Is Canada a Racist Nation?

Diogenes's picture

Please note I'm not asking the question "Is Canada a nation of racists?". If I thought the majority of Canadians had some harsh, prejudicial and ignorant view on a particular race, religion or culture, that might be a fair question. But that isn't the case at all. Canadians are pretty decent, considerate people. They have earned a good reputation in most of the world and it serves them well.

But the politics of a nation, the relationships it fosters with the global community, and the reputation it has earned are more fluid and subject to winds of change. So in asking the question "Is Canada a Racist Nation", it is within a context of of current political events.

On June 4, a Federal Court of Canada judge, the honourable Justice Zinn, ordered the Canadian government to issue Abousfian Abdelrazik an emergency passport home, amoung other demands, on grounds that Abdelrazik's Charter rights had been breached.

Mr. Abdelrazik is the Canadian citizen that was living in the Canadian embassy in Sudan for over a year, and was captive in Sudan, often in jail, for six years because of actions and decisions made by successive Canadian governments and officials.

Justice Zinn's ruling was the third Federal Court decision against the government in the last four months and the most critical of its recent behavior. The words "procedurally unfair" and "contrary to the rules of natural justice" are peppered throughout the judgement.

lawrenceCannon (5K)

Justice Zinn was especially harsh on Minister of Foreign Affairs Lawrence Cannon and the last minute refusal to issue Abdelrazik an emergency passport after Abdelrazik had met some very tough pre-conditions (a paid ticket and a willing airline).

Had it been necessary to determine whether the breach was done in bad faith, I would have had no hesitation making that finding on the basis of the record before me.

In short, the only basis for the denial of the passport was that the Minister had reached this opinion (that Abdelrazik posed a security risk); there has been nothing offered and no attempt made to justify that opinion.

Thankfully, Mr. Abdelrazik arrived safely in Montreal a few days ago. A few more things are necessary before he can being a normal life. Since he is still on a UN blacklist, it technically illegal for any Canadian to give him money or a job. This quibble also made it necessary to travel from Toronto to Montreal by car instead of plane. Those blacklists are a bitch, eh?

But hey, it's a start. Keep rolling with the punches Abou!

The Abdelrazik case is just the most recent addition to a growing list of Canadians that have had their rights denied because the government either does nothing or has itself been complicit in having them detained without being charged or the benefit of a trial.

Since any challenge to a federal government imperative must be made in the Federal Court of Canada, only the most courageous and patient need apply. This ain't city hall folks, this is the federal government of Canada you're fighting, so expect the battle to be tough and dirty.

Abdelrazik (2K)

Docket: T-727-08
robNicholson (2K)

The names Abousfian Abdelrazik, Omar Khadr, Maher Arar, Abdullah Almalki, Ahmad Elmaati, and Muayyed Nureddin are a few examples of those that have been casualties in Canada's own selective war on terror.

The only common denominator here is that they are are muslim. Contrast these names with, say, Brenda Martin, the Canadian who was charged and convicted by a Mexican court of money-laundering. Our government spared no effort or expense to repatriate Ms Martin.

This government also saw it fit to prohibit George Galloway, a five time elected, 25 year member of Britain's Parliament, from entering Canada to speak to an anti-war group. Mr. Galloway is a long time supporter and advocate for a Palestinian homeland.

Canada has had a minority government for five years now, which should. in theory, provide for some vigorous debate and masterful compromise politics. It has not happened. Canada has endured three elections in that timeframe, with each successive government seeming more despotic and racist than the last, acting above the law, providing no answers or reasons, and hiding behind the phony badge of national security. In the end, our courts are needed to shame our government into complying with the law of the land.

Paul Dewar was the sole MP (NDP-Ottawa Centre) that championed the case for Abdelrazik.

Irwin Colter, a Liberal MP and expert on human rights, did offer some support. It was Colter who finally asked the question in the House of Commons that Rob Nicholson, Minister of Justice finally answered properly: "Mr. Speaker, the government will comply with the court order."

irwin cotler2 (3K)

Mr. Colter, however, was the Minister of Justice when Abdelrazik was first imprisoned in Sudan in 2003. Colter did write a couple of opinion pieces that were published in the Globe and Mail, but, as an MP, law professor, acclaimed human rights expert, parliamentary Foreign Affairs committee member and honourable member of the opposition, his voice was hard to hear. I believe it was Mr. Colter (or perhaps David Grossman) that made the first Kafka reference, a fitting parallel to the fiction that became reality.

ignatieff2 (3K)

Michael Ignatieff, the leader of the Liberal party and the official opposition, said (to the best of my knowledge) almost nothing on the Abdelrazik affair. His supporters claim he is a world class intellect on such matters as human rights and freedom of speech, yet there is little evidence Ignatieff gives a whit about Abdelrazik, Khadar, et. al. or the very questionable, sometimes unlawful behavior of the current government with respect to muslims.

HarperCedesControl (4K)

Perhaps Stephen Harper, our current Prime Minister, has been too occupied with receiving human rights awards from the Canadian Jewish Congress (CJC) and the like to take notice that many Canadians consider his governance a little misguided and, uh, over bearing. Like some new age Henry VIII he continues to challenge Federal Court rulings.

Collectively, the actions of this government with respect to its citizens of arab or muslim descent, and the failure of the opposition parties to hold this government to account is racist. It is selective; uneven; and without regard or respect for the laws of this land or the rights of its people.

How has it come to this?

Our mainstream political parties in Canada seem to be in perfect agreement on Israel. Canada is, without a doubt, one of Israel's staunchest political allies. Canada is the only country to support Israel's program of expanding illegal settlements in the West Bank. Canada also has an agreement to share border security information with Israel, which is rather bizarre for a country on the other side of the world that has no shared neighbours with us.

Why this peculiar allegiance?

Many Canadians and many Jewish people (from here and everywhere) do not support the apartheid policies of the government of Israel. They do not support the creation of illegal settlements in the West Bank, nor their expansion. They do not support the current Israeli/Egyptian siege on Gaza and they roundly condemn the brutal three week Israeli assault on Gaza last January (Operation Cast Lead) that killed 1,300 and wounded 5,400.

Yet both Harper and Ignatieff continue to strongly support Israel. The pandering to groups like B'nai Birth. the CJC, the Jewish Defense League (JDL) and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) is on the record. The influence these groups have on Canadian politicians and foreign policy is frightening.

Manufactured consent

US President Barak Obama has called for a freeze on Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

President Obama, like the Canadian media, doesn't like the term "illegal settlements". You won't find it used in Canadian newspapers or on our mainstream web sites either. Canadian news is washed and filtered. The colours sometimes don't come out the same.

The term "Israeli settlements" is used in place of illegal settlements, like there is some chance of spotting a Michael Langdon type building a little house on the hill from sticks and mud. "Israel settlements" is the romantic euphemism for the smash and grab government-sponsored colonization of the West Bank and Gaza. And yes, it is illegal (Article 49 of the 4th Geneva Convention, 1949).

A certain Canadian media empire (12 dailies, a national newspaper, and more), has also been known to substitute the word "terrorist" in place of "insurgents" or "rebels" when using copy from other news agencies (who subsequently objected) in articles on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

This same media empire, notorious for shaping the news it favours reporting, is also on the verge of bankruptcy.

Consider the evidence before you…

Our government has close ties to the state of Israel (and its politics). Our media is subject to an overbearing bias in the reporting on Israeli affairs. Our federal political system is broken, punishing MP's we elect for speaking against the party line even when they speak out of conscience or on behalf of their own electorate.

Can these factors enough to account for a systemic racism within our top level government?

There is, on balance, enough evidence for any reasonable person to say yes.