The banana monarchy and its new money

by dhdaines

The latest controversy in the media (in Québec, at least, I’m  guessing the ROC isn’t paying much attention, though they should) has been the quiet erasure of Thérèse Casgrain from history at the federal level.  This is just the latest in a series of similar dick moves by the Harper government to get rid of symbols of previous governments, politicians, and other things that they don’t like, so it’s not at all surprising. It’s interesting to note that Mulroney, now generally regarded as being much less of an asshole than Harper, actually did the same thing.  And the desire, if not the means, to not have things named after certain people, isn’t entirely confined to the right.

So is it all a tempest in a teacup (or a glass of water, as you say in French)?

Well, no, because it’s part of a bigger trend, as mentioned above. And nowhere is this more obvious than in the one set of symbolic images we see every single day, the one that by the structure of our society and economy, we can’t escape looking at, namely, the images on our bank notes. Don’t get me wrong, I think the new plastic money is great, and I love being able to refer to $5 bills as “spacebucks”.  But if you look at the images on the back now compared to what they were 10 years ago, you’ll notice that they replaced Thérèse Casgrain with an icebreaker, Haida sculpture with a memorial to a senseless slaughter in an imperial war 100 years ago, and an hommage to Canadian peacekeepers with… a train?  And not a single word of poetry or prose, where before we had Gabrielle Roy and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

I’m not a fan of Canadian nationalism, but at least there was a period of time where we tried to give this awkward confederation, still formally subject to a foreign monarchy, some kind of deeper purpose and meaning.  Despite our long and sordid colonial history and its ongoing legacy of dispossession and environmental destruction, we could at least pull out a crisp $20 and say: Look, we’re really trying here. Sure, we’re not perfect, but hey, at least we recognize our linguistic minorities and aboriginal people. At least we support and honour our artists and writers. At least we claim that we stand for peace and human rights and humanistic values.

Well, that’s all over now. To borrow the eloquent rhetoric of the radio-poubelles:

Welcome to the new Canada!
Francophones? Fuck you.
Artists? Fuck you.
Feminists? Fuck you.
First Nations? Fuck you.
International law? Fuck you.
Human rights? Fuck you.
Canada: Fuck you.