Education Minister Adriana LaGrange announces the curriculum changes yesterday morning (Photo: Screenshot of Alberta Government video).

Wherever one may fall on the question of traditional arithmetic versus the kinds of new math that frustrate many parents or the value of phonetics over other ways to learn to read, there’s not much chance many Albertans will be pleased with the changes to the kindergarten to Grade 6 social studies curriculum introduced by the Kenney Government yesterday.

Well, that’s not quite true. A tiny cohort of European cultural chauvinists, residential school deniers, and Christian Dominionists may be happy with the highly politicized document tabled by Education Minister Adriana LaGrange.

One of the few available photos of Christian P. Champion, Premier Kenney’s favourite historian (Photo: Twitter, origin unknown).

And one or two right-wing columnists may be prepared to abase themselves in the service of Premier Jason Kenney and his United Conservative Party by praising the draft, which appears to have been heavily influenced by textbooks written in the United States and the colonialist nostalgia of the premier’s favourite historian, the aptly named Christian P. Champion.

But few other Albertans are likely to be pleased to see grade school curricula that makes our province out to be the sort of cultural backwater that reminds startled readers of Arkansas – a comparison almost certainly unfair to the Natural State.

Those displeased won’t just be parents who would like to see their children educated for the present century, patriotic Canadians shocked that all references to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms have been deleted in favour of potted U.S. history, and secular citizens unenthusiastic about patronizing Christian triumphalism that would seem out of place even in contemporary Catholic schools.

“The religious affiliation of most Albertans is Christian,” the document piously intones. And while “there is growing ethnic and religious diversity in the population” and “freedom of religious practice is encouraged … acceptance comes less easily – in part, because newcomers bring new and unfamiliar religious faiths and practices.” (Emphasis added.)

Any Albertan who doesn’t want to be mocked as one of the embarrassing cousins of Confederation outside the province is going to be humiliated every time this nonsense comes up.

The draft is so far over the top in places and so obviously at variance with prevailing thinking among professional educators that one has to wonder if it’s evidence of someone’s pathological urge to get away with something monumentally outrageous just so they could say they did.

Notwithstanding Ms. LaGrange’s claim in the government’s press release the document is “the result of more than a year of consultations with parents, teachers, and subject matter experts,” no curriculum experts appear to have been consulted. 

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Those subject matter experts will be the group of eight men added at the 11th hour by the UCP to help change the revisions to the province’s curriculum that were almost complete when the Kenney Government was elected. Mr. Kenney had accused the NDP of imposing its ideology on the curriculum, a baseless claim that ignored the curriculum review’s Progressive Conservative roots, and vowed to put it “through the shredder.”

The draft even has a megalomaniacal insider joke, in a passing mention of jazz, when the Canadian musician emphasized was the mostly forgotten Mart Kenney (and his Western Gentlemen), our own premier’s grandfather. Sadly, I didn’t make that up.

Well, maybe the curriculum’s heavy emphasis on 18th and 19th Century American history is intended to prepare the citizens of the Republic of Alberta, the dream of some UCP MLAs, for their transition to U.S. citizenship in the aftermath of the great post-independence petro-bankruptcy. 

Who can tell? Certainly some of Dr. Champion’s best-known hobbyhorses appear to have influenced the draft: his dismissal of First Nations history as “an ongoing fad” and “agitprop,” for example, his determination not to allow children to be turned into “little SJWs,” and his preference for colonial flags and symbols over those of modern Canada.

Not-quite-forgotten musician Mart Kenney, the premier’s grandfather (Photo: 1940s promo handout, via the Vancouver Sun).

Having attacked the NDP for the review, Mr. Kenney may have felt he had to come up with something demonstrably different. This, at least, should meet that criterion! 

Since the simple explanation is usually the right one, the draft’s emphasis on U.S. over Canadian history mostly likely suggests lazy reliance on American textbooks as the government rushed to complete its rewrite of the previous more thoughtful draft. 

There remains a lot of material to go through.

As Edmonton Public Schools Trustee Bridget Stirling observed, “I need to sit down with the full draft, but it looks to me like the K-6 curriculum is more out of date than if we’d just reimplemented the one I learned under in the 1980s. Our province is becoming a backwards laughingstock.”

Some of Grande Prairie’s Catholic teachers were not so diplomatic, calling the social studies curriculum “jaw-droppingly, wildly misguided” on Facebook, not to mention “batshit crazy.”

And we haven’t even discussed the science curriculum, which advises telling Grade 3 students that “the Earth is warming up due to a range of causes.” 

Brace yourselves. 

Join the Conversation


  1. I feel it is as if those in the Sky Palace bunker realize their chances to be re-elected are diminishing considerably and in a somewhat related note, they are further losing touch with reality.

    Perhaps it is because they don’t like reality or modern times much, but this curriculum seems like it could have come out of an old British Imperial textbook and the pages of the Western Report.

    However this will do little to reassure most mainstream Albertans that their government is not being run by a bunch of out of touch kooks who have no clear idea of what they are doing. This document seems to be, as the saying goes, bs crazy.

  2. I agree with some of your criticisms, but I think you’re being unfair about others, and about the overall quality of the draft curriculum. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms IS in there, though it admittedly doesn’t get much more space than the charter of the Hudson’s Bay Company. That’s probably not ideal, but the fact remains that the draft curriculum does include plenty of Canadian history, even if comparisons to the US are a bit overemphasised. The draft also doesn’t shrink from discussing the Komagata Maru, slavery in New France, and, yes, residential schools. So it’s neither a product of mass borrowing from US textbooks nor a work of rose-tinted “colonial nostalgia”, at least not by and large. The draft can certainly be criticised on many specific points, and I hope it will be (there’s a form that one can use to provide feedback), but it’s hardly “monumentally outrageous” as a whole.

    1. Well, I can’t claim to have read every word of the document. This is the problem with news – if you’re going to report it, you have to skim. That said, the document is mostly drivel, weirdly focused on U.S. history (you’ve seen my speculation as to why) and pedagogically unsound. You don’t have to be a curriculum expert to see that. The thing that actually irritated me the most in the document, which I deemed to be too insignificant to mention without running over 1,000 words, but which I will mention here, has to do with responsible government. It claims, incorrectly, that both the United States and Canada have responsible government, clearly indicating the authors don’t understand what that phrase means. (Readers of this blog are expected to, so I won’t run on about that.) It mentions separation of powers elsewhere, but it’s also unclear the authors properly understand that term. To borrow a phrase, this document deserves to be run through a shredder. DJC

      1. I actually remember my grade six teachers because a few of them were memorable. That’s what motivated me to read through this strange and oddly, “post truth” social studies for grade six curriculum. Leaving aside the fact that our current government is if nothing else adept at the basics of gerrymander, including when it comes to playing the long game using education as the ball in play, I came away somewhat relieved. Why? Because the best of my teachers back in my day often ignored the curriculum and only “taught to the test” to help us move forward while actually “teaching” most of the rest of the year. Subversive? I guess so in the context of our current dysfunctional game of pitting public, separate and charter schools against one another on carefully designed independent playing fields while leveraging senseless gamesmanship amongst them to benefit those who need to divide to conquer! I trust the good teachers to bring something more to very young people who are no different from me when I was embarking on my voyage! Too bad the people in control couldn’t have released the reigns on the curriculum. We’ll get through it though. Kids are not programmable chips!

      2. That’s a fair point about the draft curriculum’s overly expansive use of “responsible government”. In some places the phrase is deployed correctly, but there’s also this howler of a sentence, pertaining to the Magna Carta:

        “The common people (noble citizens) secured democratic rights and responsible government.”

        So the document is a long way from perfect – no argument there – but I do think “mostly drivel” and “deserves to be run through a shredder” are a bit harsh. It strikes me as more like an interesting but flawed work in progress that will hopefully be refined.

      3. I answered a question “What is responsible government?” on Quora (a question-answering social media site). Another answer by an American claiming to have a degree in political science was incorrect, saying it was government which handled its duties responsibly. I’ve known better since high school, but your assumption as to how widely the term is understood may be optimistic.

        1. The Americans have a very different view of responsible government, i have found in conversations. They view their government as the enemy most of the time it seems. We may distrust our government, but we don’t see them as the enemy (usually)

      4. Re “responsible government”: after the past four years that came to an end Jan 20th, it occurred to me that the Benighted States have irresponsible government.

  3. Gotta bring up all them little white kids of Alberta right and prepare them to be overlords because Jesus. The swarms of brown immigrants can have all the lowly jobs, be expendable and practise their godless religions away from right-thinking people, while their children get a dose of why they’re inferior right in school! Papa Doc kenney at his finest, channelling his inner Pat Robertson. One problem, ultra capitalist and foreign-hater Robertson does believe in climate change and global warming, but that’s a mere bagatelle inconvenience in the grand scheme of turning Albertan kids into SS cadets, while they practise kicking and bullying racialized minorities in school without consequence. Time for all reasonable-thinking people to get the fuck out of Alberta. The place is beyond a joke. To stay is to acquiesce to state-sponsored hate, and that turned out so well for the normal citizens of the Weimar Republic, eh?

  4. Please, why are students going to study 1940s bandleader Matt Kenney, when Canadian children raised on a previous curriculum known as the “100th Anniversary of Conservation” are far more familiar with Kenney’s former colleague and more famous counterpart, Bobby Gimby, AKA the “Pied Piper of Canada”?

    Will rewriting history to place Kenney’s gramps first and foremost in the minds of Alberta children compensate for some kind of previously-unknown, simmering grudge match, Team Kenney’s Angry Gang vs. Team Gimby’s Happy Gang? I’ll bet that a generation of Canadians who grew up singing C-A-N-A-D-A are on the side of Team Gimby. Nothing is going to change that. I choose Happy over Angry. Team Kenney will never get to wear the cape.

    1. It hadn’t occurred to me that this might be something prompted by a Gimby-Kenney rivalry. My assumption is that this was an effort by someone to suck up to Premier Kenney. As for why there is no mention of a genuine Canadian jazz great with a far higher public profile that Mart Kenney, say Oscar Peterson, we can only speculate. DJC

    1. Oddly, last night I considered including a line about how Mart Kenney was born atop Mount Paektu. Too, obscure, I thought. Now I know there’s at least one reader who would have caught the joke. DJC

  5. Alberta vs Finland

    Arwa Mahdawi. THE GUARDIAN 30 March 2021

    “In 2014, after an increase in disinformation from Russia, the government embedded media literacy in the national curriculum. Starting in primary school, kids learn the critical thinking skills needed to parse the modern information ecosystem. Students learn how easy it is to manipulate statistics in their maths lessons, for example. They learn how to distinguish satire from conspiracy theories in their Finnish lessons. They look at how images can be used for propaganda in art class. “

    1. Oh, how I WISH we had a government that smart and that brave in Alberta. Rachel Notley, are you listening?

    2. They want the kids to be fooled by propaganda. No chance they would teach that. I’m just extremely annoyed the NDP didn’t implement the new curriculum they were working on.

  6. Aha!

    Bobby Gimby’s songs were about uniting nations by communicating through children.

    The Mart Kenney krusade? I guess we’ll find out, in due course.

    “The song was regarded as a unity anthem for a deeply divided Canada.

    “Maybe the secret is the capacity to feel the heart and the pulse of a nation, and to communicate that feeling to the whole nation, through children,” Lynn said of her father’s magic.”

  7. I’m confused. Is this the same UCP government that recently accused Netflix of using an animated movie to brainwash children against the energy industry and complained about how manipulative and deceitful it is to use children that way? I think it is. Also, I feel that I’ve seen this tactic of accusing those you disagree with of doing the very thing that you are attempting to do yourself used by another government somewhere. Quite recently in fact. Never mind. I’m sure it will come to me after the kids and I finish watching The Bigfoot Family.

    1. You refer to the gaslighting technique of projection: accuse others of doing what you yourself are doing.

      Now here’s a movie that should be shown to all seven-year-olds in Alberta, since they also have the ability to understand concepts like freedom and democracy, and the works of Plato and Aristotle, apparently.

    2. I firmly believe that every right-wing politician uses the tactic of “accusing those you disagree with of doing the very thing you are attempting to do yourself.” It’s like the Republicans and their Conservative wannabes hate when anyone else borrows from their playbook–or looks like they might try.

      Oh, in addition–the further Right they are, the more blatant their use of the “You’re stealing our tactics!” trick.

  8. Dave as you say – jaw droppingly misguided.

    “acceptance comes less easily – in part because newcomers bring new and unfamiliar religious faiths and practices”

    The statement is both incorrect and troubling. Many religious faiths and practices pre date those brought by European settlers. There appears to be a message in this document inferring that it is acceptable to tolerate non acceptance of newcomers if they delay or forgo assimilation to the “The religious affiliation of most Albertans…”

    Intolerance thrives.

    1. Yes, it does imply that it’s acceptable to tolerate non-acceptance of newcomers if they don’t adopt “our” ways immediately. It also indicates that in the view of the curriculum authors any bullying or discrimination of newcomers by established Canadians is the fault of the newcomers. It would be troubling if someone in an official capacity said something like this. That it forms part of primary school curricula the the imprimatur of the government is outrageous. DJC

  9. You just got to know they are doing something correct when dipper propagandists get to intone “racists” 3 or 4 times in the prologue.

    1. BRET LARSON: The reality is there. There is the Social Credit, Reform and Wildrose element in the UCP. There is nothing correct about it. It’s pretty difficult to deny the well known beliefs of Christian Champion, Paul Bunner and Grant Hunter. The Wildrose had so many reasons why they were defeated. One of them was the refusal to deal with racist remarks made by their candidates, such as Ron Leech and Bill Jarvis. The UCP’s K-6 curriculum revision has flaws it it, and some need to take off their blue coloured glasses.

    2. Bret, your comments on these ‘worst’ blogs would be more useful if they were actually substantive. But I gather that isn’t your intent.

      1. Unfortunately, you can only work with what youre provided. Communication is a dual responsibility. When the start is religious = racist and the like, then there is very little engagement possible beyond the one finger salute.

        eg. from the above. “A tiny cohort of European cultural chauvinists, residential school deniers, and Christian Dominionists may be happy with the highly politicized document”

        Anyways, I was busy getting the CBC to open commenting on their propaganda/ advertising piece. Speaking of which, CBC is a great place to peer into the NDP soul. Against this curriculum, a website and 7500 signatures in a day, plus an attack add paid for by the mother corp. So while the UCP are trying to make thing better, the NDP are aligning their allies in the government unions with their fat wallets to undermine democracy with their union bank roll.

        And, the punchline straight from the CBC story, “It does upset me,” she said of the proposals. “It doesn’t appear to be a bipartisan curriculum.”

        Schools shouldnt be the place to train the political activists of the future.

        It begs the question, should children be subject to being taught primarily by government union employees?

    3. “Doing something correct…” That’s the point isn’t it? The Jason Kenney UCP have been at the helm for over two years and they have yet to get anything right. They got ideologically involved in the opoid crisis, where record numbers of Albertans are dying, shut down the safe injection sites ( proven to save lives) and came up with a cell phone app. Hard to believe … a cell phone app for addicts. One word describes Ridiculous.

  10. The people who are running society shouldn’t be. Provincial, Federal, Corporate, Legal, Policing, you name it, if there is a meaningful lever of power there is a card carrying two-bit clock-punching Little Eichmann in charge of it, pathetically eager to betray their society in exchange for nothing more than the level of prosperity they could have achieved by working hard and making good decisions. Change has to come from the bottom, because the people on the top like things just as they are.

    1. I have been thinking exactly that for some time. The world needs capable, compassionate,intelligent leaders. Where are they? What makes these dilettantes push themselves onto the people. Case in point: Push out the more than capable Rachel Notley NDP and replace with Jason Kenney’s UCP. Why? Because Jason Kenney wanted to sit in the driver’s seat?
      Did he once think about the citizens of Alberta or was it all about himself. I think the answer lies in the way he won the leadership of the UCP. He is what I would call “cunning”. That’s not a complement, not for him, and certainly not for the good citizens of Alberta.

  11. Alberta jazz musicians include Tommy Banks and Judy Singh, plus others I’m sure.

    One of the band members was Art Hallman, I wonder if he is related to Alan?

  12. In Social studies, no mention of Japan and the only modern mention of China are about railroad construction and Normie Kwong.

    Only one mention of Russia and it is wrong:
    “The global economy is dominated by a few major national economies, led by the United States, China, the European Union, and Russia, based upon volume of domestic production (gross domestic product).” Japan, South Korea, Brazil, India and Canada are ahead of Russia (not to mention four UK countries).

    They have extensive coverage of religions but virtually nothing about the countries where they originated, except Judaism and Christianity, where they muddle history with Bible stories.

  13. One of the example questions for GRADE TWO was “the different government systems of the Roman Kingdom, Roman Republic, and Imperial Rome, explain the difference between these systems.” For those of you without a Grade one student at home, they are early readers/writers. The majority of adults could not answer this! The Social Studies curriculum is written as though it is for middle school or even high school. I am literally stressed out imagining my poor Grade Two-er trying to navigate these difficult subjects next year and the INSANE amount of memorization and homework prescribed.

    Whoever wrote this has never met a small child.

  14. The UCP sure is making a mess of the education system in Alberta. It will be good when they are gone in 2023.

  15. It also must be noted that Adrianna LaGrange has no post secondary education, and her children receive home schooling. This pretty much sums up the problems here.

  16. I’m guessing this is where the Alberta world-view will be propagated to the children of Albertans. (AKA Stupidest People Alive)

    I didn’t care about who Mart Kenney was before his sudden infamy as a better band leader than Duke Ellington. Now, I want his legacy forever expunged from the face of the earth. Is this the first step in assuring that Alberta’s educational curriculum is bleached white? This I have no doubt is really happening.

    At some point there will be an equal time clause established to assure that scientific-creationism will get equal time with Evolution. The crazy is just getting started.

    So, why is the Crying & Angry Midget doing this? Obviously, he trying to drive all the rational and thinking people out of Alberta, leaving only the compliant, racist, and fearful Bible-thumpers behind.

    Alberta über Alles.

  17. Meant to be seen.
    UCP Bravado and nose-thumbing. Rituals to cohere what would otherwise decay asunder.
    UCP Facetiousness. One way of displaying a nonnegotiable position.
    Preposterous. The position one doesn’t want to be in while history is being made.
    Absurd: pretending it isn’t.

  18. Gee…..don’t all jazz enthusiasts reach for their Mart Kenney and his Western Gentlemen record when they want to hear some good original jazz?

    Didn’t he play with all those famous black US jazz pioneers?

    No….well perhaps I got it a little mixed up. Seems to me there is a lot mixed up with the current Government.

    Mind you, this is a gift to Albertans. We need a good laugh during these stressful covid times.

  19. My comment regarding European settlers was perhaps Newspeak tainted. They were in fact violent invaders who killed, mistreated and stole from an indigenous population, and forced on the children of that population new and unfamiliar religious faiths and practices.

    Referring to them as Conquistadors would be rather more accurate.

    1. Referring to European settlers as “Conquistadors” is completely inaccurate.

      Yes, there were those who were violent to indigenous people, but so few as to cut both ways. The vast majority of settlers had little do do with “Indians” —which is the main reason Crown governments—colonial, charter, or Canadian—could get away with bad-faith treaties, culturally genocidal residential schools, disenfranchisement, &c.

      Before true settlement began In the 1840s was nearly two centuries of fur trading. There was doubtless lawlessness, but the success of the trade suggests it was rare enough. It certainly wasn’t in white traders’ interests to harm indigenous trading partners: they couldn’t survive without them—in more ways than one. As many whites wore a medicine bag around their necks as Aboriginals wore crucifixes around theirs. They were trying to get along for mutual benefit.

      The notion of conquered indigenous nations —that they lost their sovereignty by right of war conquest —is convenient to supremacists’ totally false revision of history. The Conquest of Quebec was really of the French crown’s sovereign claim over Canada: less than four years later, the British Crown issued the Royal Proclamation which recognized the sovereignty of indigenous nations and the Crown’s obligation to treat with them—that is, it was the French crown which was conquered in a shooting war in which many Aboriginal warriors were allied with the British victor, not any indigenous nation (perhaps you’re confused with American history—as we know, they were very pissed off with the Crown’s attempt to reserve the Ohio Indian Territory, so much so they rebelled and established a truly violent culture which practiced on non-whites, starting with indigenous people).

      Further, the so-called “Chilcotin War” was not recognized as a conquest by anybody—except maybe the misguided racist minister of the nascent BC government, Jospeh Trutch—and even that’s obscure because Judge Begby summarily executed Tsihlqot’in Chiefs who presumed invitation to a council to talk terms: if it had been a war, Begby’s sentence would have been a war crime—even back in those days. In any case, the 2014 William (“Tsilhqot’in”) SCoC decision put any such notion of conquest to bed: the Tsilhqot’in sovereign claim was confirmed and still exists. Anyway, the Tsilhqot’in warriors won, nineteen to zero.

      My family has been in British North America for at least thirteen generations. It’s doubtful many ever saw any “Indians,” diseases which afflicted my ancestors and were especially deadly to indigenous people having depopulated what was then wilderness. Where I’m from, Tecumseh is regarded a hero for fighting American invaders (who never did conquer Canada) and dying somewhere in a skirmish on the Thames, near London, Ontario. The Crown rewarded Iroquois allies land as indemnity for fighting against the American Rebellion. This is when my United Empire Loyalist ancestors (The German ones) took refuge and settled in Upper Canada—and they probably met or heard of these Iroquois allies who protected their escape and resettlement. The Grand River Reserve was rewarded to Iroquois nations which lost territory south of the Great Lakes in wars with American invaders. Another branch of my family (the Highlander one) were boatsmen who plied their trade round abouts Iroquois Reserve/Reservation that straddles the US/Canada border near Kingston to this day. Their interests certainly weren’t to harm indigenous people—they were their business partners: furs and contraband in both directions.

      The vast majority of settlers never killed, mistreated or stole from anyone just like the vast majority were simple farmers, boatsmen and teamsters, not soldiers, priests, or Crown agents.

      But maybe the opposite is what passes for history in Alberta with its cultural subservience to cowboy and Indian movies, right-to-bear-arms rhetoric, and Wexiteer bellicosity.

      Historical revisionism cuts both ways, of course, but either way is still wrong. Together they don’t make correct history.

      1. My family showed up in Upper Canada in 1793. I wonder if our ancestors ever crossed paths. DJC

        1. It’s possible of course. I’m just sorting this stuff out (well, perhaps a little more truthfully, I have a daunting couple of boxes of stuff that’s taken a few years to assemble—sitting, looking at me, waiting…).

          A particular branch —on my father’s mother’s side—had migrated westward from New England after about 1627, presumably settling at points along Lake Ontario until electing to cross into Upper Canada in 1780, refugees of the American Rebellion. There seems to have been brothers, possibly their spouses and children (which digresses from my present survey). Complicating identities is at least one name-change from Volker to Felker, I guess to sound more english or to conceal German heritage (way on my mother’s side, my great grandmother’s Jewishness was apparently kept secret for nearly four generations—but she changed her Czech name by marrying and Englishman, and her history by emigrating with him to Lethbridge in 1903).

          The American Rebellion caused a refugee-generated population boom along the borders between the rebel colonies and British North America: about 100,000 Loyalists migrated northward from the Thirteen Colonies—mainly to New Brunswick and the two Canadas (historically, no other single out-migration of Americans matched this size until evaders of the US Vietnam War draft moved to Canada in the 1960s/70s in about similar numbers).

          After arriving at points in NB and the Lower Canada, I suspect a significant number of United Empire Loyalists migrated thence westward into Upper Canada with its superior soil and climate. The Felkers crossed the Niagara River and settled near present-day St Catherines. This desirable area was settled quickly from the East and the South: it was a virtual crossroads of traffic: the pack road around Niagara Falls and the constant stream of American immigrants who apparently didn’t get the land-benefit they expected from the new republic and subsequently flooded across the Niagara to get cheap land concessions from the colonial government. Within a generation, there were so many American expats in today’s southwestern Ontario that the American government presumed an invasion would be welcomed, all in 1812 (instead, only a small pro-American fifth column was ever recruited, most of whom were likely tried and sentenced by fellow American expats who successfully defended their British colony). The great Shawnee Chief Tecumseh was killed when an invading US army was stopped in the southwestern peninsula; the bloodiest engagements and wanton property destruction raged throughout the Niagara peninsula, on both sides of the River. (The Americans sued for peace in 1814 when their Capitol was occupied and burned by British Marines and Canadien militias.)

          Within less than a generation after the War of 1812, a third source of immigrants, this time from the UK, flooded into Upper Canada. It’s another challenge in terms of names and genealogies.

          The 13 years between when my ancestors and yours settled in Upper Canada was probably chaotic at popular thoroughfares but, in the countryside where my peeps were farmers, it was pretty parochial; before roads, most people probably kept to themselves and their parish (it’s still there, near what we used to call Jarett’s Corner). City settlers probably rubbed elbows with more people and, back then, would probably have done so with nearly everybody travelling along the single lakefront route on Lake Ontario’s north shore. Before roads, my Highlander immigrant ancestors employed their traditional boating skills (they were from the Isle of Islay) to make a living shipping from the St Lawrence portage along the Ontario lakefront—and probably rubbed elbows with a fair number of travellers. Apparently they had changed their own name before emigrating, probably during a sojourn of a generation or two in Glasgow—an anglicized form of MacDonald (changed from the previous Mac Dumnall or some Dal Riatan name like that—prob’ly when some Norse raider put a scone in some poor lassie’s oven and the great Somerled sired a quasi-royal house that members of its own clan were happy—and lucky— to escape).

          In my own hometown, forty miles east of Toronto, a boom seems to correlate to the creation of the Upper Canada Legislature in 1792-–mainly of Scots, English and not a few German homesteaders (even though there was no Germany back then). I wonder how much the new government might have attracted immigrants. The desired destination for American immigrants, however, was the sunny, fertile Niagara Peninsula and points west down the Thames to Windsor on the Detroit River. In any case, the corrupt, Family Compact-style of government provoked rebellions in both Canadas in the 1830s. I know rebel chief William Mackenzie recruited along the corduroy trail past our place on the 5th Concession, Ontario County. Aside from church, there wouldn’t have been that much social intercourse since a long while for these country bumpkins. Mackenzie and some followers retreated after a brief, drunken skirmish outside a pub on Yonge Street (big night out for these hayseeds), and proclaimed a republic on a malarial Island in the Niagara River (most people don’t know that half the road crews constructing Kingston Road died of malaria). The “Republic” didn’t last: after the big cholera epidemics in Britain in the mid-1840s (Islay’s population was halved by disease and again by emigration), the flood of immigrants in the colonies washed out the sands of all this excitement over the previous sixty years. Prob’ly most of these immigrants had never heard of any of this history—and didn’t much care, anyways: there was real work to do.

          Anyhow, send my regards to your ancestors.

          (…those boxes are still waiting…but I have recently set up an account with Ancestry.Ca…honest!)

  20. “After the Jewish people were enslaved in Egypt, Moses led them back to ‘The Promised Land’ ”

    Will they skip the part about exterminating the Canaanites?

    1. Oh, I think Mr. Kenney’s core supporters rather like that story, although they may wish the extermination had been done with AR-15s. DJC

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