This is my “David and Goliath” story, except that it’s not about a Biblical-era youth staring down a nine-foot-tall man. No, it’s about the pebble that was used to bring the giant to the ground.

My Goliath was a decade of genuinely useless social studies in elementary and secondary school. The pebble was Mr. Rajala, my grade 10 history teacher at Fort Frances High School in northwestern Ontario. Mr. Rajala was an amazing storyteller who was passionate about his subject and opened my eyes to the vastness and wonder of history. I had entered his class with a vague and fragmented understanding of my country’s past. I left it the way a reader feels after finishing a great book: thrilled by a gripping plot, filled with new insight and actively searching for more to devour. 

In today’s environment, it’s safe to say that students are unlikely to leave their history classes loving Canada. Whether they are a 10th-grade student in Ontario leaving the only high school history class they will ever have, or are taking a university course that teaches them Canada’s past is an embarrassment, we are failing as a nation at teaching students how to even talk about our country’s history. 

Unlike David, we face more than one Goliath: there is the growing hatred for certain histories because they do not align with the current cultural conversation, and there is the lack of prioritization of the subject in our schools. This is occurring from coast to coast. Alberta, to take just one example, has been fighting on both fronts since the UCP government two years ago introduced a revamp to the elementary school curriculum that includes more on the basics of Western history and more instruction on facts in general. It was immediately criticized by school boards, academics, teachers and even some parents, who claimed the curriculum was too Eurocentric and was “the stuff of nightmares.” An NDP MLA called it irrelevant to students, claiming there was no point in teaching about historical figures like Genghis Khan.

These disputes around Canadian history are not attempting to speak to our story, but instead are responding to a moment in time when disagreement is taken by one side to mean rejection. Calls to cancel Canada Day and the tearing down of statues are just two manifestations of this unfortunate trend. Last year, as Blacklock’s Reporter discovered, “Management at the national archives has deleted a website feature honouring John A. Macdonald as ‘redundant’ and ‘offensive.’ The content including historical facts and photos for schoolchildren was deemed out of step with ‘our diverse and multicultural country’,” archivists were quoted as saying. This outrageous move elicited a few squeaks of protest, but no eruption of outrage from Canada’s senior historians or educators.

Destruction seems the only answer for those who don’t know how to work through the more dubious aspects of our past without destroying everything in the process. Two years ago the BC Museums Association encouraged museums, galleries and heritage organizations to reinforce the calls to cancel Canada Day by cancelling all of their planned events as well, and by advocating that people participate in “service disruptions” against those who chose to celebrate. This was a protest of Canadian history and national pride from a group meant to preserve it.

On the activist website, a blogpost entitled A settler’s guide to cancelling Canada Day: July 1st and beyond suggested that, “If you’ve been invited to a private [Canada Day] BBQ, respectfully note that you won’t be celebrating and use the opportunity to talk about why.” It went on to encourage instead spending the day tearing down statues, and celebrated the actions of those who toppled Sir John A. Macdonald’s statue in Montreal, gleefully pointing out that the vandalism broke off the statue’s head. This kind of destruction doesn’t aim to advance the understanding of history. It is born of anger and nihilism, it seeks to polarize and divide, and it even attempts to speak for those who have no desire to be a part of such violence. 

Read the full op-ed at


  • Emma Haynes

    Emma Haynes is a recent graduate of Trinity Western University who works as executive assistant to a member of Parliament.