Canadians Can't Be Smug about Racism

Article excerpt

Americans are celebrating the birth of Martin Luther King Jr. this week and they are commemorating the justice and equality the civil rights movement gained for black people in the United States.

Canadians were aghast back in the 1960s when they learned about black men being lynched and black women being raped without any form of justice or redress, how freedom riders were being pulled off buses and beaten severely, and how children died while they knelt in prayer in black churches that were firebombed.

So we were deeply moved when King gave his I Have A Dream speech to a crowd of 250,000 people who joined the "march on Washington," and we rejoiced with Americans when their Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964.

At that time, Canada was predominately "white" and relatively untested by racial strife. But we were pretty sure we wouldn't have behaved like Americans if the situation was the same here.

Or would we?

It wasn't public knowledge, but the 1950s and early '60s was the same time the worst of the cultural genocide of the Indian Residential School system was taking place. Horrific physical and sexual abuse was being afflicted on children who were taken away from their parents under a policy to "remove the Indian from the child."

And there were rumours that incidents of homeless Indians who died because they happened to fall asleep on railway tracks outside place like Kenora and The Pas most every Friday night didn't just happen that way.

And now Canada is experiencing nationwide civil rights demonstrations by the Idle No More movement.

Could it be, as Malcolm X once said, "The chickens have come home to roost? …