"As I mused, the fire burned"

Reflection on life as a person of faith.

Systemic Racism and Religious Discrimination

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There is a bit of a ruckus being raised about this motion, M103, concerning hate crimes etc against groups marked by race or religion.  It only mentions Islamophobia directly.

I have to say that this sort of thing quite misses the point.  The wording of the motion suggests that this sort of behaviour is a new phenomena in Canada, that systemic racism and religious discrimination have never previously been a part of our national narrative.

As an indigenous person, I find the wording of the motion quite distressing. Canada has a long and well-documented history of systemic racism and religious discrimination.  Suggesting anything otherwise is just another distraction from the hard journey of reconciliation which we are supposed to be on as a nation of settlers and indigenous.

What amazes me is the continued surprise that the citizens continue to act the way the government governs.  Do you really think there’s a disconnect there?  When you look at history, and particularly colonial history, there is a clear pattern: the government leads the way in both racism and discrimination.  Settlers just tend to follow the lead of their government.

So when the great white hope of the Canadian establishment, Justin Trudeau, shows himself unable to deal with such matters, and falls back on rhetoric which sounds a lot like his father, we shouldn’t be surprised that citizens start to act in a similar manner.

A prime example.  Justin Trudeau recently mocked First Nations chiefs who told him that their youth needed youth centres so they had a place to meet.  Trudeau said, when he spoke with FN youth, they told him what they really needed was space to store their canoes and paddles.  It’s a hilarious example of a politician who has no idea what he’s doing…but the satire hides an ominous overtone: this is the same sort of patronizing tone that Canadian leaders have taken with indigenous leaders right back to the first boots on the ground.  Why should they keep the land?  They don’t know how to properly use (read exploit) it anyway!

It is part of a larger cycle that has repeated itself throughout our history.  It has to do with a heroic narrative of a naturally good people who arrived here in the spirit of cooperation, people who were neither racist nor colonial.  This is why S. Harper could say with a straight face, Canada has never been a colonial nation (meaning of course we had never outwardly colonized, but again hides the truth that our existing high standard of living is built on the basis of stolen land and broken agreements).

The same sort of pattern repeats itself elsewhere – military units that trace their heritage to the suppression of indigenous people (thinking here specifically of the USA, but also of the Upper Canada units who participated in the Red River Expeditionary Force (RREF).  On a visit to a family cathedral in Ottawa, where my Godfather was Dean, I came across a laid-up colour from an early military unit.  It was a bit of a punch in the gut to see in their battle honours, North West Canada 1885 (bottom middle, right above South Africa).

As long as a nation celebrates systemic racism and religious discrimination, I’m not sure we can expect a different outcome until leaders actually lead the way to a new way of interacting.  Say, by actually adopting the UNDRIP.  I’m focused on an indigenous context here, but the same can be said for many racial groups in our history: Japanese, Chinese, Mennonite, Jewish, German…and the list goes on.  Today it happens to be Islam.


The last word really has to go to MP Romeo Saganash’s response to the PM, yes, bring on the canoe and paddle storage!



Written by sameo416

February 13, 2017 at 8:26 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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