SEPARATISTS

THE CONTRARIAN

 

Looking at ‘Brexit’, I thought about our own Canadian Separatists.

They feel like they are treated by their province as a remote hinterland, a bit quaint, behind the times, even dare I say ‘redneck’, and safely ignored. After all they are remote indeed from the center of power, and have a small enough population that their vote will not matter.   They feel like they should not have been part of the province even when it was created, but rather a province of their own.

They feel like their best interests are completely ignored when the big economic decisions are made at the seat of power. They feel they pay more in provincial taxes than they get in provincial investment, in infrastructure, and especially in ‘economic development’.  They feel like their resources are stripped away, and used to build golden towers in the capital.  They feel like environment-based restraints which really benefit nothing in their remote location nevertheless are applied mercilessly, destroying their economy and forcing their young people to leave to find employment.  They feel like they are a rump on Canadian society, unwanted, in the way.

Not surprisingly, there have been movements promoting separation from the province over the decades. Sometimes they fade on their own during boom times, sometimes the province throws them a bone, and they fall to squabbling over that like ravens at a roadkill, and forget about their grievances.  And of course the naysayers are always there, fearful of any change, and fearful of unknown costs, pushing public opinion toward the status quo.

Of course I am talking about Vancouver Island, the original, very British colony, which was sandbagged into being lumped in with a much larger block of wilderness, which then turned into the main population base of the Province of British Columbia.

Oh, you thought I was talking about Northern Ontario! Well, well.  Of course we do have much the same grievances, a colony remote from the provincial power base.  But our genesis was the other way round. Vancouver Island, a civilized, populous British colony, had a large, remote (to them) block of mainland wilderness tacked on to them, and the tail quickly became the dog.  We, on the other hand, are the large, remote land tacked on to the existing smaller but much more populous colony for crass political reasons.  We never were the seat of power they once were, we were always the tail on the dog.

But we have had our separatists. In the early 70’s, the Northern Ontario Heritage Party, a northern separatist movement based in North Bay, grew to 25 000 members.  This is an incredible number compared with the population of the north, and in fact it was the largest political party in Ontario in terms of number of members.  Their embarrassing growth resulted in formation of the Department of Northern Affairs, which was somewhat effective at the time and helped destroy the Separatist movement.  DNA has long since been neutered, the soreness festers on, and there have been and still are smaller separatist movements.

One problem is that we in Kenora district are culturally westerners, we have little in common with northeastern Ontario, and Thunder Bay is culturally its own little world. If a new province needs to pull together like a team of Huskies, northern Ontario would be a mixed team — poodles, dachshund’s, perhaps a collie and a Labrador, not likely to pull together well enough to succeed.  Sunset Country would no doubt be better off attached to Manitoba (Or even Minnesota!)  than to northeastern Ontario.

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