I was deeply saddened upon hearing the news about the murder of six people in a mosque in St Foy, Québec yesterday. While these kinds of killings are commonplace in the U.S., and the killings in other areas of the world greatly outnumber this relatively local occurrence, this one seemed to be more significant.
It is not significant just that I am Canadian and see our values being seriously challenged; nor is it from any fundamental religious belief or conviction. It goes deeper to the core of humanity, a sense that I cannot truly describe verbally even after a couple days contemplation of my emotional reactions.
Being as cynical as I am, my thoughts have also turned towards the national and international reactions and implications of this act. At first I thought of it as being an indirect result of what Trump has harnessed in the U.S., the white male anger directed at some ‘other’. That is certainly part of it and it has spilled over into several of our own politicians – to be unnamed with this writing – who are campaigning using very Trump-like statements while trying to harness that same anger. But it is also much deeper than Trump and much longer historically.
Canada thinks it projects an image of being a tolerant, open society, a peacekeeper for others. Domestically we generally pride ourselves on our own tolerance and forbearance, feeling somewhat self-satisfied with our generally content lives. Unfortunately the depth of the sadness that I feel is partly related to my own cynicism towards what Canada believes of itself…and then how it acts at home and abroad, other than for exceptional instances such as this.
The outpouring of grief and sadness across Canada and from other countries is significant for its genuine emotion at the base level of common human suffering. I was pleased to hear the reaction of our parliamentarians in their sympathy, thoughts, and obvious heartfelt sadness for the victims, their families, and the community. It was when “terrorism” was mentioned, and in the manner that it was mentioned, with our military overseas fighting to protect us, that I switched from my emotional mind to my analytical mind and have to ask: are we really all that tolerant and humanitarian and are we truly fighting against foreign terror?
Most of you who have read my writings before will have a good sense of what my response to my own question is. The short answer, is no, in our complacency and sad and revolted awareness brought forth by this incident, we are not the tolerant accepting society that we can and should be, better than others perhaps, but still with many steps take.
Domestically our colonial apartheid racist settler system is still with us. Yes we have had a truth and reconciliation moment, we have recognized the ethnic cleansing ideas behind the religious schools and given apologies, there is a government committee to examine the missing and murdered native women – none of which has done anything concrete for the stable future of our indigenous people. I have not hear of any schools with indigenous teachers/programs being introduced for needy reserves, not recreations centres, health centres, water treatment plants that could readily be implemented if the bureaucrats really wanted to make it happen.
Above all, I have not read of any accomplishments towards respecting many of the treaties that were signed/designed between the indigenous people and the original colonialists. Without the land, without the resources to back them, without an equal opportunity to the rights suggested by the treaties, apartheid will remain as part of our Canadian heritage. In B.C. most of the land is still unceded indigenous land, recognized as such by our own courts, our constitution, and international law.
Our domestic history also has many instances of other racial/ethnic intolerance. Here in B.C. it focussed on the east Indian, Japanese, and Chinese immigrant workers who provided a lot of the cheap labour needed to build the province. On the prairies it was Clifford Sifton’s settler advertising to eastern Europeans as they were considered a tough peasant class with primitive farming practices ideal for settling the prairies.
More currently as noted above, we have had, and are still hearing, comments from politicians that are racist or ethnically intolerant. This has ranged from niqab banning and snitch lines to words that cozy up to the Trump attitude towards foreigners, Muslims in particular, but also extended to our own Canadian internal opponents (remember “lock her up!” in Edmonton?).
Our foreign policy is advertised as being the role of a humanitarian, peacekeeping society. At the same time we support a particular brand of ethnic cleansing in Ukraine, where in Donbass the intent of the Kiev government is to get rid of Russian speaking peoples. This is also part and parcel of our ongoing support of U.S. foreign policy in its determination to be global hegemon, subjugating all other countries to its brand of financialized/militarized capitalism.
The latter leads full circle around to Saudi Arabia, a Muslim theocracy that spreads intolerant fanaticism throughout the Middle East, Asia, and North Africa. By supporting the Saudi tribal government, supplying it with military equipment, we are indirectly supporting ISIS while also purporting to fight it elsewhere. If we are but a handshake away from Saudi King Salman, we are then only another handshake away from whatever ISIS leader he deals with.
Canada supports the ‘war on terror’. It is a war that simply creates more terror as country after country is bombed into oblivion, torn and sundered by various leftover fanatic factions, creating the chaos that is needed to propagandize for even more war in order to stop the increasing terror threats. How many have noticed that the seven countries blocked by Trump’s executive orders are, with the exception (so far) of Iran, have been devastated by some form of covert/overt attacks by the U.S. in the first place?
How many can conceive that it is our actions in supporting the U.S., in attacking other nations, other cultures, that ultimately we are the ones responsible for the increasing terror threats? How many are aware of the history of the U.S. in creating and subsidising the original terrorists, Reagan’s infamous “freedom fighters”? How many are aware of the history of the CIA/NSA et al in subverting democratic governments and non-democratic governments either of which may not have agreed with U.S. foreign policy (being essentially that U.S. corporations are protected by the U.S. military, more recently both being used to protect the reserve currency status of the petrodollar)?
An outpouring of comprehension
What is evident in Canadians reactions to events in Québec is that at a very basic level, we all recognize the interwoven humanity of all of us. The sadness and grief felt and expressed is the best sign that, while we may be bamboozled and fooled by government and media “misinformation”, we are underneath all capable of caring about our fellow beings, that sympathy and compassion can be a compelling reaction to an act of violence.
Canadians are generally comfortable and from that somewhat complacent within our own little world. When a severely disturbing event such as this occurs, it shakes us out of our complacency, our isolation, and unites most everyone in a rare moment of undivided humanity. While the motive for the killing has not been fully defined as yet, its angry rationale needs to be continually guarded against – but we also need to be made aware of the domestic and foreign policies of successive governments that make these moments more rather than less likely to happen.
Jim Miles is a Canadian educator and a regular contributor/columnist of opinion pieces and book reviews for The Palestine Chronicle. Miles’ work is also presented globally through other alternative websites and news publications.