“Not as crazy as you’d think: Canada’s Fenian scare and Thomas D’Arcy McGee,” with Keith Henderson
Tuesday, March 23, 2021
This year (2021) marks the sesquicentennial of the last Fenian raid on Canada, which took place in Emerson, Manitoba in October of 1871. Fenian leader John O’Neill hoped for Métis support for his efforts to split British North America (and ultimately Ireland) from Imperial rule, but he failed, just as previous, more dangerous Fenian incursions in 1866 and 1870 failed. Why should we take these Irish American marauders seriously? Because Thomas D’Arcy McGee did. He sensed the power and the danger of ethnocentric movements, particularly those fueled by grievance, and did his utmost to counteract them. From the mid-nineteenth century on, McGee bridled at Irish separatism and championed Confederation. His pro-union views come into stark relief in these days of referendums and potential break-ups, in Spain, Great Britain, and here at home.
Keith Henderson is a novelist and publisher. He led Quebec’s Equality Party during the 1995 referendum and championed English language rights and the “poison pill” strategy of partitioning Quebec if ever Quebec partitioned Canada; positions covered in full length articles in the Los Angeles and New York Times as well as on CBS 60 Minutes. Henderson’s The Roof Walkers captures the flavour of the Fenian period.