I say this not as a term of national pride but rather as one of exasperation.
I watched in shock and awe last week as NDP leader Jagmeet Singh was expelled from the House of Commons for calling Bloc Québécois MP Alain Therrien racist, and then refusing to apologize or withdraw his remarks.
Singh had just presented a motion to the House of Commons that called for a recognition of systemic racism within the RCMP, a review of the RCMP’s budget, the release of all its use-of-force reports and a review on the RCMP’s tactics for interacting with the public. Therrien was the only MP to refuse to support the motion.
For Therrien, irrefutable statistical evidence that more than one third of people shot by the RCMP in the past decade were Indigenous wasn’t enough. Data proving unequivocally that black and Indigenous people are overwhelmingly over-represented in police caused fatalities wasn’t enough. A world erupting in anti-racist protests wasn’t enough. Support from every other member of parliament in favour of the motion wasn’t enough.
After Therrien refused his support, and Singh called him a racist, Bloc Québécois Whip Claude DeBellefeuille stepped in to say, “the NDP unabashedly is treating the member of La Prairie as a racist person and this is unacceptable in this House.”
Oh, the irony.
Canada is apparently completely okay with racism within the hallowed halls of its parliamentary proceedings but calling someone racist? Now that’s where they draw the line. Calling out racism shouldn’t be unacceptable in the House, actual racism should be.
In a moment where the entire world is having difficult but long overdue and necessary conversations about race and policing, our country, the true North strong and free, is punishing our first racialized party leader for refusing to apologize to someone who did something racist. Sigh.
Imagine if the effort and media coverage that went into removing Singh from the House of Commons had instead been directed towards the motion he put forward. For a country that prides itself on being inclusive and multi-cultural, we sure were quick to silence a diverse voice that dared to challenge the status quo.
Singh’s ejection from the House of Commons came exactly two weeks before we’re set to celebrate Canada Day. Is this the Canada that we’re celebrating? A country that has a long history of killing, debasing and silencing black, Indigenous and people of colour and apparently thinks it is more important to protect racists than to end racism?