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The Black Book of English Canada

by Normand Lester,Ray Conlogue, trans.

For Normand Lester, a francophone journalist with Radio-Canada, the officially promoted narratives of Canadian history are biased in favour of English Canada and whitewash its many injustices. Lester wants to set the record straight, and in The Black Book of English Canada he does so with refreshing passion and angst.

Originally released in French,The Black Book gained instant notoriety and garnered substantial sales in Quebec. Lester looks unapologetically at the dark side of Canadian political history, highlighting the injustice, bigotry, and outright brutality of its Anglophone elites and media. Although Lester’s own political sympathies are with French Canadians, he also examines other minority groups who have been the target of racism and human rights violations, notably Japanese and Jewish Canadians during and after the Second World War.

Lester paints a radically different picture of the “just and tolerant” Canada. Chronicling events as diverse as the expulsion of Acadians, the corrupt and unfair trial of Louis Riel, the closing of French schools in Canada, and ruthless and relentless anti-Francophone media campaigns by major Anglophone newspapers, Lester’s incendiary voice and ethical force issue a loud call for a more balanced national historical narrative.

Many of these themes have been explored elsewhere, but Lester’s strength lies in mounting a very coherent attack on the historical perfidy of ruling British elites in Canada, as well as their royalist fervour and imperialist intolerance of other nationalisms. Lester’s informed critical response is an essential read, not because it claims to be the “true” story, but because dialogue on historical truth remains essential not only to understanding the Canadian present, but to developing a democratic society that allows different voices to articulate the vision of its future.