Commentary on the use of the term genocide in the MMIWG report

Some of the more interesting commentary on both sides of the issue (I favour the critics on this one):

Starting with Jon Kay:

…….Discussing the number of people killed in a genocide has an inherently dehumanizing effect on individual victims. But numbers matter, since the term “genocide” becomes completely meaningless if is used as a catch-all to describe all forms of homicide that afflict disadvantaged groups. The government of Canada recognizes five genocides—corresponding to Armenia, Rwanda, Ukraine, Bosnia and the Nazi Holocaust. The average fatality count for these genocides was about three million. The total number of Canadian MMIWG killed over the last half century is about one thousandth that number.

A finding of genocide does not require the discovery of concentration camps and gas chambers: As with the Armenian and Ukrainian genocides, one may infer genocidal intent based on policies that inflicted deadly conditions on men, women and children by intentionally destroying their property and livelihoods, or casting them out into the wilderness to die by exposure, starvation or pogroms. This is in fact how many real historical genocides against Indigenous peoples were perpetrated. But that has no relevance to the manner by which MMIWG are dying in 2019—which is not by pogrom or rampaging militia, but by the same ordinarily horrible way that most homicide victims meet their end: domestic violence and street crime. Nor is there statistical evidence to suggest that Canadian constabularies as a whole don’t take these crimes seriously—though there are individual cases in which police have acted disgracefully. “In 2014, a higher proportion of homicides of Aboriginal victims were solved by police compared with non-Aboriginal victims (85 percent versus 71 percent),” the government reportedin 2015.

The homicide rate for Aboriginal females in Canada, measured in 2014, was 4.82 per 100,000 population. This is about 30 percent less than the homicide rate for the entire U.S. population (6.2). So the statistical implication of this week’s report from the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (to cite the body’s full name) is that the entire United States exists in a daily state of permanent genocide.

Of course, one could attempt to prove the existence of such an ongoing U.S. genocide by claiming—truthfully—that the higher rates of black homicide are connected to the American legacy of slavery and other genocidal practices. But if this sort of historical analysis is invoked as a means to justify the use of the term genocide, then literally every killing known to humankind can be swallowed up by the word, since no human being exists in isolation from the past. And that is just one of the many bizarre corollaries that emerge from this inaccurate use of language: Since about 70 percent of MMIWG are killed by Indigenous men, the effect of this week’s declaration is to present Canada’s Indigenous peoples as genocidaires of themselves.

Despite this, many Canadians seem anxious to embrace the report, as it affirms the simple narrative that the challenges faced by Canada’s Indigenous peoples are largely the result of white racism, and so can be solved if Canadians simply awaken to their own collective bigotry. Indeed, the problem of MMIWG has been studied comprehensively on previous occasions, and so it was never completely clear what this new inquiry would supply Canada, except a sort of quasi-evangelical call to arms against the forces of racism. Given this, the inquiry commissioners no doubt felt enormous pressure to deliver a dramatic new re-formulation of the moral stakes at play in the MMIWG crisis, which perhaps explains their decision to supply a grandiose new label to stick on front pages.

In the long run, the effect of this will be not only to erode the moral force of the term genocide, but also to hurt indigenous people by encouraging the terrifying and condescending conceit that their status in Canada is akin to that of Tutsis in 1994 Rwanda or Jews in 1939 Germany. The MMIWG inquiry set out 231 recommendations, which deserve to be taken seriously. Unfortunately, the whole $92-million exercise now is coloured by the rhetorical overreach surrounding the final report.

All societies lie to themselves about genocide. But the nature of the lies change over time. In Tacitus’ channeling of Calgacus, the Romans would “make a solitude and call it peace.” In Canada, we now do something closer to the opposite—summoning into being a spirit of genocide that hasn’t existed since those shameful days of universal plunder.

Source: The Ultimate ‘Concept Creep’: How a Canadian Inquiry Strips the Word ‘Genocide’ of Meaning

Neil Macdonald, on the other hand, avoids the issue:

Buller, with her serene smile, was explicit at the ceremony: “The significant, persistent and deliberate pattern of systemic racial and gendered human and indigenous rights violations and abuses perpetuated historically and maintained today by the Canadian state … is the cause of the disappearances, murders, and violence experienced by Indigenous women … and this is genocide.”

I’m not going to argue with that, as some foolish people like former Conservative minister Bernard Valcourt have already loudly done. Quibbling over the definition of genocide does nothing but help obscure the long history of vicious racism and undeniable suffering of Indigenous people in this country. It’s bad enough whatever you want to call it.

Source: Opinion: Our casual racism causes Indigenous suffering: Neil MacdonaldQuibbling over the definition of genocide does nothing but help obscure the long history of vicious racism and undeniable suffering of Indigenous people in this country. It’s bad enough whatever you want to call it.Opinion |8 hours ago,

Tanya Talaga makes the case in favour, but one that I find less convincing than the arguments against:

Almost four years to the day after the Truth and Reconciliation Commission said Canada committed a cultural genocide against Indigenous people, the national inquiry into our murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls took it a step further.

They said the death of our women, by the thousands, was simply a genocide.

The echo is not coincidental.

The genocidal process was the same.

In the words of the four-person commission, the epidemic of deaths and disappearances is the direct result of a “persistent and deliberate pattern of systemic racial and gendered … rights violations and abuses, perpetuated historically and maintained today by the Canadian state, designed to displace Indigenous people from their lands, social structures and governments, and to eradicate their existence as nations, communities, families and individuals.”

As expected, the protests quickly emerged. This is no “genocide,” the critics said. The coast-to-coast-to-coast commission, which interviewed over 2,000 families, survivors and knowledge keepers, exaggerated or got it wrong. Former aboriginal affairs minister Bernard Valcourt, who served under Stephen Harper, started off the bashing with a bang:

“What has been the cost to Canadians for this propagandist report?” he tweeted.

For his part, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau refused to say the word “genocide” as he addressed the assembled families, survivors and commissioners.

But those of us who have been on the wrong side of the “persistent and deliberate pattern” know that “genocide” is the right word.

As the ceremony began, it was Chief Commissioner Marion Buller who said the hard truth is that “we live in a country whose laws and institutions perpetuate violations of fundamental rights, amounting to a genocide.”

Buller, the first appointed First Nations female judge in British Columbia, took a lot of heat when the inquiry began. Members of her team were quitting, families weren’t being properly notified or compensated. Many said her mandate was overly narrow. Yet she weathered it all and fulfilled her highest purpose. She gave voice to the victims.

The inescapable conclusion of all their harrowing and beautiful testimony is that “genocide” is the only word for the state-enabled deaths of thousands of sisters, aunties, grandmothers, cousins and friends.

So why won’t our prime minister say it? What’s he afraid of?

Perhaps he understands that calling the genocide a genocide would acknowledge that his government — and others — are morally culpable for the losses of the thousands of our women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA people. Or maybe it was the legal culpability that worried him; lawyers no doubt advised Trudeau not to say it. The pollsters, too, were probably against it, as we edge towards an election. It isn’t as easy to take a principled stand when votes are potentially at stake.

Whatever his reasons, his omission was telling. But it hardly dampened the power of the day.

“We don’t need to hear the word genocide come out of the prime minister’s mouth because families have told us their truth,” Buller said during the press conference.

The families of the taken, not forgotten women, agree. They don’t need to hear arguments over what constitutes genocide. They know it to be true because they live it.

As the ceremony drew to a close on Monday, Thunder Bay’s Maddy Murray stopped me and asked me to remember Alinda Lahteenmaki, who died in Winnipeg on Jan. 30, 2009 after plunging 11 storeys. She was 23 years old and her boyfriend pleaded guilty to manslaughter.

“There is no closure,” she said to me as the drums began to beat the warrior song.

But there can be an end to the violence.

The murders and rapes, the violence against Indigenous women and girls will continue until Canada confronts the genocide and the long-promised new relationship is finally delivered.

This requires that Canada confront the historical disadvantages, intergenerational trauma, and discrimination experienced by Indigenous people, the report explained. And that begins with making significant strides toward substantive equality through changes to our justice system, to policing, to social and health services, to education, to everything Canada prides itself on and holds dear.

To many, these institutions are a symbol of what makes Canada great. But the report makes clear that they are far from perfect. That they are rigged against Canada’s first peoples. That they are tools of colonial violence, of genocide.

That is the conclusion of Buller and her team of commissioners.

It is disappointing that many of our politicians refuse to say the word. It would be far worse — a terrible tragedy — if they continued to be complicit in the act.

Source: Tanya Talaga: Why can’t we use the word genocide 

The more pragmatic takes include Chantal Hébert:

As opposition leader in the lead-up to the last federal election, Justin Trudeau did not waste a single day to commit to implement the 94 recommendations of the truth and reconciliation commission.

He made the promise mere hours after the commission reported on the damage inflicted on Canada’s Indigenous peoples by the residential school system and the way forward.

Almost four years into the Liberals’ current term, Trudeau’s government is still struggling to honour that pledge.

That goes some way to account for the contrast in the reception he gave on Monday to the final report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

The prime minister refrained from embracing its 200-plus recommendations, sticking instead to a more general promise to not let the report gather dust.

Most notably, Trudeau steered clear of endorsing the group’s core finding that a planned genocide was the root cause of the violence endured by past and present generations of Indigenous women.

It remains to be seen whether the provocative conclusion that tops the inquiry’s prescriptions will eventually resurface in an official government of Canada statement or in Trudeau’s promised action plan.

Equating the violence Indigenous women have and, in many cases, continue to endure with the interracial mass killings that saw thousands massacred by their compatriots in Rwanda in the late nineties will not come easily to many Canadians or their elected officials.

Indeed, one of the first to reject the equation on Monday was none other than Roméo Dallaire, the Canadian general who led a UN force of peacekeepers in Rwanda at the time of that genocide and who continues to suffer mental anguish from having been powerless to prevent it.

The risk here is that the argument over the use of the term “genocide” steals the show from the reforms the report advocates.

No one — least of all the Indigenous women whose future the inquiry is determined to help make brighter — will be advanced by a fight over what to call an undeniably dismal legacy of discrimination.

As the distinct society debate demonstrated at the time of the Canada/Quebec constitutional wars, words often take on a life of their own, to the detriment of the reconciliation they are meant to advance.

The commission sets ambitious goals and the authors of the report insist their prescriptions are a package deal that has to be accepted as a whole by all levels of governments.

In so doing, they may be programming their report to fail.

One only needs to look at the federation’s difficulty in coming to a common federal-provincial approach to climate change and carbon pricing to know that even with the strongest political will no federal government has it in its power to force the provinces to sing from its hymn book.

The combination of an all-or-nothing approach to the report’s implementation combined with the implication that anyone not on board with its findings is somewhat complicit in a genocide was likely designed to induce a greater sense of public urgency. But it could achieve the opposite.

In the ongoing debate over climate change, increasingly dire predictions about the impact of global warming have as often as not overwhelmed large segments of the target audience. Many simply tuned out.

Every prime minister since Brian Mulroney has either had an Indigenous-related inquiry in progress or had a multi-year commission report on his watch.

It has been 26 years since the Erasmus-Dussault commission handed the federal government of the day a 20-year plan to reset the relationship between Canada and its Indigenous peoples.

That report was the fruit of five year’s work. It was 4,000 pages long and it listed 440 recommendations. Most of them have not been implemented.

In 2015, the truth and reconciliation report — at more than 2,500 pages over six volumes — produced 94 recommendations. (That comparatively modest number is somewhat misleading as more than a few had multiple subsets.) Their implementation is, at best, still a work in progress.

On Monday, the national inquiry recycled many of its predecessors’ recommendations. It expanded the scope of previous prescriptions that have yet to be even partly followed up on.

The 2015 truth and reconciliation report described the residential schools as a feature of a “cultural genocide” and issued “calls for action.”

The national inquiry’s report concludes that the violence against Indigenous women and girls is part of a planned genocide and issues “calls for justice.”

When it comes to achieving reconciliation with the country’s Indigenous peoples, Monday’s report like the others before it makes it clear that Canada still has miles and miles to go.

But when it comes to the federal government tasking commissions of inquiry with drafting road maps, this report should probably mark the end of the road.

Source: https://www.thestar.com/politics/political-opinion/2019/06/03/murdered-and-missing-women-report-risks-being-ignored-with-its-all-or-nothing-approach.html

John Ivison in the National Post:

….The MMIWG probe was launched by Prime Minster Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government as part of its commitment to implement the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. It was a reasonable gesture of reconciliation, charged with symbolism, in the face of truly appalling statistics of violence against Indigenous women. The RCMP has said they made up 16 per cent of all female homicides between 1980 and 2012, despite comprising just 4 per cent of the population.

Victimization rates are not only triple those of non-Indigenous women, they are double those of Indigenous males.

While Indigenous identity does not explain the high victimization rate among native men — analysts suggest the increased presence of other risk factors such as homelessness, drug use or poor mental health are more responsible — Indigenous women are the country’s most vulnerable citizens simply by virtue of being Indigenous and female.

As Trudeau said, this is “not a relic of our past.”

No parent could read Bernice C.’s testimony and not be moved — certainly not this parent.

But the report’s release seems set to stoke division rather than engender good will.

It could have offered a focused blueprint on how to improve the safety of Indigenous women; instead the inquiry commissioners have produced a sprawling report that demands transformational change in all corners of Canadian society.

Despite Trudeau’s assurances that the document will not end up gathering dust, it appears destined to join the growing bibliotheca of mothballed Indigenous reports.

For that, the commissioners have themselves to blame.

They were asked to investigate violence against Indigenous women and to recommend concrete actions to increase their safety.

They chose to make the broadest possible interpretation of that mandate, rather than limit it to the specific issue of murdered and missing women.

The report spends comparatively little time looking at household victimization and spousal violence rates

Their conclusion is that the disproportionate rate of violence against Indigenous women is a direct consequence of hundreds of years of colonialism and discrimination that constitutes a “genocide.”

If it is a genocide, it is not one recognized by retired Lt.-General Romeo Dallaire — and he should know, having seen the real thing up close while commanding the UN mission in Rwanda in 1994. He said Monday that for him, genocide is the deliberate act of killing people of a certain ethnicity.

But the commissioners chose instead to use the interpretation of Polish-Jewish scholar Raphael Lemkin, who deemed that genocide is a co-ordinated plan to destroy the foundations of a national group with the aim of annihilating the group.

Systemic racism, sexism and colonialism has produced “institutional violence,” perpetuated by institutions such as the military, the church, the educational system, the health system, the police, emergency responders and the justice system, the report asserted.

The commissioners called on everyday Canadians to help “decolonization” by becoming strong allies. But even right-thinking people who are appalled by the victimization statistics are likely to recoil at the charge they are complicit in genocide. Canada has added three million new citizens in the past decade. Are newly-arrived Canadians going to feel remorse for a colonial past for which they bear no responsibility? To ask the question is to answer it.

While focusing on “institutional violence,” the report spends comparatively little time looking at household victimization and spousal violence rates that are significantly higher than those for non-Indigenous Canadians.

The inquiry’s time would have been better spent detailing the report’s principle recommendation — the creation of a national action plan to address violence against Indigenous women. It calls for equitable access to employment, housing, education, safety and health care but offers few specifics.

In his sober response Monday, Trudeau said his government will develop a national plan to augment its efforts on housing, boil water advisories, education and indigenous languages.

He called the report’s release “an essential day in the history of this country” — but, noticeably, he made no mention of genocide.

Many of the report’s “calls for justice” from government are sensible; others are unworkable.

In the former category, the production of an annual report of ongoing action; the creation of an Indigenous rights ombudsman; the delivery of violence prevention programs; and improved access to major crime units in the north appear to be good ideas.

Among the less pragmatic recommendations are the suggestion to re-open the Constitution to bring it into conformity with the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People; and, the creation of a guaranteed annual liveable income.

Some are borderline satirical — such as the recommendation calling for the promotion of Indigenous women to leadership positions (this government has tried that, with unfortunate consequence).

Others are set to get a frosty reception from the Liberals — for example, the suggestion that in murder cases where there is a pattern of intimate partner violence and abuse, a harsher sentence is awarded. Crown-Indigenous Relations minister Carolyn Bennett has already said she has heard a negative response to the idea because it removes the discretion of judges in similar fashion to mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines.

Most of the recommendations can be debated by reasonable people as part of a public policy discussion.

What is regrettable is the uncompromising claim by chief commissioner Marion Buller that all Canadians, except the country’s Indigenous inhabitants, are party to a “deliberate, race, identity and gender-based genocide.”

The final report offered the chance for closure and for families to put their pain behind them. The world is full of weeping but it does not go backward.

Yet, rather than a new dawn, where Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians could come together to condemn an unacceptable past and commit to build a better future, the opportunity has been eclipsed. Instead, we have the indictment that the bulk of the citizenry is engaged in annihilating its Indigenous minority.

That is not going to help the healing to begin.

Source: John Ivison: MMIW report is devastating, but its uncompromising nature may limit its impact

Lastly, a thoughtful exploration of the issue by:

Il est temps, peut-on lire dans une explication juridique publiée en marge de l’Enquête nationale sur les femmes et les filles autochtones disparues et assassinées, « de regarder la réalité en face : les politiques, actions et inactions coloniales passées et actuelles du Canada à l’égard des peuples autochtones constituent un génocide, lequel, conformément au droit liant le Canada, exige l’imputabilité ». L’Enquête affirme que « les structures et les politiques coloniales persistent aujourd’hui au Canada et qu’elles constituent l’une des causes profondes de la violence ».

Pour certains critiques, cette vision plus large des causes du drame qui touche les femmes décentre la portée du rapport qui leur est consacré en le propulsant dans un procès qui concerne toute l’histoire coloniale du pays. De fait, l’usage même du terme « génocide » est remis en cause.

Mais de l’avis même du rapport, l’Enquête nationale « ne prétend pas démontrer pleinement tous les éléments de la politique génocidaire », faute d’avoir entendu « l’ensemble de la preuve ». Mais elle penche néanmoins de ce côté, au point de ne pas se refuser un usage abondant du terme, tout en répétant que « la détermination formelle de la responsabilité pour génocide doit être déterminée par des organes judiciaires ».

Un abus de langage ?

Est-ce donc un abus de langage ou encore le fait d’une inflation verbale que d’user ainsi du terme « génocide » ?

Oui, dit l’ancien militaire Roméo Dallaire. À l’occasion d’un colloque organisé lundi par l’Institut d’études sur le génocide et les droits humains à l’Université Concordia, l’ancien commandant de la Mission des Nations unies au Rwanda a dénoncé cet usage du mot génocide. À son sens, la condition des femmes autochtones ne tient pas à l’effet d’un génocide, puisqu’il n’y a pas eu de volonté formelle de détruire un groupe humain au nom de leur caractère ethnique. L’ancien militaire n’en dénonce pas moins la condition faite aux Autochtones au Canada.

Sa définition, fondée sur une idée de la destruction physique d’un peuple, est partagée par l’historienne Deborah Lipstadt, professeure en études juives à l’Université Emory. Sans vouloir se prononcer sur la condition historique des Autochtones du Canada, mais tout en étant au fait de leur réalité, l’historienne affirme au Devoirqu’« il doit y avoir une volonté de destruction intentionnelle, une volonté d’éradiquer » pour parler de génocide. « Il faut consulter les documents, écouter les peuples concernés, analyser les décisions gouvernementales ». Le génocide, dit-elle, conduit à une destruction physique ou, à tout le moins, à une tentative de destruction.

Pour l’historien Pierre Anctil de l’Université d’Ottawa, spécialiste de l’histoire juive, l’usage du mot « génocide » en ce cas est étonnant. « Un crime contre un peuple est annoncé et planifié ». Il ne saurait être « le fait d’une série de gestes individuels, qui ne sont pas coordonnés. Je ne pense pas que ça corresponde aux sévices subis par les femmes autochtones. Je ne crois pas que ce soit concerté. Mais c’est par ailleurs une tendance de parler de génocide culturel. Dans ce cas, on rend difficile, voire impossible, la perpétuation d’une culture. Ce peut être une autre forme de génocide ».

Les mésusages

Dans Génocides, usages et mésusages d’un concept(CNRS éditions), un livre qui vient de paraître, l’historien des idées Bernard Bruneteau met en garde contre l’utilisation du terme dans une spirale inflationniste. Cette escalade rhétorique s’inscrit désormais « dans le registre émotionnel et le désir de souffrir par comparaison ».

Il existe des cas de génocides, selon la définition de 1948 des Nations unies, qui sont consacrés par l’alignement de la mémoire du groupe victime, de l’histoire scientifique de l’événement et du droit : le génocide des juifs européens (1941?1945), des Tutsis du Rwanda (1994), des musulmans bosniaques de Srebrenica (juillet 1995), des Khmers rouges à l’encontre des minorités Chams et vietnamiennes (1975?1979). Il existe aussi d’autres cas « en attente de pleine reconnaissance et à ce titre parfois contestés ou relativisés », dit l’historien Bruneteau. Par exemple, l’Arménie (1915?1916), l’Ukraine (1932?1933) ou le Cambodge (1975?1979).

Mais on trouve aussi désormais des cas où « le droit et l’histoire sont en retrait d’une mémoire sociale souvent militante qui entend sensibiliser le monde à la réalité d’un préjudice passé ». Des demandes de reconnaissance pourront sur cette base se multiplier, dit-il, par une extension de l’idée de génocide, « notamment chez les descendants des peuples indigènes victimes de la destruction de leur environnement (aborigènes d’Australie, Maya Achis du Guatemala, Yanomanis d’Amazonie, Achés du Paraguay…), chez les porte-parole autoproclamés des minorités ethniques opprimées aux quatre coins de la planète et chez les descendants de tous les groupes se percevant comme victimes de l’histoire ». En d’autres termes se profile un divorce entre la définition juridique du génocide et la réalité qu’elle est censée résumer, affirme Bernard Bruneteau.

Source: Inflation verbale ou définition élargie?

White supremacy isn’t a problem just for conservatives — it’s a problem for everyone

Not sure that this commentary by Angela Wright really refutes the points made by Neil Macdonald given the essence of his article was the particular vulnerability of Conservatives to this risk, as demonstrated by some of the CPC missteps (as noted by Wright).

That being said, the overall issues related to white supremacy concern all political players and us all:

There has been no shortage of attention lately to conservative parties in Canada and their apparent ties to white supremacists and neo-Nazis. While it’s undeniable that some conservative politicians have found themselves in hot water over inappropriate statements, a disturbing trend is emerging: one that uses a broad brush to paint conservatives as racists— and racism as a form of conservatism — while ignoring the issue in other parties. This double standard is a political tactic with serious consequences.

A couple of weeks ago, Neil Macdonald wrote a column for this page in which he posited that conservative politics seems to be a “natural home” for white supremacists.

He asked: “Why is it that white supremacists, from the neo-Nazis who threw celebratory salutes the night of [Trump’s] election, to former KKK leader David Duke, to the Charlottesville torchbearers, to the New Zealand murderer, or Cesar Sayoc, the Florida bodybuilder who sent explosives to Trump’s critics in 2018, gravitate right, rather than left?”

The assumption that certain parties are “natural” places for racists and white supremacists, however, ignores the fact many people within these parties are actively fighting against these ideologies, making their spaces anything but a “natural home.” What’s more, it gives other parties a virtual pass, allowing racism festering there to go unchecked.

Loosely organized groups

When I was in high school, my brother’s childhood friend was recruited by the white supremacist organization active on our campus. This high school was (and still is) an affluent, top-ranked public school in the city of Ottawa, located in one of the most staunchly Liberal ridings in the country. Local lore was that the father of one of the school’s students was part of a neo-Nazi group and used his son to recruit other boys who might be sympathetic to their cause.

This is just one anecdote, and it certainly doesn’t prove that neo-Nazism in Ottawa is a Liberal problem. My point, rather, is that white nationalism and white supremacy isn’t one single thing. It is a network of organized or loosely organized groups who actively promote hate, while attempting to recruit vulnerable people to their cause.

Until about 60 years ago, white supremacy and white nationalism were mainstream in North American politics. Human rights legislation started to change that, along with the removal of racist immigration policies by leaders such as former Progressive Conservative Prime Minister John Diefenbaker.

And so, over time, those who have advocated for a Canada dominated by white supremacy have been pushed to the margins. That means that white nationalists are constantly trying to gain relevance by playing with language and infiltrating political parties.

A recent investigation into the far-right in Canada published by The Globe and Mail shows how far white nationalists and white supremacists are willing to go in order to spread their message; they discussed targetting the Conservative party for recruitment by attending party events, as well as how they might push the limits of acceptable speech further to the right, so that their ideologies become more acceptable to the mainstream.

Because white nationalists specifically want to create a white ethnostate, successful recruiting is more likely to happen in political parties where some members are already apprehensive about immigration (some conservative parties) rather than other political parties (like the NDP) who want to rip up the Safe Third Country Agreement to allow more people to claim asylum here.

Inevitably, some white nationalists and white supremacists slip through the cracks, but that doesn’t mean party members or politicians become complicit. Conservatives, myself included, spoke out when the party crossed the line, including with a crass ad about border-crossers, and over Conservative leader Andrew Scheer’s appearance at the United We Roll rally in Ottawa.

And within caucus, Conservative MP and former cabinet minister Michael Chong has been one of the most outspoken politicians against white supremacy and white nationalism. He publicly disavowed Rebel Media for promoting anti-Semitism and white supremacy, and after the mosque shootings in New Zealand, Chong specifically named the problem of “white supremacists attacking minorities.”

Scheer initially seemed reluctant to come out strongly against white supremacy and white nationalism, but he did finally denounce it as a threat to Canada after Conservative Senator Leo Housakos suggested it wasn’t a threat (which the senator later corrected). Although arguably belated, this shows the party is beginning to take these issues more seriously (though it should be more proactive in the future, instead of waiting until it finds itself facing harsh criticism for tepid or non-responses).

Conservatives, however, are not the only ones who’ve had to contend with racist incidents. During the SNC-Lavalin affair, Liberals were accused of racism by many Indigenous peoples: the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs issued a statement over the party’s treatment of former cabinet minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau faced harsh criticism for his dismissive attitude toward a Grassy Narrows protester.

So why is it, then, that conservatives are painted with a broad brush, but other parties are not?

If the goal is really to end white supremacy and white nationalism — rather than score cheap political points — we should be applauding conservatives who speak out against white nationalism and white supremacy, and encouraging others to do the same.

Conservative parties are essentially being targetted by a group of loosely organized individuals who want to use these parties to spread hateful ideas and recruit new members to their racist cause. It would benefit the entire country to extend these parties support, rather than simply dismissing them as white nationalist and white supremacist-sympathizers.

Source: White supremacy isn’t a problem just for conservatives — it’s a problem for everyone

ICYMI: Why is conservative politics such a natural home for white supremacists?: Neil Macdonald

This article by Neil Macdonald provoked considerable discussion on social media:

Interesting how the term “white nationalism” has somehow begun to supplant the more honest phrase “white supremacy,” both here and in the United States.

Everyone seems to be using it now. It will be an election campaign topic in our general election this fall, and the American one late next year.

And let’s be clear, it’s a euphemism. The word nationalism, to most people, has a virtuous whiff; historically, it’s been conflated with terms like patriotism and loyalty and solidarity with one’s civic tribe.

When the word is modified with a racial adjective, though, any distinction dissolves. A white nationalist stands with white people, advocating for white prerogatives and the protection of white governance.

A white nationalist would claim that flying the confederate flag on a state building is an expression of cultural history, rather than racial sentiment. A white nationalist would claim, as the television host Megyn Kelly once did on Fox News, that Jesus was white, and, by implication, God, too. (Jesus would have been a dark-skinned Sephardic Jew, not a blue-eyed, bland-faced fellow with wavy brown locks).

And before someone raises it, because people do, there is no comparison between white nationalism and assertions of solidarity, or even superiority, by minorities. They haven’t been in charge for centuries on this continent. White nationalism is about keeping power white. Yes, yes, there are minority groups represented among Justin Trudeau’s ministers, but they were all given jobs by a white guy.

Supremacy by another name

White nationalism is in fact white supremacy. It’s understandable that white supremacists would want to be called nationalists, but that doesn’t make them any less supremacist.

Which is why, presumably, conservative politicians here and in the U.S. are expressing such anger at having the label applied to them. They accuse their liberal opponents of planning attack ads and messaging portraying them as racists, or, at the very least, opportunists chasing racist votes.

They’re right about that. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his ministers are making a concerted effort to bind Conservative leader Andrew Scheer to the so-called alt-right scene (another euphemism) in this country, and Democrats, newly in control of the House of Representatives, have convened hearings on the threat of white nationalism.

The fact that Republicans obsequiously excuse President Donald Trump’s boorish rantings, of course, makes it easy for Democrats.

He eagerly hits Twitter every time an act of extremism is committed by a Muslim or a brown-skinned immigrant, but takes comparatively incidental notice when hate crimes are carried out by white Christians or non-Muslims, something that’s been happening far more often in recent years.

When the man arrested for the mosque murders in Christchurch left a manifesto praising Trump as a “symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose,” Trump, who has said he doesn’t believe his rhetoric inspires violent white extremists, further declared that white extremism isn’t really a threat, despite ample evidence to the contrary, including the assessment of his own justice department.

This of course is also the president who said there were some “very fine people” in the white mob carrying torches in Charlottesville, Virginia a few years ago. He proudly calls himself a nationalist, without specifying what kind: “Use that word,” he tells his angry, overwhelmingly white base. “Use that word.”

‘Hate hoax’

Candace Owens, a conservative American activist cited by the New Zealand murderer as his greatest influence, told Congress recently that the whole “white nationalism” thing is nothing more than a Democrat re-election strategy. (She also once said Hitler wasn’t such a bad fellow, at least until he started trying to conquer the world).

Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert, a Trump fanboy, was suspicious when YouTube, which was live-streaming the hearing, took down hundreds of racist and anti-Semitic viewer comments, musing about whether it was all just more Democrat “hate hoax.”

Rep. Steve King, who has rhetorically asked what’s wrong with being a white nationalist or white supremacist, remains a proud Republican.

And even if extremists do applaud Trump, ask his supporters, what can he do about it?

Never do they ask, or attempt to answer, the obvious question: Why is it that white supremacists, from the neo-Nazis who threw celebratory salutes the night of his election, to former KKK leader David Duke, to the Charlottesville torchbearers, to the New Zealand murderer, or Cesar Sayoc, the Florida bodybuilder who sent explosives to Trump’s critics in 2018, gravitate right, rather than left? Why is conservative politics such a natural home for white supremacists?

Canadian conservatives might ask themselves the same question. Rather than whining about how unfair it is that Liberals are associating Andrew Scheer with Faith Goldy — an obvious white supremacist (a label she rejects) who proudly advocates for “European identity” and “white identity,” and who has contributed to a neo-Nazi podcast — they could instead reflect on why in heaven’s name he appeared on her online diatribe show two years ago.

Or why Scheer chose to address the “United We Roll” yellow-vest gang in Ottawa this year, where, yes, Faith Goldy also spoke to the crowd. (And former Conservative MP Maxime Bernier). Or why he would hire as his campaign manager a former director of the far-right shock talk site Rebel Media, where Faith Goldy worked until she became too much even for them. Rep. Steve King, incidentally, endorsed Goldy’s recent bid for mayor of Toronto. Somehow, she still lost.

Conservatives in Canada might also ponder why there have been so many racist and anti-gay bozo eruptions in Alberta’s United Conservative Party, rather than in, say, the governing NDP. Or why a small-c conservative senator’s racist posts remain online (yes, Lynn Beyak was expelled from the Conservative caucus for the posts, which were denounced by Scheer. But how does the party attract characters like her in the first place?)

Or why a conservative government in Quebec, a place where a giant illuminated cross overlooks the province’s biggest city (an expression of cultural history, of course), would be willing to suspend the constitution to pass a law clearly aimed at keeping religious Sikhs and Muslims out of the public service.

The answer is that somehow, over the decades that have passed since the ’60s, and as North American cities have become much less white, it’s become more okay in some circles to be a white supremacist.

Changing the label to white nationalist obscures nothing.

Abraham Lincoln, according to legend, used to ask his cabinet members how many legs a dog has if you consider a tail to be a leg. His answer: four. Because calling a tail a leg doesn’t make it a leg.

Source: Why is conservative politics such a natural home for white supremacists?: Neil Macdonald

Anti-BDS laws are more than words. They are a legal attempt to punish a passive act: Neil Macdonald

I would distinguish between boycotting products and services from the occupied territories (legitimate) from Israel proper:

Back in January, the publisher of a tiny newspaper in Arkansas, standing on journalistic principle, defied the dead hand of government, the way a publisher is supposed to. Publisher Alan Leveritt’s scorching article, posted on the website of the American Civil Liberties Association, gladdened the journalistic heart.

Or at least it should have. But we don’t know whether it did; the institutions of American journalism, impoverished and increasingly frightened of their own audiences, are mostly maintaining a courageous silence. You’d think they’d be concerned.

Dozens of relatively recent state laws now require anyone who does business with government, including media organizations, to effectively make a pro-Israel pledge, and in some cases, sign one.

The signatory must promise not to in any way limit business activities with Israel or its settlements in the occupied territories, which even the United States considers illegal under international law.

Risking ad revenue

Last year, Leveritt was told to sign the pledge or lose badly needed ad revenue from the Arkansas university system. He told the state of Arkansas to go jump in a lake.

“We really needed the business,” Leveritt wrote, but at what price?

“Since when do American citizens have to pledge to act in the interest of a foreign power in order to do business with their own government?”

“As an American, I say it is none of their damn business what political beliefs we hold. We’ll see them in court.”

On the phone this week, Leveritt said his newspaper is actually unconcerned with Israel and its occupation, and has taken no editorial view on it: “We are concerned about the 20,000 people in this state who have been kicked off Medicaid. We focus on local issues.”

He in fact regards the demand to sign the pledge as the state forcing his paper to take an editorial position against its will.

“I wouldn’t sign a pro-Palestine pledge, either.”

Other newspapers across the country must have been asked to sign similar pledges, he notes (“If they have signed, they should be ashamed of themselves”), but there has been precious little support of the Arkansas Times.

“I have not received a single call. Nothing.”

Leveritt’s only ally seems to be the American Civil Liberties Association, which regards the right to boycott as a “McCarthy-era loyalty oath,” and is helping him sue. The writers’ organization PEN has expressed support, too.

But that sort of free-speecher view is not widely shared in America, at least where the boycott involves Israel.

Since 2015, 26 other states have passed laws similar to the one in Arkansas. The United States Senate just passed a federal version. Basically, these laws are an attempt to punish entities or individual Americans who choose not to do something – in this case, choosing not to invest with, buy from or otherwise economically support Israel.

It’s all an attempt to combat a strategy chosen by Palestinian leaders and their supporters roughly 13 years ago. After decades of being told by Israel and the West to abandon armed struggle and choose a non-violent path to oppose Israel’s occupation and settlements, the Palestinians and their allies decided to do just that: they founded the so-called BDS movement, standing for boycott, divest and sanction, using economic levers to pressure Israel.

BDS counterattack

At first, Israel brushed off BDS as trivial, but as the movement began to gain traction worldwide (BDS is supported in whole or in part, by, among others, the United Church of Canada and the Quakers, and the corporate world has taken notice), the Israeli government and its supporters organized an aggressive counterattack, using everything from lawsuits and public shaming of individual BDS supporters to lobbying efforts aimed at persuading other countries to outlaw boycotts. BDS, they proclaimed, is not just anti-Semitic, it’s “economic terrorism.”

Nowhere has Israel found greater support than in the United States, which is unsurprising. America has the largest population of evangelical Christians in the world. Their support for Israel is as absolute as their opposition to abortion, and they understand how to exercise political power. The anti-boycott laws generally pass with healthy bipartisan support.

“Anti-Israel policies are anti-Texas policies,” declared Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, signing his state’s anti-BDS law.

Elsewhere, nations are choosing sides, many of them coming down on Israel’s. Governments in France, Germany and the UK have all denounced BDS. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has effectively called the movement anti-Semitic, accusing it of singling out and delegitimizing Israel.

Ultimately, though, denunciations by politicians or governments or political parties are just words – a declaration of a political position to voters. BDS supporters in Canada probably couldn’t care less what Trudeau thinks of them, and in any case, politicians are hardly consistent on such matters. Politicians are constantly singling out, delegitimizing and sanctioning other nations for bad behaviour.

Washington, for example, was furious when Venezuelan troops blocked foreign food shipments and shot protesters, but regards Israel’s blockade of foreign food aid to Gaza and its troops shooting Gazan protesters — which Israel defends on security grounds — as completely justified.

The anti-BDS laws in the United States, though, are more than words. They are a legal attempt to punish a passive act, which is a form of speech. There are powerful politicians who would actually criminalize BDS.

Leveritt, the Arkansas Times publisher, puts it this way:  “As an American citizen, I say I can not buy whatever I don’t want to buy and it’s none of the state’s damn business.”

So, ultimately, it will be the courts in America, and perhaps elsewhere, to decide how far this can all go.

Already, federal courts in Kansas and Arizona have blocked anti-BDS laws in those states as illegal suppression of speech. A speech pathologist fired from a university in Texas for refusing to sign the pledge is also suing. In Britain, the country’s high court dismissed charges of discrimination levied against local councils that supported the boycott. A high court justice, compared BDS to boycotts of South Africa’s apartheid regime, ruling: “There is legitimate scope for criticism of Israel without that implying anti-Semitic attitudes” (precisely the opposite of what Israel and its supporters argue).

Other British judges have sided with pro-Israel groups. And in the U.S., comparisons have been drawn to the boycotts of discriminatory white-owned businesses during the civil rights era. The Arkansas Times made precisely that argument.

But when Alan Leveritt got his day in court, he lost.

Arkansas Federal Judge Brian Miller, in late January, ruled that a boycott is not protected speech, and that the state has the right to force businesses to sign the pledge.

Leveritt has filed an appeal: “I’m not signing anything.”

Well, good for Alan Leveritt. He has guts. But the Arkansas Times was just forced to go from weekly to monthly publication, and principles can be expensive.

Source: Anti-BDS laws are more than words. They are a legal attempt to punish a passive act: Neil Macdonald

The budget’s gender-based analysis forgot to look at one thing — men: Neil Macdonald

Valid question to ask, as no reason why GBA could not also look at areas where males are struggling or disadvantaged.

However, assertion that “women own government” and citing the figure that women form 71 percent of the public service ignores that women are overwhelmingly concentrated in support and admin positions (see my analysis Federal Employment Equity).

In terms of executive-level positions, the chart above shows that while considerable progress has been achieved, not yet at parity for the most senior positions (DMs and ADMs):

Every liberal, after all, is raised to believe that male privilege is the anchor determinant in our society, and that being born male — especially a white male — confers possession of the keys to society’s ignition.

And yet.

Here are a few things the budget’s gender-based analysis ignores, and might be worth addressing next time:

Women do much better than men in school.

That wasn’t the case even 20 years ago, but as Statistics Canada puts it: “Today, the situation is completely different. Education indicators show that women generally do better than men.”

The gap begins in kindergarten, where girls earn better marks than boys, and continues right through university.

“More girls than boys earn their high school diploma within the expected timeframe, and girls are less likely to drop out. More women than men enrol in college and university programs. A greater percentage of women leave these programs with a diploma or degree.”

If that trend continues, and there is no reason to believe it won’t, it isn’t hard to see what lies ahead: an increasingly uneducated and unemployable male population.

“It is quite troubling that increasing numbers of young men are dropping out,” says Philip Cross, former chief economic analyst for Statistics Canada. “They don’t tend to do well in public school, and they’re constantly told that if you don’t go to university, you might as well not be in our society, and they know they probably aren’t going to university, so they just drop out. An increasing number of men are not in the labour force and not going to school. This is not good.”

Women have not yet caught up to men in the private sector, but they own the public service, by far the single biggest employer in the country.

According to Statistics Canada, women not only comprise 71 per cent of Canada’s 4.1 million public sector jobs at all levels of government, but“gender parity now exists in the public sector with respect to women’s representation in leadership positions.”

Meaning that while women are still a designated group for the purposes of preferential hiring in the public service, they now have most of the jobs and at least half of the most senior jobs.

Cross puts it rather bluntly: “Women are overrepresented in government, and government jobs are the best jobs. Best job security, best pension benefits, best everything.”

Further, he says, women now dominate the feeder positions for all the most senior jobs in government.

The overwhelming majority of people who have lost their jobs in the resource sector out west and the manufacturing sector, mostly in Ontario, are men.

As Springsteen sang, these jobs are going, boys, and they ain’t coming back.

“There is a certain type of man who you wanted in the oil sands, out of town, blowing things up,” says Cross. “Those people still exist, and now they are jobless, and what do we do with them now?”

Exact figures are difficult to find, but Janice MacKinnon, a university professor and former NDP finance minister in Saskatchewan, says it’s a “staggering number.” And those jobs that do come back will demand higher skill levels.

She notes there is absolutely nothing in the budget’s gender-based analysis about those jobs, or what to do about their disappearance.

“Where’s the strategy on that?” she asks. “If you are going to look at gender, that’s fine, but there are areas where boys and men are struggling, and they need to be documented, too.”

MacKinnon even goes so far as to say that being a white male entering the current job market is a disadvantage.

Cross puts it another way: “Historically, our economic system has favoured men, but the trend is in the opposite direction.”

He would dearly like someone to ask the government why none of its gender-based analysis addressed any of the forgoing.

So I wrote one of the prime minister’s senior advisers to ask.

The reply: “It is a reasonable question to ask.”

But, um, no answer.

Source: The budget’s gender-based analysis forgot to look at one thing — men: Neil Macdonald – CBC News | Opinion

How the word ‘terrorism’ lost its meaning: Neil Macdonald

More good commentary from Macdonald:

What appears to have qualified those attacks for inclusion on the Trump list was the fact that the attackers, Martin Couture-Rouleau and Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, had converted from their birth religion to Islam.

Similarly, Trump’s list did not include Dylann Roof, the young white supremacist who, in the summer of 2015, pulled out a gun in a black church in Atlanta and began killing. Roof was a practising Christian, a member of an evangelical Lutheran congregation. Reportedly, he sat and argued about scriptural issues with congregants at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church before murdering nine of them.

Still, like Bissonnette, Roof was not labelled a terrorist by law enforcement authorities, or charged as such. He was certainly not called a “radical Christian terrorist” or “white supremacist terrorist.” Those are phrases the mainstream media rarely find pronounceable.

The FBI even went to far as to say Roof’s killings were “not a political act.”

If that sounds outrageously hypocritical, that’s because it is. (Go ahead and imagine the official reaction had Roof or Bissonnette been Muslims).

Western concept of ‘terrorism’

But it’s perfectly consonant with the Western concept of “terrorism,” which is itself a form of hypocrisy deeply embedded in the American and Canadian psyches.

Terrorism is political invective, nothing more. It’s a great favourite of demagogues, widely accepted by audiences, and is almost always applied exclusively to the other, never to ourselves.

Take the Irish Republican Army. The IRA was an exclusively Roman Catholic organization, and had no problem killing civilians to advance its agenda. The British government characterized the IRA and all its offshoots as terrorists, but did not for decades apply the label to the equally murderous Protestant “loyalist” paramilitaries.

IRA flag Irish Republican Army Gerry Adams

The State Department’s list of designated terrorist groups has never included the IRA. (Paul McErlane/Reuters)

Some Irish Catholics in Canada and the United States, though, tended to regard the IRA’s behaviour as understandable, if not excusable. They preferred not to label it as terrorism, never mind “Christian terrorism,” even though the Troubles were all about a schism in Christianity, something like the violent Sunni/Shia fissure in the Middle East. Almost certainly because of domestic American sentiment, the U.S. State Department’s long list of designated terrorist groups has never named the IRA

Because the terrorist is always the other.

While working for CBC in Israel, I once searched the database of the Jerusalem Post for uses of the word “terror,” “terrorist” and “terrorism.”

There were thousands over the course of several years, all of them relating to Palestinians or other Arabs.

The newspaper had another term for Jewish settlers who targeted and killed Palestinian civilians: “Jewish extremists.”  Most mainstream Israeli journalists have just as hard a time with the phrase “Jewish terrorist” as Western media do with “Christian terrorist.”

Those two words simply seem a contradiction in terms to many Jews, although, to give the Israeli justice system credit for at least some consistency, authorities there have charged Jewish Israelis with terrorism-related offences.

Until the 9/11 attacks, there was at least an attempt in the West to define terrorism: the deliberate targeting of civilians by non-government players to advance a political agenda.

By that definition, of course, Alexandre Bissonnette, if convicted, and Dylann Roof would qualify.

War on Terror

But once America began its “War on Terror,” the word was stretched and adapted to mean anything Washington wanted it to mean, and the U.S. media fell obediently into line.

Any attack on any U.S. soldier anywhere became terror, even attacks by people whose country had been invaded.

Groups such as the Shining Path in Peru, or Kurdish ultranationalist groups, or fringe Irish diehards, or Tamil extremists, are relegated to trivial regional annoyances. The predations of militants or governments America approves of are overlooked or ignored.

Today, the word terrorism is so objectively meaningless that the only sensible definition is: “Violence we disapprove of.”

Source: How the word ‘terrorism’ lost its meaning: Neil Macdonald – CBC News | Opinion

Simple truth is Canada’s mass shooters are usually white and Canadian-born: Neil Macdonald

Good reminder by Macdonald:

In fact, in the pantheon of Canadian mass murderers, Mr. Bissonnette is entirely unremarkable. Just about every single one in our modern history has been a Canadian-born, Canadian citizen, and usually white and Christian, meaning extreme vetting of immigrants from places like Yemen and Iraq wouldn’t have done a thing to prevent their predations.

St. Pius X

The first one I covered was the 1975 shooting at St. Pius X High School in Ottawa. The shooter was a student named Robert Poulin. The inquest failed to determine why he bought a shotgun at Giant Tiger, raped and killed his 17-year-old friend, then headed off to school, where he opened fire in hallways and classrooms. Three people died in that case, including the perpetrator. There was no determination of terrorism or any analysis of religious motivation.

That same year, a 16-year-old named Michael Slobodian arrived at Brampton Centennial Secondary School west of Toronto with two rifles in a guitar case. He killed two people, wounded 13, then committed suicide. He left a note explaining he hated school and wanted to kill teachers. Stories from the time made no mention of his religion.

Ecole Polytechnique college

A scene from the shooting at Montreal’s École Polytechnique, perpetrated by Canadian-born Marc Lepine. (Shaney Komulainen/Canadian Press)

Less than a decade later, a white, Christian francophone named Denis Lortie opened fire in the Quebec National Assembly, killing three people and wounding several others. He’s free today, having been released on parole more than 20 years ago. Had he been a Muslim, and a terrorist rather than just a mass killer, one suspects he’d still be behind bars.

In 1989, Montreal-born Marc Lépine headed out into a dreadfully cold December night with a Ruger Mini-14 rifle and a knife, intent on hunting and killing as many women as he could. He eventually left 14 women dead at the École Polytechnique in Montreal before killing himself. Authorities concentrated on his extreme misogyny, but, given that his name was Lepine, did not characterize it as terrorism. (Today, no doubt, much would be made of the fact that his father was an Algerian named Gharbi, even though Lepine took his mother’s name.)

A few years later, Valery Fabrikant, an associate professor at Concordia University in Montreal, decided to settle his grudges with colleagues using three pistols. He killed four people and now resides in a federal penitentiary. Actually, Fabrikant was different in one respect from other mass shooters in Canada: he was an immigrant — from Belarus. He was not Muslim. The killing was not treated as terrorism.

Bad apples vs. terrorists

In 2006, Kimveer Gill entered Dawson College in Montreal with a Glock, a Beretta carbine and a shotgun and cut down 20 people. He wasn’t a very good shot, fortunately, and only one of his victims died. He then killed himself. Police concluded he was mentally ill, and deteriorating fast, when he decided to kill. It was treated as a simple crime, rather than terrorism. Gill had a foreign-sounding name and was from a Sikh family but was born in Canada.

justin-bourque

Justin Bourque was born in Canada and home-schooled in a religious Christian family.

In 2014 in Moncton, a man opened fire on several RCMP officers, killing three of them and wounding two others. Security hawks were ready to cry terrorism, but then it turned out the shooter was named Justin Bourque, was born in Canada, was home-schooled in a religious Christian family, talked a lot about the right to bear arms, and harboured a deep suspicion of government and its agents.

That put an end to any talk of terror. Just another bad apple.

The same year, Calgary experienced its worst mass murder: five people stabbed to death at a house party. The killer, a university student and son of a Calgary police veteran, named Matthew de Grood was not deemed a terrorist. He believed in vampires and werewolves. He was found not criminally responsible by reason of insanity. De Grood was a Canadian citizen.

Parl Shooting Operation 20150525

Bibeau was born in Canada, and therefore a Canadian citizen, but he’d converted to Islam years before the shooting. (RCMP/Handout/Canadian Press)

But then there was the big one. Michael Zehaf Bibeau, a homeless habitual criminal from Quebec, travelled to Ottawa in October 2014, where he shot a soldier dead from behind at the cenotaph before heading up to Parliament Hill, where he was killed by armed security staff.

Bibeau was born in Canada, and therefore a Canadian citizen, but he’d converted to Islam years earlier. The crime shook the nation. Military bases increased their security. The government brought in legislation increasing police powers and curtailing Canadians’ civil liberties.

Terror had finally made its debut here. Canada would never be the same.

And now, Alexandre Bissonnette. The question has to be, what further measures to take? And will Donald Trump begin banning white nationalist Christians from Canada?

Source: Simple truth is Canada’s mass shooters are usually white and Canadian-born: Neil Macdonald – CBC News | Opinion

Why clicking on this story about Indigenous people matters: Neil Macdonald

Interesting points about how stories are selected or not, and the biases and influences at play:

Indifference, though, is something more pernicious, and much more difficult to deal with.

Because what’s the point of continuing to talk about something if even people of goodwill aren’t listening?

Insist too much on educating readers and viewers against their will, and they tune out, the way they reacted to overzealous, didactic coverage of the Meech Lake Accord in the late 1980s.

The fact is, editors at news organizations are alive to audience biases and apathy, and have baked them into their editorial choices for as long as journalism has existed.

The elders of our craft deliver speeches to rookies about “news judgment,” making it sound like acquired wisdom, something that develops only after years of experience and sober reflection on important issues.

But really, news judgment is a slipperier thing, freighted with ethnocentrism, tribalism, nativism and the assignment of value to life based on an understood, but undiscussed, hierarchy.

In choosing stories and laying out pages at newspapers decades ago, I quickly learned that one dead Canadian anywhere (even more so, a white Canadian), equalled two or three dead Americans, which in turn equalled 10 or 15 Brits or West Europeans, which in turn equalled 30 or 40 dead East Europeans, who were probably white and maybe even Christian, but came from unpronounceable places, and so forth.

At the very end of the list were Africans, or, say, Bangladeshis. They had to perish in very large numbers indeed to merit any notice.

…But Indigenous people, I’m afraid, haven’t rated very highly on that unspoken hierarchy. Canadians evidently do not consider Indigenous people proximate — and the less proximate the subject, the more indifferent the audience.

As the missing and murdered inquiry will no doubt conclude, police also prioritize cases they believe are of most interest to the public; in a way, they exercise news judgment of their own.

And it’s a safe bet that in turn, predators choose targets that are low priorities for law enforcement: to wit, Indigenous women, especially if they happen to be sex workers, are not only the most vulnerable among us, but the least protected.

So, indifference can also be lethal. And now we have those damned computer apps to remind us constantly of its stubborn, passive presence.

Source: Why clicking on this story about Indigenous people matters: Neil Macdonald – Politics – CBC News

Shootings raise unanswered life-or-death question for black men in America: Neil Macdonald

Good column by Macdonald:

In the racially electrified fog of fear and rage following the events in Dallas Thursday, one question remains conspicuously unanswered: If you are a black man in America, how are you supposed to cope?

President Barack Obama has no real answer, nor do the members of Congress who bowed their heads in memory of the slain Dallas police officers, nor does Dallas’s anguished police chief, a black man himself.

The deadly consequences of carrying while black
#SayHisName: Americans react to videos of police killings
The only advice black Americans seem to get is to respectfully submit when some cop calls them out on the street, or looms at the door of their car, or shows up at their home, no matter how terrified they may be.

‘Comply, comply, comply’

For heaven’s sake, don’t give the officer any lip, or try to run away, even if you aren’t guilty of anything, and no matter how abusive the cop may become.

Because if you are black, that policeman is far more likely to gun you down, or choke you to death, or Taser you, or beat you into a coma.

“Comply, comply, comply,” Philando Castile’s mother says she used to tell him. “Comply — that’s the key thing in order to try to survive being stopped by the police.”

‘When is it going to stop?’: Philando Castile’s family speaks out1:10

Perhaps Alton Sterling’s parents gave him the same counsel. It’s as common for black parents to have that talk with their kids as it is for white parents to warn about talking to strangers.

But of course supine compliance does not guarantee survival at the hands of police if you are black in America (or, to be honest, if you are Indigenous in some parts of Canada, but that’s a separate discussion).

Philando Castile was evidently complying with the Minnesota policeman who’d pulled him over for a broken tail light this week when that policeman opened fire through the driver’s window. The police force has not said otherwise.

And a day earlier, Alton Sterling was pinned down, hands free of weapons, when two Louisiana cops shot him in the back and chest.
After the Castile killing, Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton stated the obvious: “Would this have happened if those passengers, the driver and the passengers, were white? I don’t think it would have …”

There is simply no question that your race can determine whether you live or die at the hands of police in America. If you are black, you are several times more likely to be killed.

Benefit of the tiniest doubt

And, chances are, your killer will walk away, unpunished, and likely consoled by his fellow officers for having had to go through such trauma.

Source: Shootings raise unanswered life-or-death question for black men in America: Neil Macdonald – Politics – CBC News

ICYMI: After Orlando, time to recognize that anti-gay bigotry is not religious freedom: Neil Macdonald

Good commentary by Macdonald:

A perfect example is Proposition 8, the California ballot initiative whose purpose was to block the advance of same-sex marriage, on the grounds that it would somehow harm or invalidate heterosexual marriage, and would result in schoolchildren being taught that gay sex is normal and acceptable.

Prop 8 proponents included the Roman Catholic Church, the Knights of Columbus, the California Catholic Conference of bishops, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (the Mormons), the Union of Orthodox Jewish Organizations of America and assorted evangelical Christian groups. Together, they poured a fortune into the campaign. The Mormons alone provided $20 million.

They won, then immediately lost when the initiative was vacated by secular courts.

Since then, organized religions have continued their anti-gay activities, often going to court to ensure their right to discriminate against gays in hospitals and schools and other religiously affiliated institutions.

Yes, it is true that Pope Francis has softened his church’s line on homosexuality. But his tolerance is only remarkable in contrast to his hardline predecessor, and church doctrine remains unchanged.

It is also true that the Reform and to an extent the Conservative streams of Judaism have moderated their tone where gays are concerned.

Not so Islam. That religion remains largely hostile to gays, and anti-gay sentiment is woven into the laws of many Muslim countries.

Sheikh Farrokh Sekaleshfar, a British-born physician and imam, has spoken at public venues in the United States, softly and diffidently asserting that as a matter of compassion, homosexuals should be put to death.

There are many, many other sheikhs like Farrokh Sekaleshfar.

And while evangelical Christians don’t seek the death penalty for homosexuality, many do want it punished. In 2004, Dr. Richard Land, the Oxford-educated former president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, told me on camera he thought gay sex should be outlawed.

In any event, this much is singularly true: the worst mass murder in American history was directed at one group, and it was done by some one who had sworn allegiance to a fundamentalist religious group.

If casual misogyny and sexist humour helped create Marc Lépine, then organized religion must reflect on helping shape a culture that will this week have led to 50 funerals in Florida. It’s not just the extremists who want to deprive gays of human rights.

People of faith might ask themselves this: even if they’ve never so much as lifted a hand to a gay person, have they smiled at a homophobic joke? Or overlooked mistreatment? Or nodded during a anti-gay sermon?

And if so, wouldn’t this be a good time to speak up?