Time for Canada’s white establishment to pull their heads out of the sand

    May 18, 2022

    OTTAWA—The Canadian White Establishment is at it again, gaslighting Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour (BIPOC) into disbelieving our own experiences in this country, based and built on white supremacy and the fascism of right-wing, Christian dogma. 

    Over the weekend, a young white man live-streamed himself on Twitch murdering Black people, or what I like to call Friday Night Lights. Payton Gendron drove more than 200 miles to Buffalo, N.Y., to kill Black people, nearly two years after George Floyd’s murder and the summer of Black Lives Matter. As this plays out in the coming weeks, we can be sure to see the handwringing and finger-pointing amongst white people who can’t seem to grasp that they’re more racist than they think they are and are happy to tolerate racism when it aids their comfort. A lot of white parents have raised children to be just that—a violent threat to anyone who is not a white, cis-gendered, heterosexual male. 

    How do y’all raise your kids to hate us so much? Usually, this process is done through the denial of their parents, much like Catherine McKenna did on Twitter. Her ludicrous, tone-deaf statement reeked of White Saviourism, which is another form of white supremacy: “Reading the news today, I’m feeling very fortunate to live in Canada—a diverse and tolerant country that values freedom while respecting human rights. We aren’t perfect and building our country is an ongoing project but I wouldn’t choose anywhere else.” 

    I’m sorry, what? How is domestic terrorism better here? Canada is a nation of domestic, white supremacist terrorists, and is a country that has historically exported that white supremacy. How can one be this ignorant after the nation’s capital was occupied for three weeks by a convoy organized by white supremacists? As I wrote in Refinery 29, “I’m a Black Canadian columnist, born in Ontario and raised in Alberta, and I can see the rising tide of hate, yet when I write about it and talk about it, I often feel like I’m screaming into a void.”

    McKenna is a prime example of that void many of us are screaming into. Her insulting statement amounts to nothing more than gaslighting the experiences of people of colour. 

    Not only does this statement speak over the lived experiences of BIPOC in this country, but it is also fundamentally racially arrogant, which is a different form of white supremacy than what the Buffalo shooter espoused. McKenna is in no position to speak on the experiences of race in Canada, yet she feels she’s entitled to do so. Her feeling fortunate is yet another testament to her valuing her comfort over the lives of BIPOC—as long as she’s comfortable in Canada, the lived experiences of BIPOC are of no consequence and are only acceptable to her if they confirm her world view. And these are the people who made the policies that harm those same BIPOC people. When McKenna was minister of environment, what did she do to reduce the existence of environmental racism suffered by mainly Indigenous and Black communities? Nothing. She didn’t even acknowledge that environmental racism exists, or any policies to address it. In other words, when the time came to fix issues of structural racism that existed within her mandate, she chose to ignore them and therefore actively chose to keep communities of colour suffering. 

    Additionally, to hear this from a white woman is as unsurprising as it is underwhelming. Throughout history, white women have oscillated between the oppressor and the oppressed, depending on which way the wind is blowing. McKenna is the perfect example of the white moderate I wrote about last week, as much as she is the poster child of white feminism, which is a feminism that “tolerates” white supremacy.

    But, as usual, thoughts and prayers while we’re being gaslit by the Establishment. 

    Hate crimes in Canada have skyrocketed, according to a Statistics Canada report, increasing 80 per cent during the pandemic while overall crime dropped 10 per cent. “Between 2019 and 2020, the number of police-reported crimes motivated by hatred of a race or ethnicity increased 80 [per cent], from 884 to 1,594. Much of this increase was a result of more police-reported hate crimes targeting the Black population (+318 incidents), East or Southeast Asian population (+202 incidents), the Indigenous population (+44 incidents) and the South Asian population (+38 incidents).” We are under serious threat and all we get from the Establishment is tone-policing and a common refrain about how great we have it here.

    Tolerance means that someone must be in a position of power to tolerate you, and to cause harm by not tolerating you. These racial power differentials are what we’re trying to eliminate but are being hampered by people like McKenna in positions of power, yet fundamentally obtuse about race.

    In her tweet, McKenna revealed the cluelessness of generations of white Canadians who still think that racism is an individual, moral act, and tolerance is the ideal, all while claiming they don’t see colour. Then get your eyes checked, because your children do. They are being radicalized right under your nose, and instead of confronting it, many white parents put their heads in the sand and pretend it doesn’t happen. You are failing us, and yes, at parenting. It is no longer OK not to know; it’s no longer OK to be in a position of power or leadership and be willfully ignorant about race, since it’s the single factor that determines the outcome of many lives in “racially tolerant” Canada. 

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