Canada: Plain to see – Racism in Canada invoked intellectual disparity

By Yvonne Sam

Whenever racism faces denial…..  History goes on trial.

In the aftermath of the senseless murder of George Floyd, the collective eye became fixed on race relations in Canada. The oppressive system racism that Blacks have faced over the years, detonated into the foreground through street protests and riots. Disillusioned and angry people are expressing age-old dissatisfactions that echo through time. Images on screens of cell phones and televisions now draw arrant parallels with a sad history that most do not want to relive.

Underlying this all lies RACISM, its very existence belied by many, as some of Canada’s leaders have openly asserted that systemic racism does not exist in Canada in the selfsame manner as it does in the United States. It is a part of the Canadian national narrative of positioning the  country in juxtaposition to the United States.           

Currently, what can be characterized as racism and what cannot has become a matter for debate.

After admitting   to having struggled with about a half dozen definitions of  systemic racism, the Commissioner of the RCMP acknowledged that  the national police service is battling with a long history of racial discrimination.

Two days after admitting that she struggled with “five or six” definitions of systemic racism, RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki has acknowledged that Canada’s national police service is grappling with a long history of racial discrimination.

The Commissioner was not the lone swimmer in the sea of denial, being soon followed by the Premiers of Ontario and Quebec who donned similar gear, and openly denied systemic racism in Canada the same week that Black Lives Matter demonstrations cropped up around the world following the death of George Floyd.  It was as plain as could be they were neither in touch with history nor reality.

In 1910, Prime Minister of Canada, Sir Wilfrid Laurier states thus:

“We see in the United States what grave problems may arise from the presence of a race unable to become full members of the same social family as ourselves”.

Many denials of racism come from feelings of discomfort over this fact, a condition referred to as “white fragility”. When attention is drawn to the racial privilege enjoyed by white people, or the assumptions and structures that prop up racist beliefs are challenged, white people tend to respond with anger and a refusal to engage in the discussion. Not seeing racism is constituent to what the philosopher Charles Mills has termed “white ignorance.” This is not real ignorance, but a wilful one that allows those unaffected by racism to maintain their “innocence” and ultimately protects their privilege.

June 28, nine Black Montreal police officers signed a letter calling on their union president to acknowledge that systemic racism exists in the force, after he downplayed the issue in several interviews earlier this month.

In the letter addressed to Montreal Police Brotherhood President Yves Francoeur, the officers say they were “surprised” to hear Francoeur does not believe there is systemic racism in the force. The officers described a “culture of silence” within the SPVM that prevents their colleagues from speaking out against racism. During an interview with Radio Canada, the presidentsaid he avoided using the term ‘systemic racism’ because there is no consensus on what it means.

Canada on the whole would like to think that much progress, but racism and inequality has always had their knees firmly pressed on Black necks without any sign of letting up. Yes, we no longer have black-faced minstrel shows, wehave black representation on televisionand in government offices, nevertheless we continue to live with the harmful ideas that placea certain group at the top of a racially categorized pile.

On May 26, 1983 in the Globe and Mail the following statement appeared—The Federal government is calling for a special parliamentary inquiry into what it describes as the pervasive problem of “racism”. Multiculturalism Minister James Fleming told supporters yesterday that such a study would not change the minds of the 8-11 per cent of the population he said were “rock-hard bigots”. But he could make other less racist Canadians aware that the

so-called visible minorities which he said include blacks, Asians, East Indians and Jews.. just want the same things as everyone else.

It should never be forgotten that historical perspective is an essential component in the analysis of any social situation, as far back as early twentieth century publications, Blacks were depicted as superstitious fun-loving, slow-witted and lazy with animal appetites best kept in control by strict white supervision. Public petitions along with municipal resolutions from all three Prairie Provinces urged Ottawa to ban further black immigrants and separate those already there.

Order-in-Council P.C. 1324 was approved on 12 August 1911 by the Cabinet of Prime Minister Sir Wilfrid Laurier. The purpose of the order was to ban Black persons from entering Canada for a period of one year

An Imperial Daughters of the Order petition clearly reflecting external stereotypes stated the fear that white women would be unsafe from black male sexual aggressiveness

All across Canada Blacks were precluded from participation in mainstream activities. This was demonstrated dramatically during World War 1when young black men eager to do their part for nation and empire enlisted for overseas service. According to racist characterization blacks were not soldier material and in addition their presence would be repulsive to white recruits.

In a memo dated April 13, 1916 Major-General W. Gwatkin, Chief of the General Staff said:

“Nothing is to be gained by blinking facts. The civilized negro is vain and imitative; in Canada he is not being impelled to enlist by a high sense of duty; in the trenches he is not likely to make a good fighter; and the average white man will not associate with him  on terms of equality”

In 1916, the No. 2 Construction Battalion, Canada’s “Black Battalion,” was formed. The movie Honor Before Glory highlights the legacy of this Unit. The film HonourBefore Glory, by writer, actor, producer and director Anthony Sherwood illuminates the legacy of this unit. However, the producer pointed out that the most arduous task about doing the research for the film was the absence of information.  Most libraries and archives had practically nothing on the black unit. It was still Canada’s best kept secret,” says Sherwood.

Canada is replete with evidence of racism that has dogged her from infancy to maturity and yet there are those who still deny the presence of racism. Would a rose by any other name smell just as sweet?Here we are basically having public differences at elevated levels about racism, while the reality of our current situation remains once again misunderstood and unexamined.  Can one say that intellectual dishonesty is at play? Is it ignorance and not malevolence that currently ails Canada, and by extension Quebec?  Thankfully ignorance is remediable.

Aleuta……   The struggle continues

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  • Kman  On 07/05/2020 at 2:36 pm

    It is not only blacks that face systemic racism in Canada, just so you are aware,

    My life matters as well as all human beings.
    Today it seems that animals have more rights than humans.

  • Clyde Duncan  On 07/05/2020 at 6:20 pm

    The following is an excerpt from EXTRACTION EMPIRE: Undermining the Systems, States, and Scales of Canada’s Global Resource Empire, 2017-1217 (MIT Press: 2018), originally published as “Canada’s Apartheid: The Sanctioned Diffusion of Canadian Strategies of Indigenous Segregation, Assimilation, and Extermination.”

    It is reproduced by LapsusLima with permission from the authors.
    Except where noted, all images, diagrams and maps are by the authors.

    This essay investigates a twofold theory that Canada’s Indian Reserve System served, officially, as a strategy of Indigenous apartheid – preceding South African apartheid – and unofficially, as a policy of Indigenous genocide – preceding the Nazi concentration camps of World War II. Specific flows of information, historic events, and spatial evidence over the past two centuries bring significant and substantial context to a poorly researched area of Canadian history, even as they offer an emergent lens on contemporary apartheid and genocidal research related to Indigenous peoples.

    To this end, the essay revisits, redraws, and recontextualizes two important claims related to regimes of apartheid and strategies of extermination originating in Canada through the 1876 Indian Act: The evolution of its Indian Reserve System during the 19th century and its history of territorial Treaties originating in the 17th and 18th centuries.

    By bringing together different time periods — the initial colonization of the Americas, South Africa under racial segregation and subsequent apartheid, and Nazi Germany — this essay connects a long and important legacy of settler colonialism associated with internal policies of racial domination and white supremacy conveyed between settler countries including Canada and South Africa, to name a few.

    More specifically, this work looks at how the “elimination of the Native” places Canadian policies and strategies both at the centre and on the circumference of the production, exchange, and transfer of colonial knowledge globally. The contexts of this essay propose a refocusing of, and on Canada’s role – beyond its historical image as colonial proxy or its current neo-colonial portrayal as a multicultural society – in the development, diffusion, and innovation of strategies for Indigenous assimilation in the context of studies in the histories of colonization, racial segregation, and Indigenous extermination.

    —Thomas Berger wrote, 1 November 1966:

    “The history of the Indian people for the last century has been the history of the impingement of white civilization upon the Indian: The Indian was virtually powerless to resist the white civilization; the white community of B.C. adopted a policy of apartheid. This, of course, has already been done in eastern Canada and on the Prairies, but the apartheid policy adopted in B.C. was of a particularly cruel and degrading kind. They began by taking the Indians’ land without any surrender and without their consent. Then they herded the Indian people onto Indian reserves. This was nothing more nor less than apartheid, and that is what it still is today.”

    Later, in a statement made in 1909 by the seventh Prime Minister of Canada, Sir Wilfrid Laurier, in response to comments by Member of Parliament and succeeding Prime Minister, Robert L. Borden, in the House of Commons:

    “Sir, in British Columbia, the problem of Asiatic immigration is the one question that interests all sections of public opinion; and all classes of the people in British Columbia, to whatever party they may belong, unite in the opinion which is expressed in the words now current in the politics of that province. ‘A white British Columbia; a white Canada,’ meaning that British Columbia should be preserved as a home of the white race. … And now I ask: What is the policy that is conducive to the best interests of Canada and of the British empire to which we belong? Sir, to put the question is to answer it: Our policy is the policy which ought to impress everybody who pretends to be a Canadian or pretends to be British as the one best calculated for the weal of both Canada and the empire. But, before I go further, let me say that I find no fault with the view maintained in British Columbia that that Province should be maintained as for the white race.”


    Pierre Bélanger & Kate Yoon | LapsusLima

    November 27, 2018

    • Mike Persaud  On 07/05/2020 at 6:59 pm

      Hint: If you want people to read your post, make it short and sweet, and, of course, original.

      The vast majority don’t want or care to read a book- fact. Long posts invariably get overlooked, skipped. Fact!


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