardless of how bad it is) as a way of saving her job. So, unless we get a new government it’s going to happen.

Where does that leave us across the pond. Rapidly burning our bridges with Europe. Yet looking on at America with increasing consternation and alarm. At a time when we should be embracing closer links with Washington we see a dangerous superpower. Potentially a threat. Yes, a threat. And yet. And yet. As our country careens out of control into a world with few friends, our government views Trump as someone we might be able to quickly do business with. He clearly hates Europe as much as our Brexiteers. But at what cost. Is an unbalanced trade deal really worth further opening up our beloved National Health Service to Trump’s golfing buddies. Are we really that tainted as a country that we are prepared to sacrifice our moral principles for the price of a document which Trump could declare void at any stage.

So back to the big question. Are we closer to Washington or Paris? The answer is sadly neither.Text dividers

A Guest Post by David M. Prosser …

Yesterday, I put out a plea for some of my friends and readers who live outside the U.S. to write a guest post for this blog about how they view the United States as it stands today.  I’m calling my project simply ‘Coexist’, for despite thousands of miles and oceans between us, we really are neighbors in todays global world, and as such, we need to find a way to understand, to coexist.  We rely on each other for trade, for security, and perhaps most importantly, for cultural understanding.  The U.S. has not been a very good neighbor of late, and most of us are well aware that our standing in the world is greatly diminished.  We know from the media how the leaders of other nations view us, but I want to know how the people of those nations, our friends and neighbors, view us, both as a nation and as people.  The first person to respond to my plea was my dear friend, David Prosser of North Wales in the UK, and today I am publishing his guest post.  Thank you so very much, David, for your time and effort, and for sharing your thoughts.


In answer to my friend Jill Dennison’s call, I am writing to give an opinion from abroad as to how Trump, and more importantly America are viewed these days.

It’s important to note that back in 2016 the American elections were the cause of more interest than usual because a woman was attempting to get to the White House and this time in her own right and not as the wife of a candidate. Would we see the President and her First Man? To be honest most of us gave little or no credence to Donald Trump as the nomination of the Republicans. This was the man who started the rumour that President Obama was not American born. Probably the vilest man in America. As the campaign wore on he started with a chant of ‘Lock her up’ against Hilary Clinton which seemed to overshadow any of her policies, but even so, he couldn’t win. When he had neo Nazis at his events, or KKK and could describe them in glowing terms you knew he couldn’t win. The American people had more sense.

He won, after the electoral college gave him their votes. The popular vote was for Hilary Clinton showing that Americans could vote for both a black man and now a woman to be President. But the electoral College votes were enough to overturn expectations. The worrying thing is that here was a man who had waffled his way through an election on an  unwarranted chant against an opponent and a call for a wall to be built between Mexico and the United States which Mexico would be funding. Most of us never took that as a promise made and thought Mexico would be surprised at Trump’s cheek. It appears they were and they quickly made it clear that no funding for a wall would be coming from Mexico. Trump is a fanaticist who just opens his mouth and lets any stray thought slip out.

We’ve all been following Mr Mueller’s efforts to find the truth behind the election and some of Trump’s mutterings. Within my own little group expectations are that we’ll find that Trump is heavily in hock to Russian banks and that he’s accepted a degree of help from his friend President Putin at manipulating the election. Certainly Russia spent an awful lot of money on the Social sites to bolster Trump’s campaign.

In the two years since he was elected Trump seems to have emasculated the US and turned it into either a laughing stock or a nonentity on the world stage. Trump has single-handedly removed America away from Europe and has canceled America’s promises from the Paris Accord regarding global warming. It amazes us that Trump seems to have declared friendship for the World’s greatest Dictators and have OK’d it for the States to become racist again. It appears the last 50 years have been wiped out and he black people are to be treated as inferior beings again. The worst thing is it looks like this was a feeling kept in the background just waiting to come out again. It’s also OK to want to deny immigration. A country built on immigrants now says ‘No More’ and attempts to block any Moslems from entering the country except Saudi Arabia which though it funds terrorism including the planes hitting the twin towers can do no wrong in Trump’s eyes. It’s still a major surprise here that despite the rubbish that Trump spouts, much of it deliberate lies, that approx 40% of the US continue to support him. At this rate he’ll sell America to the highest bidder before his term ends and retire to some isolated island where he and all his money can happily retire. The family can stay behind and face Mueller’s findings.

Know this, that most of the UK feels for you and wishes you were Trump free. The best we can say for now is Good Luck.Text dividers

Thank you again, David!  And thank you for the Good Luck wishes … after tomorrow night we may need them more than ever!  Now come on, dear friends!  I need a few more volunteers!  I promise it’ll be fun!  

 

There Is No Isolation On The World Stage — A Guest Post By Roger Jacob

Earlier this week I shared a guest post by John Fioravanti about the current administration’s policy of isolationism, to segregate the U.S. from its allies and downgrade our standing on the global stage.  I asked if anybody else from outside the U.S. would be interested in writing a guest post to add perspective and add to the conversation.  Our good friend Roger, aka Woebegone but Hopeful, eagerly took up the gauntlet and has written about his perspective of our current policy from the UK point of view.  Many thanks to Roger for taking the time, for he is busily working on his latest book!


Roger Jacob

Roger

There was a fable which circulated in the old USSR in the 1980s.

Stalin, Khrushchev and the then leader Brezhnev are sitting in a train as it makes its way across the USSR. Suddenly the train lurches to a halt; after half-an-hour Stalin stands up and announces he will sort this out. He walks over to the front of the train where the driver and engineer are standing.

‘What is wrong comrades,’ he demands.

‘Comrade Stalin,’ the engineer says, ‘The machinery has broken, the part we need has not been available for months now and we’re trying to figure out what to do.’

‘Nonsense!’ storms Stalin. ‘Such a thing cannot happen in the Soviet Union,’ he points at the engineer. ‘You are spreading lies and are an enemy of the state,’ Stalin draws a gun and shoots the man dead, goes back to the carriage and sits down.

After another half-an-hour Khrushchev stands up and says he will sort it out, he walks to the front of the train, looks at the body and the terrified driver and asks what has happened. The driver nervously relates what Stalin did. Khrushchev looks at the body.

‘Ah,’ he says to the corpse. ‘You were a victim of ill-judged decisions. You, comrade, are pardoned of these crimes and reinstated,’ and returns to the carriage and sits down.

After another half-an-hour Brezhnev stands up and says, ‘I know. Let’s draw the shutters down on the windows and pretend the train is moving.’

It is in the nature of governments to place facts in the best light for them. We can also expect governments to make decisions which we personally do not like, and we are sure will be the wrong ones. This is nothing new. You can look back to the ‘Standard of Ur’ of 2600 BC (ish) which depicts the achievements of Akkadian Empire in Mesopotamia.

Many are the regimes which have had their day, when they seemed unassailable, then they fell. Either because something they had not expected happened or through hubris were convinced of their own infallibility, or bitter internal divisions tore at their foundations and as we know a House Divided against itself cannot stand.

We ignore this oft repeated lesson of History at our peril.

Because there is no avoiding the forces which have shaped human activity throughout the ages. Before recorded time, reason dictates these forces were in action it’s simply that there were no recording systems.

Thus, we come to the present era of the early decades of the 21st Century and we examine just one nation: The United States of America. Contrary to some arguments the USA did not invent all the evils in the world, no more is the USA responsible for every destructive or violent action taking place. Currently, through the forces which history records, having survived the first great test of the Civil War of 1861-1865 and remaining united a nation rich in resources both natural and human, the USA was bound to have its time of grandeur and influence upon the World Stage. Exactly when this started is something for historians to have fun discussing, but for the sake of brevity let us say at the end of WWI when President Wilson endeavoured bring forth a vision of a world peace in which even small nations had their say. Since then, 1919 to date, there has been THE USA, nearly 100 years. In the scheme of things, not very long really. For example, the British, French and Spanish averaged 300 hundred years each before combinations of Wars, Economics and competing nations shoved them off their places on the stage.

In the latter half of the USA’s time the nation has experienced that heady mix of being the dominant power to whom all others looked for aid, in envy or in competition. If you took one part out of context, say from 1950 to 2010 almost unassailable, although as others before, suffering isolated humiliations and set-backs.

Now comes the testing era.

The time when the USA, as other nations before, is yet again riven with bitter divisions. The turbulence of groups feeling long marginalised looking for equality, set against them a minority who has long and jealousy guarded its ephemeral superiority frantically inventing its own brand of victimisation to justify its stance. The House is Divided. And as is the case when a nation is not united come the rivals. Which is always the case in history as one power weakens another seeking to secure its own boundaries will move in. So come the enigmas of China and Russia, the former a mystery which despite constant pressures over the centuries is never subsumed, the latter a brooding 500 year old nation ever suspicious of all who sees buffer states as a defence. They do not suffer the same depth of division and they see advantages, albeit ones with risks, but nothing in internal diplomacy comes easy.

There never are simple solutions. There never were.

Of course, in this situation the rational response would be for the nation to look to a strong leader, who with a degree of delicate ruthlessness would bring all the squabbling parties together with the message of co-operation. This has sometimes worked in the USA, but in such a young nation still heady with its staunch belief in the independence of the individual and suspicion of central government, this does not come easy and requires a leader of judgement, discernment and one who has steeped themselves in the history of their nation who understands the drives, the fears and the wishes. Not just of a few but of ALL.

Now any nation’s leadership with an ounce of perception is cautious and calculating of the World Stage. They realise a matrix whose complications and interactions allow even one small turbulent state to bring into its circumstances larger powers and cause their downfall. Ask the dead of 1914-1918. Any nations looking for long term prosperity and survival appreciate the worth of allies, agreements and also understandings with nations it does not really care for. It also needs to invest in the goodwill of smaller folk. For as the old showbiz saying goes ‘Be nice on the way up. You’ll never know who you’ll meet on the way down.’

To those who feel a pride in the part the USA played in the reconstruction of the world after WWII there would be a sense of justifiable unease should their nation withdraw from the World Stage. Such vacuums are not filled by large, powerful, esoteric, benevolent groups whose existence can only be imagined in novels. History teaches us only powerful and less than charitable forces are likely to move in. Ask folk of the Middle East about the Sykes-Picot agreement.

Then there is Trade. Never forget Trade. Many was the Empire forged on Trade and not force of arms (apart from imposing will on weaker folk). Trade is, whether any socialist likes it or not, vital to the World Stage.

So, The Internal, The External and The Responsible. All have come calling upon the folk and the leadership of the USA, whether you like it or not. For there is no escaping The World Stage, ask any Aztec or Polynesian.

And to repeat, there are no simple solutions. Ask any professional diplomat of long service.

However, what does the USA have? Through the quirks of its voting system forced through by the fears, the disillusionments and confusions of a mobilised minority led by their vain messianic or scurrilous venal captains. Why, it has a simplistic child of privileged background, whose experience is in the shallow end of the entertainment sector and the nebulous world of high-end property development. A fellow who can only bluster and bully, whose attention span is woefully insubstantial for the World Stage. A person who makes no attempt to unite the nation or negotiate, who can only rant and rage for the entertainment of his voter base. Someone who thinks the World will do as the staff of any of his transitory companies would have done. This person whose legacy will at best be an argument against the Electoral College and a source of employment for historians of the popular sort.

Unto you then, folk of the USA, has come another challenging time. To rid yourselves of this ill-balanced, untalented and deluded group who are not suited to the unchanging complexities of the world. Who have not even bothered to read the History of this World. Those whose petulance, self-aggrandisement and woeful lack of subtlety will only serve to damage the long- term status of the USA. These little folk who pull down the shutters and pretend their train is moving.

U.S. Isolationism: Then and Now — A Guest Post by John Fioravanti

Earlier this week, after Trump spoke to the United Nations General Assembly, and later the Security Council, I asked our Canadian friend, John Fioravanti, if he would be interested in doing a guest post from the perspective of how Trump’s “America First” isolationist policy will affect the rest of the world.  He did me the honour of accepting my request, and so, without further ado, I turn this stage over to John …

U.S. Isolationism: Then and Now

john fioravantiI thank Jill Dennison for her generous invitation to host me on her amazing blog site. Every day I read and enjoy Jill’s posts because she always gives her readers food for thought. I hope my offering below will do the same.
Those of us living outside the USA know how dangerous American isolationism is to world peace and prosperity. The current Trump administration is determined to turn the clock back more than a century in the realms of both domestic and foreign policy. The President emphatically denounced ‘globalism’ in his address to the United Nations General Assembly on September 25th this year. As a retired high school history teacher in Canada, I’d like to enlarge on my first statement that U.S. isolationism is a very dangerous path to follow.

Tuesday, President Trump addressed the United Nations General Assembly.

Some historians would argue that the United States was the most powerful nation on the planet in 1900 but no one knew that yet – not even the Americans themselves. While the great European powers of the day were engaged in a struggle for supremacy and jockeying for the most advantageous position by way of formal alliances, America remained entrenched in her isolationism. Her only concern with the looming European conflict was how it would impact trade and her own economy. Attacks on American shipping by German U-boats in European coastal waters roused the U.S. Congress to declare war in 1917. President Wilson understood that America needed to adopt a global perspective in foreign policy and suggested the creation of the League of Nations at the end of World War I. The idea was embraced by the Allies but the U.S. Congress turned their backs on the world by refusing to ratify the Treaty of Versailles in 1919. Without American participation, the League was doomed to failure. The rise of Hitler, the fall of France, and near-defeat of Britain were not enough to compel Congress to emerge from the comfortable cocoon of isolationism. No, it took a direct attack on U.S. territory in Hawaii by Japan to trigger American entry into World War II in 1941. The costs of that war in blood and money were monumental – not to mention the unleashing of two atomic bombs in 1945 that brought Japan to its knees and ushered in the age of nuclear deterrence. I do not blame the American people for the horrors of these wars – that would be preposterous. However, I do blame the idea of isolationism. The United Nations was established at the end of World War II and survives to this day. It’s main mandate was and is still to prevent a third world war. If America had turned its back on the idea of isolationism in 1919, or America First as it is styled today, would the League of Nations have failed to maintain peace in Europe? We’ll never know, of course, but it is a chilling question nonetheless. For the next seventy-one years after World War II, America turned her back on isolationism and took on the mantle of the global policeman. Her newly-minted atomic weapons gave her the military authority. In 1945 American military power was awe-inspiring and unprecedented in world history. American wealth rebuilt western Europe from the shambles of warfare in order to shore up her Allies. The United Nations, headquartered in New York, became the embodiment of the ascendance of globalism in human affairs. Over the next several decades, the UN established World Courts to bring war criminals to justice all over the globe. The Security Council embraced a Canadian suggestion to create Peacekeepers in order to keep opposing military forces separated in areas of crisis until diplomacy could establish solutions. UN agencies were created to address human suffering from natural disasters as well as from the devastation of local wars. The UN took the lead in supporting policies of freedom and equality throughout the world by taking strong stands against discrimination suffered by women and the LGBT communities. The UN evolved from just a tool to avert another world war to a force for fairness and justice in every aspect of living in the modern world. Isolationism is an ugly policy. It turns a blind eye to the evil that is perpetrated outside of its national borders. In other words, your suffering is none of my business. I am not my brother’s keeper. This is not to say that the American people are ugly. They are not. I have lived beside the United States all of my life and consider us to be like brothers and sisters. Like all siblings, we have our differences, arguments, even fights. Unfortunately, Trump has allowed his distaste for Justin Trudeau to play itself out in the worst way. That is ugly. In a little under two years, the Trump administration has bullied and alienated America’s allies. Trump berated NATO leaders about their levels of contributions to the alliance after President Obama had negotiated a process for those contributions to be increased over time. Many of these same allies are also America’s best trading partners. Trump decided that these partners were treating America unfairly and hammered them with tariffs. He used the same bullying tactics with Mexico and Canada in the talks to update the NAFTA treaty. When Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that Canada would not be bullied by American tariffs, Trump retorted with rhetoric normally reserved for enemy countries. American policies in the Middle East have served to further destabilize an already dangerous part of the world.

Trudeau makes a point while talking to Trump at G7 Summit.

As America withdraws from her traditional role as leader of the free world and alienates her allies, one doesn’t have to look too far into the past to see a likely outcome. America First is driving anti-immigration policy in the Trump administration as well. The people who are being barred from entering the land of freedom and opportunity are refugees from the Middle East, Central America, and South American countries where life has become unbearably dangerous. Trump’s policies are hurting a lot of good people around the world. History has also proved that restricting immigration is self-defeating since many immigrants and children of immigrants have made significant contributions to the growth of technological innovation and the overall economy in the United States.

Steve Jobs, co-founder of the Apple computer, son of a Syrian political science professor.


Many thanks, John, for your words of wisdom … keep that pencil handy, for I may want another soon!  Meanwhile, I have an open stage here and would love to hear from some of my other friends outside the U.S.: Canada, the UK, the Netherlands, Germany … please let me know if you’re interested in contributing a post from your perspective!

A Canadian Perspective – A Guest Post by John Fioravanti

After I opined strongly about Trump’s abominable behaviour toward Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, I began to wonder how the people of Canada viewed the incident.  I asked Canadian friend John if he would write a guest post for me, and he graciously agreed.  Thank you, John!


Trump’s Treatment of Trudeau – A Canadian Perspective

By John Fioravanti

 

For many months since the inauguration of Donald Trump, I have watched him behave poorly as he played to his base of supporters. I am dismayed that his enablers in the GOP party in Congress refuse to exercise their constitutional duty to oversee his decisions that are often based on ignorance of the facts and outright lies. I don’t think Donald Trump has many supporters or admirers in Canada.

Figure 1: President Donald Trump at the G7 Summit 2018

Figure 1: President Donald Trump at the G7 Summit 2018

To be honest, I am a supporter of Canada’s Liberal Party, which is ideologically in line with American Democrats. I voted for our local Liberal candidate and was overjoyed to see Justin Trudeau win a majority government in the House of Commons in October of 2015 – despite the smear campaign launched by the Conservative Party (like the American GOP) that featured many attack ads that belittled Trudeau personally. Trudeau ignored those attacks and ran his campaign on the issues.

Figure 2: Trudeau & Trump at the G7 Summit 2018

Figure 2: Trudeau & Trump at the G7 Summit 2018

It is fair to say that many Canadians were in shock and somewhat uneasy when Donald Trump won the presidency in 2016. His campaign attacks on the NAFTA accord have been unsettling. Free trade has been an economic boon to all three countries involved. Two facts that are irrefutable about our bilateral trade history: one, the USA buys more goods from Canada than from any other country in the world; and two, Canada buys more American goods than from any other country in the world. To say that the collapse of NAFTA would not hurt the US economy is preposterous. However, it would hurt Canada more.

Thinking about our historical relationship with America, I’m reminded of a quote by Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau who was Prime Minister from 1968 to 1984.

“Living next to you is in some ways like sleeping with an elephant. No matter how friendly and even-tempered is the beast, if I can call it that, one is affected by every twitch and grunt.”

Figure 3: Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau 1968-1984

Figure 3: Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau 1968-1984

No country in the world has impacted Canada more than the United States. In the late 18th and 19th Centuries, annexationist American troops invaded Canadian territory during the Revolutionary War and then three times during the War of 1812. After the Civil War, American negotiators demanded that Britain hand over the Canadian colonies in compensation for damages incurred when the British helped the Confederate government. These occurrences bred feelings of unease, suspicion, and outright fear of the United States among Canadians.

In the 20th and 21st Centuries, the relationship changed to a close friendship as we became more than business partners, but also military allies through two world wars, the Cold War, the Korean War, and the War on Terrorism. On 9/11, Canadian airports accepted flights unable to land in the United States. Gander, Newfoundland, a town of just 10,000, residents took almost 7,000 passengers into their homes for five days and treated them like family. The Broadway play “Come From Away” immortalizes this extraordinary act of kindness to total strangers. Canadians and Americans have a shared history in North America and now we have a shared popular culture – it is no wonder that Europeans cannot distinguish us from each other.

I have been a student of history my entire life and in my adult years, my focus has been on Canadian and American history. My second academic passion is the study of politics, so I am fairly familiar with the constitutions of both of our countries. In my lifetime, I witnessed nothing but deference and respect between our Prime Ministers and Presidents. Sometimes friendships sprang up between our leaders when they were ideologically in tune – like Brian Mulroney and Ronald Reagan, and Justin Trudeau and Barack Obama. On the international stage, we have always had each other’s backs.

It is for these reasons that I am shocked and dismayed by Donald Trump’s abysmal behavior towards Justin Trudeau. Yes, I felt personally offended by Trump’s outright lies and insults. At the same time, I felt extremely proud that Trudeau did not respond, in kind, to Trump’s remarks nor to the vile remarks made by Trump’s minions in the aftermath.

Figure 4: Trump warning Trudeau about the PM's remarks at the G7 Summit

Figure 4: Trump warning Trudeau about the PM’s remarks at the G7 Summit

As an aside, my wife, Anne, and I had the good fortune to meet and chat briefly with our former Prime Minister, Paul Martin. He was PM for three brief years before being defeated by Conservative Stephen Harper. Since then, Martin has remained active within the Liberal Party and was a guest advisor at the G7 Summit. When I shared my views about Trudeau’s handling of the G7 fallout from Trump, he nodded sagely and assured me that he would pass that along to Justin Trudeau. It was such a thrill to spend a few moments alone with this kind and generous former prime minister!

Figure 5: Former Prime Minister Paul Martin 2003-2006

Figure 5: Former Prime Minister Paul Martin 2003-2006

My anger and disgust are not aimed at the American people. I understand how Trump operates. I followed the presidential election campaign very closely and I’ve seen how many Americans are also angry and disgusted with him and his abominable tactics. I also understand that Trump was defeated in the popular vote and that he has the approval of a scant 40% according to polls. By the way, Trudeau has the approval of 80% of Canadians according to recent polls for his stand against Trump’s tariffs. I can’t remember the last time a Canadian PM got an 80% approval rating for anything!

Many of my American friends have apologized and are concerned that this trade debacle will do irreparable damage to Canada/US relations. My response is that no apology is necessary – most of the American people did not behave badly. Trudeau and our Foreign Minister, Chrystia Freeland, have continued to work towards a resolution of the tariffs and the NAFTA accord. It is our hope that our American cousins will lobby their Representatives and Senators to dissuade Trump from the path of a trade war with Canada and the other G7 countries.

Figure 6: Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland speaking to reporters in Washington after meeting with members of the Senate after the G7 Summit.

Figure 6: Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland speaking to reporters in Washington after meeting with members of the Senate after the G7 Summit.

Donald Trump will not change. He will continue to behave as he sees fit until the American electorate takes away his majorities in Congress and then removes him as President. I’m losing faith that the Mueller investigation will bring Trump down. I do not think Congress would impeach Trump no matter what Mueller reports. The remedy to the problem of Trump is to be found with the voters of America.

Black History In Ontario – The 19th Century – A Guest Post by John Fioravanti

Today is 28 February … the last day of February and the final day of Black History Month in both the U.S. and Canada.  I have let the ball drop this month, for reasons at least partly beyond my control, but our friend John Fioravanti has helped by sharing with us so much of Canada’s black history!  Last week, I published Part I of John’s guest post, and we thought it fitting to save Part II for the final day of February, to wrap up the month.  I would like to thank John for all the hard work he put into these wonderfully informative posts!  Hey John … what say we do it again next year?

Text dividersPrologue

Upper Canada did not flourish, and Loyalist settlements remained scattered and isolated. Simcoe’s vision of a prosperous, English-speaking province was not shared in London. Britain viewed the fledgling colony as a mere appendage of Lower Canada (Quebec). Simcoe was succeeded by several ineffective British governors in the ensuing years who did little to foster growth in Upper Canada.

In 1812, America declared war on Britain while she was embroiled in a life and death struggle against Napoleon in Europe. For President Madison, Canada looked like easy pickings. Most of the settlers of Upper Canada were former American citizens, and the French in Lower Canada had no great love for their British rulers. America underestimated the determination of the Loyalists and Indigenous Loyalists led by Joseph Brant, and most of the French decided to remain neutral.

The War of 1812-1814 featured many cross-border skirmishes between U.S. Regulars & Militia and British Regulars and Loyalist militia. It eventually ended in a stalemate punctuated by the burning of the government buildings in Toronto by American invaders and the retaliatory burning of the White House in Washington by the British.

Black Volunteers Fight For Britain

In the summer of 1812, Black Loyalist Richard Pierpoint petitioned the government of Upper Canada to raise a company of Black troops to help protect the Niagara frontier. After some debate, the government agreed. A company of Blacks was formed under the command of a White officer, Captain Robert Runchey Sr.

Thousands of Black volunteers fought for the British during the War of 1812. Fearing American conquest (and the return to slavery), many Blacks in Upper Canada served heroically in colored and regular regiments. The British promise of freedom and land united many escaped slaves under the British flag. (See the story of Richard Pierpoint)

In 1813, British Vice-Admiral Alexander Cochrane’s offer of transportation for anyone wanting to leave the United States was widely circulated among the Black population. Four thousand former slaves deserted to the British side and were transported to the British colonies. About 2000 refugees set sail for Nova Scotia from September 1813- August 1816. Canada’s reputation as a haven for Blacks grew substantially during and after the War of 1812. 

Post-War Upper Canada

Between 1815 and 1865, tens of thousands of Blacks in America sought safety and freedom in Upper Canada by way of the Underground Railway. It isn’t easy to find documentation about the Underground Railway because out of necessity it operated under strict secrecy in America – and even in Canada where they wished to avoid border incidents. One notable exception to this in Canada was a contemporary newspaper, the Voice of the Fugitive, which was the first black-owned and -operated newspaper in Upper Canada. It was founded and published in Sandwich / Windsor by Henry Bibb, who escaped, first to Detroit and then to Canada after the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act. The newspaper first appeared on January 1, 1851, and ceased publication in 1854.

Underground RailroadThis excerpt from Daniel Hill’s publication, The Freedom Seekers, outlines the main areas of settlement of Black refugees in Upper Canada (renamed Canada West in 1841).

Daniel Hill, in the “Freedom Seekers,” wrote:

“Before the middle of 19th Century small Black communities were firmly rooted in six areas of Canada West: along the Detroit frontier, that is at Windsor, Sandwich, Amherstburg and their environs; in Chatham and its surrounding area, where the all- Black settlements of Dawn and Elgin were established; in what was then the central section of the province particularly London, the Queen’s Bush, Brantford, and the Black settlement of Wilberforce (now Lucan); along the Niagara Peninsula at St. Catharines, Niagara Falls, Newark (Niagara on the Lake)and Fort Erie; in the larger urban centres on Lake Ontario, that is Hamilton and Toronto; at the northern perimeter of Simcoe and Grey Counties, especially in Oro, Collingwood and Owen Sound. Besides these centres of Black population, small clusters of Blacks, as well as individual Black Families, were settled throughout Canada West.”

Underground RR MapIn Upper Canada, the Underground Railroad fugitives tended to concentrate in settlements, not because of government policy but for the sake of mutual support and protection against white Canadian prejudice and discrimination and American kidnappers – looking for rewards for returning fugitive slaves to their American owners. The fugitive blacks who had arrived in Upper Canada via the Underground Railroad typically arrived destitute, and without government land grants were usually forced to become laborers on the lands of others, although some farmed their own land successfully, and some worked for the Great Western Railway.

In their concentrated settlements, the early Blacks had the opportunity to retain cultural characteristics and create a distinct community. Styles of worship, music and speech, family structures and group traditions developed in response to the conditions of life in Canada. The chief institutional support was the separate church, usually Baptist or Methodist, created when white congregations refused to admit blacks as equal members.

The churches’ spiritual influence pervaded daily life and affected the vocabulary, routines, and ambitions of their members. Inevitably, they assumed a major social and political role and the clergy became the natural community leaders. The many fraternal organizations, mutual-assistance bands, temperance societies and antislavery groups formed by 19th-century Blacks were almost always associated with one of the churches. In the 20th century, the churches led the movement for greater educational opportunity and civil rights.

In slavery, Black women were forced to work to support themselves, and economic circumstances perpetuated this tradition in Canada. Black women have always played an important economic role in family life and have experienced considerable independence as a result. Raised in a communal fashion, frequently by their grandparents or older neighbors, Black children developed family-like relationships throughout the local community. A strong sense of group identity and mutual reliance, combined with the unique identity provided by the churches, produced an intimate community life and a refuge against white discrimination.

Buxton School.jpg

Buxton School

During the 19th century, British and American societies established schools for blacks throughout Ontario. In addition, the governments of both Nova Scotia and Ontario created legally segregated public schools. Although almost every black community had access to either a charity or a public school, funding was inadequate, and education tended to be inferior. When combined with residential isolation and economic deprivation, poor schooling helped to perpetuate a situation of limited opportunity and restricted mobility. In 1965 the last segregated school in Ontario closed.

My hope is that this overview of Black history in Upper Canada during the late 18th and early 19th Centuries will serve to illustrate that this has been a story of desperate circumstances punctuated by great accomplishments by heroes who bravely struggled to survive and thrive in an often, less than hospitable environment. I’ve heard it said by a Black Canadian who has lived both in Canada and the United States that Black Canadians and Black Americans are quite different. They live in their respective countries for different reasons. As well, American Blacks are approximately 13% of their country’s population, but Canadian Blacks are just 4% of Canada’s population – a visible minority and an almost invisible minority.

The plight of Black Canadians was aided by urbanization – which led to desegregated opportunities – and the influx of thousands of immigrants from the Caribbean. I wish I could report that racism and discrimination aimed at Black Canadians is a thing of the past but that is simply not true. Happily, segregation of the races was not entrenched in Canadian law as it was in America. Tragically, many Caucasian Canadians suffer from the same cultural White supremacy tendencies that presently exist in other predominantly White countries.

A  million thanks, John, for these guest posts, and for the ones you have so generously allowed me to share throughout the month!