Niagara- born Beaverton editor takes jab at Canadian history
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 accounts of history, however. After landing 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,” he said.
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.