OTTAWA—It seems like Annamie Paul was right about this government when she accused Justin Trudeau of being a fake feminist and a fake ally. As if on cue, the Trudeau government continues to prove that while it pretends to be Dr. Melfi, it’s really Livia Soprano.
On June 24, news that Cowessess First Nation discovered 751 unmarked graves at the site of former residential school (or “re-education” camp), Marieval, provided the Crown another opportunity to retraumatize Indigenous people all over the country. The pain and intergenerational trauma with which this country continues to bludgeon the people—with whom Justin Trudeau claims forms the most important relationship—are, frankly, Canadian. For most of its history, Canada has pursued a policy of active genocide against First Nations, Inuit, Métis peoples through residential schools. “While the federal residential school system began around 1883, the origins of the residential school system can be traced to as early as the 1830s—long before Confederation in 1867,” the Indigenous Peoples Atlas of Canada reminds us. And this is concurrent with the starvation policyimplemented by everyone’s favourite ethnic cleanser, Sir John A. Macdonald, to clear Indigenous people off their land because Canada wanted to gentrify.
This is who we are, not a spot of trouble we got into in our youth. It’s downright reprehensible that the person responsible for demonstrating reconciliation, Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett, decided to attack a prominent Indigenous MP, Jody Wilson-Raybould, who expressed her opinion on Indigenous affairs on Twitter. Guess which day she decided to launch said attack? Oh yes, on the day we learned of the aforementioned unmarked graves.
Happy Canada Day.
Who knew one word—“Pension?”—could infer so much, yet it does.
Racist & misogynist text from @Carolyn_Bennett #215+
Reflects notion that Indigenous peoples are lazy & only want $
Shows disregard, disdain, & disrespect for Indigenous peoples, as in our history
— Jody Wilson-Raybould 王州迪 Vancouver Granville (@Puglaas) June 24, 2021
The mean-girls attack that Bennett launched was typical of the lateral violence women of colour experience from white women. “Relational aggression is a specific non-physical brand of aggression. It is most often associated with ‘mean girl’ behaviour.” Writing in Psychology Today, Dr. Jennifer Powell-Lunder explains, “The perpetrator ‘attacks’ their victim by ruining their relationships, often with the aim of destroying their social status.” Seems to fit, only Powell-Lunder was talking about girls in their tweens.
While white women rightly claim their oppression from patriarchy, they often use relational aggression against women of colour to establish white supremacy. Bennett, the Crown-Indigenous relations minister, framed Wilson-Raybould as a money-hungry troublemaker whose concern about the news out of Saskatchewan and Kamloops only went as far as lining her pocket. Bennett also inferred that Wilson-Raybould was too lazy to do the work to get re-elected to earn her pension if an election materialized (all MPs who were first elected in 2015 will be eligible for their pensions in October of this year). What she did was aid in the perpetuation of white supremacy, weaponizing racist tropes about Indigenous people against an Indigenous woman to exert control and dominance.
What a duplicitous, white feminist government—one that continues to mock and marginalize the same communities they claim to support behind our backs, all while chastising the rest of us for exactly the acts they commit.
Remember this admonishment: “Words matter. They can be a seed that grows into an ugly, pervasive trend. And sometimes, they lead to real violence. The jokes that are not funny, the casual racism … the polarization we too often see in our public discourse and in our politics. As leaders and as Canadians, we not only have to say: enough is enough, we must also take action”
Those were the words of Trudeau following the Islamophobic attacks in London. However, hypocritically, the Crown-Indigenous relations minister just did a racism and Trudeau is fine enough with it to keep her working in her much-diminished capacity, despite calls from Indigenous groups to remove her. Between Bennett and Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, they have made a mockery of two vulnerable groups—women in the military and Indigenous people—they claim allyship towards. It’s also telling that one of the few people to be booted from caucus was the same Indigenous woman who didn’t want to play in the mud with this lot. Seems like the only way to get fired is to be a woman of colour who dares to have an opposing view to the prime minister.
Wilson-Raybould continues to be the Liberal Party’s kryptonite. She is the only person in our political sphere to hold the Liberals accountable by existing.
What we should’ve learned from the SNC-Lavalin scandal, the firing of Wilson-Raybould, the departures of Celina Caesar-Chavannes and Jane Philpott (who I have missed in this COVID crisis) and Caesar-Chavannes’ best-selling book, Can You Hear Me Now?, is that this government and the prime minister, specifically, don’t like women of colour who oppose them. Bennett’s attack on the one person who held them to account should send chills through anyone who has an opposing viewpoint—especially those representing the views of vulnerable communities.
Erica Ifill is a co-host of the Bad+Bitchy podcast.