Professor Jeffrey Weingarten has spent most of his academic life in the study of Canada’s literature, and the history that informs it. Like all our guests, he is an enthusiastic searcher for meaning and an honest broker of his country’s past.
Many years ago, while teaching at a school in the Middle East, I found myself teaching Canadian history. This was a challenge on two fronts, firstly I am not a history teacher, and secondly, I am not Canadian. However, Australia and Canada do share a colonial past and both are still members of the Commonwealth of Nations for whom the Queen, in England is our Head of State.
The biggest difference in our histories rested on the fact that Canada had not been a penal colony. From what I could understand, the major manifestation of this difference was seen in the way we have managed conflict. Australians have taken pride in being fairly laid back and friendly, however, we are not amenable. The short history of European settlement in Australia is filled with people speaking up, rebelling and generally ensuring our displeasure is obvious. Many of our heroes are bushrangers. While it seemed to me that Canadians were more restrained, more likely to hide their annoyances and not speak up.
Sadly, the one thing we do have in common is the horrible way we treated the indigenous people of the land we colonised.