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Assassin’s Creed III video game distorts history

From Assassin's Creed 3

Assassin's Creed III is an historical-action video game developed by Ubisoft Montreal in which players join the "continental army in a war for freedom." The goal of this Canadian-developed game is to "hunt down the British redcoats." Whose side is Ubisoft Montreal on, anyway?

Those who doubt the decision by the Canadian government to invest in the commemoration of the bicentennial of the War of 1812 should pause and think about the implications for a country that fails to teach its history and celebrate its story. As it happens, the Quebec and Canadian governments have given Ubisoft significant support.

Even assuming someone at Ubisoft has an awareness of Canadian history – and that requires a leap of faith – it's unlikely they would have done anything differently. The size of the U.S. video-gaming market pretty much dictates who the good guys are and who the bad guys are.

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But Canadian youth ought to know enough to differentiate between fact and fiction.

Assassin's Creed III is set in 1765, and promotional material describes how, as "a Native American assassin, (you) eliminate your enemies with guns, bows, tomahawks, and more!" To suggest indigenous peoples rallied to the side of the colonists in their fight for freedom grotesquely twists the facts.

A contributing factor to the American Revolution was the Royal Proclamation of 1763, which established the important precedent that indigenous peoples had certain rights to the lands they occupied. The Declaration of Independence, in contrast, complains that King George III sided with "the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages."

Whose side would the "Native American assassin" really have been on? Think about it.

The War of 1812, in some respects a sequel to the Revolutionary War, offers some insight. "First Nations fought shoulder-to-shoulder with the British in this important conflict," Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn Atleo said last month, as the federal government presented 48 First Nations with commemorative medals and banners to honour the participation of more than 10,000 First Nations and Métis warriors in the fighting.

And the fact remains that something like 40,000 Loyalists escaped to Canada after the American Revolution. Some of these people were refugees, as understood today, and were violently driven from their homes, losing everything in the process. Others uprooted on principle, choosing to remain loyal to the Crown. Their descendants helped to build Canada. They were victims every bit as much as they were aggressors.

Assassin's Creed III is just a video game. But given the dearth of history instruction in our schools, it might be the only place that Canadian young people are learning about the Revolutionary War. At very least, they need to be equipped to separate the Ameriphilia from the facts.

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