Settler history wars compared: David B MacDonald, ‘Canada’s history war : indigenous genocide and public memory in the United States, Australia, and Canada’, draft paper


Abstract: In this article, I explore the slow development of a national debate in Canada about genocide in the Indian Residential Schools, which I compare to earlier “history wars” in Australia and United States. In the first section I begin with a brief introduction to the history of the IRS system and some of its legacies, as well as attempts at redress. These include financial compensation through the 2006 IRS Settlement Agreement, an official apology, and the creation of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), which has been a nodal point for articulating claims of genocide. I follow this in section two with an analysis of the history wars in the United States and Australia over indigenous genocide, before engaging in section three with debates about genocide in Canada. Overt debates about genocide have been relatively slower in developing, in part because of the creation of a TRC, mandated with collecting the “truth” about the IRS system while similarly engaging in “reconciliation” (a contested term) with settler Canadians. While Canada’s history wars may seem slow in getting off the ground, they may have a greater effect in stimulating national awareness than in the United States and Australia because of the more sustained mandate and national presence of the TRC. However as I will later discuss, a certain inbuilt caution on the part of the TRC due to lessons learned from the US and Australia may prevent any official finding of genocide.

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