Ni­a­gara-born Beaver­ton ed­i­tor takes jab at his­tory

The Standard (St. Catharines) - - NEWS - LAURA BAR­TON lbar­ton@post­

The Beaver­ton is known for its satirist look at daily news. Now it’s look­ing at Cana­dian his­tory through the same lens.

Through a new book ti­tled Glo­ri­ous And/Or Free: The True His­tory of Canada, the same mock-news wit­ti­cism known to Beaver­ton au­di­ences is used to tell dif­fer­ent parts of Cana­dian his­tory.

“I think Cana­di­ans are really smug about their his­tory,” said Alex Hunt­ley, a Beaver­ton ed­i­tor, one of the book’s co-au­thors and a Ni­a­gara na­tive.

Of­ten, he said, Cana­di­ans have an air of su­pe­ri­or­ity about the his­tory of this coun­try, es­pe­cially in con­trast to that of the United States.

This book has been some­thing Hunt­ley said he’s wanted to do for many years. With his own in­ter­est in his­tory, it has fas­ci­nated him how Cana­di­ans tote around their his­tory with­out tak­ing a crit­i­cal look at such things as colo­nial­ism, racism, how Indige­nous peo­ple were treated and more.

The book’s sto­ries were cho­sen based on what the gen­eral knowl­edge of Cana­dian his­tory is, what Cana­di­ans don’t know and what myths and leg­ends there are about events or prom­i­nent fig­ures.

Hunt­ley was born in St. Catharines, grew up in Fonthill and at­tended high school at Notre Dame Col­lege School in Wel­land. Be­cause of that, he made a point to in­clude lo­cal his­tory sto­ries in the book, too, in­clud­ing the desire to sur­vive go­ing over Ni­a­gara Falls in the early 1900s and the lo­cal role in the War of 1812.

As is with all satire, ev­ery­thing is based on facets of truth, he said. What the book does is take those truths and throws them into ques­tion both by high­light­ing the ab­sur­di­ties of them and by telling them in a hu­mor­ous way.

“I would just like to skewer all the leg­ends and myths we have about Canada’s heroes, vil­lains and events,” he said.

He said Cana­di­ans of­ten like to boast the good things of the coun­try’s heroes, but the book takes time to satir­i­cally high­light their less favourable sides, too. For in­stance, there is a ‘choose your own ad­ven­ture’ sec­tion of the book in which the reader is Sir John A. Macdon­ald, a drunk­ard, and the reader goes along mak­ing de­ci­sions as him to see if he can bring Canada to­gether as a coun­try.

The goal isn’t to com­pletely bash Cana­dian his­tory, Hunt­ley said, but rather to take a crit­i­cal look at it. He said he and co-au­thor Luke Gor­don Field did their best to strike a bal­ance be­tween the pos­i­tives and the neg­a­tives.

“We don’t want this to just be an an­gry satir­i­cal rant on Cana­dian his­tory. We want the read­ers to get some good re­lief, some good hu­mour, and you’re go­ing along and go­ing along, and then we punch you in the gut.”

Putting the book to­gether was not as easy as writ­ing up sat­i­rized ac­countsofhis­tory,how­ever.After­land­ing a deal with Pen­guin Books, Hunt­ley said there was re­search in­volved and the track­ing down of his­tor­i­cal doc­u­ments and pho­tos. Some­times that meant get­ting in touch with the na­tional ar­chives and other times it meant get­ting in touch with peo­ple who had per­sonal col­lec­tions. Then there are those who are not in the au­tho­rial by­line that lended their hands and of­fered sup­port through­out.

Hav­ing this book come out dur­ing Canada’s sesqui­cen­ten­nial an­niver­sary year is some­thing that’s not lost on Hunt­ley.

“As Cana­di­ans, we’re con­stantly try­ing to fig­ure out that defining day when Canada be­came Canada.”

In his mind, Canada is and has been con­stantly evolv­ing. There were peo­ple on these lands for thou­sands of years be­fore any­one started call­ing it Canada, and he thinks they’re no less a part of the coun­try’s his­tory than any­one or any­thing else.

Glo­ri­ous And/Or Free: The True His­tory of Canada was re­leased late last month. The book is avail­able for pur­chase at most book stores.


Alex Hunt­ley, co-au­thor of The Beaver­ton’s Glo­ri­ous And/Or Free: The True His­tory of Canada, skims through a copy of the book fea­tur­ing al­most 200 pages of sat­i­rized Cana­dian his­tory.

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