Saturday, September 17, 2022

Monday mourning : The British Monarchy still exists.

The Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, announced on September 13'th that September 19, 2022, will be a National Day of Mourning in Canada. Some Canadian provinces and some workplaces are also observing this day.

I won't be morning the death of a person, but the ongoing existence of the British Monarchy -- the symbol of the British Empire.

At its height it was the largest empire in history and, for over a century, was the foremost global power. By 1913 the British Empire held sway over 412 million people, 23 per cent of the world population at the time, and by 1920 it covered 35.5 million km2 (13.7 million sq mi), 24 per cent of the Earth's total land area. (Wikipedia)

While many other monarchies have been appropriately abolished, Britain did something entirely different which was to re-brand their monarchy and colonies to claim that they were decolonizing. The "Royal Family", as well as being a corporation protected from taxes and liabilities other corporations would not, has been actively involved in that re-branding : including using the claim that it was a "Family" and had values similar to a family. This is the ongoing existence of an institution responsible for the greatest amount of colonialism and genocide our species have ever experienced, which has never been held accountable for any of its atrocities.

There is a claim the monarchy is only ceremonial, and doesn't have any power. This is how powerful the propaganda has been:  This is a corporation whose stolen wealth is "inherited" by future members of "the firm", and which has considerable sway on the policy of many subsidiaries of the British Empire. The policy that was put in place by the Monarchy may have been signed by an individual that has been dead for centuries, but the policy and the Monarchy still exist institutionally.  The monarchy is not about individuals but institutions : and it is the same institution, with its policies still enacted and promoted globally. The constitutions of several countries would have to radically change in order to ignore a royal proclamation, even at this date - creating an international policy and constitutional vulnerability that should have been closed decades or even centuries ago.

Queen Elizabeth II was the longest-lived British monarch, and oversaw the bulk of the re-branding. Even as an individual she was not guilt free, both for what she did and for the many things she did not do which any moral individual observing the suffering caused by that institution would work to resolve.

German Reich was the constitutional name for the German nation state that existed from 1871 to 1945. (Wikipedia). While it is discussed as having three periods, I don't hear about Germans or peoples of regions invaded by this empire celebrating it. It may be remembered that way because they lost two wars where allies from across the world were drawn in (The so-called "World Wars").  The loss of these wars is the reason for the three periods: 1871–1918, 1918–1933, 1933–1945.  The fallout of the first world war lead to the rise of nationalism in Germany and multiple elections of the Nazi  Party.

Not having lost those wars doesn't excuse the ongoing existence or celebration of the British Empire or British Monarchy. These institutions are not examples of the "good guys" winning -- for these wars and even the treatment of European Jews by European Christians, there were no "good guys", just a winner who were able to brand themselves as heroes.

See also: What does being a Canadian mean to me?

Saturday, September 3, 2022

A call to action for fellow French descendants in "North America"

While my Irish and Scottish ancestors came to this continent relatively recently (1800's, only 3-5 generations ago), my French ancestors have been on this continent for much longer. How much longer I don't know, as I have not yet done the more detailed genealogy work, but I'm told the family names of Hébert, De Rainville , Payette, Beauchere have been on this continent for quite some time.

As part of my antiracism learning I was led to anticolonialism, and from there became interested in the unique ways in which some settler groups see themselves and their relationship to this continent and its peoples. Some settlers go so far as to believe they are Indigenous, or victims of colonialism on this continent.

Distorted Descent:
White Claims to Indigenous Identity (2019)

I'm told that most of my ancestors, in one way or the other, saw themselves as victims of the British Empire.

For Ireland and Scotland, the reasoning is obvious, given part of Ireland and all of Scotland is offensively still considered part of the so-called "United Kingdom". I am strongly supportive of the reunification of Ireland, and for the sovereignty of Scotland, even though I do not have citizenship or other close kinship ties to either Nation.

With my French ancestors it is more complex. While Britain and France fought several wars against each other as well as on the same side against a third party, Britain does not control any part of France. What the feeling about the British Empire come from is the colony of New France, previously part of the French Empire.

(For a quick refresher on the history, see: What does being a Canadian mean to me?)


Darryl Leroux is an Associate Professor in the Department of Social Justice and Community Studies at Saint Mary’s University. An area of focus has been the the dynamics of racism and colonialism among fellow French descendants. His 2019 book "Distorted Descent: White Claims to Indigenous Identity" puts together many of the dynamics I wanted to understand. He maintains to help educate people on these issues.

The last page contains what I feel to be a call to action to all fellow French descendants on this continent.

As French descendants, we have been told from a young age that we are the (only) victims of British colonialism, despite the fact that our ancestors colonized significant parts of what we generally call Canada and the United States for a century and a half prior to falling under British dominion. During this time, our forebears not only enslaved African and Indigenous peoples and actively displaced and dispossessed Indigenous peoples across a wide swatch of the continent, but benefited from broader French mercantilist policies that turned the French Antilles into one of the most brutally violent slave societies the world has ever known. Our belief that we are the only legitimate victims of (British) colonialism continues to be a major stumbling block to building meaningful social movements dedicated to combating French-descendant forms of racism and colonialism.


My wife's parents are Hindu Bengalis from India. I also believe it is incorrect for loyalists of the Mughal Empire to claim the eventual end of their occupation of India was an act of "colonialism" by the Swedish, Dutch, Danish, French, Portuguese or British colonialism. Indigenous India was the victim of all this colonialism, and all these empires were (some still are) perpetrators of colonialism. Which perpetrator "won" a given campaign/war/etc to claim to be the current colonial occupation does not make loyalists of any of the "losing" colonial powers a victim of colonialism.