On first glance, this looks about right, right?
But there’s a huge howler in this tweet from our federal NDP leader, Jagmeet Singh. Take another look, and see if you can spot it.
Give up yet?
It’s that word, “legacy”.
On first glance, it seems correct, but it’s not. Here’s why:
Colonialism never ended in Canada. And the Indigenous genocide, as the farce of the Colten Boushie murder trial shows, has yet to end.
Just look at how the RCMP treated Colten’s family on the night he was killed. It reeks of colonialism. They barged in demanding to know if his mother was drunk. They had no sympathy for her shock and grief. In every word and deed, they acted as if Colten had been the murderer, not the victim. It all begs the questions: If it had been the family of a white person killed by an indigenous shooter, would they have acted the way they did? And if not (because of course not), then why was there this discrepancy in terms of response?
Just look at how the trial was stacked against the victim, and in favor of the killer. Not one Indigenous person on the jury. It was truly a jury of the murderer’s peers: all white, all racist. Of course they were going to believe every bullshit thing he said. Even though not one word of it was believable. Hey, if a white guy said it, he must be right and innocent. Right?
The residential schools may have been closed, but the mentality that conceived and built them is still very much in force. Nobody is distributing smallpox-ridden blankets to the First Nations now, but they are still being forced to live in ghettos on the worst lands in the country, with none of the public services that everyone else seems to take for granted. And even in those godforsaken places, if something is found under the soil that white people want (and can make vast sums of money from), the rights of those living there get studiously, institutionally ignored. Pollution infests the waters of Grassy Narrows, where mercury poisoning is wreaking slow but sure havoc on an entire Indigenous population. Attawapiskat, ridden with suicides due to poverty and hopelessness, is still festering, too, though it’s sitting on top of a literal diamond mine. These are not the exceptions of Indigenous life in Canada; they are the rule.
Meanwhile, Indigenous burial grounds are being stolen so that wealthy white developers can plop condominiums and golf courses onto them; the Oka crisis of a generation ago is still an open sore, as is the shooting of Dudley George (by the Ontario Provincial Police!) at Ipperwash. These things have not ended. They have simply been swept under the rug, to be ignored, again. As long as money can be made, and by the “right” (read: WHITE) people, who cares?
And when Indigenous people lead the fight against oil pipelines (which no one with any common sense could want), they suffer harsh crackdowns…while actual white supremacists are being tolerated (and going utterly unabused, and even getting an assist from police) in the name of “free speech”. Hell, the Colten Boushie case even echoes that of another Indigenous man, shot many years ago by an actual, self-admitted white supremacist!
Why do you suppose that is?
There is still the belief (largely unspoken now, but still prevalent) that white people are “better” than anybody else. That this land belongs to them alone, by virtue of their coloring, their language, their history of imperialism. That those who lived here first don’t even count as people, because some distant monarch, centuries ago, said that they didn’t. That those who cannot conform absolutely to laws and values imposed by a white, British, colonial government are less than human, and therefore undeserving of equal treatment. And that even when they do, they still get treated like lawbreakers simply because of the color of their skin, the shape of their features, and the non-Anglo names they bear. That’s it, in a nutshell.
That’s why Colten Boushie’s family were treated like criminals by the police, while an actual killer — HIS killer — got preferential treatment from the legal system. That’s why every preposterous lie was believed, and the truth was brushed aside, during this farce of a trial. That’s why there’s so remarkably little outrage among white people here, even though all decent folk of any color should be fighting mad.
To the white-supremacist mindset, you see, nothing wrong happened here: a dirty Injun trespassed on an innocent farmer’s land, menaced him just by existing while brown, and got what he deserved: a bullet to the back of the head. And if the farmer wants to say it was all an accident and he only meant to “scare” him, well, who are WE to contradict him?
Colonialism hasn’t been dismantled. It simply lives on under a thin new guise: modern ultra-capitalism and the so-called rule of law.
There can be no talk of a “legacy” here, because we have not put this problem behind us. It’s still alive, and it’s ugly as hell. Jagmeet Singh, though he means well, is as much a party to it as we all are, simply by his inaccurate choice of words.
If we are to start addressing the problem, we need to call it by its right name first. We cannot say “a legacy of colonialism”. We must say ONGOING COLONIALISM first. We cannot talk of a “legacy” of genocide; we just say GENOCIDE outright. Not until we face up to it directly can we begin to tackle the matter as we should. Whitewashing our language is not going to clean up the mess we’ve made, and it’s time to quit pretending it can.