The cartoons by Newton McConnell are limited by the perspective of the artist and the editorial voice of newspapers at the time. These newspapers catered to a white, Protestant, Anglo-Canadian majority.
These political cartoons cannot tell the full story of Canada, but their limitations and ignorances can reveal prevailing viewpoints of the time.
“Uncle Sam:’Lemme divide that mellion foh yo' Johnnie I'se had experience.’”
Blackface has been used by white people since the 19th Century to portray, demain, and belittle Black people, often under the guise of artistic portrayals.
Even today, people use Black face, with the current Prime Minister of Canada even being caught multiple times doing this.
Who is representing Canadian Farmers and Canadian Workers, and who isn’t? In many of McConnell’s depictions of the “average Canadian,” the Canadian is depicted by a white, usually older, male. As you browsed through the exhibit today, how often did you see women and/or BIPOC individuals depicted in the cartoons? In what context were they in? Why do you think that is?
"The workman: We'll have to stand together, for if he gets you, he'll get me next"
"Dispenser Laurier:- This one is on the house; what will you have gentlemen"
Laurier addresses the constituency, a body made up of older, white, bearded men wearing hats and smoking cigars. What do we know of the voting populace of Canada at this time? How are Canadians who are eligible to vote represented here? Who else might have had the ability to vote at this time, and who didn’t?
"The Czar's orders. Pray-as-you-enter!"
How are these Toronto street car riders represented? Try looking at their clothes, their hats, and their faces.
What voices and concerns are not reflected in the cartoons you have seen? Newspapers writing on Western expansion generally made almost no mention of Indigenous people, and when they did it was never to address the concerns and points of view of those affected.
To combat the lack of representation in national and provincial papers, papers focused on locally, culturally, ethnically specific newspapers were created.
"Canadian Historic scene. The West Indians make trade treaty with the Ottawa Indians."
Indigenous people are a rare appearance in the cartoons from this time period. When they do appear, they’re often portrayed in a stereotypical way. Or Indigenous cultures are appropriated by White people in the cartoons. This example does both.
"Digging up the hatchet. Will this be the outcome of the strife at Ottawa?"
Why would McConnell choose to depict Laurier in these clothes?
Although national newspapers in Canada have frequently represented the interests of white, wealthy Canadians, there are many newspapers who give voice to those from disenfranchised groups.
One of the earliest newspapers focused on the Black communities in North America was The Provincial Freeman (1853-1860), an anti-slavery newspaper. It was founded by Mary Ann Shadd Cary, making her the first Black woman publisher in North America and the first woman publisher in Canada.