Did Canada have the first Thanksgiving? - Thanks Giving day 2018

Friday, August 31, 2018

Did Canada have the first Thanksgiving?

Did Canada have the first Thanksgiving?

Quick history of the first Thanksgiving in Canada

The first European Thanksgiving celebration in North America took place in Newfoundland when English explorer Martin Frobisher landed there in 1578 in his quest for the Northwest Passage.
He wanted to give thanks for his safe arrival in the New World. This was 42 years before the Pilgrims landed in what is now Plymouth, Mass.
Although many Thanksgiving holidays were subsequently celebrated, it was not declared a national holiday until 1879.
From 1921 to 1931, Armistice Day (later renamed Remembrance Day) and Thanksgiving were marked on the same date. The two events were then separated, but the timing of Thanksgiving varied.
In 1957, the second Monday of October was set as the consistent date for Thanksgiving Day in Canada.
In 2017 Canadians consumed 142 million kilograms (312.4 million pounds) of turkey or 4.1 kilograms (nine pounds) per capita.
About 35 per cent of all whole turkeys purchased in Canada in 2012 were for Thanksgiving, but 44 per cent were bought at Christmas.
Fossils indicate wild turkeys have roamed North American for more than 10 million years.

Canada and America may argue over who was the first to hold a harvest festival, but both countries’ approaches to the national holiday are similar

Christine Sismondo’s Canadian Moments series looks at what history can teach us about a current moment in Canadian news, politics, or culture. Read more of her columns here.
This time last year, the New York Times—and its many readers—discovered a quaint little tradition that many Americans had never heard of: Canadian Thanksgiving.
Some of the confusion over our version of the holiday stems from the fact that we celebrate it six weeks earlier than they do—and on their Columbus Day holiday, to boot. Most of it, however, is surely owing to the fact that Americans feel ownership over this holiday, believing it grew, organically, out of a specific historical event that took place on “American” soil. After all, the Plymouth Rock story, which frames a congenial harvest feast shared by Wampanoag peoples and the Pilgrim settlers in November 1621 as America’s first Thanksgiving, is taught early and often.
In response, on occasion, some defensive writers and apologists have countered the implication that we are pale imitators of the U.S. or mere holiday rip-off artists, and people have pointed to Canadian antecedents to demonstrate our authentic connection. Some cite a celebratory meal held by Martin Frobisher upon his arrival in 1578, but since that involved tinned beef and mushy peas, that feels like a stretch. More germane than this story is the meaty celebration hosted by Samuel de Champlain in Port-Royal on Nov. 14, 1606, which saw Europeans and Indigenous peoples breaking bread together. It was organized as part of the “Order of Good Cheer” dinner party series that was invented to make sure the colonists ate and drank enough to stave off scurvy and malnutrition.
It’s possible that the only reason any settlers even survived at all was owing to the help of the Mi’kmaq, who had taught them ice-fishing techniques and introduced them to a vital non-toxic berry rich in vitamin C. In return, the French colonists invited some Mi’kmaq men to the November 14 celebration, which included not just food and drink, but also musket-firing and the first European play ever performed in North America, Marc Lescarbot’s Théâtre de Neptune. The plot was simple: The God of Neptune congratulated the explorers on their sailing prowess—and then the Indigenous people swore total allegiance to the newcomers, acknowledging the sovereignty of the Europeans.
Things didn’t get any better after that. Smallpox plagues, Christian conversions and treaty violations followed, as did an all-out war over Halifax, which the Mi’kmaq had never ceded to Europeans. Governor Edward Cornwallis responded to this land claim by offering a bounty for scalps, which is one reason his controversial statue, erected in Halifax in 1931, was shrouded this summer amidst calls for it be removed.

Why you would want this particular story to be the foundation of a national holiday is mystifying, especially since the modern version of Canadian Thanksgiving in no way grew out of that early dinner theatre incident. Thanksgiving didn’t really take hold in Canada until the 19th century, which, surprisingly, is also when it became a popular tradition in the United States. For about 250 years after the mythical Plymouth Rock event—a controversial story that some argue should be marked as a day of mourning since, among other things, the new settlement was on the site of a region decimated by plague brought on by European contact—Thanksgiving was a minor, loose, regional tradition that was celebrated on whatever day local authorities picked, in the states where anyone even bothered with it at all (New England, mainly).
It might never have franchised out and come to take on such cultural significance if it weren’t for Sarah Josepha Hale, editor of Godey’s Lady’s Book, a women’s magazine that promoted abolition, white wedding dresses, Christmas trees, a focus on the family, domestic science and the elevation of Thanksgiving to a national holiday with a set, universal date, so that the entire nation could pray and celebrate together. In Hale’s 1827 novel, Northwood, the characters debate the future of Thanksgiving, with one articulating its political significance: “We want it as the exponent of our Republican institutions, which are based on the acknowledgment that God is our Lord, and that, as a nation, we derive our privileges and blessings from Him.”
Towards the end of the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln and William H. Seward, then the secretary of state, were finally swayed by Hale’s arguments and declared a national day of Thanksgiving, which they hoped would help heal factions, unite the country, and establish the northeast as the moral compass and leader of the country. The mythological Plymouth Rock story, which emphasizes manifest destiny, hard work, community and the value of local institutions, was eventually attached to the nation-building holiday.
Meanwhile, politicians and businessmen in Upper Canada and other colonies had similar problems to the kind Seward and Lincoln had faced, since nation-building was on the agenda for those trying to push Confederation. Although the scheme was essentially a free-trade pact, Canada needed an identity, and the prevailing concept was a white Protestant nation that would marginalize the claims of Indigenous peoples and other immigrants from Asia and Europe. In the 1860s, “Canada First,” an organization that promoted that vision of Canadian identity and called for cultural institutions like Thanksgiving to support a white Protestant Canada that celebrated farm, family and religious devotion, was established. And in 1865, for example, the Globe and Mailran an editorial calling for prayers to thank “Divine Providence” for the “special favours vouchsafed to our country during the past season,” which included a good harvest and the end of a decade of economic turmoil. It also called for a standardization of services across the country to give it a more “national character,” so that the impact of the prayers could be greater. The country that prays together, after all, stays together.
In his paper, “‘Righteousness Exalteth the Nation’: Religion, Nationalism, and Thanksgiving Day in Ontario, 1859-1914,” historian Peter Stevens says that in Ontario, sermons for Canadian Thanksgiving—the date of which shifted until it was decided around the turn of the last century that outdoor sports should be part of the festivities, and November was too cold—sermons often focused on Canada’s moral superiority to the United States. Since religious leaders believed that Canada never had slavery (it did, of course, which Stevens points out), they argued that Canada was the real chosen land; the U.S., after all, had recently been punished for its slaveholding past with a devastating civil war.
With great blessings come great responsibilities, though, and one of the most important of these was spreading Christianity to the Indigenous, which was the subject of an 1885 Thanksgiving sermon delivered in Winnipeg by Rev. Charles Bruce Pitblado. Inspired by the recent North-West Rebellion and the execution of Louis Riel, he thanked God for the victories but argued that the work of “reconstructing society” would involve a shift that made dealing with the “Indians” as “recognized settlers” imperative. The country’s future “peace and prosperity” relied on a national resolve to “Christianize and civilize the Indian”—in other words, cultural genocide through residential schools.
This new paternalistic, assimilationist phase in settler-Indigenous relations wasn’t entirely without criticism, demonstrated by an 1890 feature in the Globe and Maillamenting the slow death of the seven-day ritual of Thanksgiving feasts central to the Haudenosaunee culture, which was waning as a result of the increasing numbers of “Christianized Indians” who no longer took part in these “pagan” customs. That writer observed that these Thanksgiving feasts, which involved religious observance, visiting each other’s houses, feasting and war dances, had been in existence from the time the Haudenosaunee Confederacy was first organized—a vague reference at the time that is still the subject of some debate, but thought to pre-date the Frobisher exploration by at least a century.
This, of course, alludes to the thing that so many people seem willfully blind to in the debate about who had Thanksgiving-style gatherings first: that they were well-established long before Europeans ever got here. Specific rituals differ from region to region, of course, but festivals that saw people expressing thanks for the bounty of the land are a common feature of most pre-contact societies in Canada and the United States.
This may be starting to sound like an argument for the abolition of Thanksgiving, given that it is textbook cultural appropriation, one that’s been repeatedly used as a tool to promote political ideals, often tied to ideas of racial and cultural superiority. The flip side of Thanksgiving’s shaky foundation, though, is that, in its modern form, it’s an invented tradition—like all holidays, really—that’s been tied to all manner of mythical stories to promote whatever vision of national or cultural identity needed at the time. That means it can be re-invented again to mean what we need it to mean now.
Since the United States has thoroughly taken ownership of it as a founding myth for its nation-building project, to the point that it’s practically eclipsed Canadian Thanksgiving, we could make the holiday our own by using it in a totally different way. A good start would be to acknowledge that Europe had pre-contact harvest feast traditions of their own, but to stop pretending Europeans invented Thanksgiving in Canada or the United States and, instead, consider how to repurpose the holiday to redress historical wrongs—and imagine a new Canadian identity.
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Veldon Coburn teaches Indigenous Studies at Carleton University and is a PhD candidate in the department of political studies at Queen’s University. His research and writing focuses on Indigenous politics and policy.
One might be forgiven for believing that the death of Indigenous communities is unavoidable. It is a familiar trope in Canadian national mythology: Indigenous people are expected to inevitably blend into settler society, one way or another. Recently, Maclean’s columnist Scott Gilmore suggested that the “fundamental laws of economics” that has prompted the death of small-town Canada is also coming for Indigenous communities, dying not through coercive state measures but rather at the hands of economic influences and trends.
It’s a calculus of community survival that draws a straight causal line from the economy to life. And based on what we know about impoverished conditions in many First Nations, Inuit hamlets, and Métis settlements, we should then resign ourselves to their imminent death and move to a city.
But Gilmore’s account overlooks significantly greater forces at work in the demise of Indigenous communities—namely, the iron fist of the colonial state. Indeed, the market-driven thesis of dying towns, juxtaposed against thriving cities, ignores how economic conditions of Indigenous communities has been—and continues to be—the outcome of colonial policy.
The fundamental laws of economics, after all, do not apply in the relations between the colonizer and the colonized. The poverty of Indigenous communities is contrived by the colonial state, not the neat market-clearing results expected from neoclassical economic theory. In fact, it is difficult to identify the necessary conditions of laissez-faire markets that underwrite Gilmore’s view in these internal colonies, because—to use the economic vernacular—the colonial Crown controls a near-monopoly over the economic conditions on reserves and other Indigenous communities, and it’s often done hand-in-hand with private industry.
Furthermore, when mainstream commercial interests clash with Indigenous title and rights, the Crown has frequently sided with the former, despite the fiduciary duty owed to the latter.
In 2014, for instance, the Crown granted licenses to foreign corporations based out of the United States and Norway to undertake seismic testing for oil and gas exploration in Nunavut, ignoring Inuit concerns about the negative impact this development would have on their internal economies. But after a legal challenge mounted by the tiny Inuit hamlet of Clyde River, its mayor Jerry Natanine, and the Nammautaq Hunters & Trappers Organization, the Supreme Court of Canada sided with the Inuit and put a stop to the project. In its decision last year, the SCC noted that the Crown had failed to observe and respect Aboriginal rights and Inuit treaty rights.
Crown corporations also have a history of pursuing economic activities that meet the consumption demands of cities, but leave rural and remote Indigenous communities to bear much of the costs. On the west coast, a number of Treaty 8 First Nations have filed a civil suit as well as an application for an injunction against BC Hydro, the province, and the federal government to stop the Site C dam construction project. The BC First Nations that are party to the suit argue that the Site C project violates their treaty rights to their internal economic activities, including rights to fish, hunt, and trap as they did before entering the treaty with the Crown.
On the east coast, a similar Crown corporation has drawn the ire of Indigenous peoples. In Newfoundland and Labrador, the Innu and Inuit have protested Nalcor Energy’s development of the Lower Churchill Project, especially the expansion at Muskrat Falls. Innu and Inuit communities adjacent to the massive hydroelectric project are resisting the expansion, arguing that the Crown corporation will flood over 40 square kilometres of their territory and that their land and water will be contaminated by methylmercury. For the Indigenous people of the region, the land and the Churchill River have sustained the resources and activities of their own economies for thousands of years—yet the survival of their communities has seemed to be a distant priority compared to Nalcor’s industrial growth.
In sharp contrast, however, when Indigenous peoples engage in their own economic trade and exchange—the sort of practices undertaken since time immemorial—the Crown is often quick to intervene and dash those efforts. First Nations in British Columbia have won a number of court battles with the Department of Fisheries and Ocean over their rights to commercial fishing, even though earlier this month, officials from the same department were quick to come down on the First Nations sockeye salmon fishery opening on the Fraser River. In a media blitz, authorities from DFO warned the public that it would prosecute anyone selling or buying fish caught by the Indigenous fishery; in the same public outreach, the DFO officials were keen to note that a legitimate fishery would open a mere three days later.
What’s more, the Crown has shored up its economic monopoly over Indigenous communities with its monopoly on inflicting pain on these communities. Speaking at a meeting of the Alberta Enterprise Group, a business-sector advocacy body, then-natural resources minister Jim Carr remarked that the government would consider the use of its military to ensure the completion of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, which was purchased by the federal government for $4.5 billion, and which would impact approximately 120 First Nations.
Meanwhile, the government is picking up Giant Mine’s $900-million remediation bill while refusing to compensate for the adverse health effects that the mine has caused for the Dene. And the damage of the Mount Polley mine disaster has yet to be tallied, but the provincial government has already indicated it will not pursue environmental charges and the clock on the federal statutory limitation period for similar charges has waned to less than a year. And these stories are familiar to the good people of Asubpeeschoseewagong First Nation (Grassy Narrows) and Aamjiwnaang First Nation (situated right next door to Sarnia’s Chemical Valley), who have been ignored by environmental ministries and borne the costs of government and industry in their drive for private profit despite urgings from Indigenous people and their communities that their fight is about survival.
Yes, some government and private-business initiatives, have received formal support from some Indigenous communities; the purchase of the Trans Mountain pipeline and its expansion, for instance, has been supported by more than 40 First Nation band councils and the Métis Nation of Alberta. Still, it would be a mistake to view Indigenous-led environmental protests that are going on—the sort alluded to by Carr, seen in recent years in Elsipogtog, and within some of the communities that have endorsed the pipeline—as resistance to economic prosperity. These actions are instead protesting the burden shouldered by First Nations for the economic externalities and negative spillovers that subsidize industry.
When it comes to the life or death of Indigenous communities, the colonial state has long influenced matters. Indigenous communities have long had to beg for the crumbs from the table, after non-Indigenous industry—abetted by federal, provincial, and even city governments—has feasted on the wealth extracted from the Indigenous hinterland.
It is not merely neutral economic forces that are causing these communities to have to consider the difficult question of leaving. It is difficult to conclude that the death of any Indigenous community is by truly natural causes.


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Monte Solberg is a principal at New West Public Affairs. He was a member of Parliament for the riding of Medicine Hat for the Reform Party from 1993 to 2000, for the Canadian Alliance from 2000 to 2003, and for the Conservative Party from 2003 to 2008, for whom he served as minister of citizenship and immigration and of human resources and social development.
Did Canada have the first Thanksgiving?
In about 2006, I held a fundraiser with Maxime Bernier at the home of a wealthy Ottawa businessman. It went well, and we were told that we should take our Alberta-Quebec act on the road. At the time, I was the new immigration minister, and he was this dashing young libertarian industry minister from Quebec, and he was just fun to work with. That’s the Max I know, the Max I liked as a colleague. That was the Max I quietly supported for the leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada last year.
After all, Maxime has the entire Swiss Army knife set of political tools. He is warm, friendly and charming in both official languages, with a ready laugh. He runs marathons and looks great doing it. Unlike his early years, he knows most of the issues and comments on them knowledgeably. Most important of all, he is idealistic. Believing you’re there to accomplish something important is what gets politicians through the inevitable storms.
But everything changed after he came within a hair of winning the Conservative leadership. Since then, he has been signalling his unhappiness. For months, Max has been on political palliative care with a note pinned to his chest that said do not resuscitate—allegedly written in his own hand, though we can’t be sure. If he hadn’t pulled the plug himself as he did on Aug. 23, announcing he would be quitting the Tories to start his own splinter party, foul play would have been suspected, and the entire Conservative caucus would have been hauled in for questioning.
It’s not as though the leadership race’s winner, Andrew Scheer, had done anything wrong. His whole strategy was to be steady and non-threatening, and month by month, the party gained in the polls. So apart from being miffed about losing, Max’s sniping didn’t make sense, and it didn’t reflect well.
READ MORE: Why Scheer values unity, and Bernier plays the loner
He has used Twitter and his blog to push policy ideas and to provoke, which annoyed his colleagues—even the ones who supported his leadership bid. He was not going to fall quietly into line like other leadership contenders had done. He was going to demonstrate that he was the gallant warrior for freedom, and that he would outshine Scheer by pointing out all the ways that the party wasn’t conservative enough.
For a while, his legions of supporters even cheered him on. For instance, he took on Liberal MP Celina Caesar-Chavannes and the sanctimony of some of her own tweets. But the whole while, it was clear that he had one foot in the caucus and one foot out. He had written a book that was critical of Scheer for recruiting dairy supporters in Quebec who are “fake conservatives,” and after promising not to, he published an excerpt on his website. The caucus—the party’s leader and his colleagues—was furious. At that point, his demise may have been fated. The infamous diversity tweets came last, gifting the Liberals an opportunity to paint Conservatives as intolerant—and then came his press conference where he accused his peers of corruption and not being conservative enough.
READ MORE: If the Conservatives showcase their team—rather than the leader—they can win
It’s obvious now that other things were at play: Max just couldn’t accept he had been bested by Andrew Scheer, the man he just described as being weak. And now, he is doomed to be like Winston Churchill’s father, Lord Randolph, who famously resigned his position as Chancellor of the Exchequer under Lord Salisbury, believing his base of support in the House of Commons would position him to be the next prime minister—but fading away once he left the House and the caucus.
Monte Solberg, then the Minister of Human Resources and Social Development Canada and Minister responsible for Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, makes an announcement in 2008. (CMHC)
Bernier’s idealism, as he will surely soon discover, must be tempered by judgment in politics. And critically, these recent events indicate that he doesn’t seem to know when to wait, defer, deflect or compromise—all essential skills in politics. You can’t die on every hill. You need the wisdom to know when it is best to back away, no matter how tempting it would be to engage, because engaging might send the wrong message about priorities—and, lately, about whether you even understand the Canadian cast of mind.
Max was so desperate to be acknowledged as being right on the “limits of diversity” that he missed the larger point. Millions of Canadians who probably agree that there are limits to diversity still don’t want the matter dragged into the public square for vivisection; it is unseemly to do so. We all know that the subjugation of women is wrong, even if it is permitted in other cultures. But as most Conservatives know by now, these things should be handled gently and quietly, preferably by a woman, at the right time, and using the right language. Not all issues are equal. They can’t all be approached the same way.
But now Max says he is going to start his own party. Well, let’s just say he’s in tough. I’ve been through that a few times, after all; I’ve seen it up close.
READ MORE: Conservatives can win if they take aim at Liberal incompetence—not the culture wars
Preston Manning’s Reform Party started in 1987 but didn’t run a full slate of candidates until 1993, my first election. Preston and his tiny team crisscrossed the country searching for candidates, providing training and communicating in the form of monthly fireside chats sent out on cassette tapes. That’s how we learned the right tone and messaging in speaking to difficult issues while driving from church basement, to community hall, to kitchen table.
But in 1993, the Reform Party was brand new. In some ridings there were only a few members, meaning the more forceful personalities could easily push themselves forward as candidate material. As Preston often said of the Reform movement, a bright light attracts a lot of bugs. It turned out to be true.
As the 1993 election approached, the party’s executive council routinely disqualified aspiring candidates who had—shall we say—exotic beliefs. But they couldn’t root them all out. The candidate for York Centre in Toronto gave a mid-election interview to the CBC and said unfortunate things about immigrants. Preston immediately distanced himself—but it was too late. The Reform wave crested and then troughed in Ontario. Instead of winning several seats, we picked up just one. And that was before social media and today’s minute-by-minute scrutiny.
Imagine scores of outspoken candidates in the new Max Freedom Party, committed to unbridled free speech on any subject, commenting on immigration, diversity and abortion. To succeed, that party would soon find they needed to rein in candidates and keep them away from certain topics. In other words, it would become a party like the one Maxime just left.
As Waylon Jennings once sang: I’ve been a long time leaving, but I’ll be a long time gone. It will be a fitting political epitaph for Max. He has now departed his familiar political world—and I doubt that he has gone to a better place.


Cheer up, Conservatives: There’s a big silver lining for Bernier’s departure
Who belongs in the party of Maxime Bernier?
Maxime Bernier has bet the house on his narrow idea of Canadian values. He may be in for a nasty surprise
Mad Max might just pull this thing off
Paul Wells: Maxime Bernier reaches his logical conclusion

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Did Canada have the first Thanksgiving?

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