Canada’s National Disgrace
February 2, 2015 § 151 Comments
Two weeks ago, MacLeans, Canada’s only national news magazine, published an article that caused quite the uproar. Written by a former diplomat, Scott Gilmore, and entitled, “Canada’s Racism Problem? It’s Even Worse Than America’s,” it’s not hard to see why this upset people. Even better was the sub-title, “For a country so self-satisfied with its image of progressive tolerance, how is this not a national crisis?” I wish I had written this article, it says what I’ve been saying for a long, long time.
Aboriginal peoples in Canada get screwed. Have been since the first Europeans arrived, and still do today. And that’s not going to change any time soon unless Canadians do something about it. But, in my experience, they don’t care. Last year, I wrote a post about a funny sweatshirt that an aboriginal man, Jeff Menard, in Winnipeg (which MacLeans also called out as Canada’s most racist city) created that said: “Got Land? Thank an Indian.” I wrote this post in response to a response I got to a tweet stating that if you thought this hoodie racist, you’re an idiot. This response tweet said “I’m offended because they used the word Indian. My grandfather was from India. He worked for a living.”
How to unpack that? This tweet was anti-historical and offensive on so many levels. Starting with being upset at the use of the word “Indian,” the term applied to aboriginal peoples by Euro-Canadians historically. But the real kicker is “He worked for a living.” Many of the comments on Gilmore’s article, and a lot of the vituperative, racist tweets I saw complained that aboriginal peoples in Canada survive on handouts from the government and don’t work for a living. No mention of imperialism, the taking of land, the systematic attempts by the Canadian government to steal away aboriginal languages, cultures, religions, and names, of the residential schools designed to also take the children of aboriginals away from them (to say nothing of the horrific sexual abuse therein).
Gilmore pointed just how badly aboriginal peoples get screwed in Canada, by comparing them to African-Americans in the United States, in easy table format, which I produce here (and hope that MacLeans doesn’t mind). Look at those statistics and just try not to be offended, saddened, and, if you are Canadian, embarrassed. Hell, even if you’re American, you should be embarrassed by these stats. But, Gilmore’s right. Canadians are a smug lot. My Twitter feed is usually full of all kinds of anti-American comments, the implicit meaning is “Well, the US is a mess, thank god I live in Canada.” Information such as this should end such discussions and puncture our smugness forever.
At the same time the furor over Gilmore’s article was raging, another debate was happening over the death of Makayla Sault, an 11-year old from the New Credit First Nation in Ontario. Makayla died of leukaemia. When she was first diagnosed last year, she underwent chemotherapy in Hamilton, ON. But the side-effects were too great. And so she refused further treatment, preferring instead traditional medicine. Obviously, it didn’t work.
This raises interesting questions, starting with who has the right to control the lives of children who have cancer. But. Ultimately, we have to respect her decision. Why? Because it was her life.
But, then the enfant terrible of Quebec journalism, Denise Bombardier, had to get involved. Bombardier is perhaps most famous outside of Quebec for having been fired by Radio-Canada for having participated in a debate on marriage equality, taking the position against it. At any rate, this is Bombardier’s comments on Makayla Sault (thanks to Mikayla Cartwright for the image):
For those who cannot read French, a few of the highlights: After complaining about the cost of political correctness, she states that Makayla made the choice to be treated according to traditional medicine, encouraged, perhaps, by her parents and other members of her First Nation. Then the kicker, “A white child wouldn’t have to make this choice. This is where we see the delusional ancestral rights of the aboriginals open the door to quackery. This child died because she was the sacrifical victim of a deadly, anti-scientific culture that is killing aboriginal people.”
It took me all of about 0.33 seconds to find a Euro-American child who faced this dilemma. Daniel Hauser, a 13-year old boy who was refusing treatment in 2009, for religious reasons. Daniel Hauser, I might add, is white. My Google search turned up other kids faced with this same awful dilemma (the same search also turned up other children in the same position). So, Bombardier is factually wrong.
But she is also morally, ethically wrong. Bombardier’s screed reads like far too many documents I read in the records of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada, the government agency (which has had many names) in charge of carrying out the responsibility that the Government of Canada has to aboriginals, according to treaties that both pre- and ante- date Confederation in 1867, as well as Section 35 of the Canadian Constitution. In many of the documents I read during my days working in the field of aboriginal law and litigation in Ottawa, various employees of Aboriginal Affairs, from lowly agents in the field to the directors of the department in Ottawa, referred to the need to civilise the aboriginals, and how white people knew what was right for them. In academia, we call this imperialism.
Bombardier says the same thing. She dismisses aboriginal culture as “anti-scientific” and “deadly.” She refers to traditional ways of life as “quackery.” In short, Canada needs to civilise the aboriginals for their own good, just as Aboriginal Affairs agents and employees argued a century ago.
In short, Gilmore is bang-on correct. Canada’s treatment of its aboriginal population is a national disgrace and tragedy, made worse by the fact that most Canadians don’t know or don’t care, and a good number of them are part of the problem, as Bombardier shows. Gilmore writes:
We are distracted by the stories of corrupt band councils, or flooded reserves, or another missing Aboriginal woman. Some of us wring our hands, and a handful of activists protest. There are a couple of unread op-eds, and maybe a Twitter hashtag will skip around for a few days. But nothing changes. Yes, we admit there is a governance problem on the reserves. We might agree that “something” should be done about the missing and murdered women. In Ottawa a few policy wonks write fretful memos on land claims and pipelines. But collectively, we don’t say it out loud: “Canada has a race problem.”
And until we do, nothing is going to change.
Excellent post again. The situation is indeed a disgrace. I am a scientist at heart and do believe that science has come up with important cures in the realm of medicine but the traditional ways cannot simply be thrown out. Just finished reading The Orenda by the fantastic native writer Boyden. It leaves you wondering if the new ways brought over to this continent in the 1700s were that favourable to the native people. Their ways were not perfect but they were THEIRS!
But the treatment of native people here is not good and the attitude toward them is even worse. Of course the attitude of the Harper government is one of great disrespect. The issue of abuse of women natives is considered by them to be one that is “not high on the Gov agenda” – a quote from the PM himself! Disgraceful…but I see little that will change with this government that I now call TPN = Tea Party North!
Being from below the 49th, I have a question to ask: how geographically segregated are aboriginal Canadians?
Depends on where you are. In most of Canada, there is segregation, the reserves are generally out of the way from Euro-Canadian populations. But, cities like Vancouver and Winnipeg have large aboriginal populations, where they are economically, socially, and culturally marginalised, and live in the worst parts of town, the North End of Winnipeg, and the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver. There, they are harrassed by the police, criminalised quite often for nothing more than being Native.
I don’t have the details to hand but I would think that Australia’s aborigines would be worse off than Canada’s.
I think, from what I know, you’d be right. And New Zealand’s. The similarities? Canada, Australia, and New Zealand: All former British colonies.
What difference does it make whether it is worse in Canada or New Zealand or Australia? It should be socially unacceptable in ALL countries. Trying to out-victim one or another community wastes time that should be spent sorting the problem out. I think that all three countries should be under far more international pressure to come up with fair, timely and genuine reparrations for generations of wrongdoing. “Sorry” delivered grudgingly does not cut the mustard…
I totally agree.
[…] course I know why, Canada is a deeply, deeply racist society vis-à-vis the aboriginal population. It is acceptable in Canada to be openly racist against […]
It’s of interest that the dialogue surrounding marginalized populations is nearly the same, no matter what country. We constantly hear that “they” don’t work, live off handouts, are primitive – as if there were a global script for bigotry.
This post was elucidating. Thank you.
Very true. I think what struck me the most about a lot of what I read around the issue of Canada’s aboriginal peoples is the direct comparison to African Americans. The discourse is the same.
Reblogged this on jcosa and commented:
I am aware of racism, but i don’t know if it will end. Boys nor girls are born racist it’s taught to them… And i can’t seem to think of something that delivers equalism inside any family unless they chose to.
Schools can. Friends can.
Very informative post for an uneducated American neighbor. Frankly, the United
Thanks. The same problems exist for aboriginal peoples in the United States, but I think here (I live in Boston now), they’re even more marginalised than in Canada, at least from the mainstream. But. I’ve been on reserves in Canada and you’d think you were in a developing nation, not one of the richest in the world.
Ugh. That published before I was ready. The United States has a worse record when it comes to treatment of natives than African Americans in my opinion. One of many examples would be the infamous Trail of Tears.
Indeed. I can’t say if one is worse than the other, but they’re both bad. The Trail of Tears is a national disgrace, though, I do have to say that 90% of my students know about it by the time they get to my class, Canadian students don’t have that kind of knowledge of aboriginal issues. As I like to say to my students, in the US, the natives were just shot, in Canada, we were much more nefarious, we handed out small-pox blankets with impunity, engaged in ethnocide, and various other dirty tricks.
I feel racism is a global problem and exists in every day life. It’s also one that has been handed down from generation to generation and hence, most people have come to treat it as the status quo.
We might live in the age of social media where it is easier to create awareness and start a change but we have also very short memories and what is started today is forgotten tomorrow. Ferguson is a good example. We all get bogged down by the routine of daily life and our own little problems.
Indeed. And I’d add that social media is also a way in which the racists respond. I got some static when I initially published this post from racists, and I saw a LOT of that in response to Ferguson, or Eric Garner, etc, on Twitter.
Yes! Definitely! The relative anonymity on the internet gives a lot of freedom to people to say things they wouldn’t otherwise. In that way it’s a double edged sword.
In agreement with your comment. The concept you just expressed is basically why I started my blog, so that people would actually take action and not just forget!
I hope so. We need change, real, substantive change. But I just see Canada getting meaner and meaner under the present régime.
Thank you for your thoughtful post.
I just discovered a secret my grandmother carried through her life — and to her grave. She was Ojibwe. She was light-skinned and when she came of age around 1920, she began to pass herself off as white. I discovered her secret only by uncovering old birth records and census forms for her and her family. After the initial surprise wore off, I was saddened … first, because she was ashamed of her heritage and to ensure a better life she had to become someone that she was not. And, second, that, if she were at that same point in today’s world, she would probably make the same choice again today. So much for progress.
I can only imagine, I had a friend years ago who was aboriginal, and she also began to pass herself as white, for the same reasons. Just made her life easier. She felt horrible about it, though.
I can understand why she did it. It must have been better to say she was white than to admit that she wasn’t but looked white. People like that usually had it worse because they had to fight both sides of the coin.
Aboriginal people are not the only ones that get screwed.
Check this one out…. shediac1981.wordpress.com
We love to throught a huge parade when it’s one of their own but mentions the thousand of Murdered/Missing/Assassinated Canadians that never saw justice and you get ignored. If the media stopped waiting for the hand out stories and started looking for some good old fascion news maybe things would change.
Very well put. Here, in the U.S., the elephant’s in our room, too. Racism is pervasive in many ways, so much so that the color of the President’s skin gets in the way of debate, and that isn’t even acknowledged. That’s just the tip of the iceberg, given the backlog of racism with every wave of immigrants and the ongoing discrimination towards the people that were here before the Europeans arrived. Mother Earth has seen many peoples cross her surface and we still don’t know how to exist together.
Tell me about it. I live in Boston, a city with a long, inglorious past with racism. But, the discourse surrounding Obama depresses me. I’d estimate that about 65-70% of the opposition to him is due to his skin colour. Not his policies, his politics, or anything else. Just simply too many white people cannot handle having a black president.
Such a great read! Very informative. I feel on one side, it makes me feel better that as an black American, other ppl of brown skin know how I feel. On the other hand, I’m sad that we are still, as humans, fighting with each other for the full God given freedom we should all share.
In the 1970s, there was a pretty good linkage between black power movements and the Native American power movement, especially in the USA, but also, to some extent, in Canada. But that fizzled out by the end of the decade.
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Thank you for posting this. As we see the emergence of interdisciplinary ideas come together this post reminds me of the discussion coming out about people of privilege. As an Ojibwe living in Arizona, I see the same problems however are more subtle where I am at. The indigenous people in Canada are more organized and are politically stronger at coming together and fighting for justice. However, if we get all people to recognize how the governmental system is founded on violence and disrespect of the indigenous people we can come together and fight on the right side of history.
Thanks. I teach Irish History, amongst other things. Ireland was the first overseas colony of England, going back 800 years. The simple point about Irish History I try my best to convey is that imperialism is founded upon an act of violence, the entire process of imperialism, the imposition of a foreign system on an indigenous one, is an act of violence. It’s no different here, the governments of Canada and the States are founded upon violence. The problem in the US is that no one would disagree with that statement, thinking about the War of Independence, but that’s not the key act of violence.
I find all forms of oppression and racism depressing. But I think what has galled me the most is the treatment of the indigenous population of North America, not just historically, but today. Out of sight, out of mind is how Euro-North America operates vis-à-vis the indigenous populations, even in Canada.
I don’t know how to change that, I have tried. But it’s so hard to convince people of the unjustness of the world, they’re so concerned with their own piece of the pie.
Irish history was brief in my studies of colonization around the world. The book “How the Irish Became White” was the book we used in class. It dealt with more on the social interaction of the Irish when they came to America. However, I found it intriguing when they mentioned the treatment of the indigenous Irish people and how they were placed in the hierarchy.
Yes, exactly, though that book is a bit of a joke amongst Irish scholars. Ignatiev massively overstates his case in that book. But the basic premise holds. The Irish were really the dogs of the British Empire, even as late as the early 20th century, British politicians dismissed them in the kinds of terms that became more familiar in the face of decolonisation movements in India and Africa.
Wow, thank u for that. Do u have any recommendations on books regarding the history of the Irish?
Oh my goodness, do I ever. I’m currently teaching two courses on Irish history. My favourite book on Irish history right now is a more focussed one, in that it looks at a specific event in 1895 in rural Co. Tipperary, but draws it into larger issues facing the country: Angela Bourke’s The Burning of Bridget Cleary, I’ve written about the book on this blog (https://matthewbarlow.net/2014/11/19/the-burning-of-bridget-cleary/). But, if you do a keyword search of “Ireland” on this blog, you’ll find a fair amount too.
Excellent article! One thing that both the United States and Canada have in common that has shaped the image of both countries: European colonization.
Indeed. That colonial experience is not that much different in either country, to an extent. By the time both countries were expanding westward, the policies were different, but the outcome was largely the same.
Very well explained. Australia, where I am currently residing, unfortunately has a similar attitude towards the indigenous people…
Oh, indeed. I once had a discussion with a bunch of scholars of indigenous peoples of the British Empire, trying to figure out which group had it worst within the Commonwealth, excluding South Africa (for obvious reasons, Apartheid). But Australia and New Zealand are both horrible examples.
I am not very familiar with New Zealand’s situation, but I am to understand that the Maori were able to fight off the invaders much better and therefore didn’t have as many issues as, say, the Aboriginals. The thing that annoys me the most is that the white invaders are referred to as the “Australians” or, which is a better example, in the US, where they have Native Americans, African Americans, Asian Americans, … Yet the white Americans are referred to as “Americans”. Why is no one calling them “European Americans”?
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Canada definitely keeps this story under wraps. As an American, I’m glad to hear that we aren’t the only racists on the continent. But as a human, I find it appalling how much ignorance and hate there is.
Oh, we Canadians can give y’all a run for your money down here (I live in the States now). We are just a bit quieter about our inherent racism. It’s deeply depressing.
A very well argued eye-opener about Canada – but I have faith in Canadians’ ability to handle this.
I have lost my faith. I’ve seen too many non-starters from politicians, deep, deep racism from government officials, to say nothing of the average Canadian. To me, it speaks volumes that over 1,000 aboriginal women have been murdered in Canada in recent decades and our government refuses to do a thing about it.
Voice of reason. We got great Canadians though. With bigger hearts and visions…
I think this is an interesting perspective I think I always thought of Canada as a better than most. Thanks for this blog
There are some things we do very well in Canada, I will say. From where I sit as a Canadian in the United States, I think Canada is a much more inclusive nation, as a whole, and a more tolerant one, as a whole. Not to say that doesn’t exist in the US, but it is in pockets, whereas Canada as a whole is a more open society. However, you can also do a quick news search to find glaring examples of Canadian racism of late, including our government’s new plan to make sure that Muslim women, when taking the citizenship oath, remove their niqab, despite the fact that the Supreme Court of Canada says that is illegal discrimination.
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Good luck to you
Excellent post! I loved it!
I cannot understand how Euro-Canadians and Euro-Americans would treat indigenous people with disgrace. It’s the land where their ancestors were born, Europeans came to America to actually take it as their own, which in doubt is ethically immoral. No only do native Canadians suffer from discrimination, Asians, whether Canadian born or Asians from overseas, face racism. It is sad how people perpetuate such movement even when we all know histories of such kind.
Really, I think any group can be subjected to racism. Imperial China was itself deeply biased against Europeans. The human propensity for hatred is kind of depressing.
It is scary how easy it is to think one knows what is best for others, and how hard it is to see that we are as prejudiced as everyone else. What can we do to correct this? Fighting prejudice is more important than ever, as we are more and more people that have to live together. How can we foster empathy and understanding? I am glad that we can write and discuss issues related to how we treat others, maybe insight will be the first step in changing our attitudes and behavior ?
You nailed it.
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I am bothered by the fact that you used Canada’s Aboriginals to black Americans (I don’t use the term African American because most self proclaimed “African Americans” have never been to Africa and do not know what part of Africa they are ancestrally from, as well as the fact that not all people with black skin are from Africa… Caribbean, Jamaica, Cuba, etc, and have you not considered that some Africans are actually white! A true African American would hold dual citizenship and that is very rare!) enough of that though… I think a more appropriate comparison would be Aboriginal peoples of Canada, compared to Native Americans, the aboriginal people of the U.S. Although I see your point, you are in fact comparing apples to oranges. And for the record, I am not racist, I am American, and I currently
live in Africa. I absolutely hate racism against ANY people group. Black, white, aboriginal, and everyone else as well, we are all beautiful people!
African Americans are used as the counter point in Canadian discourse. As I note in the post, Canadians are a smug lot who like to look at the United States and issues like Ferguson and shake their heads, smugly saying things like “Thank god that doesn’t happen here.” So, the original article in MacLean’s I was responding to uses African Americans as a comparison to shock Canadians, who, frankly need it. African Americans are generally regarded as a group that faces discrimination on an institutional, personal, and societal level. Same with aboriginal peoples in Canada.
As for African-American, I disagree. Think of all the other groups in American society with hyphenated identities: Asian American, Irish American, French Canadian American, etc. It has nothing to do with having been anywhere or citizenship, it is an acknowledgement of roots.
Fair point :in regards to the article.
Question then, do Acadians refer to theirselves as Irish Canadian, African Canadian, Asian Canadian? (I’ve honestly only ever heard of French Canadian, and my understanding is that they generally only speak French… Sorry I don’t mean to sound stupid, just an honest question)
As for myself, I personally very seldom hear of anyone outside of “African Americans ” using hyphenated identities. I have only ever called myself an American, even though I know my ancestral roots.
I think Irish Americans are probably the group I point to who use that hyphen. I think it also depends on context, though. I don’t think most Irish Americans would say they’re Irish American, but when they’re within their own tribe, at a talk, concert, etc., then you hear it. I imagine it’s the same with any ethnic group.
I think Acadiens, at least in Canada, refer to themselves as that. The term itself is code for so much more, though.
I do find the ways in which people privilege one ethnic group over another, or others though.
Good to know! And I whole heartedly agree with you, it is a disgrace of the U.S., Canada, and all nations that we degrade one group unfairly and honor another with similar inequality… I see and experience it here in Uganda as well. Also, you see here and in many countries around the world, the elevation of men and the mistreatment of women… It is the same problem, but gender rather than race or tribe…. And thank you for sharing, your original post as well as your enlightening replies! I appreciate the perspective you have brought to me! Have a wonderful day!
This was a real eye open for me. Keep up the good work. I especially l when you said “Many of the comments on Gilmore’s article, and a lot of the vituperative, racist tweets I saw complained that aboriginal peoples in Canada survive on handouts from the government and don’t work for a living. ”
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I agree with the writer. What’s your opinion here?
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Interesting article on Aboriginals in Canada and the existence of racism.
Well written and well articulated. I feel Canadians love to boast about how multicultural we are, though do little to promote equality.
Indeed, we are a smug lot, aren’t we?
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Thank you for this. Much needed.
Wow! Reading this as an annoyed american who is constantly wishing she lived in Canada, thus gives a whole new, much needed perspective. No where one goes is perfect – but it is so important to recognize different cultures within a society when rationalizing decisions a group of people makes. You cannot label everyone crazy who doesn’t agree with you (a problem I feel many intellectuals as ourselves deal with in a daily basis). I am so sad about this. Thanks so much for bringing this to light!!
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Indeed. And worse, Canadians just don’t care.
[…] https://matthewbarlow.net/2015/02/02/canadas-national-disgrace/ […]
The Two Level Canadian Justice System: The silence of Canadians, the Governments & the Police in this country on this matter shows us how bad this country has become, how we don’t care for others only for ourselves and what’s in it for us.
We will spend millions fighting the bad guys in other countries, on advertisements to make political parties look bad but not a red cent making things right for the victims of crime or on fighting crime in our own country.
Powerless to do any thing, I feel embarassed to call myself a Canadian
I’m curious. How is the statistics showing racism? I do get that it’s imperialism to think we should civilize anyone. But that’s not what the statistics are showing.
The statistics are only showing factors that is actually a person’s own responsibility. It’s not mine nor the government’s responsibility to make a good life for someone else. In fact, there are laws/rights/freedoms giving these statistic holders a chance to make the life they want? What does the statistics really show? Racism or personally drive/determination for a better life?
What do you mean by statistics? The statistics show that aboriginal peoples are more likely to live in poverty, be homeless, or be in prison than any other group in Canada.
How does this list show that the government or a group of people are discriminating against the aboriginals? The factors in the list shown are things that every person faces. Keep going to school or dropout? Keep making minimum wage or work my way up? Commit murder or forgive that person? Those are decisions that every person living must decide.
That’s not how it works. We live in a society, we are not atomistic individuals. Our range of options for choice are limited. At any rate, countless study shows that the justice system is biased towards non-white people in both Canada and the US, non-white people get longer sentences for crimes than white people do, etc.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see racism and discrimination against aboriginal peoples in Canada. Some things are choices we all face, yes. But, I was a white suburban kid. The option to drop out of school wasn’t there, everything was structured to keep me in school, even if I grew up poor. It doesn’t work that way for other people.
I see that someone people are racist. I have never said that it doesn’t happen. And it’s wrong when it does, but to lay blame on everybody that’s white, is just crap.
I see that even if I don’t care for social conscience, I still have to follow the social norms up to a point. I refuse to follow all just because others think I need to.
The hardest thing for me is that we don’t hold people personally responsible for their actions. For example, break the laws pay the time. If they don’t want to be punished then stop doing things that are getting you punished. And yes, harder punishment for the enforcers if they lie or break the rules to get someone behind bars.
Until we hold individuals responsible for their choices and actions then racism will never go away.
Racism doesn’t exist because black people or aboriginal people or whomever commits crime. Racism exists simply because people are afraid of people who are not like them, and then they hang their bigotry on things like incarceration rates for aboriginal people.
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Thank You for taking a stand and expressing your opinion. Great post indeed!
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Excellent article with well articulated points…
Thank you for this post. My wife and I visited Peru last year and it was very striking that at least a third of the people you saw in airports and everywhere else were aboriginal.
Considering that one of the many fascinating aspects of the trip was the terrible history of savagery towards the native people by the conquistadors and their successors, it struck us that you do not see aboriginal faces in airports in North America.
The Inca language – Chechuan – is still spoken all over.
Thanks. Yes, the Spanish followed a different practice than the British or French Empires, at least once conquest was over. The Spanish were much more brutal. But the native population was given more space and more rights, plus the Spanish intermarried a lot more than the British or French. Thus, indigenous populations in the former Spanish Empire are more numerous and have more rights. That is not to say, though, that they have equality.
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Reblogged this on zacks2000 and commented:
I sense some degree of fairness.
Thank you, so much for this follow up. I wrote a few replies in the comment section of the Macleans article and in the news stories. The degree of ignorance and vile denigration in response to an article spelling out just such behavior was utterly lost irony.
I am Cree Metis and also a part of the growing voices of the Indigenous who can make statements to correct fallacies and educate on matters of fact for our ancestry and issues of today. Until we get the true history of the continent into classrooms across the countries, we will have to be diligent in this effort.
Thank you! It’s the amount of racism, ignorance, bile, and vile commentary that upsets me. I’m not indigenous, I can’t even imagine how that feels, this kind of shit thrown around. I stand behind you, though, and hope for the day where effort like this isn’t needed, it’s just common knowledge, part of the history curriculum.
That’s really interesting
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Really nicely written 🙂
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Hands-down one of the best pieces I`ve ever read highlighting racism in this country toward First Nations people.
If you want to understand the issues, this article is a great place to start.
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If you have never spent any time on a First Nation’s reserve – worked with the people, played with them, done business with them – then you really don’t know what you are talking about. Racism goes two ways; aboriginal beliefs, values and tribal practices can be discriminatory and self limiting. The ‘colonists’ are easy scapegoats in a system that is equally broken on both sides.
I have spent plenty of time on reserves. And why do you think they have developed an idea of discriminatory beliefs against white people? Could it be because white people in Canada have stolen their land, shot them, taken their children, infected them with diseases, and attempted to steal their language and culture?
I’m a white person in Canada. I didn’t steal their land. (I leased it.) I didn’t shoot anyone, nor take their children. I didn’t infect them with a disease nor steal their language or culture. When First Nations People bury this hatchet of blame and hate, they will find the tools are there for them to design a society that works for them.
“The search for a scapegoat is the easiest of all hunting expeditions.”
― Dwight D. Eisenhower –
Yeah, and I’m a white person from Canada too. Our culture, our ancestors did all that. You cannot just get over history. It’s not done, no culture that has been victimised by an imperialist power has been able to do so, not the Irish, not the Nigerians, not the First Nations.
That Eisenhower quote is absolutely meaningless here, it is not a hunt for a scapegoat, it is a simple historical fact that Europeans in Canada did what they did to the First Nations. You cannot erase that from history.
You and I get to speak from an incredible position of privilege, we are white. We are descendants of the conquerers. We live in a society that is a white supremacy. This is all historical and sociological fact. The normative position in Canadian culture is white. We are a racist society that begrudgingly allows the occasional non-white group or person to participate. But it is always on the terms of white people.
My multi cultural/mixed race family/friends/community clearly gives me a different perspective than yours.
Yes, because you are the only person in the world to have a multicultural-mixed race universe. How could I ever be so silly as to think otherwise. My bad.
HOLY HELL. Reading your piece made me want to check the date. If I wasn’t reading it online I would have thought it was 1956, or even 1856! Who still thinks/acts like that Bombardier douche-nugget?
Well, scroll up and you’ll see some who think that way. I’m still a little stunned.
I see it, and it just blows my mind. Here in the States of course you see racism- as far as I can tell from some of the commentary that Canadians see us as a very racist community. However, I can’t recall any recent time that people were so casually blatant about it. Sure there are hate groups that are that way- but they tend to keep their media to a closed group, because they know it is not acceptable (by what they term “mainstream”). Even reading it I kept waiting for a punchline, because it seems so unreal that people are that entrenched in such ignorance and hate. It’s 2015. Time to take the blinders off and start seeing each other as humankind. OK, off the soapbox. An enlightening read, so thank you for the post.
Well, Canadians are an incredibly smug lot. But this mindset that makes us so smug comes from a lack of experience with the wider world, and having that wider world filtered back to us through our own media.
Having said that, I think that, on the whole, Canada is less overtly racist than the US (where I live) is. But, that might change if we had ourselves a black, or any other minority, Prime Minister. It might also just be that Canadians are less obviously racist, just more insidious about it.
Either way, yes, it is 2015. We need to move away from this simple narrative, and we need to move towards a more exclusive public narrative of nation and society, in both Canada and the US. The simple fact of the matter is that both countries are multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, and multi-linguistic.
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Wow. Interesting read
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Our First Nations people’s deserve better.
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Mad World 😦
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Great post. Our Aussie excuse for a PM (and incidentally the self appointed ‘minister for women’) Tony Abbott, has recently said living in remote Indigenous communities is a ‘lifestyle choice’. Our National Disgrace is apparent and I would suggest in a worse state than Canada. I just saw a program on the Mohawk skywalkers of NY….powerful program. 6hr drive from homelands to work. Great post and great comments but how do we get these idiot politicians to understand the issues. By the way our PM was a 10 pound Pom ( his parents were Welsh immigrants on white australia immigration policy support through £10 fare to Aus maybe we should call them by that neo-lib term ‘economic refugees’.)
Oh, indeed, your PM makes our PM look, well, maybe not tame. But Harper doesn’t say the stupid stuff Abbott does. Didn’t he attack Julia Gillard for essentially being a woman PM? I also recall many wonderful comments about women in general. Ugh. I don’t know a lot about Australia’s history, other than grand brush strokes, but what I do know of aboriginal history there is just atrocity.
Canada and Australia are both fast racing in the wrong direction.
It’s always refreshing to read articles like yours. John Pilger’s ‘Utopia’ (the name of a remote aboriginal community in the NT Centre of Australia) is a great exposé of what we aren’t getting right for our indiginous peoples. Hopefully Abbott wont last!
Yeah, in Canada we don’t even get much news or studies of the aboriginal population. There was a good activist movement #IdleNoMore a few years ago, but it seems to have fizzled out.
We get lots of great indiginous policy work out of Canada but the lack of follow through on anything is heart renching.
That sounds like Canada. I worked in the field of aboriginal law & litigation in Canada for 8 years. There’s a cottage industry there, but the court system just ties up everything for years and years, the only people getting anything out of it are the lawyers.
We’ve just had massive cuts to legal aid and Aboriginal people will get zero justice without it. Pro bono lawyers are few. The 1991 final report of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody made over 300 recommendations – never followed through either.
Sounds like a familiar story. Ugh. Neo-Liberal politics.
Nice to meet you Mathew
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Agreed! The treatment of our Aboriginal people is Canada’s disgrace. Even more distressing the federal government’s refusal to throughly investigate the disappearance/death of more than 1000 Aboriginal women. What happened to them? Their families suffer so. Deeply distressing… this double standard.
Thanks for posting on such an important issue.
The 1,100 missing aboriginal women: I find this to be Canada’s most obvious manifestation of racism and misogyny. One of my baby sitters as a child is amongst those 1,100.
Agree again. Misogyny and a profound disregard for a staggering number of Aboriginal peoples that continue to suffer.
What I don’t understand is why no one has taken this issue on in a more serious way. I’m surprised one the many Avaaz followers has not taken this on as a project.
Further, I am startled by the explosion of violence towards women in the recent past. As old, dysfunctional power structures crumble, there is expected to be some resistance to the new. The sheer horror, and amount of violence being unleaded into the world is mind numbing.
Your psychological sensei
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Excellent post. This is so true. Canada needs to do better!
Excellent post and informative.
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This is not just an opinion article. This was written by a former diplomat. Click to read the entire article.
I am a professor of History, not a diplomat.
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