Some things never change, do they?
Or, some things change slowly…but surely, don’t they?
Here we are just one month into the new year, and once again we are forced to face denial of what can be termed Canada’s greatest social dilemma of the 21st century, — the issue of race. People with racialized identities and backgrounds face ongoing challenges, both at a personal level and institutional level, and this remains an underlying reality in Canada.
Notwithstanding, as discussions about racism and inequality once again rears its ugly head, one cannot help but bring to the fore the 1992 “Egg Roll Speech” delivered by former Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau at an event hosted by activist magazine Cite Libre and held at a Chinese restaurant in Montreal. https://jjmccullough.medium.com/speech-of-pierre-elliott-trudeau-on-the-charlottetown-accord-8903bb2bc031.
Termed the “speech that rocked the country”, the then prime minister clearly stated that the package of constitutional amendments that Canadians were being called to vote upon, would in his opinion establish collective rights for certain privileged and preferred categories of citizens, and in so doing what he referred to as “a hierarchy of categories of citizens.”
He further feared that the collective rights of the favored castes would be used to undermine the individual liberties of the rest. These warnings of the dangers of prioritizing certain groups over others in an increasingly diverse country went totally unheeded.
In a mid-December press conference, Quebec Premier François Legault announced the start of a new lockdown designed to interrupt transmission of Covid-19. Non-essential businesses will be closed across the province from Dec. 25 through Jan. 11, only grocery stores, pharmacies, garages and pet stores would be allowed to remain open.
Stores that are allowed to remain open can only sell essentiasuch pandemic measures, elements of racism found root. A Uniprix store located on Dollard Avenue in La Salle, had the section carrying Black hair care products restricted to purchasers, with a sign Section Fermé indicating same.
However, in the very same store, hair care products like shampoo and conditioner that are not designed specifically for Black hair were available for purchase on an adjacent shelf. A spokesperson for the pharmacy chain dismissed the incident as the product of an “isolated mistake”, and offered apologies to all their customers who may have been adversely affected by the seeming under-sight.
Such a response certainly puts credulity into question. The onus is on the pharmacist to ensure that directives regarding non-essentials are adhered to.
Any present day effort to amend the structural, systemic or systematic disparities dividing Canadians today must correspondingly begin by recognizing the degree to which institutionalized privileges, attention and sympathy for some types of Canadians over others define the modern Canadian reality.
Present-day Quebec is perhaps the most apparent manifestation. Regardless of the party in power, the Quebec government understands itself to be chiefly governing on the side of its French Canadian majority, with an explicit mandate to protect that community.
A similar corroborative occurrence is the booting of NDP leader Jagmeet Singh from the House of Commons for calling Bloc Quebecois M. P Alain Therrien, a racist, following his failing to support a motion dealing with racism and making a dismissive gesture in the process. ,
With the promises and efforts made thus far in the fight against racism, it is blatantly apparent that success cannot yet be claimed. Quebec and by extension Canada does not need any more of this debilitating and destructive behavior, for we have a multitude of provincial and international problems that lie before us.
The time has come for fairness, unity and accord. If we continue to deny racism and continue to say so often enough, people will eventually come to believe it as they seemingly already have. Racism must be aborted in the name of the common good.
The Question of Race in Quebec and Canada
Some things never change, do they?