To the Members of Parliament of the House of Commons of Canada:
MP Jagmeet Singh taught us something about Canada this week.
For anyone who hadn’t heard about it: In response to growing global concern about systemic racism, especially with regards to policing, including mounting global protests on the Issue, Member of Parliament and PoC Jagmeet Singh proposed a motion addressing systemic racism in the RCMP.
The RCMP or Royal Canadian Mounted Police (and no they don’t ALL ride horses) is akin to the FBI. They are the Federal policing agency, though in provinces like BC which doesn’t have it’s own Provincial police force they may also provide additional policing services.
Mr. Singh’s proposal would recognize that racism exists in the RCMP, would review their funding, as well as demand their reports regarding the use of force. Mr. Singh brought up that just in the last short while many Indigenous people had been the victims of violence at the hands of RCMP officers.
That racism exists in the RCMP is not really a new revelation. Some of us remember the Starlight Tours, where Indigenous peoples in Canada were left to freeze to death by the police. Some of us remember the findings of various commissions and reports that consistently pointed out issues with racism within the ranks of the RCMP and especially in their dealings with Indigenous communities.
Mr. Singh’s proposal was met with a single consenting vote, from the leader of the Bloq Quebecois. The Bloq has had a long racist history. They are among those who have proposed laws restricting access to public spaces and government services to people who wear religious garb like a head scarf. They’re basically conservatives with a Quebec accent.
Mr. Jagmeet Singh then proceeded to call Alain Therrien a racist.
I believe this to have been a calculated decision on Mr. Singh’s part. I think he was teaching us a VERY IMPORTANT lesson that we need to make sure we pay attention to.
In the last few weeks, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took a knee in acknowledgement of the protests and in support of Black Lives Matters. A big gesture in support of Civil Rights, but a gesture nonetheless.
As Prime Minister, Trudeau has the podium and the influence to make big changes in Canada. But he won’t even do the work of calling out and rooting out racism from within his own House. He won’t address the fact that white people are overwhelmingly over-represented among the members of Parliament and the Senate. More than one MP currently sitting in Government have shown support or given dog-whistles to white supremacist organizations. Our Oh-So-Brave Prime Minister won’t even call a racist, a racist.
Canadians like to pretend that racism doesn’t happen here. We loudly brag about the fact that the Underground Railroad led here to Canada, where we have no history of slavery. We like to pretend that when racism does happen, then those who are its victim can be confident of support.
So here we have a Member of Parliament for whom Racism is not a theoretical problem. This Man of Colour spoke a truth everyone already knew, calling the one person to object to saying that there is racism in the RCMP, a racist. Here was a person who knows what it is to be a victim of racism saying out loud “this person is a racist.”
And as I’m sure he fully expected when he chose to speak the truth: He was Punished for it. Meanwhile, the person being racist, faced no consequence, not even an acknowledgement from other members of the house that yes, he is in fact a racist.
The truth of the matter is that in Canada, it is still worse to call someone a racist than to actually be a racist. That calling attention to racism when you are a person of colour, is to invite punishment. While a white man takes a knee and receives praise, a Brown man stands for the truth and is silenced by the same people demanding praise for their anti-racism. We are being shown right now what systemic racism looks like, what it acts like.
Jagmeet Singh took a stand against racism. I will not give my vote or support to anyone who doesn’t choose to stand with him in this moment.