By Pierre LeBlanc
The modern-day lynching of George Floyd, where his executioner, white policeman Derek Chauvin, “coldly and proudly asphyxiated the life” out of him has lit a fire across the US and around the world. In the wake of this horror, the stark reality of Canada’s systemic racism has been put under the microscope. Its supposedly-human rights iconic enamel has crumbled. Since Floyd’s assassination-by-robo-cop on May 25, 2020, horrendous police race-crimes have been visited on black and indigenous Canadians.
In Toronto, 29-year-old Regis Korchinski-Paquet inexplicably flew off her apartment balcony down to her death when five policemen “intervened” in her apartment. In New Brunswick, 26-year-old Chantel Moore was fatally shot five times in what was supposed to be a “wellness police call”. A Nunavut man was deliberately rammed by a police car door as he walked down a road and thrown in a jail cell where he was severely beaten by another occupant, all this without being charged with an offence. We’ve just learned that, in March, Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation Chief Allan Adam was severely beaten and injured by police while his arthritis-afflicted wife was painfully manhandled and slammed against a vehicle, this just for an expired license plate. So much for Canada’s Nation-to-Nation relationship and its Just Society.
Statistically, 36.5 percent of people killed by Toronto police were black, although they account for only 8.3 percent of the population. Similar statistical data apply to black and indigenous women and men across Canada. First Nations women and girls are being murdered and disappeared at an alarming rate. Over the last while, at least three black Canadian men in different parts of the country have been afforded the George Floyd the knee on neck treatment; fortunately, they survived. Of course, Canada was founded on the colonialist construct and has consistently implemented policies aimed at “disappearing” First Nations. Until now, the majority of Canadians and the political leaders they elect have not accepted that Black and Indigenous Lives Matter.
Oddly enough, Canadians have been so blinded by the belief that they are not racist that they have been much less likely to take to the streets than have Americans when these monstrosities occur. Floyd’s extrajudicial execution may have changed that. Heck, even prime minister Justin Trudeau “took the knee” during a recent Black Lives Matter demonstration in Ottawa. Black and Indigenous leaders have been speaking eloquently for years against systemic racism-supremacism in Canada. In the last few days, an increasing number of whites are speaking up. It is as yet unclear whether the sum of these voices will reach the political critical mass needed to force real structural change.
Domestically, prime minister Trudeau has been proficient at public symbolism, sometimes protesting against himself as he did when he took a knee. However, he has been abjectly slow at adopting measures that will correct the system. Indeed, he has made a number of decisions and taken actions that have made the situation worse. Including the police aggressions against the Wet’suwet’en Nation in 2019-2020 for protesting the crossing of the Coastal GasLink Pipeline through their territories, or any number of other government acts and omissions across Canada that degrade black communities and First Nations.
In spite of his lofty language, Trudeau has not removed Canada’s collective knee from the neck of Black and First Nations peoples. His government’s and the provincial governments’ policies continue to squeeze the lifeblood out of their families and communities.
Internationally, Canada does not even try to hide its knee pushing down on peoples’ necks in other countries. In many cases, it has taken to bragging about its behavior as would a prepubescent schoolyard bully. Forever subservient to his taskmaster, Chrystia Freeland and her Trumpian godfathers, Trudeau keeps squeezing the throat of millions of Venezuelans, strangling Palestinians lifeless, suffocating Haitians and providing cover for the mass starvation and murder of Yemenis.
Via their actions, statements, silences and alliances, Freeland and Trudeau are enabling, aiding and abetting the leading agents of mass state murder, oppression and genocide. These paragons of enlightenment include Netanyahu of Israel, Bolsonaro of Brazil, Sisi of Egypt, Duque of Columbia, Duterte of the Philippines and, of course, the puffed-up king of them all, Trump. People are defined by the company they keep; this maxim applies to Freeland and Trudeau.
One of the deep-seated common determinants of the actions of all of these pariahs is their unbound racism. Canadians who bother to inform themselves of what is going on have a hard time reconciling what is being done in their name with their perception of their country. That is, why have Freeland and Trudeau hitched Canada’s wagon to this band of bloodthirsty hooligans who all should be dragged before the International Criminal Court.
Canada’s knees on the necks of the racialized and poor take many different forms. Apart from their own streaks of manifest racism, Freeland and Trudeau are feeding the fantasies of the banks, vulture investment fund miscreants, corporations and mining and oil corporations. Canada’s racist and shareholder-doped foreign policy enthusiastically supports the maximum financial and economic exploitation of the poor and racialized people of the world, in unison with the predominantly white oligarchic minorities of these countries.
Canadian mining companies are particularly vicious in this regard, using paramilitary forces to weaken and forcibly displace local communities who dare resist the pollution of their lands and the destruction of their means of subsistence and their way of life. Meanwhile, Canada’s embassies pave the way for these abuses of power and human rights.
What does prime minister Trudeau’s taking the knee on June 5 mean? It could signal one of three approaches. He may merely have expressed recognition of the problem without in-depth thought or planning as to which policies, measures, programs and restructuring of the Canadian public and economic structure to implement. Secondly, his gesture could represent true recognition which will lead to COVID policy-like speed in implementing broad and deep judicial, penal, social, educational, housing and economic equity structural changes, and reparations for past government crimes and omissions, including the sharing of power with black communities and First Nations.
Or, this prime ministerial taking the knee could be a ruse akin to the act of an abusive partner who, between beatings of his spouse, presents her flowers and apologies, an act designed to manipulate and further dominate her. Time will tell where Trudeau operates on this sliding scale of morality but his record and the dissonance between his promises and his actions raise serious doubts. If the tenants of his international policy are a barometer, the hard and high-human-cost work of black, brown, indigenous, and white communities has a long way to go.