About three months back I wrote a column called “Canadian racism is far worse than the American brand,” following conversations I had with MLA Lesa Semmler on her experiences growing up and the Black Lives Matter solidarity march through town around the same time.
In it I detailed a small sampling of events in Canadian history, ranging from founding Prime Minister John A. MacDonald public attitudes towards First Nations to current Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s blackface incident, to emphasize the point Canadians tend to have a smug “not as as bad as the Americans” attitude about racism which prevents us from actually addressing our own problems with xenophobia.
This week, I spoke with Ken Smith, the new Gwich’in Tribal Council Grand Chief, who told me he felt it was important to make it known that the GTC stands with the Sipekne’katik First Nation as they seek to harvest lobster in their traditional waters in Nova Scotia, buoyed by several key decisions in the Supreme Court which give the Mi’kmaq band the right to pursue a ‘moderate livelihood.’
Smith said what prompted him to step up was alarming reports of boats blocking other boats from docks, lines for traps being cut, businesses refusing to serve Indigenous people and other reprehensible acts.
The CBC has reported that commercial lobstermen held a protest last week where there was a lot of yelling, insults and tension. The commercial lobstermen are arguing the fishery should be closed to the Mi’kmaq during molting season when lobsters renew their shells and mate. However, biologist Megan Bailey has publicly stated the modest size of the catch — 250 traps set by the Mi’kmaq in comparison to hundreds of thousands of traps set by the commercial fishery — will be negligible to the population of the fishery.
One of the first things that drew Europeans to North America was the untapped bonanza of fish. By the time cod fish stocks crashed in 1992 Canada was a lead exporter of commercial fish. Most of the modern limitations placed on catches are a response to the 400 years of over fishing.
Traditional wisdom and sustenance harvesting, especially if endorsed by scientists, should be subject to its own set of rules.
We need to take a sober look at ourselves and try to get a good understanding of the scope of the hate problem in Canada.
As mentioned earlier, Canadians tend to look at the nightmare unfolding across the border where the debate appears to be devolving at a frightening pace and think that it could never happen here.
But all this madness in Nova Scotia falls on the heels of another recent incident in Red Deer, Alta. where an anti-hate rally was ambushed by a number of far-right groups. Video shown on television news shows a man getting sucker-punched and people forced out of the area for the crime of supporting the Black Lives Matter movement.
This could be the canary in the coal mine. Across the continent, we’re seeing more people feeling empowered to use violence and intimidation to get their way. Canada needs to start taking the hatred festering in its back yard seriously before it’s too late.