Monday, January 4, 2021

Help stop overt racism and white supremacy in Canada!

The NDP have a fundraising campaign where they wish to Dismantle white supremacist and neo-nazi groups in Canada. While that is a feel-good campaign that might bring them money, I think Canadian political parties and elected members of Canadian parliaments should look closer to home if they wish to solve this problem.


Canadians believe that Canada is not a racist country, largely because they are looking for individuals who use specific keywords they are looking for.  They want to hear someone say that they believe whites are a superior race, and that whites should rule over all the other races. As it is only a small minority of Canadians who use the keywords they are looking for, they can feel good about themselves and confident that Canada isn't a racist country.

This focus on individuals should be recognized as a form of white privilege and part of European worldviews.  If we wish to stop racism and white supremacy in Canada we should instead be looking at the systems of Canada: governance systems, laws, law enforcement, and so-on.


Systemic Canada

The Doctrine of Discovery was part of a set of papal bulls issued by the pope in 1493. It "authorized" the subjects of Christian European monarchs to travel to other countries and claim that they "discovered" land if the inhabitants weren't also subjects of Christian monarchs. These European monarchs and subjects would then, via this doctrine, rule over the land and peoples that they "discovered".

 


 

 

I would hope that today we would all recognize this as fundamentally flawed thinking. While in April 2010 "The Holy See confirms that Inter Coetera has already been abrogated and considers it without any legal or doctrinal value", several countries including Canada continue to base their legal systems on this policy. A simple look at a dictionary definition of "White Supremacy" should allow us to recognize that this policy is white supremacist.


To avoid those who want to claim "the past is the past", lets focus our thinking on overt activities carried out by the Governments of Canada based on this white supremacist policy that happened in recent years and/or are ongoing today.

While there was 300 years leading up to it, in 1990 a group of Mohawk finally put their feet down and said "no" when the Canadian state yet again planned to illegally take more land from them. The Mohawks are one of the elder nations part of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, an advanced democratic union of nations dating back to 1192. The Mohawks are considered the keepers of the eastern gate to the Haudenosaunee Conferderacy.

The Secret Life of Canada offers a 2-part audio on Kanesatake: Let's talk about what happened long before the 'Oka Crisis'.


A point-form summary of the racist actions of the Canadian Government, some of its subsidiary governments, courts, police forces, and military:

 

  • The Government of Canada claims, based on the clearly racist Doctrine of Discovery, that it exclusively "owns" (in a European sense, meaning entitlements without responsibility) all the land within the borders that it negotiated with the USA (another European-derived government in North America) and documented in treaties with the USA.
    • This includes land that was clearly never ceded to Europeans or their subsidiary governments, as well as land where there are treaties to peacefully share which Europeans dishonestly believe were ceded.
  • A racist municipality "sold" land it did not own to be "developed".
  • A court issued a racist injunction against land defenders
    • Indigenous people feel responsibility to land while Europeans feel only entitlements.  We need to understand the term "land defenders" to mean the rightful "owners", but with a less racist conceptualization of ownership.
    • The purpose of an injunction is to protect the status-quo while a dispute can go through the courts. A less racist injunction process would have an injunction against destruction of the land until clear title was established.  Injunctions should never be against land defenders.
  • Police were called in to enforce the racist injunction, and when the land defenders (AKA: rightful owners) didn't leave the police carried out racially motivated violence.
  • Additional land defenders came in to help protect those trying to stop foreign destruction of their land. Additional locations became part of the land defense.
  • The Canadian military was brought in to remove these land defenders.

 

While we could be very European and be critical of each of the individuals that were involved in these racist activities, they would each claim they were merely "following orders".  To understand why potentially good people were willing to carry out racially motivated violence we need to look closely at the systems that gave them those orders.


This same activity has been carried out in many different instances, so I will only pick a few of the higher profile instances:

  • In 1995 the Chippewas of Kettle and Stony Point First Nation tried to reclaim land that had been "temporarily" expropriated during World War II. The racially motivated violence from the Ontario government, lead by Mike Harris, resulted in the murder of an unarmed land defender named Dudley George.  There was an inquiry, but for his part Mike Harris is being granted the Order of Ontario.  (To learn more, the Secret Live of Canada did an episode on Ipperwash in their first season).
  • Wet’suwet’en Nation land defense against expropriation of their land to put in risky pipelines. I believe it is hard for Canadians to claim they weren't aware that something was going on given most railways were blocked as part of this anti-racism protest. I think it is our duty to go past the government propaganda and learn about the overt racist activities carried out by the Government of Canada (theoretically on our behalf).
  • To bring us back to the Haudenosaunee, the Six Nations of the Grand River, was forced to occupy some of their land after yet another parcel was illegally sold in 2020 by a municipality to a developer.  They renamed this land 1492 Land Back Lane, and I have written extensively why we should support these land defenders.
    • While there has been racially motivated violence by police and settler protesters, fortunately Canada hasn't murdered anyone yet.
    • This group has been forced to retain occupancy on this land with tents and temporary housing through COVID and through a cold winter to stop land destruction. We should be actively thinking of our complicity in this white supremacy every cold evening this winter. Make a donation.

 

 

Roadmap away from racism and white supremacy in Canada

There is a roadmap of what the Government of Canada, and each elected member of a Canadian parliament, should be doing to reduce this white supremacy.  As an example, two of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 Calls-to-Action from 2015 directly address the Doctrine of Discovery and the racist litigation strategies based on this policy.

 

Royal Proclamation and Covenant of Reconciliation

45. We call upon the Government of Canada, on behalf of all Canadians, to jointly develop with Aboriginal peoples a Royal Proclamation of Reconciliation to be issued by the Crown. The proclamation would build on the Royal Proclamation of 1763 and the Treaty of Niagara of 1764, and reaffirm the nation-to-nation relationship between Aboriginal peoples and the Crown. The proclamation would include, but not be limited to, the following commitments:

i. Repudiate concepts used to justify European sovereignty over Indigenous lands and peoples such as the Doctrine of Discovery and terra nullius.

ii. Adopt and implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as the framework for reconciliation.

iii. Renew or establish Treaty relationships based on principles of mutual recognition, mutual respect, and shared responsibility for maintaining those relationships into the future.

iv. Reconcile Aboriginal and Crown constitutional and legal orders to ensure that Aboriginal peoples are full partners in Confederation, including the recognition and integration of Indigenous laws and legal traditions in negotiation and implementation processes involving Treaties, land claims, and other constructive agreements. 


47. We call upon federal, provincial, territorial, and municipal governments to repudiate concepts used to justify European sovereignty over Indigenous peoples and lands, such as the Doctrine of Discovery and terra nullius, and to reform those laws, government policies, and litigation strategies that continue to rely on such concepts.


These are actions that need to be carried out by the Governments of Canada.  If the NDP wanted to fight against white supremacy in Canada they should be focused on actively forcing fellow parliamentarians to pass a bills that would honor these calls to action.

I am aware that there are several members of parliament that are members of the Catholic Church.

49. We call upon all religious denominations and faith groups who have not already done so to repudiate concepts used to justify European sovereignty over Indigenous lands and peoples, such as the Doctrine of Discovery and terra nullius.

The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops has started the process . In April 2010 there was a Statement by the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See on the Doctrine of Discovery and Inter Coetera that clarified that "The Holy See confirms that Inter Coetera has already been abrogated and considers it without any legal or doctrinal value".

Given this, why does the Canadian Governments still cling to the idea that this doctrine ever had any validity?


UNDRIP in Canada

It is important to notice that "Adopt and implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as the framework for reconciliation" is part of the calls to action.  The Government of Canada has tabled a bill, based on a previous bill C-262 that was killed by the senate, to start a process. The Assembly of First Nations provided a table comparing C-15 from the previous C-262 which had already passed once in the House of Commons.


There is strong opposition from within some indigenous communities to that process.

 

Why?

 

Russ Diabo provided some useful links on Twitter (thread 1, thread 2).  He specifically mentioned support for Arthur Manuel's 6 Step Decolonization Program.

The clear suggestion is that Canada must stop ongoing racism and white supremacy being carried out by the Governments of Canada before there is any reason for Canada to be trusted to move forward with UNDRIP.

The first step is to denounce the racist doctrine of discovery and terra nullius. It then moves on to removing the white supremacist idea that a European created government should rule over indigenous peoples (indigenous self-determination).  Once this has been accomplished, and Canada has demonstrated a little bit of maturity, a "grown-up talk" can happen nation-to-nation.

For those following these 6 steps, the last step is to modify the Canadian constitution to fully implement UNDRIP.

Bill C-15 does not implement UNDRIP, but documents a specific process to move forward. It also incorporates the text of the UN resolution into that process, and many have suggested this will encourage courts to include ideas from the resolution in rulings where the law is otherwise unclear.

The debate within indigenous communities seems to be around whether Bill C-15 or any Canadian process around UNDRIP should be boycott until Canada demonstrates some willingness to stop its racism and white supremacy, or if the passage of C-15 can be used as part of the process to stop Canada's ongoing racism and white supremacy.


Sadly, outside of indigenous communities the debate seems to be about whether Canada should be continuing or even increasing the strength of racist and/or white supremacist policies, or if we are willing to slowly tiptoe forward to become a tiny bit less white supremacist.

My own thinking has been focused on political strategies to get anti-racist policies passed into law and enforced without constantly being blocked by the racists within the Canadian Parliaments (federal and provincial), Federal Senate, courts, lawyers and police.


Where exactly is the NDP looking for these white supremacist groups in Canada?