A novelty license plate Hutchings received from the small hamlet of Bond Head, Ont. (Contributed photo)

UNBC professor to study anti-colonial sentiment of former Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada

Research into Francis Bond Head suggests he was opposed to Upper Canada’s early colonial polices.

While colonialism was all but universally supported among Upper Canada’s socio-political elite, one University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC) English professor’s research has revealed a surprisingly-contrarian view towards the subject in a former Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Canada.

For more than 15 years, Dr. Kevin Hutchings has studied the life of Sir Francis Bond Head, Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada from 1836–1838.

But in a time where colonialism and anti-Indigenous sentiment was high, Hutchings’ research into Bond Head paints a picture of an individual with contrarian views towards the policies of assimilation that would come to inform Canada’s residential school system.

READ MORE: Art Gallery and Museum collaborate on historical Fall Fair exhibiton

The UNBC professor recently was awarded a grant for $67,000 over four years from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada’s (SSHRC) Insight Grants program which will allow him to further his research into the life and literary works of Bond Head.

In an interview with The Interior News, Hutchings said that, while the majority of his research has been narrowly focused on one 1836 treaty that Bond Head negotiated with Anishinaabe people, it was something he came across reading one of his old books that initially sparked his interest in the historical figure, who has largely faded into obscurity as being most well-known for being Lieutenant-Governor during the Upper Canada Rebellion of 1837.

“The thing that originally sparked my interest in Francis bond head was in reading through some of his books I came across quotations or assertions … that Francis Bond Head made criticisms of European colonialism.”

Pointing to a number of essays published by Bond Head, Hutchings said that many of the comments he made — especially since many were made after his time as Lieutenant-Governor — were essentially unheard of at the time among Upper Canada’s political elite.

In one 1838 essay published by Bond Head in the Quarterly Review, he called Indigenous North Americans “the real proprietors of the New World.”

In that same essay he called Europeans “usurpers of their soil.”

“He actually criticized what he called the cruelties and injustice of European colonialism. And then he went so far in one of his books to call the European treatment of Indigenous people in North America ‘the most sinful story ever recorded in the history of the human race’,” said Hutchings.

“These kinds of criticisms of European colonialism really stood out for me because they were rare, especially rarely articulated by people who held positions of power.”

Now as a result of that funding from the SSHRC, Hutchings will have a chance to delve even further into the life of the relatively-unknown Canadian figure through the first ever detailed literary study of Bond Head’s life.

The overall study has a goal of demonstrating a conscious exploitation of his literary celebrity to support his often-controversial political work.

READ MORE: Shared Histories author wins historical writing award

This was done, Hutchings said, through a series of writings and essays published by Hutchings, both in the lead-up to his time as Lieutenant-Governor and afterwards when he returned to England.

“They were popular travel memoirs about his travels in places like Germany and South America and these books became bestsellers … so by the time he came to Canada he had established himself as an author and a journalist [and] used those connections to help him during the time that he was in power.”

Likewise, Bond Head used his pull in the international media community in an attempt to garner positive coverage about his administration, as well as subsequently justify his actions while in power.

The former Lieutenant-Governor was, for example, friends with famous publisher John Murray and was frequently featured in his Quarterly Review.

”[He] would cut out clippings from the colonial newspapers in Upper Canada that provided positive reflections on the things that he was doing. And he would send them to John Murray and ask him to get them into the London papers.”

This literary fame persisted into Bond Head’s career post-Upper Canada and would see him publish a number of books about his time in power.

Two notable ones were “A Narrative” published in 1839 and a literary memoir of sorts, “The Emigrant”, published in 1846.

“He used these publications to justify and defend his administration during the period in which he was the governor of Upper Canada,” said Hutchings.

But the UNBC professor also noted it wasn’t as simple as classifying Bond Head as pro-Indigenous.

“He had come to Upper Canada to fulfill his duty and to promote the colony. And the continued settlement and the economic development that the colony.

“But at the same time he had great misgivings about the consequences of settlements and economic development for Indigenous people who were the ‘real proprietors of the land.’ That’s something that — at least in my experience as a researcher — I have rarely encountered that kind of strident critique of British colonialism in North America.”

Hutchings said that, in addition to research, grant funds from the SSHRC will allow him to present his findings as far away as New Zealand.

It will also allow Hutchings to employ a number of research assistants to assist him in his investigation into Bond Head’s life.

As for Hutchings, he said despite years of research into Bond Head’s life there are still large elements to his story that remain enigmatic.

“I’ve read the stuff that praises him and I’ve read the stuff that critiques him — I think that the truth is more complicated than either flat out criticism more or a full-blown praise. And so I’m wanting to … consider that complexity as I approach him.”


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

No parole for 12 years for Burns Lake man convicted of second degree murder

Judge said he did not believe Albert Giesbrecht’s claim his gun discharged accidentally

Snowfall warning continues for parts of B.C.’s Interior

First significant snowfall of the season prompts Environment Canada warning

Coastal GasLink receives first delivery of pipe sections

Company expects to begin welding and pipe laying in 2020

Northwest B.C. physician receives Medal of Good Citizenship Award

Dr. Peter Newbery was one of 18 people in B.C. to get provincial recognition

Northern Society for Domestic Peace remembers women killed in Montreal Massacre 30 years ago

Society will hand out 14 red roses, one for each of the victims, to women who stop by office today

China hints at national security trials for 2 Canadians detained for one year

The two Canadians’ detention is largely seen as retaliation for the arrest of a Huawei exec

B.C. seaplane company set to test the first commercial electronic plane

The plane is powered by a 750 horsepower electric motor

Telkwa’s taps running again

A water line failure on Saturday caused some residents to be without water for more than 24 hours

Fireballs to fill the sky Friday for brightest meteor shower of the year

Geminid meteor shower features colourful, brighter, longer shooting stars

Province sues over sailing incident that killed teen with disabilities

Gabriel Pollard, 16, died from injuries after marine lift failed

First Nations want Big Bar landslide cleared ASAP to allow fish passage

Leadership calling for urgent action and resources to remove obstruction on the Fraser

Assessed value of Lower Mainland homes expected to decrease in 2020

Other areas of province may see modest increases over last year’s values

Terrace SAR headquarters in last stretch of fundraising

$400,000 dollars needed to finish $1.4 million project

Most Read