Our Home and Native Land

Today CTV published an article on Hate Crime in Canada.  The following are a few highlights from the report.

Hate crime in Canada,” published Monday by the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, states that hate crimes made up only a small proportion of total offences in 2006, accounting for less than 1 per cent of all criminal incidents reported by police.

That year, of the 892 hate-motivated crimes reported by police, six in 10 were motivated by race/ethnicity.    image

Another 25 per cent were motivated by religion and 10 per cent by sexual orientation, StatsCan reports.

The highest proportion of hate crimes — a full half — were property-related offences, most commonly mischief.

One-third were violent crimes such as assault.

Here is the racial breakdown for the 502 racially or ethnically-motivated incidents in 2006:

  • Blacks: 50 per cent
  • South Asians: 13 per cent
  • Arabs or West Asians: 12 per cent

Here is the breakdown of crimes reported to be motivated by religion:

  • Offences against Jews: 63 per cent
  • Offences against Muslims: 21 per cent
  • Offences against Catholics: 6 per cent

Among the 80 crimes motivated by sexual orientation, the majority were committed against homosexuals

Canadians thrive under the myth that we live in a tolerant multi-cultural society.  Clearly this is not the case.  Though these crimes made up a total of 1% of the criminal charges laid in Canada in 2006, 892 incidents are grounds to question the discourse of social acceptance, that most Canadian labor under. Discursively Canadian identity is largely generated from the idea that we are not Americans.  We use the US as barometer to judge malfeasance in Canadian society. When we think in terms of race, rather than dealing with what actually occurs in Canada, we look southward and say, we are not as bad as the US, thus diluting the collective culpability in terms of racial intolerance.

Canadians proudly point to the underground railroad, to disassociate Canada and slavery, yet slavery did exist in Canada. The first slave in Canada was a child, and his baptismal name was (note: the African name has been lost to history) was Olivier Le Jeune.  He was brought to the province of Quebec by David Kirke in 1628.  Slavery as an institution existed in Canada until the British Parliament emancipated slaves throughout the empire effective August 1, 1834. John A. Macdonald, Canada’s first prime minister was a raving alcoholic, and a vocal racist.  It is he who established the genocidal residential school system, which would later become a model for German concentration camps.

Bodies of color have a history of not being valued in this country.  In 1907, the city of Vancouver, British Columbia, white supremacists in attempt to remove Asians from jobs initiated a riot.  The end result was restitution for damaged property, and ominous legislation (Hayashi-Lemieux Agreement of 1908 between Canada and Japan that limited Japanese immigration and the “continuous journey” regulation that amended the Immigration Act),which would further disenfranchise the Asian minority in that province.  Just like our American neighbors, racism runs from sea to shining sea in Canada.  In 1964 Halifax, Nova Scotia decided that the black town of Africville was an eyesore, and so it relocated its 400 residents, and destroyed the community.  These residents were the descendents of the first black Canadians.

In the 2005 Ipsos Reid study that was commissioned by the Dominion Institute to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. one in 10 respondents said they wouldn’t want people from another race as next-door neighbors. Nearly 15 per cent of the 1,001 people surveyed said they thought skin colour made a difference at work and 13 per cent –told pollsters they would never marry or have a relationship with someone from another race.  It was also reported that about one in six Canadian adults – roughly four million people – have been victims of racism.

But things are different today…On  March 7, 2008, the Supreme Web Commander of the Ryerson Conservative Club targted a Black woman, Ryerson Students Union Vice President of Education, with a vile racist message reading: “KKK- White Power” in its heading. The message contained racist and misogynistic content, in response to an invitation to visit the campus that was proffered to former Black Panther members by the United Black Students at Ryerson.  Luke Granados, 25, of Georgina, and Russell Granados, 21, of Markham, Ont., were charged with wilful promotion of hate. It seems that in our racially tolerant country these men decided to hang a skeleton that had been painted black from a flagpole, that was flying the confederate flag. Or the recent case of racial profiling wherein Winnipeg police pulled over rapper Robert Wilson, also known as Fresh I.E. by gunpoint.

For Canadians that are POC, race continues to effect out daily lives, it is just not a part of the national dialog.  We as Canadians are quick to denounce others while ignoring our own history, or the continued systemic nature of racism within our society.  POC aren’t even understood as Canadians.  We are constantly asked where are you from, and if you should have the temerity to answer Canada, the usual response is no, where are you from originally.  Despite the fact that blacks have lived in Canada since 1628, we are still not legitimized as Canadians in the national discourse. According to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.” The aforementioned values are in direct discord with the racism that is alive and well within Canadian society.  The homogeneity that is projected reinforces the perceived national identity of Canada as white. Though we are marginalized our bodies matter, if only to ourselves.  It is time to stop living in a false idyllic state based on comparison to the United States. When Canadians bemoan the tarnishment of the reputation of Canada due to the war in Afghanistan, they need to acknowledge that for many of its residents, Canada was already far from a utopia.

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