Sarah Jane Scouten
February 17, 2020 - Moniaive, Scotland
Some folks may know I’ve been sojourning in Europe. 8 months in Luxembourg City and more recently in the hills of Dumfries and Galloway in Scotland. You might point out that Scotland is technically no longer in Europe, and let me tell you the local tone surrounding Brexit has been tense.
On January 31, I performed at a house concert just north of Glasgow in a historical lochside manor. Rewind a few hours and my car had broken down going up the Dalveen Pass, a mountain road I call Skyfall because it spills out over a valley that looks just like the one in the Bond film. I made it to the garage in Thornhill where I called Ron, the house concert presenter. He immediately said, “I’m coming to get you.” In Britain, people don’t just casually drive for an hour but he was ready to get me at the drop of a hat. We got back to the house concert in time for me to sing my little heart out to fifty Scots, Brits and further flung Europeans. My set ended just before the stroke of midnight, when the UK officially left the EU, and these folks were visibly solemn. They couldn’t let the moment pass without some characteristic dark, self-deprecating humour.
Since 1993, the project of the European Union has allowed free movement of European citizens throughout, to exchange language, culture, ideas, to be educated, to find work, a better life. To someone for whom immigration woes haven’t fully subsided, it sounds like heaven. The EU is not without its problems. But on January 31 the UK revoked any power to improve the EU as a leader for positive change and any future of being a part of something greater than themselves.
I lived in what remains of Europe (ok that’s a little dramatic) for long enough to have my eyes opened. I am Canadian, that means I talk loud (although not as loud as Americans), I stop to pet dogs, I use antiquated Quebecois French words, and I basically have a social “get out of jail free” card. My social anxiety has melted away, knowing I will inevitably be misunderstood, so why bother worrying?
Europeans have an idea of Canadians as friendly, polite and respectful. Globally we have a great reputation for cultural policies surrounding indigenous people, as my husband told me when we first met. He worked for years with Peace Brigades International defending indigenous people in West Papua that is now occupied by the Indonesian government. I know many of you tuning in to what has been happening in Wet’suwet’en in the province known as British Columbia (ie. my home) must be guffawing. Those of you who don’t, this week the RCMP invaded and forcibly removed Wet’suwet’en people on unceded Unist’ot’en land (ie. no treaty has been signed and the indigenous people have legal rights to protect their land) in order to push through a natural gas pipeline. I found out through social media posts and began reading articles on APTN and in the Toronto Star, but found https://unistoten.camp to be the most informative.
Lately I’ve been reflecting on my colonial guilt, or more specifically, the alleviation of it while I’m so far from home. Sometimes when North Americans travel in Europe, they feel like they’ve “come home”. This is a phenomenon I call the “nostalgia tour”, the butt of many a joke about North Americans, which I have seen first hand on a number of occasions and in myself. Could it be that “coming home” feeling is actually just the distance one feels from the colonial guilt they bear in their actual homes on stolen indigenous land?
Today is Louis Riel Day in Manitoba, where my father’s family is from for several generations. My great great grandfather Ashel Scouten joined the Red River Expeditionary Force in 1872 when Louis Riel, the political leader of the indigenous Metis people, was in exile after the Red River Rebellion. My great great grandfather later joined the Northwest Mounted Police, which later became the RCMP, created by Prime Minister John A. MacDonald to “maintain” the North-Western Territories. It’s hard to think about the kind of things he did in the name of Canada. 150 years later the RCMP are still at it.
On March 27 I will begin my first full band European tour through Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg since the fateful 2017 tour on which I met my husband Antoine. I’m a little older, a little wiser, I know what European traffic signs mean now more or less and I’ve got a new album! This time I’m touring with two Hungarians on electric guitar and drums and a Dutch bass player. If you’re curious what Hungarian space-country chops sound like, better buy a ticket to one of our shows. But if you think I’m going to get up, sing vapid country music and let you continue to believe Canada is the idyllic, monochromatic place you hold in your imagination, I will tell you otherwise. Canada has filthy hands that it hides behind the crisp white apron of a gleaming, if not unexamined, global reputation.
27/3 Nochtwache - Hamburg DE
28/3 Volksbad - Flensburg DE
30/3 Domkeller - Aachen DE
31/3 Crossroads Radio - Bergen op Zoom NL
2/3 Konrad Café - Luxembourg LUX
3/3 St Barbara Kirche - Lichtentanne DE
4/3 Valve Records - Solingen DE
7/3 De Melkbus - Dordrecht NL
8/3 Rozenknopje - Eindhoven NL
9/3 Live Stage Marnix - Ede NL
10/3 Dranouter Muziek Centrum - Dranouter BE