Since the #IdleNoMore movement began, it has been common to refer to non-aboriginal Canadians as “Settlers” and non-aboriginal Canadians like me who support the movement are sometimes termed “Allies”. I have not felt comfortable with the “Settler” term from the beginning, but not for the reasons that some might raise: “I never settled nothin’!”, etc.
Unlike the ancestors of some of my neighbours who arrived in what would become Canada in the early 17th Century and truly did clear land, plant crops, build settlements and partner with the First Nations to build a settled life, my ancestors came to the new cities of Canada, first to Quebec, Montreal, Toronto and Ottawa. Indeed, apart from a disappointing experiment in Hastings County, Canada West, which ended in a lethal disagreement over a few chickens, my family have never seriously homesteaded. We have always been urban people moving into built landscapes already “settled”. And, today, in our Canada of immigrants and children of immigrants, our Canada to which new Canadians come from the metropolises of the world to our own Canadian metropolises, there aren’t a lot of descendants of the actual Settlers left as a proportion of our population.
So, here’s what I would propose to the #IdleNoMore movement: some non-aboriginal Canadians might appropriately be termed “Settlers”, but I and many others do not deserve the honour – mixed as the honour may be — of being linked with the voyageurs and the homesteaders. We, and the Settlers, are all “Newcomers” but all Newcomers are not Settlers. It’s a small point, but I think it would be great to have the #Newcomer hashtag replace #Settler as the common twitter term for non-aboriginal Canadians, whether new immigrants or those having roots in the land as deep or deeper than my own.
Update, April 3, 2014: I’ve changed my mind. Corey Snelgrove and Klara Woldenga have convinced me of Why the term ‘Settler’ needs to stick.