Edited text of my speech from C-51 can’t stop us forum in Toronto. Videos of the other, far more amazing, talks from the forum will be up shortly.
The purpose of C-51 and all of these others laws, they say, is to defend Canada.
But what is Canada? Is it the lush land that feeds us and our families? The water that quenches our thirst? The air that watches over us or the stories that keep us together? Is it the communities of people that hold on to each other, hold on tight, and continue?
For if that is Canada, than I love Canada. You love Canada. A love that forces us to ask questions, make amends. To find new places of realization and truths, to re-build new worlds, better worlds, worlds that fit all of our broken selves.
But there is another Canada. A rabid, immiserating Canada. A Canada that is a government, a state, a set of laws, and a collection of values and principles.
This Canada sprung forth into the world through the theft of Indigenous lands. Its birth a blood bath whose stains cannot be washed away by apologies. It burst into our world, the lives of our ancestors, striking fear, murdering and stealing with impunity.
This Canada created residential schools. The Hudsons Bay Company. The Sixties Scoop.
And those that fight it are called terrorists. And those that try to survive it are called criminals.
Like the Mohawks of Kanesatake that fought for 78 days to stop a golf course being built on their burial grounds in 1990. Like the Innu occupations against the Goose Bay airfield strip in the late 80s. Like the Lubicon Cree, the Dene, the Chippewas, the Anishinaabe, the Algonquin and many others that stand in the way of Canada’s hunger for more, its thirst for oil. Like the tens of thousands of Indigenous men, women and two-spirited people over-imprisoned.
This Canada is insecure. And like any egomaniac that does not know who he is, it constantly insists that it is the best, the most generous, the most merciful, the most welcoming.
It jealously guards itself, always turning against us, who it calls “Other.” This Canada used Chinese Workers to build railroads but would not let them be reunited with their families. This Canada sent back 400 Jews on the SS St. Louis to their slaughter. This Canada turned away the Punjabis on the Komagata Maru to a land colonized. This Canada imprisoned the Tamil asylum seekers on the MV Sun Sean and Ocean Lady. This Canada will imprison and detain men like Mr. Mahjoub for 15 years without charges and trial. This Canada wants to catalog every Black person on its shores.
This Canada is so pure that it will not take the sick, the elderly, the poor, the mad, the broken. We are forever outside.
And those resist it like Mewa Singh are called terrorists. And those that try and survive in it are called criminals, illegals, immigrants.
This Canada forces us to work. We are isolated in what they call jobs, what we call alienation. To live means to live somewhere — and to live somewhere, we must pay rent. We work, not for our common good, but for the profit of the few. This Canada uses the bodies of those of us that move, that migrate as labour. But insists that our humanity is so foreign, it must be left at the door.
And those fight it — like the Canadian Union of Postal Workers starting in 1965, BC Council of Carpenters in 1985, Quebec Confederation of Trade Unions in 1973. Like CUPE, CAW, and the CEQ, like those of us stopping detentions and deportations — are called terrorists.
And those of us that survive it, dragging our feet, stealing from the boss, caring for our families are called criminals.
This Canada is full of hate. It tells us who to love and how to love. This Canada wants to empty its streets of our bodies and desires. This Canada sees us as engines that grow more bodies to work and little else.
And those that resist it, by loving, by being, by fucking, by telling stories are called terrorists. And those that live through it are called criminals. Raided upon in Ottawa and Montreal in 1975-76. In bathhouses in Toronto in 1981. A war on queers until well into the 1990s. A war on sex workers that continues today.
This Canada wants you to vote, to select from amongst the few, but never speak of the many. This Canada wants you to obey. It will let you question, politely, and then tell you that speaking without being heard is enough.
And those that resist it are called terrorists and those that reject it are called criminals. This Canada jailed the communist Fred Rose. This Canada deported anarchists and communist organizers in 30s. This Canada framed Dudley Laws of the Black Action Defence Committee for human trafficking. This Canada carried out surgical strikes against community organizers and anarchists at the G20. And this Canada, at this very moment, is beating and brutalizing the students in Montreal.
This Canada has no faith but fear. And this fear makes it side with Israel, brutalizing innocents in Libya, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan. And those of us who have called these and other places home are called terrorists, criminals. Like the 14 young men arrested for so-called terrorism in Project Thread but then deported on immigration grounds in 2003. Like Aqeeq Ansari who faces deportation under immigration law, but is framed as a terrorist. Like the blind mothers that call us asking for support while their sons are being forced to leave the country. Like the thousands of Muslim women whose ways of life are seen as threatening.
Do not say then, that this is not the Canada I know. For us, too many of us, the racialized, the impoverished, those without papers, those on watch lists, and prison cells — this is the only Canada.
This is your Canada, our Canada. And in the hands and jails of this Canada, too many of us have been terrorists, too many of us criminal. And so today, either we proudly declare We Are All Terrorists. Or we insist in one loud voice that there are no terrorists.
Do not ask for laws that will be effective. Create justice that is inclusive.
Do not ask for your civil liberties. Be uncivil, be brave, and create collective freedom.
Do not ask for rights from a state, refuse the state.
Do not ask for accountability over these men with guns that steal our peace, demand that these arms are chopped off.
A brutal, vicious, greedy Canada has been breathing down on us for too long. It is our enemy. In the words of June Jordan, let us become a menace to our enemies.
Let our bodies and our songs, our words and our deeds in our bedrooms, our kitchens, our workplaces, these streets become audacious resistance.
Do not fear that you may be next. Instead, look around and see who is already captured by this Canada and give your all for our freedom.
We are many. They are few. Though some days we may feel like worms, captured, powerless. Lets us grow. For when we say attack, they will hear nothing at first.
I’ve been told that this post requires greater analysis of the gendered nature of Islamophobia. I agree. Instead of editing it, I’d like to refer you to this post by Fathima Cader and Sumayya Kassamali.
This talk borrows heavily from the writings of Glen Coulthard, Gary Kinsman, the People’s Commission Network, Matthew Behrens and Harsha Walia with quotes from June Jordan and Margaret Atwood. It was a rushed free-flow of thoughts and ideas relating to the national security state. Comments, edits, and criticisms welcome but be gentle please, I don’t do this very often.
Read my previous post on C-51 and related organizing here.