Friday, February 19, 2021

Evening with Desmond Cole. Time to put "Canada" to rest?

Last evening I watched An Evening with Desmond Cole, hosted by the Canadian Museum of History. I read "The Skin We're In", and watched different interviews.

This one was particularly inspiring.

This will partly be because Desmond Cole has been on a tour of this highly successful book, and with each presentation he will be getting interesting questions to think about himself.

The questions given him by Adrian Harewood and some of the students watching were not easy ones. Adrian challenged Desmond with far more than a discussion of his book.

The two most interesting answers for me were about Canada, and about the chapter on Canadian colonialism.


Do you love Canada?


Using a quote from James Baldwin, Adrian asked Desmond about whether he loved Canada. I don't have the quote handy, but this quote conveys the theme:

“I love America more than any other country in the world and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.” - James Baldwin


Desmond discussed how Canada is only an idea, and as an idea it is a bad one.

Using a short-form of Canada's actual history, he discussed how this foreign set of White Supremacist systems have no reason to be here, and that these systems are what he is trying to dismantle in his anti-racism work. He loves the people who are here, but he does not love the systems of Canada and is looking forward to the day when these systems are replaced.


I was blown away that he was willing to give this answer, and to share it with a wide audience. I have been thinking the same way since I recently started to understand what Canada is, but I often worry that I am far too radical in what I'm thinking.

It may seem like an odd thing to say, especially as a white male, but I've loved my anti-racism training. I wrote in the context of eco-capitalism, eco-socialism and decolonization how I was stuck inside a bubble of a "western worldview", and could not figure out ways to solve problems inside that bubble. I feel like, throughout my life, I've been building up volumes of knowledge and experiences, and anti-racism allows me to go through everything and dot-my-I's , and cross-my-T's to finally have everything make sense.

I have been pessimistic about the future of this planet for a few decades, and this last year has brought me a fair distance out of that depressed feeling.  The concepts behind anti-racism open up so many possibilities I had been unable to imagine.

Canada was not created by the people of this homeland, but by the British North America Act 1867 passed by the British parliament. This foreign system was thousands of years old at Canada's creation, given it is a subsidiary of the British system that incorporated all of that foreign history.  Until the Canada Act 1982 was passed in the UK parliament, every law passed in the UK was automatically part of Canadian law. It is a matter of legitimate debate whether it is myth or fact that Canada is a separate country from the UK, but I believe that we should move past that to questioning the very existence of this foreign system on this homeland.

I don't believe Canada is legitimately thought of as a democracy, but instead the result of a genocidal version of gerrymandering. With centuries of affirmative action for Whites/Europeans, it will take considerable effort to bring actual democracy to the lands alleged to be part of Canada.  As one part of the process, I believe we need to replace the current Senate with an Indigenous Council.

I strongly agree we should be moving forward with discussing how to transition away from Canada, and not thinking of the foreign systems of Canada as an idea worth saving.

the unsettling

One of the students asked why Desmond chose to include a discussion of Indigenous peoples in the July chapter, which was based on the 150'th anniversary of the passage of the BNA Act (Well, others call it Dominion Day or Canada Day).

I had already watched an interview which Desmond did of Skyler Williams from 1492 Land Back Lane.

Desmond discussed how understanding what is being done to Black people worldwide is very tied to the colonialism project, and thus the struggles for freedom from White Supremacist systems are the same.

What's next?

Desmond discussed how opponents of change often want a complete answer to what a replacement would be before being willing to discuss.  The reality is that this will be a longer project that cannot happen overnight, whether we are talking about (police) abolition, or decolonization.

My own thinking is to have an eye on the direction, even if I can't think of the details.

As an example, I keep a map of Canada from 1870, post BNA Act 1867, in mind for shorter-term work. I think about the changes which Canada has unilaterally made in its short time.  I think about the recent Nunavut land claim that eventually allowed the formation of Nunavut from an area that Canada has been calling the Northwest Territories.

I suspect that most Canadians would be surprised to know that Nunavut and the Northwest Territories (NWT) already use a much stronger form of democracy than the rest of Canada.


I believe we need to be continuing this process, allowing stronger democratic territories to form based on Indigenous traditional lands and worldviews, starting from the areas which Canada has been calling the Northwest Territories.  These lands are not where the bulk of the settlers are located, although if you only consider the volume of rhetoric from the politicians in Alberta and Saskatchewan you might believe otherwise. Alberta and Saskatchewan were split from NWT in 1905, and hopefully will be folded before there is a 150'th anniversary of that split.

This is going to take time, but this suggests a direction.  There are things which can be done in the shorter term.

Desmond mentioned the Haldimand Proclamation.

It seems obvious to me that Canada must be forced to fully honour the
Haldimand Proclamation, and fully recognize the centuries old democratic government of the Haudenosaunee Six Nations of the Grand River.  This is a far superior form of democracy than Canada uses, and it is an ongoing embarrassment that Canada sent in the RCMP to depose that government.

This should be a nation-to-nation relationship, directly between Six Nations and the Canadian federal government, without any involvement whatsoever with the Ontario division of Canada.  The Indian Act band council bureaucracy (what Canada's propaganda calls the "elected" council), which is responsible to the Canadian Crown and not citizens, should be immediately folded.

The Haudenosaunee government should never be thought of as below a municipality, as it actually exists above Canada as being a nation with far more legitimate claim to that area of land than Canada has.

My hope is that the self-determination aspects of UNDRIP will help force Canada to recognize Indigenous governments, and to fold the human rights violating band councils where Indigenous governments already exist.

Please watch

The good news is that if you didn't watch last night, the plan is to make it available later. I highly recommend anyone thinking about systemic change to watch this interview.

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