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More important Canadian antique memorabilia the Museum has preserved.

The Anonymous Lindsay Volunteer - George E Laidlaw, Lindsay, ON - c 1890

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Great Canadian Heritage Treasure "He's a European officer I think." said the antique dealer when we asked for information. "It came from a house in the Lindsay area!"

We are always sleuthing out high profile antique shows. Especially those with a reputation for high prices, because antique dealers try to save up special items to sell for large amounts. The logic, for us, is that unique items will show up there that are set aside from ordinary auctions.

That is also why we make sure we are first in the door, on opening night, before the crush of greedy buyers overwhelm the place, and clean out the choice items.

The door had hardly been open for five minutes when we spotted this large oil of an anonymous soldier, by an anonymous painter, in the booth of a seller who knew next to nothing about the picture, or the era, the sitter was probably from.

The crowd was gathering and we knew if we looked further, to see what else was available, it would probably be gone, sold to a knowledgeable collector, or, a smart dealer, looking for choice items he could "flip" at inflated prices at another sale.

Believing we had a special item, of exactly the kind we were looking for, we asked for "her best price" for an item that was already priced very low.

Sellers know that paintings of anonymous sitters by anonymous painters are not popular among antique buyers.

So was he English, Hungarian, Austrian, French, Italian, Polish, Spanish, or German?

All possibilities, in Canada today, where antique portraits have been brought over by generations of immigrants from all parts of Europe over the last hundred years.

Lt. George E Laidlaw 1885
Orig. oil on canvas - Size - 16" x 24"
Found - Bowmanville, ON
Unsigned, pencil dated c 1890
Later, we scoured the picture for clues that would help us give a name to this anonymous European soldier. We subscribe to the maxim, "Don't look for an exotic explanation until all local possibilities have been checked out and dismissed!"

We were almost immediately certain he was not European but from the era of the 2nd Riel Rebellion of 1885. He wore a dark uniform and pillbox of the artillery units of the time, and of some members of the Canadian militia.

He wore the snake buckle of the British Army of the era.

He also cradled a swagger stick across his knees, identifying him as an officer, and so a leading member in his community. This single cultural item alone, steered us away from all the privates who might be a candidate for his identity.

Besides, in the 1880s, no Ontario farmer could afford, or have an interest in, commissioning an oil painting of a soldier son who was more interested in chasing off after some fool Indians in the North West Territory, when there was plenty of spring plowing to be done, not to mention milking, or clearing more trees off the back forty!

An oil painting was more likely to be done by a family who thought highly of having exactly those kinds of mementoes of illustrious family members doing the "Nation's business."

The canvas is mounted on a stretcher with wedges. Some canvas repairs have been done sometime in its life. All indications that no expense was spared, or love denied, to preserve this memento of a proud moment in a family's history.

The records show that 48 volunteers went off from the Lindsay area's 45th Militia Regiment to join the army sent to put down the Riel Rebellion. Because of the swagger stick we dismissed the 45 noncommissioned members of the unit.

Three officers shepherded the men from Lindsay to Kingston where they were incorporated into the Midland Battalion: Maj. John Hughes, Capt. JC Grace, and Lt. George E. Laidlaw.

We believe the portrait is of Lt. George E Laidlaw, the eldest son of George Laidlaw, of Lindsay, Ontario.

George Laidlaw (1828-1889)

George Laidlaw (1828-1889), was head of one of the most prominent families in the Lindsay area. He had made his fame and fortune promoting the building of railways. We believe he was immensely proud of his son's leadership role during the Riel Rebellion that threatened every value he held dear.

"An energetic railway promoter and builder, Laidlaw was born in Scotland and emigrated to Toronto in 1855. He soon prospered as a grain merchant and a wharf-owner, and after 1866 gained prominence as a convincing advocate of the commercial benefits of railways emanating from Toronto. Between 1869-1873 Laidlaw skillfully negotiated the completion of the Toronto, Grey and Bruce Railway to Owen Sound, and the Toronto and Nipissing to Coboconk. As managing director of the Credit Valley Railway, he vigorously opposed rival railway interests and deftly marshaled regional and Toronto support to insure the line's completion in 1880 from St. Thomas, Elora and Orangeville. Dedicated to agrarian improvement, Laidlaw retired to his nearby ranch, where he raised pure-bred livestock. " (From Ontario Government plaque)

We believe he chose to express his pride in his eldest son, and his patriotism, by commissioning the above portrait of George E Laidlaw. Did he do it to express his pride in the family's - indeed if not the Lindsay area's - only graduate from Canada's prestigious Royal Military College, or of his son's service to defend the homeland against those rebellious ingrates out west?

He must have been especially proud - as a railway man - of the enormously important role that the newly built railway played in getting the army to the scene of the "rebellion" and restoring order. In 1870, before the railway went west, it had taken months for the army to trudge through the wilderness to get to the site of the troubles. Now, in 1885, some troops from Winnipeg were assembling in Saskatchewan within days; eastern troops arrived in a little over a week later. This was blessed progress to George Laidlaw.

George E. Laidlaw (1860-1927)

George E. Laidlaw - who we assume is the subject of the colour portrait - was a recent graduate of the Royal Military College, at Kingston, Ontario.

Suddenly the Riel Rebellion broke out in the far west.

George was wounded at Batoche right, being shot in the right calf, while he was part of the famous Canadian militia charge that routed the Métis, while the British General Middleton was ignominiously eating breakfast.

George Laidlaw returned to Ontario where he started a ranch, which he called The Fort, on Balsam Lake in Victoria County. There he raised cattle and wrote for small journals.

When the Boer War broke out he became a Lieutenant in Lord Strathcona's Horse, and served in South Africa.

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure The Batoche cemetery, with the mass grave of nine Métis buried here after the battle.

No doubt George would recount, with pride, for many years, how his men had taken three days to beat back the "enemy" in the trenches in the cemetery and around the church.

Go to Batoche

What George wouldn't say is that, what he, and the Canadian army of the time (Canadian militia) were actually doing, was fighting an entire population - Canada's unique Métis people - and evicting them from their property, their farms, and burning their homes and barns so they would have no place to shelter their families in the coming winter.

The Métis leader, Louis Riel, would be hanged. The other Métis people would flee for their lives - many to the United States for safety!

Battlefield, Batoche, Saskatchewan, May 1885
Orig. site - Image Size - 23 cm
Found - Batoche, SK

It would take the Métis 100 years to recover as a people, and to slowly filter back, to find others occupying and prospering on their lands.

Batoche is not a proud accomplishment for the Canadian Army, or the Government of Canada.

Canada's Racist Past - But the newly minted Dominion of Prime Minister John A Macdonald was determined to prove that it could be as heartless, in persecuting minorities (Indian and Métis), as the British Army, which, in 1838, ruthlessly killed hundreds of French Canadians and burned their churches, homes, and farms.

The British army created a national wound which still festers among many Quebecois, 170 years later, and is at the heart of the Sovereignty or Separatist Movement which flares up in the hearts of many French-Canadians with every passing generation.

Who, they question, wants to stay in a country that brutalizes its minorities with contempt, and armed force, in political disputes?

The British Army killing French-Canadians in Quebec, and the Canadian Militia killing Métis in the West, were viewed in Quebec as opposite sides of the same coin, because Métis were mixed race people of Indian and French background. French-Canadians, like Liberal Opposition Leader, Wilfrid Laurier, left championed Métis rights, believing they were being persecuted simply because they were French.

Laurier became famous for his parliamentary speeches in defence of minority Métis rights and his eloquent pleas for clemency for Louis Riel below left.

Anglophone Prime Minister John A Macdonald right trumpeted, "Riel shall hang though every dog in Quebec bark in his favour." Macdonald left French-Canadians free to infer who the "dogs" were in Quebec. Racism does bedevil Canadian history, and at the highest levels. And so was hanged the man we call today, the Founder of Manitoba.

Eleven years later, the voice of multi-cultural tolerance, Wilfrid Laurier, would become Prime Minister of Canada, and for 15 years lay the groundwork for the 20th century, which he said would be "Canada's century." It would be a Canada that would depart from its racist past, and become a voice of reason in the world, and speak up for, and seek to protect, minorities at home and abroad. And for a century Canada, and her politicians, did exactly that, as Canada became the most multicultural country in the world, and a welcoming host for peoples of all colours, and creeds from every corner of the globe.

Thanks to Laurier's clarion call, Canada in the 20th century won unrivaled praise around the world for living up to the high standard he set in domestic and foreign politics. In the 1950s Prime Minister Pearson, on Canada's behalf, would win the Nobel Peace Prize, and international praise, for fulfilling Laurier's dream. He's the only Canadian ever to win this world class honour.

Not a Peep
- Then at the opening of the 21st century, Canadian politicians of all stripes suddenly reverted back to the dark racist past of over a century ago, by dramatically turning their backs on the plight of non-white, non-Christian relatives of Canadian minorities whose women and children were being systematically killed in the many, many hundreds by the Israeli Forces in the Middle East.

No Canadian politician spoke up in their defence; no Order of Canada holder rushed to denounce their extermination; no preacher of "Never Again" could be found, anywhere in the land, pleading for their lives; no self-styled Canadian Human Rights Advocates, previously heard, loudly and publicly, expressing their outrage, protesting human rights abuses by non-whites, spoke up. Not a single one; not one peep. It's always different when white Judaeo-Christians are the perpetrators.

At the dawn of the 21st century, there was no Laurier, and no Pearson, left in the land. Canada entered what will long come to be seen, in its history, as an aberrant departure from a noble, progressive, humanitarian, 20th century past, and a descent into the Dark Ages of human conduct. Laurier and Pearson would, both, turn over in their graves.

Canada has no one left, willing to speak up for Riel - or for the women and the children...

But an endless supply of vocal spokesmen for ensuring that George Bush's legacy outlives the most malevolent Presidency in world history.

Decent, non-racist Canadians will just have to wait, and hope, that some day, non-white Muslim, Palestinian, Lebanese, Iraqi, Iranian, Afghan, and Pakistani women and children, will become as fashionable concerns for white Judaeo-Christian human rights activists, as Israeli ones always are.

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure One of the most stunning pictures ever produced, to express the outrage of those - admittedly - declining numbers of people who oppose the killing of women and children in war, is this famous Boer War era poster.

Don't look for any 21st century Canadian to draw such a picture.

Certainly don't look for any Canadian newspaper or magazine to publish one.

Today's Canadian politicians, human rights activists, and journalists, give such sentiments short shrift with a cryptic, if callous, "Too bad, eh?"

It serves to remind us all that History is not a steady linear progressive development. That so-called highly civilized countries, like Britain here, or Germany, to name only two, can suddenly revert to embrace, even indulge themselves with relish, in acts of savage Nazi barbarism, whenever it suits them.

And no one says a peep...

At the dawn of the 21st century, racism has come back into fashion...

L'Assiette au Beurre - Sept. 28, 1901 (A Boer mother protesting British war crimes)

Orig. lithograph in magazine - Image Size - 25 x 32 cm, 22 pages
Found - Yorkshire, UK

Target the Civilians - Some 26,000 Boer women and children died in British concentration camps in South Africa, during the Boer War, as a direct result of British Army policy towards the family members of the enemy combatants it was fighting. But it worked. It brought the Boer War to a close, successfully forcing the Boer guerillas to surrender because they could not bear to lose more of their women and children to the British war machine. Some 10% of the Boer population - mostly women and children - was wiped out to seal the British victory. Clearly the Israeli Defence Forces, with its long ties to the South African military, are avid students of the Boer War.

Blame the Victim - In an interesting parallel to today, with the deliberate killing of hundreds of Muslim women and children by the ruthless Israeli Defence Forces - sorry but that's the official name of those doing it - the women victims were commonly blamed for their own deaths. Echoing many heartless British voices of a century ago, are many equally cold-blooded commentators in Israeli, Canadian, and American media today - the Toronto Star's hard as nails Rosie diManno is merely one of the most merciless - who snark at the pile of corpses dismissively, "It's their own fault; they have only themselves to blame," and coldly urge on the killing, in the name of self-defence. Who says that civilization advances...?

Devil's Advocate - "Now who was it who said, "Never again?"

Voice of Reason, in Self-Defence - "Well now, common, be reasonable; you know we only meant when it suits us."

and below the Jean Caron family house rebuilt on the same site to replace the one burned by the Canadian forces at Batoche on the first day of the battle.

The military camp (zareba) was in the field to the right of the house and the cemetery and the church behind the woods to the left.

Left a photo probably showing the Caron house on fire with the military camp on the right.

For a look at the people who were the victims at Batoche...

Go to The Métis

The Caron house was rebuilt after the Rebellion which Métis people today call the Métis or Riel Resistance.


120 years after the Battle of Batoche, a passionate Métis - Mark Calette - is the Site Manager of the Batoche National Historic Site, a place from where his relatives were chased and shot up by the armed forces of the Government of Canada, over a century ago...

Many generations would sit on the porch and sadly discuss those horrific three days in May, when these quiet pasture fields were turned into hell on earth for Métis men, women, and children, by the Canadian Anglophone soldiers who had come from thousands of miles away to try to put an end to the Métis fact on the prairies.

Dead, meaningless history to many in Ontario...

But not to a young Métis girl from the Cut Knife School in western Saskatchewan who went on a pilgrimage to visit the spot...

And won The Government of Saskatchewan Heritage Poster Contest for her drawing and her thoughts...


Heritage Poster Contest for Saskatchewan Students

Cut Knife Student Receives Award at the Saskatchewan Legislature
Aleah Anseth, Grade 6 student from Cut Knife Elementary has won
the provincial annual Heritage Poster Contest.

Aleah entered a hand drawn picture of the Caron House in Batoche.
The picture has significance to her, as her great great grandparents built it.

Aleah was presented her award by Dr. Linda Haverstock, Lieutenant Governor of Saskatchewan
and Joanne Crawford, MLA Fort Regina Rosemount.

The award was presented to Aleah at the Saskatchewan Legislature on February23rd, 2006.
Congratulations Aleah!

The George E Laidlaw Collection - The Royal Ontario Museum - Toronto, Ontario

George E Laidlaw went on to play an important role in investigating and preserving the artifacts and cultural lore connected to the Aboriginal People of Ontario's Victoria County.

There is a large display above of Aboriginal items from his collection at the Royal Ontario Museum, in Toronto, Ontario.








Unfortunately the signage for his fine collection is abominably placed, near the floor, where you have to literally get on your knees to be able to read the small type in the dimly lit display. (Left the light levels as they are; we boosted the exposure on the larger picture for this page.)

None of the many people we watched go by, on a Sunday afternoon, even tried to strain their backs, knees, or eyes to make out what the signs said.

Heck, none of the staff members read them either, or they would have discovered what happens in every case - as you lean forward, to get close enough to be able to read the small type, you always end up throwing a heavy shadow over an already dimly lit sign, adding further eye strain.

Being more dedicated than most, we knelt on hard flooring - as former Catholics we're used to pain from kneeling - and twisted our eyes in knots to make out the small script. But eye strain and headaches soon stopped even our intrepid efforts cold. And we just peered at things... in utter frustration, in the gloom...

The result, of course, is an educational experience somewhat similar to a deaf husband listening to his wife, watching a slide show with no sound, a TV with no audio, or a preacher with no sermon - you haven't got a clue what it is you're watching. And no one ever becomes the wiser about who collected these priceless artifacts, or what it says about Canada's Aboriginal Peoples, or Canada's heritage or history.

So what's the point? George's contribution is lost to most visitors...

Educationally, intellectually, this museum experience is a total bust...

So the museum is reduced to basically being there only to provide jobs for employees... to do bad displays...

Other exhibits in this large room were also abysmally lit and plaqued, so badly that we told ourselves the next time we come we'll bring knee pads and our own flashlight. Seriously... we will.

Knee pain and eye strain interfere with learning, on every level. And the old saw about low light levels to protect the artifacts is ludicrous. Automatic switching of light levels is cheap and easy to do and a clear requirement for proper public viewing, appreciation, and learning. Otherwise simply close the place up and store the few items on display in the basement, where the overwhelming number of museum artifacts are already.

Someday, we hope, George's collection will get proper signage, when the ROM gets curators that know something about public education, visual learning and exhibit presentation.

The Royal Ontario Museum - Then and Now

Below a young couple gaze at the ugly and cheap looking old part of the Royal Ontario Museum, glad that the Museum director, William Thorsell, has a promising new vision for an improvement. And not a moment too soon either...

The Royal Ontario Museum, you may recall, won great notoriety, when, instead of choosing to improve obviously inferior displays for its existing collections, it decided, instead, to spend multimillions on a reno project for a new wing in the SAWIWFF style, dear to the heart of its artistic promoter, William Thorsell.

(SAWIWFF - Screwed Angular Wallboard in Washroom Fluorescent Finish - also known as Willie's Wallboard Heaven or Walmart Style, because apparently the architect was artistically inspired after visiting a Wal-Mart store.)

Below the ROM store. You Wal-Mart shoppers will note the astonishing similarities...

You can see by the great artistic transformation from the old to the new, with one of the exquisitely finished banisters above, how the whole place has been screwed up... with Willie's wallboard, that is...

The amount of screwing involved is truly mind-boggling, as there are literally millions and millions of exposed screws everywhere, holding jagged sections of wallboard together... And all on full display, on ceilings, and walls, to impress visitors that the architect spent his millions on screwing... and not himself...

Most visitors uncharitably voted for the SAWIWFF reno as the Toronto building mostly likely to be demolished in the next ten years. That would make it - without peer - as the most expensive piece of trash ever produced in Toronto's entire history.

This is, of course, an unkind assessment, totally lacking in insight, vision, or artistic or architectural appreciation...

With its intimate ambiance, soft and soothing lighting, colourful decor, creatively designed counters, and artistically arranged displays, Willie's Wallboard Heaven is a shoo-in to become the next Wal-Mart outlet at the prestigious address at Bloor and Avenue Road.

Apparently Wal-Mart executives were beside themselves when they discovered the building, amid reports it might be up for sale.

Giddy with excitement, enthused its board: "Goodness, and we don't have to change a single thing to fit in perfectly with the rest of our chain. Why the bookstore counter offers just the perfect ambience for displaying cartons of toilet paper and feminine hygiene products."

Below the stunning new entrance to Willie's Wallboard Heaven.

Wallboard here, and wallboard there...
Wallboard screwed up everywhere...

Left a disappointed customer ducks around the creative new pylons that support the reno, wondering why the pictures, that she expected to see displayed in a museum, weren't hanging on them...?

She was further miffed, to have had to pay an inflated entrance fee - to help pay the architect for his expensive reno - and discover that so little was on display.

She was assured, by staff, that the exhibits she had expected to see were well taken care of, in the basement, and would be displayed as soon as the staff could figure out how to hang stuff on all the crooked surfaces, and how to put display cabinets against angled walls and pillars.

They said it may take a few years to figure out...

Because the pillars are slanted at such terrifying angles the ROM makes it mandatory for visitors to wear hard hats, to prevent head injuries from accidental contact with the sharp edges.

These columns again, are tastefully covered with wallboard, artistically screwed into place.

Left to make sure that none of the multimillions of dollars in materials used to build the reno, went to waste, all the left over bits - lights, pipes, glass, columns, and jagged chunks of wallboard, were temporarily - OK, we admit, it, carelessly - stacked up in a corner, till someone could figure out a use for them...

A wall bent here, a wall tilt there,
There isn't a straight wall anywhere...

The ROM reflects our moral core,
There's nobody straight in TO no more...

George Laidlaw died at the Fort in 1927.

Somewhere there must be a picture of Lieut. George E Laidlaw, who later became a Colonel, which we could compare to the portrait.

In November 2008, our conclusions about the painting were confirmed when members of the Laidlaw family, who still live on the homestead, contacted us to say the portrait is indeed that of young George Laidlaw.


The family kindly provided the standing portrait and mounted view of Colonel George Laidlaw.

Another Great Canadian Treasure saved from the trash heap of history by the Canadian Anglo-Boer War Museum.