Racism in Canada
It hardly matters where you go these days or whom you talk to, the hot topic in the month of June is racism. In the United States, the murder of George Floyd seems finally to have unleashed a series of protests unlike anything seen in the USA since the 1960s. Where it will end, it is impossible to say, but surely all of us, whatever our skin colour or ethnicity, are hoping for some kind of meaningful and lasting change to come of his tragic death.
Naturally, Canadians are quick to point our collective fingers at our American neighbours with our usual holier-than-thou attitude. Suddenly we became preoccupied, and rightfully so, with the plight of black people in the United States and closer to home. We saw protests in cities across Canada, including Calgary; tens of thousands of people marched in peaceful protest in support of Black Lives Matter. And rightfully so.
And then, a gunshot from Edmundston, New Brunswick could be heard, and it was like for a moment the entire country held its breath. A young BC First Nations woman, Chantel Moore, had been murdered by the police, during of all things a "wellness check."
Another murdered Indigenous woman in Canada.
We have known about this tendency in Canada for some time, for Indigenous women to be murdered or go missing, without a lot ever being done about it. But now, here we find ourselves in the midst of righteous indignation about the fate of George Floyd in Minneapolis - would that same fire burn all the brighter and hotter for Chantel Moore in Edmundston?
How many more Indigenous women have to die until we turn that finger we point at the racists in the USA back at ourselves and admit we have a very serious racism problem in our own country?
The girls of Stardale have been examining aspects of their young lives through the prism of the report of the Commission on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women in Canada. It's not a university level sociology class - these are young girls, some of them still in junior high, none of them yet graduated from high school.
We have been endeavouring to create first a staged performance and now a video using the girls' own words and experiences to raise awareness in the larger community - the mainstream, as our elder Wanda calls it - and for people to take ownership once and for all of the situation and admit that we have a deplorable problem with racism in Canada. Surely the death of Chantel Moore, coming at this extremely charged time, will put to bed once and for all the lie that we don't have a problem.
One of our girls who is likely only about 14 years old wrote the following words that we have incorporated into our video:
My life is anything but amazing . . . I don't see what's amazing for being called a burglar and getting told to F-off just because you ask for help.
I don't see anything amazing about being discriminated against and hated just because I'm a different skin colour. All of a sudden, I become the enemy, cops and other higher authorities killing the minorities and the innocent.
It doesn't do much for my confidence when I see a person of colour getting smothered in a cop car or a gun pointed at their head accused of a crime they didn't commit.
I don't see anything amazing about worrying every day if I'll be another victim of sexual assault, nothing amazing about being another missing or murdered and the stories not being heard, because I'm not of the white ethnicity.
How sad, how unacceptable, that someone so young could write of such painful experiences.
Are we getting ready to do something about this anytime soon? Or will this girl end up just another statistic that we conveniently ignore?
Racism: what is it good for? Absolutely nothing. Say it again. And again. And again.
The time for change is now.