When the Governor of General of Canada decided to refer to Indigenous people as “immigrants as well” last week, he stepped into a deluge of criticism, for which he promptly apologized on Monday.
But the glib remarks from David Johnston, who represents the Crown in Canada — and thus holds a special role in Canada’s relationship with Indigenous peoples — hit at a much deeper issue.
Deeper than the poorly-phrased remark is the established narrative on how the original populations of this continent first got here.
It’s a 10,000 year old question.
“We’re a country based on immigration,” Johnston said, in an interview with CBC radio. “Going right back to our quote-Indigenous-people-unquote who were immigrants as well, going back 10, 12, 14,000 years ago.”
The reaction to the interview was swift.
“Unreal,” tweeted comedian, prominent Indigenous voice, and VICE contributor Ryan McMahon. “Save your Crown/Settler myth for your late-night bedtime stories that allow your colonial mindset to rest at night.”
It was a reaction that echoed around Indigenous circles on social media all weekend, and throughout Monday, even as Johnston tweeted that it was all a “miscommunication,” adding: “Our Indigenous peoples are not immigrants.” (The use of “our” in his apology was, similarly, met with a strong reaction, including a simple “nope” from Métis writer Chelsea Vowel.)
Deeper than the poorly-phrased remark — which was, in context, about Canada’s inherent acceptance of immigration — is the established narrative on how the original populations of this continent first got here.
It’s a narrative that many Indigenous peoples have been pushing back against for years — and it’s a narrative that, increasingly, is being abandoned in scientific and anthropological circles.
The theory goes that during the last ice age, roughly 14,000 years ago,…