Canada has a subtle form of racism
Thursday, Mar 01, 2018 06:00 am
It’s a word and a concept that evokes intense response from those who experience it and those who are accused of it.
It is also a topic that has flared up in the Canadian dialogue over the past few weeks, fuelled by two high-profile court cases involving the deaths of two Indigenous people – 15-year-old Tina Fontaine and 22-year-old Colten Boushie.
Much has been said about both of those cases, arguments ranging from land rights to insufficient evidence to justice and political apparatus that have been failing Aboriginal people for generations.
The cases have also led some to ask whether Canada has a systemic racism problem, an accusation that has fuelled vitriol from some or has been championed by others.
Those who deny racism is an issue in this country lack an understanding of the concept. Many people think of it as an overt practice of discrimination and hate. Unfortunately, it is much more insidious and that is why it so hard to recognize at times.
In fact, while we can debate the legitimacy of calls of racism in the cases of Boushie and Fontaine, its proof of presence is evident in the dialogue of those debates and of the public’s perception of Indigenous communities.
It is not hard to find generic, blanket statements demeaning Indigenous people and their communities especially if one were to follow threads discussing the Boushie case. Such statements can also be found on Cochrane’s own Rants and Rave Facebook page when Indigenous residents find themselves in trouble with the law.
Those same people justify their comments as not being racist by pointing to statistics of high rates of poverty on reserves and over representation of Indigenous people in the justice system or youth in the child welfare system.
Those justifications are an effort to legitimize problems, which are the direct result of a hundred years of government policy and they perpetuate ignorance. When people feel validated in their opinions, which are based on superficial reasoning, it can be difficult to educate.
The truth is though, if many were open-minded and empathetic enough to take a close look at the history of Indigenous peoples in this country, they would begin to see they have been leveling their blame in the wrong direction.
Try to imagine a world where your culture, land and values were forcibly and sometimes violently removed. Imagine a world where children were deprived of parents for decades so the state could assimilate and indoctrinate each successive generation.
Imagine what your life would be like if you had been deprived of the lessons and values instilled by your family. If instead of a mother and father, aunt and uncle you had a cold institution where those charged with your care beat and raped you.
Then, a hundred years later, after someone decided treating people like animals was wrong, you were thrown back into civilization without psychological reparation and were expected to function and teach future generations.
How would you fare? How would your children fare?
This hellish dystopia is what many Indigenous people were faced with for decades and it is the source of many the many social issues haunting Indigenous communities.
Ignorance to those facts, combined with misplaced judgment of an entire segment of our population, is the racism Canada is burdened with.