Nicholas Flood Davin
|Member of the Canadian Parliament |
for Assiniboia West
|Preceded by||Electoral district created|
|Succeeded by||Thomas Walter Scott|
|Born||January 13, 1840|
Kilfinane (Republic of Ireland)
|Died||October 18, 1901 61) (aged|
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
|Political party||Conservative Party of Canada (1867–1942)|
Nicholas Flood Davin (January 13, 1840 – October 18, 1901) was a lawyer, journalist and politician, born at Kilfinane, Ireland. The first MP for Assiniboia West (1887–1900), Davin was known as the voice of the North-West.
Davin founded and edited the Regina Leader , the first newspaper in Assiniboia. He tried to gain provincial status for the territory.
Davin is considered one of the architects of the Canadian Indian residential school system. In 1879 he wrote the Report on Industrial Schools for Indians and Half-Breeds, otherwise known as The Davin Report , in which he advised the federal government to institute residential schools for Indigenous children. Ultimately, the implementation of the residential school programme proved to have adverse impact on the indigenous population, described as "cultural genocide."
Davin was a parliamentary and war correspondent in England before arriving in Toronto in 1872, where he wrote for The Globe . Although a fully qualified lawyer, Davin practised little law. The highlight of his legal career was his 1880 defence of George Bennett, who murdered George Brown.
A chance visit to the West in 1882 determined his future. In 1883, he founded and edited the Regina Leader, the first newspaper in Assiniboia; the paper carried his detailed reports of the 1885 trial of Louis Riel. A spellbinding speaker and Conservative MP for Assiniboia West from 1887–1900, Davin tried to gain provincial status for the territory, economic and property advantages for the new settlers–even the franchise for women–but he never achieved his ambition to be a Cabinet minister. A mercurial personality, he became depressed by the decline of his political and personal fortunes and shot himself during a visit to Winnipeg on October 18, 1901. Davin wrote The Irishman in Canada (1877), as well as poetry, and an unpublished novel.
He had an interesting, oft-times illustrious career and upon his death, he was so well-thought of, his colleagues in Ottawa had his body sent from Winnipeg to Ottawa to be buried in Beechwood National Cemetery. The epitaph, carved in stone beneath a plinth upon which his bust in bronze is ensconced, reads: This monument has been erected by his former parliamentary associates and other people as a lasting proof of the esteem and affection which they entertained (sic) on one whose character was strongly marked by sincerity and fearlessness, whose mind by vivacity and clearness of comprehension and whose classical scholarship and wide culture united to his brilliant oration and singular wit made him intent in debate and delightful in society.
Davin is considered one of the architects of the Canadian Indian residential school system. In 1878, he was sent by the Canadian government to investigate Indian Education in the US. In his report, Davin applauded US efforts to concentrate Indigenous peoples on reservations, divide communal territory into individually owned parcels of land, and prepare Indigenous children for citizenship through industrial education.
Davin believed industrial boarding schools were superior to day schools, where children returned to their homes after a day’s education and were still under the ‘influence of the wigwam’ (Davin, 1879: 1). The industrial boarding school was in his view the best option for Indians ‘to be merged and lost’ within the nation (Davin, 1879: 11). But Davin also felt that the migratory nature of Indigenous groups in the northwest made extensive establish- ment of industrial boarding schools expensive and inefficient; he argued Canada should use its already existing network of denominational missions for the residential schooling system. Soon after his report, several government-sponsored boarding schools opened.
Davin used, among others, the literary device of inter-textuality to draw upon British canonical writers including Tennyson, Byron, and Shakespeare to connect the associations of empire with his 19th-century audience. In 1876, Davin wrote an adaptation of Shakespeare The Fair Grit; or The Advantages of Coalition. A Farce, an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. The play is a farce on governmental coalitions and the corrupted role of media in Canadian politics – a power fully realized by Davin as a writer and founder of the Regina Leader newspaper located in Canada’s North-West.
Three years later, Davin produced the Report on Industrial Schools for Indians and Half-Breeds, otherwise known as The Davin Report (1879), in which he advised John A. Macdonald’s federal government to institute residential schools for Indigenous youth; the recommendation led, in part, to the establishment of the Canadian Indian residential school system that decimated Canadian Aboriginal families.
In 1884, while visiting Ottawa, Davin wrote Eos – A Prairie Dream (1884), a collection of poems that, in his own words, "strike a true and high note in Canadian politics and literature" (5) while he represents, through his poetry, the destruction of Aboriginal culture (Moll, "The Davin Report: Shakespeare and Canada's Manifest Destiny," Canadian Adaptations of Shakespeare Project, par 2).
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