If we’re going to dismantle white supremacy, let’s not whitewash it

    Jan 20, 2021

    CALGARY—Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole is finally being held to account for months of white supremacist dog whistles.

    On Jan. 18, he moved to kick Derek Sloan out of caucus—a.k.a. The Bare Minimum—after PressProgress revealed that Sloan, at the front of the “which Conservative Party member courts more racism” queue, had accepted a political donation from neo-Nazi Paul Fromm last year. This is not Fromm’s first rodeo with the party, he previously donated to them in 2004 for the election campaign of MP Bob Dechert. The Conservatives know on which side their bread is buttered.

    Even so, white supremacy is not only neo-Nazis and insurrectionists, it is a racial hierarchy where white people (frequently men) hold positions of power, and whose decisions and conclusions shape the foundation upon which Canadian culture, customs, and laws are built and how they are applied.

    Last week, the MacDonald-Laurier Institute published an open letter, sanitizing Sir John A. Macdonald’s historical record: “All Canadians deserve to hear the full story about Macdonald, the founding of Canada and Canadian history generally.” Too bad this letter is quite light on that full and truthful story.

    While only a perfunctory mention of his role as one of the architects of the federal residential school system, the letter left out meaningful details of his legacy such as: the starvation policy to clear Indigenous people off the lands to build the Canadian Pacific Railway; the Electoral Franchise Act that denied Black and Indigenous people the right to vote; implementation of the Chinese Head Tax; and, as I wrote about in The Globe and Mail, “the creation of the pass system, a program of social control requiring Indigenous people to attain permission to leave the reserve (and which was then exported to South Africa, where it was used to control Black South Africans during apartheid).”

    The signatories, made up “of more than 150 historians, policy experts, educators, business leaders, public figures, and thought leaders” include David Frum, who convinced Americans of Saddam Hussein’s invisible stash of weapons of mass destruction and an invasion to “remake Iraq for the better.” He went on to confess that he and his warmonger peers were, “ignorant, arrogant, and unprepared, and we unleashed human suffering that did no good for anyone.” Old habits die hard. Other notable co-signers include: Joe Oliver, Peter MacKay, and Barbara Kay, known for her “generalizations suitable to perpetuate prejudices,” as determined by the Quebec Press Council in 2007.

    The blatant whitewashing of history is an act of white supremacy to assuage white guilt. “People are afraid of Canada being linked to white supremacy,” a CTV News article quoted Robert Alexander Innes, Indigenous studies associate professor at the University of Saskatchewan. Only white people can re-write history to make themselves feel better about the human rights atrocities of Canada’s history. History professor, Timothy Stanley, even called the Founder of Confederation a white supremacist: In 1885, John A. Macdonald told the House of Commons that, if the Chinese were not excluded from Canada, ‘the Aryan character of the future of British America should be destroyed …’ This was the precise moment in the histories of Canada and the British Dominions when Macdonald personally introduced race as a defining legal principle of the state… .”

    Feelings aren’t facts.

    White supremacy is when Employment and Social Development Canada, and its cadre of white senior managers, have the power to decide who is Black enough to access funding set aside for that community’s organizations. CTV News reported that the federal government, which is being sued by its Black employees for anti-Black racism, “denied federal funding through a program designed to help such groups build capacity—after Employment and Social Development Canada told them their leadership was not sufficiently Black.”

    Families, Children, and Social Development Minister Ahmed Hussen, pictured at a press conference on Oct. 27, 2020. Though Minister Hussen issued an apology for ESDC on Twitter, it should not fall on (who is most likely) the only Black person at the decision-making table to shoulder the blame of a team effort, writes Erica Ifill. The Hill Times photograph by Andrew Meade.

    The funding is part of the Supporting Black Canadian Communities initiative and, according to the Canada.ca website, the money is intended to “improve Black-led organizations’ workplaces and community spaces.” Though Social Development Minister Ahmed Hussen issued an apology on Twitter, it should not fall on (who is most likely) the only Black person at the decision-making table to shoulder the blame of a team effort.

    White supremacy is CBC Manitoba firing a racialized reporter, who confessed to another news site that he was forced to remove a tweet expressing his frustration at CBC’s continued support of Don Cherry’s xenophobia and bigotry. CBC’s ongoing platforming of Cherry is another example of  white supremacy. In a Maclean’s op-ed, I wrote, “Cherry had the blessing of the CBC for 34 years. There, Cherry had a national platform for his bigoted views, backed by taxpayers’ dollars. In a way, the CBC, as a national broadcaster, downloaded the funding of Cherry’s derision onto the very people he derided.” In the ruling about reporter Ahmar Khan’s dismissal, the arbitrator stated: “I accept that Mr. Khan sincerely believed that the CBC’s Journalistic Standards and Practices policy was being used selectively to silence his opinions when action had not been taken against other CBC employees who had voiced opinions.” Those other employees happened to be white.

    White supremacy is putting Shopify’s Tobias Lütke at No. 2 on the 2021 Maclean’s Power List, without acknowledging that the e-commerce company made millions of dollars from Donald Trump’s hate merchandise (Shopify only pulled Trump’s stores off its website after the president committed sedition). In addition, they platformed and collected revenue from Breitbart’s misinformation and racism and Kyle Rittenhouse merch—the 17-year-old who killed two people in Kenosha, Wis., during the protests against the shooting of an unarmed Black man, Jacob Blake, by a police officer. While competitor, Printful, deplatformed the teen’s store, Shopify accepted it, according to The Insider: “The e-commerce platform, Printful, cut it off and the store has now moved to a different platform, apparently run by Shopify.” White supremacy is establishment Canadian media refusing to hold the e-commerce company to account for its part in spreading Trump’s and far-right hate.

    As many organizations continue to create anti-racism policies and talk about systemic racism, those conversations need to move beyond diversity and inclusion, which does not solve racism, and move onto dismantling white supremacy, which does.

    Erica Ifill is a co-host of the Bad+Bitchy podcast.