Canadians like to think of ourselves as less racist, less right wing and especially less violent than Americans. But two recent events coming after a previous series of mass murders has shaken this belief.
Four members of a Muslim family were murdered in a hate crime while out for a stroll last Sunday in London, Ontario; two weeks earlier 215 First Nations children were found buried on the grounds of a Kamloops, B.C. Indian residential school; one year ago 22 died during a shooting spree in Nova Scotia by a wannabe cop after a fight with his girlfriend; four years ago 26 people, mostly women, were mowed down by a misogynist on a Toronto sidewalk leaving 10 dead; a year before that, six worshippers were shot and killed by a young man in a Quebec City mosque. All murders motivated by right wing hate.
This isn't the real Canada, some people say. But it is. It always has been.
The truth is Canada, the British colony that preceded it, and the French colony before that, were all founded on racist, misogynist, militaristic, imperialistic, homophobic, white Christian supremacy. This is a history we share with the U.S., Britain, Australia and New Zealand, all members -- along with Canada -- of the Five Eyes intelligence alliance.
Our countries have proudly glorified white male warrior, racist colonialism and participated in it at home and abroad. Our laws, our institutions, our foreign policy, our culture have all been affected by these vile practices and ideologies, and they continue to infect and influence us today.
This is not ancient history.
Born in 1953, I have lived in a Canada with genocidal residential schools, racist laws and immigration policies that forbade people from voting based on their ethnicity, that ensured property could only be sold to white Christians, that jailed people for their sexuality, that had quotas for Jews in universities, that criminalized women's reproductive rights and taught me in Catholic school that men were the head of the family and to be proud of the British Empire. The legacy of all that remains alive in me and my country.
These are historical facts that if acknowledged, can be confronted and overcome. You can't build a better world on a foundation of lies or ignorance, only on concrete reality.
Confronting our past is not just "virtue signalling" or part of "woke" culture or some academic exercise or ritual self-flagellation to earn forgiveness for our sins. There are those who revel in and glorify this past and would return us to it, whether we like it or not.
Ignoring or whitewashing our history empowers the right-wing extremists who today wish to create something very much like Margaret Atwood's Republic of Gilead of The Handmaid's Tale. It is not only our neighbours to the south who are at risk of an authoritarian fascism built upon making America great again. There are people in all the Five Eyes who promote racist, colonial, imperialistic, misogynist, militaristic, homophobic white Christian supremacy and will use violence to achieve their goals.
Having spent the past four years researching and writing about the extreme right in the FAKE NEWS Mysteries, including my latest, American Fascism, there is no doubt in my mind that more violence is coming.
Fascists are conservatives in a panic. They are panicked because they see the victories of women, people of color, First Nations, anti-racists, the LGBTQ+, unions, socialists, peace advocates, environmentalists and internationalists as threatening. They are funded by some very wealthy people who use fascists as the tip of the spear against economic democracy. At its root fascism is a violent defence of economic and social privilege.
To combat those who would inflict Gilead upon us, we must understand who we were, who we are and who we would like to be. As many self-help books posit, knowing yourself is the first step to change. That's exactly why conservatives and fascists glorify the past, defend statues of racists and insist history should focus on instilling patriotism instead of telling the truth.
To combat them we must educate ourselves and especially our children. Only then can we build a better world, one where all people can live together in respect, dignity and equality. One that is not afraid of positive change. One that can resiliently resist right wing extremism.
Gary Engler is a Canadian writer, a former journalist at the Vancouver Sun and B.C. Media Union elected representative.
Image credit: Pikist
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