YOUR VIEW

June 1 1973

YOUR VIEW

June 1 1973

YOUR VIEW

Surely there must be a God who creates a masterpiece like John Parkins — Last Collage (April) — sends his creation to the world and then calls it back when he desires to glory in his works. John Parkins is an artist!

He has composed a picture of life which makes me realize, for this instant anyway, that life begins when death is at hand. What a shame!

VINCENT S. ZUCCARO. MISSISSAUGA, ONT.

Battles, crises, issues

I am both outraged and depressed to find Rick Salutin’s article, The Great Canadian History Robbery (April) in Maclean’s. The article is a mixture of clichés, ignorance, distortions and half-truths, welded together by naïve nationalism. Salutin obviously didn’t bother to interview or consult with any professional Canadian historians; it’s clear that he has no interest in presenting a fair or accurate description of the state of Canadian history.

I’ll deal with only the major failures of the article. The first is Salutin’s assertion that we are entering the age of “the New Technocrats in history writing . . . the new professionals [who] don’t even try; they do quantitative studies on the American model.” Now this is flatly wrong. Where are these new technocrats Salutin’s talking about? As a member of the largest Canadian history department in the country I can’t find any of them around here. There are five writing Canadian historians under 35 in our department. One of these does traditional diplomatic history; another has written a brilliant history of imperialist ideology in Canada; another has written on urban reform, western regionalism and the discovery of city slums; another is an activist left nationalist who’s working on a book on the working class in the 19th century; my own writings have ranged from articles on the origins of branch plants in Canada to an exploration of Victorian ideas about sexuality in the country. I could go on for pages telling you what the young historians in the country are actually doing — at York, for example, Viv Nelles is working on Ontario resource policy, Michiel Horn on intellectuals in the Depression, Irv Abella on the Canadian labor movement. Hardly anyone in this country is doing “quantitative studies on the American model.” (The one person who comes to mind is Michael Katz at OISE, who is an American — but whose work on Hamilton is answering exactly the kinds of questions Salutin asks about ordinary Canadians!) On the contrary, a number of our colleagues working in other fields of history are quite upset that we lag behind in the use of quantificationist methods.

Salutin’s discussion of the current state of the literature is ridiculous in detail and in general. To call Robin Winks “the main Innis authority these days” is flat nonsense, as is the implication that Innis has been “generally ignored.” Stanley Ryerson’s Unequal Union wasn’t given much attention because it’s not a very good book. Perhaps it’s a good thing that French Canadians can now be titillated by La Vie Libertine en Nouvelle France; but of course it’s been more than a year since James H. Gray published Red Lights On The Prairies. And in a 1970 article, Pure Books On Avoided Subjects, I described in great detail pre-Freudian sexual ideas in Canada and the contents of our first sex-education courses.

Salutin is upset that “the people who built the country, and rebuilt it day by day . . . appear almost nowhere in its accounts.” If Salutin had bothered to check a decent bookstore he might have found out how wrong he is. In December 1971 the University of Toronto Press began publishing the Social History of Canada series under my editorship. We have now published 12 volumes in paperback. These include a study of working-class Montrealers ,in the 1890s, a book on the working and living conditions of the bunkhouse men who built Canada’s railways, J. S. Woodsworth’s early books on immigrants and urban problems, and a book of letters written to R. B. Bennett by poor people during the depression. This last book, The Wretched Of Canada, has drawn attention from even American historians as being virtually a unique memoir from the forgotten people of a society.

Salutin’s “discovery” of William Fyon Mackenzie is both pathetic and revealing. We all knew about Mackenzie years ago. Bill Kilbourn published The Firebrand in 1956, Margaret Fairley her Selected Writings Of William Lyon Mackenzie in 1960. The rebellion of 1837 has been fought and refought a dozen times in Canadian history books, and the historians who’ve devoted years of their lives to the study of Mackenzie’s career are in general agreement that he was an ineffectual political leader. Salutin is another (self-admitted) amateur historian who’s come across Mackenzie and doesn’t understand him. There is nothing new in that — we all discovered the past for the first time as part of our education. Usually we were wrong about it. Perhaps only in Canada could a writer trumpet his latest discoveries and his ignorance in the national magazine.

But Salutin’s article is revealing. There’s nothing so obvious about it as the author’s resentment that Canada hasn’t been the United States, that we haven’t had as gory a history as the Americans, with the same roster of

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Your View continued heroes and villains. Surely this is the most naïve nationalism — a nationalism that suggests we can’t be proud of our history unless it turns out to have been as exciting and “colorful” and bloody as that of the United States (or China). This is fraudulent nationalism — fraudulent because it seeks to twist rather than to understand the Canadian reality, fraudulent because the author parades as a Canadian nationalist without being willing to accept the very distinctiveness in our history that helps make us Canadian. In rejecting our past as it was, in wanting to inject into our history the characteristics of the American experience, Salutin is in fact working to undermine our national identity. Most of all, Salutin’s nationalism is fraudulent because the first duty of a nationalist is to know something about his country, and Salutin is profoundly ignorant.

Why Salutin’s article is featured in Maclean’s baffles and depresses me. It is terrible history. It is bad journalism, because even the novice journalist knows enough to interview people. The article does a great disservice to both the serious, mature study of Canadian history and to the attempt to create a lasting Canadian nationalism. I don’t know how many other professional historians will conjplain to you about it. I had hoped for better, perhaps because I believed that Maclean’s stood for professional journalism. With this article, at least, you have published drivel. MICHAEL BLISS, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR. DEPARTMENT OF HISTORY, UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO

Rick Salutin’s The Great Canadian History Robbery (April) was, if one makes allowance for hyperbole, a refreshing viewpoint. His praise for Stanley Ryerson’s Unequal Union was right on. But he adds that “not one daily paper in the country reviewed it,” and adduces as reason for this blackout: “Ryerson is a Marxist, and his books are published by the press of the Communist Party of Canada.”

Ho-hum. The book page of the Ottawa Journal led with an 800-word review of Unequal Union on June 8, 1968. It praised the book warmly. I know, because I wrote it. One can disagree with Ryerson’s politics (as I do) and respect his scholarship and writing ability. In light of Salutin’s error, for all we know, perhaps other reviews were published.

But I agree with him that Canadian history writing is too often a stale rehash of the orderly “colony to nation” thesis; that Innis’ The Fur Trade In Canada and, with reservations, Myers’ History Of Canadian Wealth are original and excellent works. I commend to him for the same reasons Explorers Of North Amer-

ica by J. B. Brebner, which complements the work of Innis, and Baneful Domination by Glen Frankfurter, which disputes Donald Creighton’s vision of the beneficent role of the British connection in Canadian history.

DILLON O’LEARY, OTTAWA

Rick Salutin seems blithely unaware of the awful burden that an “eventful” past carries with it and how dearly present generations in America and Europe have paid, are paying and will continue to pay for the “battles, crises and issues” which afflicted their forefathers. He looks with longing and envy to the tumultuous history of other nations but forgets that our country owes its very existence to the people who found the “battles, crises and issues” in their former homelands life-denying. Canadian history has witnessed no earthshaking revolutions or conflicts and nothing else could make the thoughtful citizen more proud. Indeed, Canada would probably long since have ceased to exist if a civil war had ever broken out in our past. JOHN WIEBE, KAMSACK, SASK.

Rick Salutin — The Great Canadian History Robbery (April) — suggests that where history has not given us heroes, historians should. An odd opinion, even from one who admits to having discovered Canadian history in New York.

Mr. Salutin might more profitably consider why we have refrained from worshipping individual heroes out of our past. When the country is finally free, it will not be because, as Mr. Salutin states, we’ve had better heroes but because our so-called nationalists have stopped bewailing the fact that we aren’t like everyone else and started to understand our individuality.

DANIEL FRANCIS, OTTAWA

Renaissance women

Barbara Frum’s article, Great Dames (April), made more sense than most “liberation” polemics. One of the keys to being both your own person and a real woman is, as Alice Munro says, admitting and coming to grips with that duality of self-assertiveness and dependency. Many young women like myself are bored with the dictums of militant women’s lib, one reason being that it denies this dual characteristic. All of the women interviewed in your article have achieved a great degree of independence, yet they have retained a strong sense of femininity. Their portraits were also presented with grace and dignity. The fact that most of these women began their careers at age 40 or more is also a source of inspiration for those of us who think that we have to “become” by age 25. As Molly Bobak asks, “Who

knows when your prime is?”

We need more articles of this quality in Canadian publications, directed at both men and women.

L. KEDROSKY, TORONTO

Thank you for Barbara Frum’s interviews. It is interesting to hear what other Canadian women are accomplishing since we do not receive as much publicity as our sisters in the United States. I’m curious about one point: why was it considered necessary to mention the number of children in each woman’s family? Perhaps to convince people that these are really normal women? Or to assure the nervous traditionalists that women can fulfill the role of wife and mother as well as fulfill their own ambitions? It was not considered important to query Canada’s provincial premiers — The Politics Of Taste (February) — as to their marital status and the number of children in their families.

PATRICIA McGRAW, LaSALLE, QUE.

Barbara Frum has done more for women than a hundred bra-bumers could achieve in a century!

Following Myma Kostash’s Groovy Men And Other Myths Of Liberation (February), Maclean’s has given women of all ages a lot to think about and, hopefully, courage to be themselves and not just what others expect them to be. ANN KOYICH, EDMONTON

As I read Barbara Frum’s article, Great Dames (April), I began to wonder whether people still think that those women, and the social strata they represent, are the only ones leading worthwhile lives. I’m sick of the superficiality of that type. Their world only survives because of the many other women and men who have spent their full and busy lives at a service level.

Every river starts as a wee brook, a bubbling spring that trickles along, joined by others until they make mighty rivers. Your Great Dames are the leaves and twigs floating on the surface, but the river is made up of the Women of Canada. Sing their praise sometime.

E. HELEN ROTHWELL, WINDSOR, ONT.

So big

I regret the alarmist tone of both J. Tuzo Wilson’s article, Selling Today What We’ll Need Tomorrow (March) and the accompanying editorial by Peter Newman. I find it difficult, after reading Wilson’s article, to accept Newman’s statement that Wilson “writes simply as a scientist, coolly reporting on the future of a subcontinent where he happens to live.” Professor Wilson does have expertise in geophysics and, more recently, college administration, but he is not rec-

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Your View continued ognized as an expert in the general field of energy or in energy economics. His paper is readable and smoothly written, and I respect Professor Wilson’s right to his opinions. However, it is in no way a cool, scientific approach to the subject.

Despite Mr. Newman’s conclusions, the Canadian North is indeed a rich storehouse of untapped energy resources. It is certainly true that the size of these resources will not solve the possible future energy shortages of the U.S., and no one in the industry has suggested this. However, American requirements for energy and their ability to pay for it can help us to develop this storehouse for the benefit of Canada.

We in the industry are interested in husbanding Canadian resources for Canadians, but we are also interested in developing them for Canadians. We are satisfied with the Canadian policy of exporting energy that is surplus to Canadian requirements and exporting it at the highest possible price. Most of us are quite sure that a continental energy policy is much too simple an idea for such a complicated problem and that Canada would be better off if it dealt with each energy source empirically.

I do strongly suggest that your magazine consider encouraging the development of Canada rather than supporting ill-advised suggestions to shut down our progress and job development.

D. B. FURLONG, MANAGING DIRECTOR, CANADIAN PETROLEUM ASSOC., OTTAWA

An encouraging word

I wish to thank Herbert Harker for a fine article — Mel Hyland’s Home On The Range (April) — and for bringing popular attention to a much underrated and misunderstood sport. As a former rodeo contestant I can understand Mel saying that you give it everything you’ve got. I have been a professional C&W

composer and singer for the past 23 years and I’ve given my all to that, too — Mel’s dedication is an inspiration. LENNIE SIEBERT, TORONTO

The great mosaic

A word of commendation to Peter C. Newman — Curse The Winter, Lave The Land (April) — for his description of Canada as a finely balanced mosaic. That is as it should be, no one part more important than the next. What a beautiful country this could be if we all worked together to make it so, a nation beloved by all its citizens.

VINCENT S. ZUCCARO, MISSISSAUGA, ONT.

Some chicken • . •

Your cartoon in the April issue showing a cow and a chicken remarking about a farmer, “Do you realize we’re supplying him with a guaranteed annual income?” was amusing, but it would have had more edge if it had shown two taxpayers making the same remark as they watched the MPs and bureaucrats file onto Parliament Hill.

BRIAN PURDY, YELLOWKNIFE, NWT

Hyde Park corner

Your April issue was all right except for an editorial by a Mister Newman which said Canadians were allowed to speak as they please and criticize anything.

Who is this guy who allows me to speak as I please and criticize anything? I speak as I please and criticize anything because I do it, not because anybody allows me. I won’t allow anyone to allow me to speak as I please and criticize anything. If any guy ever allows me to speak as I please and criticize anything I’ll punch him on the nose. Same thing for anybody who claims he’s the fellow who allows me to speak as I please.

JOSEPH MACLAUCHLAN, TORONTO ■

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