O Canada!
July 1, 2020 5:33 AM   Subscribe

Celebrate Canada by celebrating 'Original people' of the land by Sheila North [CBC] “Dear Canada, dear Canadians, You are beautiful. True, north, strong and free. So why are you mean, so ignorant, rude and hateful?! Not all the time and not all of you. But when you are, you really are to a point that people die. To a point where certain people, your neighbours, go missing or are murdered at alarming rates. Why can't you stand up and put an end to that pandemic that's persisted for many generations? I know you care about human rights. In fact, you are known by other countries as a state that fights for human rights. And yet you fight the original people of this land when they stand up and assert their basic human rights for clean water, proper resources to care for children and access to their own lands, for example. You have more than enough now for you and your next generations to live comfortably. The benefits you have access to and have stored up are remarkable. But don't you see what getting all of that has done to the original people of this land? Surely you see the injustices, the poverty, the high incarceration rates, children in care and illnesses among the people who agreed to share this land and its resources with you, so you and your families could have a good life.”

• Genocide, racism and Canada Day: An Algonquin-Anishinaabekwe love letter [Rabble]
“Living in Canada as I do, I encounter proud Canadians all the time, more so around the time of Canada Day celebrations. The commonly held view put forward by these proud Canadians is that Canada is the country where they were born, and that Canada is the country that welcomed their parents and grandparents with open arms and gave them their new beginning they so very much needed. Given this, they tell me, "A proud Canadian is who I am." As an Algonquin Anishinaabe-kwe I experience these "proud Canadian statements" as both racist and ungrounded. Unfortunately for both of us proud Canadians are usually offended when I tell them so. I experience "proud Canadian statements" as racist because Canada the nation state was built on racist and genocidal policies that were and are harmful and disenfranchising to Indigenous peoples. As an Indigenous person I know that these racist and genocidal policies continue to exist today in the form of the Indian Act, and the Comprehensive Land Claims and the Self-Government policies. While the Indian Act imposes colonial law and poverty on Indigenous nations, the Land Claims and Self-Government policies take advantage of this same poverty and impose a negotiation process that offers very little in terms of genuine self-government and long term viability. In this way Canada pushes Indigenous people into unsustainable living conditions, and then imposes policies on them that assure their termination as distinct social political entities.”
• The hidden racist history of 'O Canada' by Laila El Mugammar [Maclean's Magazine]
“His name was Calixa Lavallée, and the tune he wrote is sung every morning, in schools and parliaments across the country. I learned about Lavallée from Anthems and Minstrel Shows: The Life and Times of Calixa Lavallée, 1842–1891, a book by Brian Christopher Thompson. Lavallée was a French-Canadian musician and composer who founded a travelling blackface minstrel troupe, the New Orleans Minstrel Company, which performed across Canada and the United States to great acclaim. He is also the composer of our national anthem. What does it mean to sing the melody of a man who wore me as a costume? Lavallée made a name for himself in reducing Blackness to a monolith for cheap laughs. Though he was not the lyricist of our anthem, his melody remained through the many English and French drafts that predated Parliament’s official words. His legacy still comes to life in my Black voice. I’ve tried to excise blackface from the body of his work, but it had metastasized long before the scalpel fell from my hand.”
• 'Humiliation Day': July 1 has added meaning for some Chinese-Canadians [CBC]
“When Fred Lee was just one year old, his father said goodbye to him and his mother in China and returned to Canada. He wouldn't see him for the next 18 years, prevented from joining him by a racist Canadian law. "Unless you experience growing up without a father figure, without someone to love you and protect you — I can't explain how it feels after the fact," said Lee, who is now 86 years old and lives in Halifax. "I can't express the feeling when I first saw my father." While July 1 is celebrated as Canada Day, for many Chinese-Canadians it is remembered by another name — "Humiliation Day." On July 1, 1923, the Chinese Immigration Act or "Chinese Exclusion Act" was passed. The law stopped all Chinese immigration into Canada and divided hundreds of families like Lee's for years. It was only repealed in 1946. Lee's father had emigrated to Canada before the law. After the legislation was put in place, he travelled back to China temporarily and then returned to Canada. But his new family was forbidden from following and he left his young son and wife behind.”
posted by Fizz (19 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
When my white Canadian therapist asked me my thoughts and feelings about racism in Canada, I referred in total seriousness to the internment of Japanese Canadians... from the very area I lived in. Our previous neighbor, an elderly grandma by now, was taken as a child. The therapist's reaction to my bringing this up was "But ... that was a long time ago?!" And that was that.
posted by polymodus at 6:30 AM on July 1, 2020 [16 favorites]

I live in the Niagara Falls region of Southern Ontario and as recently as of a year and a half ago, I've witnessed neighbors flying confederate flags. It's fucked up and yet pretty common.
posted by Fizz at 6:44 AM on July 1, 2020 [3 favorites]

I've seen the a confederate flag on a pole attached to a pickup in downtown Dunnville, so add Haldiman-Norfolk to Niagara.
posted by bonobothegreat at 7:00 AM on July 1, 2020 [1 favorite]

Yes, the Dixie swastika moved north once the Klan took it up. People in the US like to think that racism is mostly confined to the southern states, but I grew up in the north and it was just as bad there. It's not the confederate flag (and never was, being a single unit's battle flag) but the flag of white supremacy, which knows no borders.

Whenever I hear someone say Canada has no race problems, I advise talking to some First Nations people about that.
posted by corvikate at 7:33 AM on July 1, 2020 [4 favorites]

Thanks for posting this, Fizz. I admit I don't know as much as I should about Canada's awful history and present with respect to Indigenous people, so I appreciate the nudge to learn a little more today.

The pipeline protests earlier this year were also a good opportunity to learn some more. Including finding out which of my co-workers not only hold incredibly racist views of Indigenous people, but are unafraid to make their views known to everyone in the vicinity.
posted by FishBike at 7:59 AM on July 1, 2020 [1 favorite]

I recently finished The Voyage of the Morning Light which takes on the "benevolent" racism of Canada. (One of the characters "adopts" a Micronesian boy in 1911; this goes about as well as you might expect. Also references to residential schools, a tragedy that haunts the main protagonist.)

As someone who came of political consciousness in the Bush II era, hearing "I'm moving to Canada" jokes from liberal white Americans -- not to mention actual recommendations to pretend to be Canadian when overseas -- it's been eye-opening over the last few years to realize that our northern neighbors are nearly as fucked up as we are in the States.
posted by basalganglia at 8:19 AM on July 1, 2020 [1 favorite]

posted by chococat at 8:52 AM on July 1, 2020 [3 favorites]

it's been eye-opening over the last few years to realize that our northern neighbors are nearly as fucked up as we are in the States.

The story of Sitting Bull is a good illustration of the differences. He fled with his tribe to Canada because the Americans were intent on active, kill-'em-all genocide. In Canada his people slowly starved until they were forced to return to the U.S.

See also the malnutrition experiments on First Nations kids.

It's the more polite way to commit genocide, I guess.
posted by clawsoon at 8:53 AM on July 1, 2020 [9 favorites]

I'm in knock down screaming fights with a friend of mine in rural Alberta. I live in Fort Worth, Texas, so you can imagine what I've heard/seen in my life, but NOTHING the likes of someone who lives in a town where the hub is Walmart and it snows like, always, but still is VERY worried about immigrants taking over, or the native people getting more than their "fair share". We need a referee at this point.
posted by lextex at 9:01 AM on July 1, 2020 [2 favorites]

An Indigenous friend on Facebook just sent me a link to the trailer for First Contact, which follows outspokenly racist Canadians spending time with Indigenous people. I haven't tracked down where the full thing can be watched yet, but it looks to be pretty powerful.
posted by clawsoon at 9:23 AM on July 1, 2020 [1 favorite]

...looks like the full show is available for streaming on the Aboriginal People's Television Network for only $4.99 Canadian dollars a month.
posted by clawsoon at 9:32 AM on July 1, 2020 [1 favorite]

It's obviously not a "problem solved" thing, but I was impressed with this version of O Canada released today by the "Calgary-based performance ensemble" Revv52, which includes a 1:30 prelude about colonization of indigenous people, and the first few lines sung in the Cree language.
posted by Popular Ethics at 10:10 AM on July 1, 2020 [1 favorite]

Supposedly "nice" Canadians were furious about Idle No More, furious about the Wet’suwet’en solidarity demonstrations, and furious about the inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women. I have heard white Canadians say, very seriously, that the residential schools were good for indigenous children and their communities.

In the supposedly kind and friendly Maritimes, Black people still have to worry about cross burnings or being terrorized at work and shot with a nail gun.

Just try making a land acknowledgement at the start of a meeting and you'll see how many racists are around you.
posted by Stoof at 10:11 AM on July 1, 2020 [7 favorites]

(I've also seen Facebook ads from Erin O'Toole's Conservative Party leadership campaign stating that Canada Day is a day to fight back against "cancel culture". So yeah, plenty of blech around today too)
posted by Popular Ethics at 10:14 AM on July 1, 2020 [3 favorites]

Stoof: I have heard white Canadians say, very seriously, that the residential schools were good for indigenous children and their communities.

Heck, a Canadian senator said it.
posted by clawsoon at 10:46 AM on July 1, 2020 [2 favorites]

I live in the Niagara Falls region of Southern Ontario and as recently as of a year and a half ago, I've witnessed neighbors flying confederate flags. It's fucked up and yet pretty common.

In Georgetown, Ontario where I grew up, we had one in our high school gym. Our sports teams were called "The Rebels." The town has changed a bit since then but a good way to spot white supremacists is to mention where I'm from and see if they get suddenly excited. Happens often, unfortunately.
posted by rodlymight at 1:12 PM on July 1, 2020

Mod note: One comment removed. Please think more carefully about whether a thread is going to benefit from a long-form analysis of the motives of folks flying a confederate flag; this doesn't feel like a context where it's necessary or helpful.
posted by cortex (staff) at 4:43 PM on July 1, 2020 [2 favorites]

Yeah, Georgetown's history with the Klan is pretty shocking, but the rest of us pretty much accepting it is worse.
posted by scruss at 6:19 PM on July 1, 2020

I was very impressed that the CBC national radio news was leading yesterday with the story of - some Indigenous peoples are protesting Canada Day as a celebration of genocide - with the implication that we should all give this some sober thought.

That they were willing and able to pivot away from the usual cute "Yay it's Canada Day" fluff of past years really surprised me and makes me hopeful. Things are shifting. Too slowly of course, so much damage done, but there are changes happening in the media and that matters.
posted by kitcat at 10:10 AM on July 2, 2020 [1 favorite]

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