Egerton Ryerson

I see that the statue of Egerton Ryerson has been desecrated and toppled from its plinth at the front of the “Ryerson University” campus. Since the Black Lives Matter riots last year, it had been covered with pink paint, and since the reports of extensive burials on the grounds of the Indian residential school in Kamloops, British Columbia, it had become a specific target of Woke demonstrators.

Ryerson was among the most distinguished educators in Canadian history. He is worth looking up. As a “youff” I once threw a snowball at the same public monument: that symbol of the Upper Canadian establishment. Yet it was a reminder of how impressive, enterprising, and courageous that establishment had been. It had created a society in which, once upon a time, people were free and could express themselves.

Ryerson was also a figure in the development of Canada’s “residential schools,” which took Indians from (mostly) dysfunctional homes and gave them an education with priests, nuns, and respectable Protestants. Not all denizens of an orphanage are happy, and by attaching the word “colonialism,” and giving simplified accounts, full of libels, “progressive” Canadian politicians have made this period of Canadian history into a scandal. Those who know better have been silenced.

Some years ago I tried to defend the “residential schools,” more or less alone in the Canadian “meejah.” I received many, many letters from former students of them, who said their memories were happy. They had been inspired by teachers of real Christian faith and conviction, and had been equipped with the rudiments of sound learning. “They saved my life,” was a frequent comment.

I could understand the residential schools because I am familiar with Canadian education before it was taken over by barbaric hordes; and also because I am myself partly a product of “British colonial” private schools in Asia, decades ago. They were brutal towards their boys, sometimes. I was myself beaten, and their teachers were sometimes tyrannical.

As a young man I thought this was the way of the world. Now that I am old, I look back on the teaching I received with great pride. It was vastly better than what I would receive in a Canadian high school; and that was much better than what we get today.

But of course, I am not a political whack-case. In another country, perhaps, there would be a few sceptical journalists, backed by historians, who would look into the claims of the leftwing savages, and provide some much-needed context. Today, and here, there is just the one tedious point of view, and that febrile and ignorant.