There’s been an open argument about who won the War of 1812 for 200 years now.
One look at douglas coupland's commemoration of the War of 1812, unveiled last week at Fleet and Bathurst, the golden Canadian tin soldier presiding over a fallen American, and I know something big is missing - like, how about the native allies without whom we'd be singing not O Canada but No Canada?
The late Ernie Debassige, an Anishnabe historian and WWII veteran who worked for the recognition of native soldiers, would point out that at the very least that prone American should have a tomahawk buried in his chest.
You don't need to have known Debassige to be aware of this history.
A few blocks north of the monument is a street named after the great Shawnee general Tecumseh, leader of the native alliance that supported the British during the 1812 war. In his popular histories on the subject, the late Pierre Berton documented the fact that the Shawnee, Dakota, Ottawa, Chippewa, Potawatomi, Winnebago, Menomenee, Wyandot and Iroquois warriors who fought with the British were "essential" and "decisive" in holding off American invasion.
Coupland's stand against "revisionist" American claims that they won the war is pretty tired; there's been an open argument about this for 200 years. Berton noted that the real revisionism is that the tribes who "helped save Canada's hide" disappeared from official history even as the war was being waged.
When the British signed the peace treaty, they dropped the pact made with Tecumseh to set aside an Indian state as a buffer between the two countries.
This kind of behaviour continued. Native veterans of the world wars were not compensated like other soldiers: when they did win redress, they often lost their Indian status in a process called "enfranchisement." When Ken George of Stoney Point returned from World War II, he had to sleep in a ditch because the Canadian military had bulldozed his home and occupied the land while he was fighting for a country that didn't even let him vote.
The Ipperwash Inquiry documented what happened when a distant cousin, Dudley George, tried to get the land back 50 years later.
Douglas Coupland is a bright guy, an artist/novelist, Canada's own Renaissance man. He should know better than to fall into Canada's habit of erasing First Nations people from the land and the record.
But so should a whole lot of other people: the monument, commissioned by Malibu Investments as part of its 32-storey condo development, went through city approvals.
Some may roll their eyes at my response to a playfully ironic sculpture depicting a conflict two centuries old. But monuments tell us what matters to society. And this one would have been a kick in the teeth to Debassige.
Native counsellor Wanda Whitebird, who passes this corner several times a week, says, it makes her feel "like Aboriginal people weren't here at all.'' Odd, she says, that this monumental forgetting occurred the week before Remembrance Day.