The Darcy McGee story—Canada’s unwritten rule for newcomers | Unpublished

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Unpublished Opinions

James OGrady's picture
Ottawa, Ontario
About the author

I am the founder of Unpublished Media Inc., a company I started in 2012. I am also a communications professional and community activist, living in Nepean, Ontario. And, I am a hockey goaltender, political hack and most importantly, an advocate for grassroots, participatory democracy at all levels of government.

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The Darcy McGee story—Canada’s unwritten rule for newcomers

February 23, 2024
Thomas Darcy McGee, Canadian Parliamentarian was assassinated on

In addition to the First Nations people, Canada is primarily a nation of immigrants, refugees and their descendants. 

Many Ottawa residents know the story of Darcy MaGee’s assignation in 1868 by Irish extremists because there’s a tavern named after him on Sparks street just one block from Parliament Hill, However, the impact of his story and what it meant for Canada appears to be waning for both Canadians and the many newcomers who have come in the 21st Century. Given the uptick in antisemitism in Canada since the Hamas attacks on Israel on October 7, 2023, I thought it important to share his story and how it became the foundation of our multicultural society. 

The story of D’Arcy McGee from Wikipedia

Thomas D'Arcy McGee (13 April 1825 – 7 April 1868) was an Irish-Canadian politician, Catholic spokesman, journalist, poet, and a Father of Canadian Confederation. The young McGee was an Irish Catholic who opposed British rule in Ireland, and was part of the Young Ireland attempts to overthrow British rule and create an independent Irish Republic. He escaped arrest and fled to the United States in 1848, where he reversed his political beliefs. He became disgusted with American republicanism, Anti-Catholicism, and Classical Liberalism. McGee became intensely monarchistic in his political beliefs and in his religious support for the embattled Pope Pius IX.

He moved to the Province of Canada in 1857 and worked hard to convince fellow Irish Canadians to cooperate with Canadian Protestants in forming a self-governing Canada within the British Empire. His passion for Confederation garnered him the title: 'Canada's first nationalist'.[1] McGee also vocally denounced the activities of the Fenian Brotherhood, a paramilitary secret society of exiled Irish Republicans who resembled his younger self politically, in Ireland, Canada, and the United States. McGee succeeded in helping achieve Confederation in 1867, but was assassinated by the Fenian Brotherhood, which considered McGee guilty of Shoneenism, in 1868. Montreal Fenian Brotherhood member Patrick J. Whelan was convicted of McGee's murder and executed.

Since his death, Canada has developed an unwritten rule for new immigrants and refugees that seems to have been forgotten in the 21st Century. This rule has helped Canada become a truly multicultural society. But without it, a multicultural Canada cannot succeed.


Unwritten Rule for new immigrants and refugees to Canada

Leave your wars and hate at home

Recent demonstrations and protests across the country in favour or against the Israeli—Hamas war are an example of this ignorance. Canada is a country based on the rule of law. I’m not going to pretend that our system is perfect. It is not.  Like everything created by humans it is susceptible to bias, bigotry and corruption. Our treatment of First Nations peoples through our legal and electoral systems is a black mark on our nation that must be corrected. If we are to create a truly multicultural society, then everyone must be treated equally in the eyes of the law. And, we must all follow the law, challenge it at times through legal means-only, to help it evolve to properly reflect the values of our society. Laws often lag behind societal changes.

Nevertheless, our legal system is one of the longest standing legal systems in the world and one that is based on 800 years of the human experience in the UK and throughout the British commonwealth. “Innocent before proven guilty” is its hallmark. Our legal system has helped shape who we are as a nation. It is the foundation of our parliamentary democracy.

Unfortunately, many new immigrants from outside the British commonwealth and Western European diaspora do not know of our legal tradition, nor Canada’s history. Many believe Canada and the United States have a shared history. And, while this is true to some extent, it is also not true.

The American Revolution in 1776 set the United States on its own path, quite different from Canada’s. Their military attacks on British North America during the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812 bare this out.  Born just two years after the end of the American Civil War (1860-65). Canada is a country created to defend against the threat of an American invasion and Fenian raids (Irish extremists in North America), who were terrorizing border towns. Upper Canada (Ontario), Lower Canada (Quebec), Nova Scotia and New Brunswick came together during this perilous time to form a defensive block, despite their cultural differences, much like Switzerland 20 years earlier. Not long afterwards the other provinces, PEI, BC, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta joined the fold.

In the 20th Century, commercial interests began to draw us closer to  the Americans in the 1920s during prohibition, and now we have the largest open border in the world, where goods travel back and forth across the border freely. But still, our legal and political traditions are separate and markedly different because we have a different history.

Canada’s history is based on the notion of “peaceful coexistence” (not including First Nations). While in the US, their history has often been forged through war at the end of a gun barrel. Our gun laws are much stricter, and while we do have gun violence, it pales in comparison to the gun violence south of the border. We don’t worship guns the way some Americans do. And, most Canadian gun owners are law abiding citizens who have passed thorough vigorous testing to obtain their firearms license.

For “peaceful coexistence” to work, newcomers must not bring their old hatreds with them.  Unfortunately, this is exactly what is happening with the recent protests and illegal demonstrations. Because Hamas has been designated a terrorist organization in Canada anyone supporting Hamas in Canada is breaking Canadian law. If your first reaction to the October 7th attack on Israel was: “Good for them” and then you went out to protest in support of Hamas’ attack, as many middle-eastern newcomers and Canadian union members did that first weekend, then you are in violation of Canadian law.

Recent death threats made against BC provincial politician Selina Robinson bare this out. She was forced to resign as a result of the death threats. Her remarks were undoubtedly insensitive, but it’s her opinion nonetheless. Something we are allowed to express in Canada, as long as it doesn’t break the law, which she didn’t.

So, I say to all the new immigrants and refugees to Canada—Learn Canada’s history, because we are a nation primarily of immigrants, refugees and their descendants, just like you. Understand our values and what it is that makes this country so different from any other.  Be grateful, as we are, for having the chance to live in a free country. Become one of us and live in peaceful coexistence.