Does Canada Have a Systemic Racism Problem?

A commentary on systemic racism

The Beaverton, a weekly satirical Canadian news show, recently had the headline: Country [Canada] responsible for the Indian Act, Chinese Head Tax, Komagata Maru, Africville, “None Is Too Many,” Japanese Internment Camps, Sixties Scoop, Residential Schools, Oka Crisis, and MMIWG declares itself not racist. This headline is based on prominent Canadians such as Stockwell Day, Doug Ford and Rex Murphy claiming that Canada is not racist. Stockwell Day is a former Conservative politician, a person I met with when he was a member of Alberta’s Legislature. Doug Ford is presently premier of Ontario, and Rex Murphy is a Canadian commentator and author.

These three prominent Canadians have all argued that Canada is not a racist country. Mr. Day resigned from several roles, such as a Telus board member, after being called out when he denied the existence of systemic racism in Canada on CBC’s “Power Play.” Here is a link to his comments (see Power Play).  Doug Ford drew strong criticism when he claimed that Canada doesn’t have the same “systemic, deep roots” of racism that the United States has. (see Doug Ford’s comments on racism ignore history of black trauma in Canada).  The National Post’s article; Rex Murphy: Canada is not a racist country, despite what the Liberals say, has the commentary by Mr. Murphy where he says:

“…Canada is a mature, welcoming, open-minded and generous country. It would be helpful if these Liberals kept the full story of this country in mind when discussing racism, and not leap so reflexively to grim characterizations of a country that, while not perfect, has been doing its best to be tolerant and welcoming.”

Canadians are watching the events of our southern neighbour and comparing them to Canada.  I (#blogger, #blog, #YA, #authors, #somseason) taught Social Studies for many years and I taught about the Indian Act, Chinese Head Tax, Africville, “None Is Too Many,” Japanese Internment Camps, Sixties Scoop, Residential Schools, Komagata Maru, the Oka Massacre, and MMIWG. I’ve provided links should you be interested in learning more about these Canadian events.  Most of us Canadians like to see ourselves as “mature, welcoming, open-minded and generous,” but the truth is, our history reveals that Canada’s past is filled with racial bullying (#bullying, #antibullying). The Beaverton’s list proves that. Systemic racism is just as much a Canadian problem as it is a USA problem, and likely a worldwide problem.  Systemic racism is all of the policies and practices entrenched in society that harm certain racial groups and benefit others. Canadian history books rarely, if ever, talk about the systemic racism, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

The problem is, most people read a history book thinking it is fact. My students did until I taught them that history is an interpretation of the past, so it is not necessarily factual. Here is a social studies lesson.

What do I mean by past? It refers to primary documents; records created in the past that have survived into the present. Historians use a wide variety of written records, from personal diaries to statistical records kept by government departments, as the basis for their historical investigations. Historians even use non-document records, including photographs, moving pictures, the spoken word, architectural plans, or botanical (plant) inventories to find clues about how people lived in the past. All of these primary documents are the “raw materials” that historians work with as they attempt to figure out what happened in the past.

So, what is history? History is a story or tale of what has happened, or may have happened, in the past. Historical interpretation is the process by which we describe, analyze, evaluate, and create an explanation of past events. History involves debate, discussion, and conversation. Hugh Trevor-Roper wrote in 1957, ‘history that is not controversial is dead history’.

The Magazine, History Today, has an article titled, A Question of Interpretation, that says:

“Yet the truth is, if you take a group of historians working on the same problem, writing at different times and in different places – even if they all use their evidence in a scrupulous, honest, critical and informed way – the conclusions they reach may differ.”

The reality is, a historian’s belief system, values, biases, prejudices, and experiences, all influence how a historian interprets the past. Dan Brown, in The Da Vinci Code, wrote “History is always written by the winners. When two cultures clash, the loser is obliterated, and the winner writes the history books-books which glorify their own cause and disparage the conquered foe. As Napoleon once said, ‘What is history, but a fable agreed upon?” There is truth in that statement.

With my students, I always gave a concrete example, so let’s use 9/11, the alleged terrorist attack on the US.  I say alleged because there are many who question if we have been told the full truth. For example, Reader’s Digest has an article, 12 Questions People Still Have About 9/11, with questions that have not been given convincing answers. The Foreign Policy Journal’s article, 9/11: Finally the Truth Comes Out? Says;

Every informed person is aware that elements of the US government were involved either in the perpetration or a coverup of the 9/11 attacks

I certainly have questions about 9/11. The article, 737 Passenger Plane Possibly Struck and Damaged by Drone on Landing, shows damage done to a plane by a drone. This video shows a plane going through a twin tower.

My question is: How is that possible, when a drone can do that much damage to a 737 and when jet airplanes are made of light materials, like aluminum, can go through a tower designed to withstand the impact of a commercial jet airplane? My point is, the past (9/11 event) is open to interpretation. Anyway, enough about 9/11 questions. I’m starting to sound like a conspiracy theorist.

Returning to 9/11 as an example of historical interpretation. After the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon, George W. Bush, president of the U.S. at the time, said; “Freedom itself was attacked this morning by a faceless coward, and freedom will be defended.”  Osama bin Laden, the alleged mastermind of the terrorist attack, said; “America has been hit by Allah at its most vulnerable point, destroying, thank God, its most prestigious buildings.”  Same past event, but two very different interpretations.

Does Canada have a systemic racism problem? Based on our past, I would say yes. We have legislative documents to prove it. In last week’s post, I mentioned a meme I saw that defined White Privilege as, “Privilege is when you think something is not a problem because you aren’t personally affected.” Perhaps those with white privilege, and those who aren’t personally affected, choose to see our nation the way they want to. They choose to deny that racial bullying exists in this country. It is time to wake up and take a closer look at our country folks! We’re not as innocent as we like to think.

Author: Sommer season all year

I am a retired school teacher. I taught high school for 35 years.

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