June 25, 1999 Halifax Herald

Forked tongue - Fitzgerald style

Years ago, I read the findings of an obscure commission that had been set up by a white colonial government in either the 18th or 19th century for the purpose of determining what the Black and Red people were. I've long since misplaced the piece and therefore cannot cite its conclusions word for word. However, I recall the gist of what it concluded: that the Black People were domestic animals and that the Red People were wild animals.

In regards to the conclusion that Black People were domestic animals, I'll restrict my comments to this: Because of white supremacist's attitudes, Blacks suffered unholy hell as slaves and, after their so-called emancipation, the indignities of strict segregation.

Let’s now turn to the Commission's conclusion that the Red People were wild animals for in-depth comment. Caused by European racist attitudes, such as those displayed by the Commission, untold millions of Natives were slaughtered during the colonization of the Americas by Europeans. The most powerful Nations on Mother Earth used every means available to them to bring many lightly armed First Nations to extinction and others to the doorstep of it. The Mi'kmaq were fortunate in the sense that, after the dust had settled, there were still enough alive to carry the race forward. Deceit and forked tongues were used extensively by colonial officials when carrying out the genocide.

In addition to the lies that lured many of them to their deaths, the Red People were lied to about other matters as a matter of policy by colonial officials during those bloody centuries. For instance, promises were made to them that most of their lands would be saved for them. This promise was so well kept that, today, many have practically no land left; i.e., the Mi'kmaq have only about 29,000 acres. The word of colonial officials when contracting with First Nations was worthless.

Perhaps this statement made by Governor Edward Cornwallis in a memo to the Lords of Trades and Plantations in London, when reporting his efforts to make peace treaties with the Mi'kmaq, best portrays English officialdom's insincerity when making supposedly honourable contracts with Native Peoples: “tho, Treaties with Indians are nothing, nothing but force will prevail.” If an ethical person can see anything honourable in his words, they would have to be blessed with the imagination needed to write fairy tales.

From Cornwallis's era, let’s skip ahead to 1999 to review a piece of insincerity displayed by Walter Fitzgerald, Mayor of Halifax Regional Municipality. The Mayor laid the basis for his deception when he wrote a letter dated February 1, 1999, to Don Julien, Executive Director of the Confederacy of Mainland Micmacs, apologizing for the atrocities committed against the Mi'kmaq by Cornwallis and Council. His words: “While we cannot change history, I sincerely apologise for any atrocities which were committed against the Mi'kmaq after the founding of Halifax in 1749.”

Walter uses the word “sincere” in his memo. Following is the meaning, as defined by the New World Dictionary of the American Language. You judge whether his actions fit the description:

“Sincere: 1. without deceit, pretence, or hypocrisy; truthful; straightforward; honest in his desire to help 2. being the same in actual character as in outward appearance; genuine; real; 3. not adulterated; 4, uninjured; whole.”

Fitzgerald, by making the following pronouncements, indicates that he has learned from his colonial predecessors how to practice insincerity very well in his dealings with the Mi'kmaq. On June 21, after passing out pieces of Halifax's birthday cake to various dignitaries, including an actor dressed up to depict Edward Cornwallis, he replied in response to a question from reporters about why such a character was there after he had promised the Mi'kmaq that there wouldn't be one: “The Mi'kmaq tribes killed a lot of white people, probably more than we did...” When reminded by a reporter that Cornwallis had put a bounty on the heads of the Mi'kmaq, including women and children, he responded, “I think he did, I'm not sure about that.'”

Why did the Mayor make an insincere apology? As far as I can determine, it was done for a reason that is indefensible: to prevent our people from protesting the honouring of Cornwallis during the anniversary celebrations. Based on the before-mentioned developments, what other conclusion can a reasonable person reach?

Now let’s return to the Commission's conclusion that First Nations peoples were wild animals. The way that we are treated by many today indicates that the Commission's ungodly, indefensible conclusion is not entirely dead. When excuses are made, and believed, that trying to wipe out a race of people is not a crime against humanity and condemnable because the people victimized were Red People, what else can one conclude?

The slaughter of defenceless, innocent people during warfare is the work of barbarians and thus inexcusable. By putting a bounty on the heads of the Mi'kmaq, including the elderly, women and children, with the intention of wiping out the race, Cornwallis crossed the line of human decency. That is, if one subscribes to the reality that the Mi'kmaq are human. Of course, if one agrees with the uncivilized conclusion of the Commission that the Red People are nothing but wild animals, then no conscience, except those of wildlife protectors, need be disturbed. Walter, where do you fit!

Daniel N. Paul


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