The Sunday Magazine·THE SUNDAY EDITION

Canada had three founding peoples, not two

In his new book Canada's Odyssey: A Country Based on Incomplete Conquests, eminent historian and constitutional expert Peter Russell makes a passionate — at times angry — case that we have never truly recognized the debt this country owes to Indigenous Peoples.
Conference between the French and First Nations leaders, by Émile Louis Vernier (Public domain)

We all learned in school that Canada came about because a group of men met in tiny Charlottetown  IN 1867 and invented the British North America Act. 

We were taught there were two founding nations "warring in the bosom of a single state." The French and the English.  And that's the way it happened.

Not so, according to constitutional luminary Peter Russell.  

He says a crucial part of this country began long before Confederation, and includes the Aboriginal peoples and nations who lived here before a single European even dreamed of conquering new lands. 

Leaders from five Iroquois nations (Cayuga, Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, and Seneca) assembled around Dekanawidah c. 1570, French engraving, early 18th century. (Public domain)

But even he, an expert on the subject, failed to fully appreciate how important pre-Confederation Canada was to the way this country would develop.     

27 years ago, Professor Russell wrote Constitutional Odyssey: Can Canadians Become a Sovereign People? Now, Professor Russell has written what he calls "a corrective" to his earlier book. His new book is called Canada's Odyssey: A Country Based on Incomplete Conquests.

As we approach next Saturday's celebration of 150 years as a nation, we have invited Peter Russell, professor emeritus at the University of Toronto, to talk about this place we call Canada. 

Click 'listen' above to hear Michael's interview with Peter Russell. 


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