Independent Novel Study Speech

What is Canadian Identity? Who defines it? Who records it? Who writes it?
To many, this is the job of writers, historians, artists. And, for many years, this honor has fell to the first Canadian female to win the Nobel Literature prize, the three-time winner of Governor General’s prize for literature, a knight of the Order of the Arts and Letters. A poor farm girl from rural Ontario, a starving university student, a housewife, a mother, a divorcee, and then, a world famous author. Alice Munro.

In Writing Her Lives, by Robert Thacker, we learn about of one of the powerhouses of Canadian Fiction and short story writing. Through Munro’s stories, she proved that there was no “right way” to be a Canadian author, and she defined Canadian Literature at a crucial turning point in the publishing world. Her stories detailed small town Canadian life in a brutal, messy style, the epitome of Southern Ontario Gothic. Her stories chronicled, spoke, and defined Canadian literature, and in that, Canadian identity.

The year was 1970. Paranoia and fear ran rampant in the Canadian publishing community. Ryerson Press, a cornerstone of Canadian publishing, had just been bought by McGraw Hill, an American firm. Would this move swallow Canadian authors, remove their culture and patriotism, assimilate our nation into American ideals and values? What was needed a change, a group of authors to shepherd Canada into a new golden age of literature, where Canadian values and Canadian lives, chronicled in artfully crafted stories, would reach not just Canadian audiences, but audiences worldwide. The three Margaret’s, as they were called, filled this niche. Margaret Atwood, Margaret Laurence, and ironically, not a Margaret, but an Alice: Alice Munro.

Alice Munro grew up poor in the Huron Valley, in a little town called Wingham. Her father was an entrepreneur, a fox farmer that had fallen on hard times, and her mother was a former teacher turned housewife. She grew up poor, and no one had any expectations for her. She won a scholarship to Western Ontario University for two years, and after the money ran out, she married James Munro, and they moved to Vancouver, far, far away from Alice’s familiar Ontario. She never had much time for writing, as she raised four young daughters. She always felt out of place, constrained by her role as a housewife and mother, an unfamiliar setting where she lived yet never felt at home.
She published sporadically, but never reached her potential. She was fighting constantly with her husband, and was never content with the life everyone wanted for, a life trapped in the constraints of domesticity and motherhood. It was time for her to break the mold. Divorce was only just beginning to be accepted, along with self-sufficient women. Taking a leap of faith, Alice was both of these: adapting to difficult conditions and circumstances, a true Canadian. She became a writer-in-residence, a professor, taking odd jobs to provide for herself and her daughters, all the while churning out stories to become a Canadian literary powerhouse. Alice Munro used her strength, determination, and skill to reach the status of a legendary author, upsetting norms and proving that a women could make it big.

See, Alice Munro was no ordinary author. Her work unexpectedly explored the human condition through characters that are quintessential to everyday life: a mother returning home after a death of a loved one, a teenaged girl after a school dance, a housewife longing for more. Alice Munro’s stories were packed full of detail, ordinary and simple people and places and events that forced a reckoning in the lives of the characters. Each story says something about broader social norms, about the people and places that inhabit everyday life, that inhabit Canada. Alice Munro defines and redefines Canadian Identity through provocative works of fiction, and while the stories are not autobiographical, they are personal, showing her unique insight into the function of society and it’s norms at a time when Canada was beginning to redefine itself.

John A Macdonald: Founding Fraud?

Our views of historical figures are often spurious, their flaws forgotten with time, and we remember them only for the good they created, not the bad. John A. Macdonald is an example of this trend. We remember him for “unifying” Canada, but not for shaping it into an egocentric vanity project, which he meticulously designed to mimic Great Britain. He took away the right to vote from ethnic Chinese-Canadians because he feared their views would be conducive to building a white-nationalist state. He attempted to mold Canada into another Great Britain through exclusionary policies based on race. Canada should remove John A. Macdonald from the public sphere because of his biases and moral failings.
Contrary to popular belief, before the Electoral Franchise Act (which prevented Chinese people from voting), naturalized Chinese Canadians had the right to vote. John A. Macdonald was the only member of Parliament “to argue that Asians and Europeans were different species” and “it had taken Macdonald two years to get his legislation through the house” (Stanley). Views deeply ingrained in society don’t create such outrage and opposition. This insistence on integrating “biological racism” into Canadian law was perhaps the only piece of domestic policy that Macdonald insisted on. Faced with controversy when he tabled a bill to allow women to vote, Macdonald folded quickly and easily. If this bill had been merely a result of public opinion, he would not have pursued it to the extent that he did. His persistence in excluding Chinese-Canadians was a result of a personal bias, in which he tried to mold Canada into another England, to exclude and alienate those that didn’t share so-called “British instincts”. His prejudice against any non-white citizens represents the intolerance that he based so many of his policy decisions on, ingraining racism into Canadian society where it wasn’t before. Macdonald represents the dark side of Confederation and colonialism, further demonstrating that we should not worship him with statues and tributes, and thus remove him and his name from the public sphere.

Contrary to this point, some say that John A. Macdonald’s views were merely a reflection of the time. They justify his biased policies because these policies were based on views that were deeply embedded into Canada’s culture: this was just the way things were back then. This was not the case. John A. argued that the Chinese would control the vote in the new province of British Columbia, so he set out to ban these people from participating in the electoral system, even though the opposition argued “the Chinese were ‘industrious people’ who had “voted in the last election'” This bill was designed to prevent Chinese Canadians from voting, and it created controversy. John A. Macdonald’s views were clearly not simply a result of his time, but rather a personal one that unjustly influenced his political decisions.

Macdonald undoubtedly changed Canada; however, these changes were not positive. His leading role in denying the Chinese the right to vote opened the door for other exclusionary, unfair acts based on race. He created a legacy of division and discrimination that exists even to this day. John A. Macdonald’s checkered past does not make him a good role model for this country and statues of him “would be better suited for a museum” (Olivier). Removing John A. Macdonald from public spaces does not mean minimizing his contributions to building Canada, but is merely calling attention to the problematic actions whose impacts we still see in modern day Canada.

Works Cited
Gray, Charlotte. “We Need to Widen Our Views.” Library and Archives Canada, 2019, pp. 25–27.
Hopper, Tristin. “Sure, John A. Macdonald Was a Racist, Colonizer and Misogynist – but so Were Most Canadians Back Then.” National Post, 24 Jan. 2015, nationalpost.com/news/canada/sure-john-a-macdonald-was-was-a-racist-colonizer-and-misogynist-but-so-were-most-canadians-back-then.
Oliver, Annabelle. “Activists Deface Statue of Sir John A. Macdonald in Downtown Montrea lActivists Deface Statue of Sir John A. Macdonald in Downtown Montreal.” CBC News.
“Sir John A. Macdonald.” The Canadian Encyclopedia, www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/sir-john-alexander-macdonald.
Stanley, Timothy J. “John A Macdonald and the Invention of White Supremecy in Canada.” Ebsco Host, 2014,
web.b.ebscohost.com/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=0&sid=6c1c12ba-dedd-4515-90d7-c9eb5b8a54c0%40sessionmgr103.

In-Depth #6

Update:
Today I, alongside Grace, met with Cassidy and Payten at SFU. We checked traps, got a chance to look at the breeding room, where they grow flies, hold maggots, and identify different types of flies using a dissecting microscope. Grace and I also met up on Friday during the pro-d to plan our learning center, and reach out to Cassidy.
Concepts:
– Justice (examining evidence to find the perpetrator)
– Categorization (sorting evidence, classifying insects, etc.)
– Meticulousness (attention to detail needed to fully examine the crime scene)
– Security (evidence needs to be protected, the criminal must be prevented from future crimes)
Alternatives:
– When one categorizes different insects, there is usually more than one way of determining the subspecies. In the reference guide Grace and I used, there was one option that was underlined, meaning it was the most prominent/visible/unique option, but one or two other options was listed as well. This is in case you can’t find the feature, so it gives you a backup. However, sometimes this secondary feature is not unique to the fly species, so it is preferable to use the main one.
– Grace and I were also able to offer some alternatives to Cassidy for her traps, because she found she wasn’t catching as many flies up at SFU, so we suggested to shrink the hole in which the flies could enter.
– Another mentor might have offered more specialization or a different set of skills, but with the connections that Grace and I established we were able to gain a pretty broad view of forensics as a whole.

Learning Center:
For our learning center, Grace and I are going to create a mock crime scene and take the visitors through it so they have a chance to interact with different parts of it. We will have a “body” , which we are making out of paper mache and duct tape, and different evidence markers, as well as photographs, fingerprinting, degree day calculations, and a board on myths and wrongful convictions. Grace and I will take people through this mock crime scene, pointing out elements and teaching skills along the way. I hope the audience will learn something about forensics while also having a good time.