Tag Archives: Camps

Not so Nice After All: 4 Examples of Racist Canadian History That You May Never Have Heard Of

Canadians like to think that we’re a pretty nice bunch.

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Especially now, as Drumpf’s presidential candidacy reveals the racist underbelly of our neighbours to the South, we Canadians pride ourselves on being nothing like the States. We happily disassociate ourselves from the violence and xenophobia that seems to crop up at every Drumpf rally.

It’s just so incredibly convenient to revel in our not-Americanness, as though that in itself makes us not racist. We try to pretend that same kind of racism doesn’t exist here, even though the same fear-baiting tactic was used in our recent election. We try to ignore the recent hateful attack on Syrian refugees, newly arrived in Canada. We try to forget that our country was built upon the exploitation of people of colour.

In case you aren’t sure what I’m referring to, I’ve included a couple examples below.

1. Canada had Legal Slavery

In elementary school the only time I learned about slavery and Canada was when we studied the Underground Railway. Through these stories of escape and hope I, like many Canadians, was led to believe that Canada had offered an escape for Black men and women who were trapped as slaves in the United States.

What I never knew (until recently) was that Canada was not always the beacon of hope that it appeared. As historian Natasha Henry highlights in her article about Slavery in Canada,

“African slavery existed in the colonies of New France and British North America for over 200 years, yet there remains a profound silence in classrooms and teaching resources about Canada’s involvement in the African slave trade. According to available historical documents, least 4,000 Africans were held in bondage for two centuries in the early colonial settlements of New France (Quebec), New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, and Upper Canada (Ontario).”

Luckily, novelists have begun to draw attention to the stories that our history books have overlooked. Afua Cooper’s The Hanging of Angélique, for example, tells the true story of Canadian slave Marie-Joseph Angélique. Meanwhile, Lawrence Hill’s Book of Negros, reminds us that many escaped slaves were actually shipped back to the States by Canadian authorities. He also explores the extreme racism that drove some black Canadians to move to Sierra Leone. Continue reading

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Shame Day: Your Treatment of Syria

I grew up in Syria.

I was born in the US, but the vast majority of my life was spent in the Middle East. In spite of the civil war that’s been raging in my adopted homeland for the past couple of years, I’ve remained largely silent on the issue here on the blog. More than anything else, I’ve done so because I know that there’s really no happy ending to anything I can say. For all my raging and foaming at the mouth, I really and truly don’t enjoy having to lambaste things- more than anytime else when there’s really and truly no light I can see at the end of the tunnel. Nevertheless, with American warships closing in on the Syrian coast and a mountain of evidence growing for the regime having unleashed a chemical attack on its own people, there’s really no keeping quiet at this point.

So here it goes.

I. There Is No Free Syrian Army

If you’ve been watching the situation or if you listen to the news, you may hear the term “Free Syrian Army” or “FSA” thrown around. While initially formed out of deserting Syrian soldiers and officers in the early stages of the conflict, there never really was- and still isn’t- any kind of centralized command. There’s a myriad of different militias and cells in Syria all operating under the banner of the FSA, but there’s really no connection between any of them, militarily, ideologically, or demographically. There’s also no connection, as is otherwise sometimes portrayed, between the self-declared opposition government operating out of Turkey and the FSA- they’re two completely different groups. It’s important to understand this to keep from being led into the false assumption that there’s only two sides to the conflict- the dictatorial regime and the pro-democracy rebels. There’s going to be a temptation to grossly oversimplify the situation- don’t let it happen more than it already has.


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