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When the right shrieks, look for what's being concealed!

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Why do newspapers like National Post feel compelled to undermine and deny any attempts to highlight or discuss issues of marginality and race in Canada? As a mouthpiece for right-wing ideology, it is important to analyze how the National Post uses the logic of the right to deny, diminish and suppress some people's right to express their issues but does so in the language of freedom and democracy.

The recent visit of the United Nations Independent Expert on Minority Issues is one such occasion. The UN expert Ms. Gay McDougall's mandate was to promote implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities. She was invited to Canada on a 10-day official visit by our Federal government to review Canada's Record. During her visit she met a variety of minority groups and government representatives in Ontario, British Columbia and Quebec to discuss issues facing minorities.

In her recently released exit statement and briefing to the officials of the Canadian government, the UN Expert addresses many of the concerns that were raised in her consultations. After praising Canada and its excellent record on building a multicultural society she states: "However, achieving a truly inclusive society requires constant vigilance." Hardly a point anyone can rationally disagree with. As such she goes on to recommend several steps to create that inclusivity, namely: (1) collecting disaggregated data along ethnic, religious and gender lines in order to address hidden inequalities and to acknowledge ‘race' as a factor; (2) given disproportionate incidence of racialized poverty, to target poverty reductions strategies towards most vulnerable racialized communities; (3) address challenges faced by racialized children in the school system and to develop appropriate curriculum and pedagogical strategies; (4) address the gap between high academic and skill levels of some racialized kids and their lack of access to commensurate employment; (5) encourage greater participation of minorities in mainstream political structure; (6) address lack of access to skills/education commensurate employment for ethno-racial immigrants/refugees; (7) address complaints of police racial profiling and lack of access to justice for racial minorities; (8) change the reality of particular targeting & criminalization of Muslim and Arab communities; (9) and the report ends with the recommendation: "The Federal government, in close cooperation with provincial authorities, must work towards stronger mechanisms of cooperation to guarantee consistent enforcement with respect to obligations under the provisions of international treaties to which Canada is a party, particularly in the area of non-discrimination and equality and the implementation of the rights of persons belonging to minority groups."

Okay -- so this is what the UN expert heard and recommended but the reaction of the right and like the National Post is fascinating. It centers around several basic themes: (a) how dare anyone come to Canada and tell us we do not treat our minorities well - "...as if we were a banana republic in need of advice from Turtle Bay" (National Post, Oct. 19) - even if the minorities themselves say so; (b) there are other places and people in the world who do much worse things like rape, murder, oppress so why waste your time with Canada; (c) minorities in Canada have it good, if they were in sub-Saharan Africa or parts of Asia they would be worse -- so they should shut up; (d) UN is a useless body because it is wasting its resources by telling civilized, humane, democratic and fundamentally just Western countries how they mistreat their minorities when these minorities should consider themselves lucky to be here enjoying ‘our freedoms'; (e) UN is useless because it does not ‘dare' tell the majority of its very inhumane members (practically all non-white) how to shape up but dares to chastise an essentially benign and civilized West and by extension, Canada!

Am I the only one that sees the contradictions embedded in these shrill noises of denial? So people who are not minorities are going to tell minorities in Canada how good they have it here? So people who are actually in majority will encourage minorites to remain silent and that is supposed to make us better than those despots out there? So people who are in majority and may actually be perpetrators and/or benefactors of racial and ethnic exploitation in Canada want to tell the victims they are not victims because they say so? And this makes us a bastion of freedom and democracy? UN is useless and not trustworthy because Canada and the West, with it superior values of civilization and human rights, is a minority in it? But ethnic and racial minorities in Canada should be dizzy with delight for being privileged to be a minority in the great white North -- no matter how victimized they feel? And this makes us superior to the majority of uncivilized UN non-white countries? Really?

The sheers arrogance and paternalism of this high-pitched response from the right is enough to give one pause -- maybe all is not well in the heart of 'civilization.' If human rights/minority rights are to be judged by the standard that others are worse, than we are indeed living in a scary world.

Many ethno-racial people (immigrants, refugees) coming to Canada do so precisely because they find life untenable in other parts of the world but find themselves impoverished, marginalized, subjected to racism and victimized further in the bosom of so called land of plenty and freedom. Racialization of poverty is an established fact (by United of Greater Toronto, Prof. Orinstein, Prof. Galabuzzi, Toronto Public Health, Children's Aid Society of Toronto, People for Education, Colour of Poverty Campaign, Campaign 2000 etc.) and recognized even by the Ontario government that is rolling out its poverty reduction strategy. The fact that these ethno-racial immigrants are facing higher rates of poverty at a time when they are coming with higher levels of education than ever before in the history of our immigration and higher than that of Canadian average is also a fact established by none other that Statistics Canada. So what is the problem? Why are right wing pundits so busy shrieking denial? Could it be that their arrogance leads them to believe that only they can talk about freedom and equality while others should assume their lives to be free and equal? Could it be that they want to drown the reality of marginality in Canada by making it insignificant? Is this the double-speak of Orwellian proportions?

While the UN expert does not even mention First Nations plight in Canada -- the real story of disgrace at the heart of Canada -- even the National Post felt compelled to mention it even though in a tone that blames the victims for their own plight: "this is as much the fault of Canada's overgenerous native welfare system and paternalist federal laws, both of which Aboriginals themselves resist changing." Sounds like even the right cannot ignore the situation of First Nations peoples. But it sure can belittle claims of injustice and inequality and undermine First Nations people's struggle!

So between chastising people of colour for daring to demand equality and First Nations peoples for making themselves marginal, obviously the UN expert on minority rights has no business to be wasting its time in Canada. Such twisted and warped logic, such ‘blame-the-victim' mentality and such arrogance of European superiority is supposed to make us impervious to UN scrutiny.

This alone should make us concerned and make all of us who care about justice and truth 'vigilant.' Let us be clear: if we want to be considered civilized and humane than ‘equality' and 'justice' cannot be treated as relative terms but rather ends in themselves.

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