The 114th Battalion

The 114th Battalion

Seeing a new view of war

Lecture series is designed to provide info about social justice, peace, the environment – and creating a country that is fair to all.

It’s a perfect match.

Come Wednesday, March 12, Okanagan College professor James Wood will present the first MacQuarrie lecture being put on by the college.

His topic: The First World War and Indigenous Rights in Canada.

He will focus on Lt.-Col. Andrew Thompson, the commanding officer of the 114th Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force, a battalion made up largely of indigenous people who volunteered despite their very limited civil rights.

The lecture is the first in what Dan MacQuarrie, series sponsor and catalyst, envisions will be a vehicle for spreading information about social justice, peace, the environment – and creating a country that is fair to all.

His wish for the series stems from “my belief in humanity and Canadians in particular, who are basically pretty generous, compassionate people…,” he says. “However we have busy lives and sometimes don’t realize things.”

Regarding the focus of this first lecture, he refers to the “great travesty and injustice that’s been done to aboriginal people – and it continues to be done. Somehow or other we have to turn that around.”

An example of the present day injustice is the Indian Act, he notes, which is still the law of the land.

“It’s the most racist document ever written.”

MacQuarrie is quick to point out that his vision for the series of lectures, documentaries and whatever other vehicle is appropriate, will not only be about First Nations people.

“I’m not just in love with the natives. I want to have a fair level playing field for everybody.”

Wood, who speaks with great passion about his topic, will look at the war from Thompson’s view.

“From my perspective, Thompson is one of those people, you can almost tell the story of the First World War through his eyes, at least one person’s perspective on this conflict…” says Wood.

“It is something of a sad story that I have to tell, but one that deals with what these native soldiers were hoping to achieve when they go overseas, how they’re ultimately disappointed, what some of the long-term consequences of this are for them after the First World War, and also tying this in and telling the story through the perspective of Thompson.”

It is a personal as well as a political story about Thompson, whose son commits suicide as a result of his participation in the war.

The lecture starts at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, March 12 at the Salmar Classic Theatre.

Admission is a non-perishable food item for the food bank or a cash donation.