Maclean’s magazine has labelled Winnipeg as “Canada’s most racist city” and Mayor Brian Bowman does not dispute their claim. Carl Sagan once said famously that extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. Mayor Bowman or any other politician at any level did not demand any such proof. No, rather than defend Winnipeg, Mayor Bowman put on his red sash and jumped on the bus after throwing us under it. Its funny how proud he was to be Metis after winning the election but not proud enough of that heritage to divulge it during the campaign. Mayor Bowman’s submission was praised as leadership, if being the lemming in front matters much. The case of Tina Fontaine’s heinous murder was mentioned by Maclean’s as an example of the racism in Winnipeg but the police haven’t released any suspect profiles much less have any evidence that the crime was racially motivated in any way. Mayor Bowman at least owed it to the Winnipeg Police Service to not have an open case skewed by populist assumptions but he chose instead to indulge the mob’s racial profiling. Similarly, the near-murder of Rinelle Harper was referenced as another example of violent racism even though two aboriginal males have been arrested for the crimes. Its easy to find a white devil behind any crime, you just have to look for them. The Maclean’s article by Nancy Macdonald is shoddily written and worthy of being characterized as yellow journalism. There is racism in Winnipeg like there is racism in just about any city but it isn’t a problem. We don’t have race riots. We don’t have crosses burning on front lawns. We don’t have a ‘marry out, move out ’ by-law like Kahnawake does. No one here ever said anything like “Hitler was right to fry those guys.” So heres my dilemma: I’m trying to bring my Filipina bride to the Racist Capitol of Canada (of North America, really, if Canada has a worse race problem than America and Winnipeg is the most racist city in Canada). She read the Macleans article and said she doesn’t want to live here now: “I don’t like to experience or even encounter that racism.” Who would? Who would want to come to the Racism Capitol of Canada? Who would want to stay if they’re here already? The brand of Winnipeg was trashed utterly by Macleans and Mayor Bowman did nothing to salvage it except tearfully vow to fight racism. We all have to see each other as one people, he said, and combat racism. Reminding us that we’re on Treaty 1 land and traditional Metis Land stresses the differences between being aboriginal or not. If Winnipeg has a race problem, it is that race has come to matter too much in politics at all levels. No one likes double standards but theyre regularly in our face. How many people have been held up by an aboriginal blockade on our streets and wondered why the police don‘t intervene? Recently, the Canadian Museum of Human Rights has been criticized for giving free admission to Aboriginals. The editors of the Winnipeg Free Press shamefully apologized for the discriminatory CMHR admission policy by reinforcing what has become an institutional stereotype of aboriginal peoples as victims of history: “Others have recovered, but native people have been struggling for 500 years and still counting.” There is only way of making the fall of the Aztecs common experience for someone in Pukatawagan today and thats by using the lowest common denominator. And for the legions of the self-loathing, what greater ecstasy than being able to wipe Cortes’ blade on their sleeve? Conflation is a by-product of several intellectual fetishes at play here but wanting to atone for Contact from Columbus heel to now is making a conceit of redemption. If Mssrs. Chretien and Trudeau were right in 1969 that discrimination breeds discrimination by example, is it any wonder if some people develop racist attitudes? Can you have something like Gladue reports for aboriginal offenders and not have some people think there are two standards of justice? What does the idea of culturally appropriate services imply? How much can the state treat people with aboriginal ancestry differently before the people do as well? Considering that the roots of aboriginal particularism go back to 1763, its remarkable that there isnt more racism towards natives than what exists, and thats the thing: the vast majority of Winnipeggers believe intuitively in egalitarianism. That is the only way to account for how so many different peoples can get along so well. The greatest disservice Mayor Bowman did was to not let the good of Winnipeg weigh in the balance. That so many different peoples can get along so well of their own accord is really a triumph of liberalism and Winnipeg stands amongst the worlds cities as a peer in tolerance and pluralism. Can a city as cosmopolitan as ours also be the racist capitol of North America? I suggest that if it is possible for a refugee to come here from Somalia with virtually nothing and prosper within a few years, Winnipeg is working well. If this present society isnt good enough for aboriginal peoples as well, just what would a post-decolonized Canada look like? If Winnipeg has a race problem, it is that the full spectrum of humanity that shines here daily through so many hundreds of thousands of points is refracted into a racial dichotomy of being aboriginal or not. If humanity matters most, being aboriginal or not cannot matter. If Winnipeg owes its quotidian civility to broadly held beliefs in equality, a regime of special regard for people of a particular ancestry, if not outright indulgence, is going to be an opposing force. By definition, aboriginal rights contradict human equality and treaties arent social contracts. After awhile, the propositions of the aboriginal dichotomy become psychologically indigestible. Some people think Mayor Bowman showed leadership by accepting Macleans story as presented and turning it into an opportunity to fight racism. Some say he didnt do the easy thing by agreeing with Macleans. I say he did the easiest thing of all. He found his side of the dichotomy and was welcomed to their camp. The object lesson of what happened to Gord Steeves is that the Consolidated Left is a bully you want to like you so, yes, it was politically shrewd to not contest Macleans claim at all. Even though the overstatement and bias was obvious, Mayor Bowman knew better than to snatch one atom of the bait, especially in front of an ensemble that includes at least one person whos accused Canada of ongoing genocide. The hard thing for Mayor Bowman to have done would have been to stand up for us and tell the world we are a good city that has inherited a civil duality that pre-dates Canada and that our cosmopolitanism speaks for itself. We are a tolerant society but there is not much we can do with someone who wants to be apart and yet seeks to come before us. Winnipeg is about as good as it gets for human society. For all our diversity we share common human values and needs and we realize them everyday in Winnipeg. We are told we need to bridge the racial divide: we ask why do you need to stand on a different side? If Winnipeg has a race problem, it is that too many people think the state can monopolize racial discrimination like it monopolizes violence. You cant use the Devils toolbox and expect to build something that isnt hellish. Canada has always treated aboriginal peoples differently and it has generally yielded miserable results but there is no end to it in sight. If anything, the whole mess is being recapitulated in nationalistic terms that become numbing in their unpredictability and instability. Modern history doesnt provide examples of a civil society flourishing under a premise of inequality. Can I make a safe home for my Filipina wife here? At its core, the aboriginal dichotomy is a determination of who belongs here the most and who the least. Local identity politics being as mercurial as they are, the word aboriginal has started to fall in disfavor. Indigenous’ is more popular these days because it better confers being from this land while non-indigenous has implications of being an invasive species, an irresistible connotation for some nationalists. I tend to believe in the goodness of people because I experience it every day in Winnipeg. It doesnt make sense that Winnipeg could be so happily cosmopolitan and at the same time be a racist throwback but the problem is there is are lot of people who want to believe in a racist narrative so much that theyre willing to omit and ignore things to maintain that belief. The Just Society failed to reconcile Canadas historic practice of treating aboriginal peoples differently but rather than seeing it as a failure to assert civil equality, a lot of people see it as a failure to treat aboriginal people more differently. So antagonisms are exaggerated, the bill for historic loss is tallied up for five centuries and we’re branded racists. Most of us have fought the good fight to make Winnipeg a good place to raise our families but we cant answer for things we never did or would ever do. There is no political will to resist aboriginal nationalism much less reform the constitution to make us equal. It is a horribly dysfunctional state of affairs and better a horrible end than horror without end. Mayor Bowman capitulated, a Metis mayor on traditional Metis territory and Im just a Canadian. I will still try to bring my wife here but we will leave when we can afford to. If we have children, I will advise them to think of living elsewhere when they come of age. The mix of things at play here gives me no hope for the long-term future. Were not the racist capitol of Canada but we certainly are the capitol of racial politics and those get more irrational and militant by day and it now looks that when the barricades go up, the mayor will be on the other side. Canada does not have a Jose Rizal but weve got fresh Quisling.
Posted on: Mon, 26 Jan 2015 09:05:50 +0000
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