Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Why The Dearth Of Black Canadian Political Power?

This is a guest post from the ever brilliant Monica of TransGriot.

image There are as of the 2006 Canadian Census 783,795 people that describe themselves as Black Canadian. One of my dear Timmy's Icecap drinking friends friends proudly identifies herself as such.

That translates to 2.5% of the Canadian population being Black Canadian.

The five largest provinces in which Black Canadians are predominately clustered are in order Ontario, Quebec, Alberta, British Columbia, and Nova Scotia.

The municipalities with the highest numbers of Black Canadian citizens are Toronto ON, Montreal QC, Ottawa ON, Calgary AB, Vancouver BC, Edmonton AB, Hamilton ON, Winnipeg MB, Halifax NS, and Oshawa ON.

Preston NS, (near Halifax) is the city that has the highest percentage of Black Canadians residing in it at 68.4%

One of the questions I've pondered as I've looked north is why the dearth of political representation for my Black Canadian cousins?

Renee, myself and other Black Canadians have had some long midnight oil burning discussions about why this situation in the Great White North amongst our peeps has evolved.

Yes, Michaelle Jean is the current Canadian Governor General and head of state, but bear in mind that's a position appointed by the prime minister.

Of of the 308 seats in the House of Commons, there are currently only two held by a person who identifies as a Black Canadian. On the Canadian Senate side you have Sen. Donald Oliver from Nova Scotia.

That makes it a little tough to have a Canadian Obama when being a member of Parliament is a primary prerequisite for becoming the Prime Minister of Canada.

I have to admit we have a few advantages on our Canadian cousins besides larger population numbers. We make up 13% of the US population versus their 2.5% slice of the Canadian one.

We African-Americans were forced after emancipation to continuously band together for our own protection and survival against terrorist organizations like the KKK and their vanilla-flavored sympathizers.

That along with living in segregated neighborhoods fostered a collective 'we're all in this together' mindset irregardless of our physical location in the United States. The Great Migration out of the South in the late 19th-early 20th century also spread our population out to various portions of the country in which we make up strategic voting blocs today.

The early 20th century saw the emergence of national advocacy organizations such as the NAACP, and the formation of numerous cultural organizations such as fraternities and sororities. Those organizations reinforced pride in ourselves and pushed economic self help and collective responsibility messages. Education was also stressed as the road to equality and uplift to a better future.
Dr. Carter G. Woodson's tireless efforts to promote and teach Black history in the States added to our emerging pride in ourselves combined with a succession of leaders who stressed Black pride.

There was importance placed on ballot box access along with a strategic use of collective political power and grassroots protests to push social change and uplift the race at the same time.

While it's cool that African Americans have extremely close cultural, historical and in many cases familial links with African Canadians, it has led to a mindset in which they forget the border exists. It's never far from my mind that if I want to visit Renee or any of my Black Canadian homeboys and homegirls a US passport must be in my possession before doing so.

It also means that whatever gains we African-Americans make stop at the US-Canadian border. You can take inspiration from them, but to achieve similar success means you'll have to handle your political business to replicate them on the Canadian side of the line.

Black Canadians to their credit realize this. They are taking critical looks at their place in Canadian society. They are beginning to do the work of identifying causes of their lack of power and tackling the problem.

But to emulate their south of the border cousins social and political success will take an ongoing long term sustained effort to build up to that level.

Black Canadians have those basic building blocks in place in terms of having a section of the country in Nova Scotia that proudly celebrates its Black Canadian heritage. The Black Canadian population is spread across multiple provinces and clustered in major cities across the nation.

What's missing is the will to do it and a national level organization similar to the NAACP advocating for them. There needs to be an emergence of nationwide pride in being a Black Canadian along with the teaching of Black Canadian history at home and in the schools. Black Canadians need to be as fluent in their Black history and proudly tell those stories as much as we do here in the States.

A multifaceted Canadian 'Black Power' collective political strategy needs to be discussed, formulated and executed. It should be a grassroots based locally oriented one that acts and thinks regionally, provincially, nationally and globally in addition to being sensitive to the concerns of the rest of the African Diaspora.

Black Canadians should put emphasis on getting involved and organized to interface with the Canadian political process as part of the national strategy to empower Black Canadians.

So what will it take for our Canadian cousins to do so? Maybe it will take an Emmitt Till scale event happening to a Black Canadian child to galvanize them. It could be a minor slight that causes Black Canadians to rise up in anger, say, enough and jump start what I've laid out in this post.

Maybe it'll be as simple as Black Canadians being sick and tired of not seeing themselves represented in their national legislative body, wanting more input on national policies and how their tax 'loonies' are spent.

All we African-Americans can do is make suggestions, point out our mistakes and give other helpful advice to our Canadian cousins as they embark on this long term political project.

But in the end this will have to be an all African Canadian production.