Tag Archives: vote

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 According to available historical documents, least 4,000 Africans were held in bondage for two centuries in the early colonial settlements of New France (Quebec), New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island,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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We’re Fighting For Our Rights, Not Yours: Suffragette and the Persistence of White Feminism

This month I got to go out and cast my vote in the Canadian federal election. I owe this privilege to women who came before me. Women who sacrificed their time, energy, and sometimes their lives because they believed that we deserved the same privileges as men. Because I’m thankful for the sacrifices those women made, I’m ecstatic to see a film coming out this month that celebrates those women and explores what they went through in order to win us the freedoms we have today.

However, if you have been paying attention to the way the film has been publicized, you may have heard about the controversy surrounding one of its marketing campaigns:

By wearing this particular quote on their shirts, these successful white actresses have demonstrated another instance of what many activists and bloggers have begun to call “white feminism”.  In her article, “This is What I Mean When I Say ‘White Feminism'”, Cate Young explains that

“White feminism is a set of beliefs that allows for the exclusion of issues that specifically affect women of colour. It is “one size-fits all” feminism, where middle class white women are the mould that others must fit.  It is a method of practicing feminism, not an indictment of every individual white feminist, everywhere, always.”

We have seen several recent examples of white feminism play out in our pop culture, like the recent “feud” between Taylor Swift and Nicky Minaj or Patricia Arquette’s Oscar acceptance speech. However, white feminism has negatively affected the lives of women of colour in more than just the pop culture arena. Consider our right to vote, for example. Continue reading

Justin Trudeau Makes Me Cry: The Trouble with Strategic Voting

I love democracy. No bullshit. The idea of “one citizen, one vote” fills me with hope and pride. As a woman, a Canadian, and a self-declared citizen of the world I am acutely aware that voting is a hard-won privilege. People my age (particularly women) have given life and limb to make voting my right. So usually, when I vote, I swell with pride. This year I hated voting. Voting made me so sad. Because this year I voted strategically. In Vancouver South Liberal party candidate Harjit Sajjan is most likely to beat Conservative candidate Wai Young. So I voted Liberal.

Before I get too far I need to note I’m not a right-wing-hater. In fact, I pride myself on being relatively non-partisan (but left). I don’t think that people who vote Conservative have bad hearts. In fact I am sure there is enormous goodness in the heart of your average Conservative MP. Good hearts aren’t hard to come by. I do think that the government, as it is, has gone too far. I believe that Stephen Harper’s once good heart has been corrupted by unchecked power. And that’s why I lied on my ballot.

Nor am I a Liberal-hater. Like many of his Conservative competitors and coworkers Justin Trudeau has a good heart. Since I was a child I loved Justin Trudeau. He was my political celebrity crush. He was my rock star. He was like the sensitive one from a political boy band.

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Photo by Jean-Marc Carisse – CC BY 2.0, 

I had so much hope for his solo career. And that childhood crush sort of lingered through until adulthood. I was SO excited when I heard that he (he!) would be speaking at my university (mine!!!). I was going to get to be in the same room as Justin Trudeau! I couldn’t wait to hear what political wisdoms he would impart and what solutions he would offer to the Conservative infestation we seemed to be having in the cabinet. I arrived two hours early and helped set up chairs. Then he started to speak. At first I was confused. Then I got sad. Then his stupid face started to piss me off. Continue reading

Explaining American Politics To Non-Americans – Part I: Why We’re ****ed

It’s been my ambition for some time now to dedicate a series to explaining American politics to our substantial audience of non-Americans. While this blog is comprised 50% of Canadians (our frosty neighbors north of the wall), the simple fact of the matter is that the land-the-free has long been the front line of culture war. What happens here affects the rest of the globe.

With the already hotly contested primaries underway and prospects for the 2016 election being widely debated, what better time could there be than now to explain just why it is that we the people are fundamentally screwed.

Let me break it down here.

I. The Person Who Wins Isn’t Always The Person Who Gets Elected

In spite of our praise for democracy, the American republic does not have a one-man-one-vote policy. Every four years, there’s a decent chance that the candidate with the most votes will still lose to his opponent.

See, we have something called the “electoral college”- a staggeringly complex system that not even this succinct TED video can completely cover. At its simplest, the system boils down to states having “points” assigned to them on the basis of their populations and number of congressmen and senators.

This system means that a political candidate doesn’t necessarily have to get a massive number of people to vote for him- just a majority. So long as he or she gets that majority, no matter how slim, they still takes away as many “points” as if they had won a landslide.

What that means is that a person can get elected president in spite of his or her opponent getting more actual votes. Just look at this image below:

While the majority of votes cast in this example are blue, red still wins by virtue of this system. While supposedly protecting states with smaller populations (preventing them from being drowned out by heavily populated states), the result is that a person’s vote can very well be rendered utterly pointless. Plenty of folks simply don’t even bother voting, especially in states dominated by one party. Alternatively, states with greater electoral power (more points, that is) and a habit of swinging between parties (Ohio and Florida, most famously) get disproportionate amounts of attention.

In spite of being viciously despised by folks on both sides of the political spectrum, there’s really very little hope for any reform on this point. While part of that can be blamed on tradition, plenty of it also boils down to a little thing called- Continue reading

Obama Doesn’t Care About Black People(?)

During the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, when many poor and black residents of New Orleans continued to struggle for survival, rapper Kanye West angrily commented that the current president “[didn’t] care about black people.” A decade later, and the sentiment of the White House doesn’t seem to have changed much. In spite of the overwhelming support given by black Americans to Obama during his candidacy, it often seems that he’s less than willing to return to the favor.

Take, for example, the execution of Troy Davis.

Troy Davis was convicted in 1991 for the shooting of a Georgia police officer- a crime which he denied until his dying day. In the years following his conviction, greater and greater evidence arose suggesting that Davis was indeed innocent. By the time of his death, seven of the nine key witnesses who had helped convict recanted their testimony, many citing police coercion. Of the two remaining witnesses, one reported that he was no longer certain and the other was believed by many to have been the actual gunman.

Support for Davis’s release poured in from across the globe, even gaining such notable supporters as former president Carter, archbishop Desmond Tutu, the former head of the FBI, the head of the NAACP, and congressman and civil rights veteran John Lewis.

In spite of the worldwide campaign on his behalf, Davis was executed on a late September night in 2011- the one man in the world who could’ve saved him not even lifting a finger. In spite of the rumors (swiftly discredited) that Obama had reached out to the state of Georgia, the president, by all accounts, sat idly by during what many labelled a modern-day lynching, the White House only confirming that the president would not involve himself. Continue reading

Yes For Scotland

Did you know that in a few days, Scotland will vote on becoming an independent nation?

On the 18th of this month, Scots will be flocking to polling stations to vote either “yes” or “no” on becoming a self-governed country, joining in the movement with many areas of Europe, currently campaigning for self-determination (though barring the Catalonians, Scotland’s probably the closest any have yet gotten).

And may that day yet come…

So is this a good thing? We here at CWR say yes. Continue reading

Fame Day: The Presbyterian Church

Yours truly has not had many good things to say about organized religion, yet today we celebrate just that. Or more specifically, the Presbyterians, who voted on June 20th to divest its holdings in three companies (Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard and Motorola Solutions) associated with supplying Israel.

In fact, the Presbyterian Church has gone so far as to

1. Call upon all nations to prohibit the import of products made by enterprises in Israeli settlements on Palestinian land.

2. Call for the boycott of all Israeli products coming from the occupied Palestinian Territories, including AHAVA Dead Sea Laboratories Beauty Products, and all date products of Hadiklaim, The Israel Date Growers Co-Operative Ltd, often marked by the brand names: King Solomon Dates and Jordan River (not Israeli products from Israel).

3. Direct the Stated Clerk to communicate this action to all other PC (USA) councils and entities and invite and strongly encourage those groups and organizations to endorse this boycott until significant progress toward Palestinian rights and independence can be reported to the General Assembly or the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board (note: formerly General Assembly Mission Council.)

4. Direct the Stated Clerk to inform our ecumenical partners of this action, both nationally and globally, and call upon them to join in the boycott of these companies.

-Presbyterian Mission Agency

Continue reading