Opinion

NO, REALLY: B.C. history came to a halt with the last spike

Back in the day, we were under the impression there wasn’t a lick of history west of the Rocky Mountains.

But what did we know? We were just another class of Ontario public school stiffs being spoon-fed the historic pablum from teachers who believed in teaching history as dryly as possible. In the seventh grade, our history/geography teacher stoically informed the class that Vancouver was on Vancouver Island and Victoria was on the mainland.

“Um, sir,” I interjected. “It’s the other way around.”

After staring daggers into me for a few seconds, he grabbed the atlas and looked for himself. And upon learning the truth, he stared more daggers into my heart.

That’s the way it goes in middle school when some smart-aleck know-it-all shows up the teacher.

Anyhow, all we really learned about the West came from a single black and white photograph taken in the 1800s. It showed a bunch of sombre-looking men in funeral-like suits and stove-pipe hats – surrounded by the working stiffs – pounding in the last spike of the Canadian Pacific Railway.

And once the rail line was completed, there was nothing further to be gained by learning ANYTHING about B.C.’s history. After all, we were living in the heartland of the country, the birthplace of good and corrupt government, and the history book writers were under order of death to not write ANYTHING that was remotely interesting, especially if it happened outside Ontario or Quebec. Well, there was the rebellion in Upper Canada which, if I recall correctly, was taught to us every year from Grade 7 to graduation.

It was much later when I fully understood that it never was much of rebellion rather than a bunch of drunken farmers on Younge Street waving pitchforks, or something like that. In Toronto, that single incident became a historic event. Later, I learned that similar “rebellions” took place every Friday night in just about every watering hole in B.C.

But that was expected of the Wild West and hardly worth mentioning in the holy tablets of Canadian history.

You might say I was somewhat surprised to find out there was an inkling of West Coast history after I moved to the Island. Who knew that great Indian nations ruled the coast for thousands of years? Or that the world powers of the 18th century, Spain and England, met in truly historic occasion off Nootka Island?

I never knew and the same goes for millions of other history students inflicted with copious volumes of Canada’s “true history.” These days I wonder what history students are learning. I hope it’s something interesting which will help them understand something meaningful and lasting. Then again, they’re probably memorizing the names of today’s great leaders. In other words, the founders of Google and Facebook.

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