Monday, October 27, 2008

Creating the 'Other'


When we created the Indian Act, there was a denial of right to vote, purchase land, and engage in traditional ceremonies. Canada's first peoples were forced to relocate, pushed aside to reserves and were restricted from civil and political rights.

When runaway slaves were migrating from America to Canada with great promises of better land, education and rights, they were again segregated in their schools and communities and had limited property rights.

When Chinese labourers came to Canada, they were paid ¼ the wages of ‘white’ workers. Once again, their civil and polical rights were restricted. They were barred from public office and professional occupations.

Let us not forget Komagata Maru. I bet they didn't teach you this gem of Canadian History in grade 10! In 1914 South Asians were detained on a steamer boat for 2 months on the coast of Vancouver before they were eventually denied entry into Canada. During this time, exclusion laws in Canada were designed to keep Asian immigrants out.

During World War II, a number of Japanese Canadians (75% of which had Canadian citizenship) were incarcerated, forced to work and had their property taken from them. If they did not enter incarceration, they would be deported. After 2 years, they were released and had no compensation until the late 80s. The reason for the government’s action? Security reasons; the Japanese-Canadians may have been a National Threat. Believe it or not, Canadian Parliamentarian Ian Mackenzie said in 1944, "It is the government’s plan to get these people out of B.C. as fast as possible. It is my personal intention, as long as I remain in public life, to see they never come back here. Let our slogan be for British Columbia: ‘No Japs from the Rockies to the seas".

(
http://www.crr.ca/divers-files/en/pub/faSh/ePubFaShLegRac.pdf )

The security certificate is our latest instalment of institutionalized discrimination and racism which allows the Canadian Security Intelligence Service to have anyone thrown in jail who might be deemed a national threat, even if the evidence is weak (as we’ve seen in the previous posts). Such institutionalized discrimination leads to racial profiling. When we see our authority figures doing this, it sets an example of ‘what to be aware of’, or what to ‘beware’ of.

We see this institutionalized discrimination at it’s finest in the airport. You will find the lines for ‘random’ checks of suitcases long and populated by Arabs, Muslims, individuals with Muslim sounding names and even Sikhs (from a different part of the world, and of a different religion but
indistinguishable by the untrained security personnel eye).

Family Guy highlighted this issue: http://www.humorscore.com/videos/Family_Guy_Videos/Family_Guy_-_Johnny_Quest

It’s interesting. In this clip, the writers imply that you should not even be yourself, just to avoid security personnel from jumping to conclusions. It’s true. There are many Muslims out there who feel the need to dress in a traditionally non-Islamic manner to avoid the hassle.

Consider the news media. These terrorists organizations are sometimes called ‘Islamists’. Now what in the world is an ‘Islamist’?! It’s not a word that these groups have used, because it’s not even proper grammar. It’s like saying ‘Christanity’ist’ or ‘Hinduism’ist’. These were terms conjured by either the government or the media. These people are not categorized as terrorists anymore, they’re being defined by their religion, which now applies 1.5 billion people or one-fifth of the world’s population. Their label for the enemy has suddenly expanded from ‘terrorists’ to a term that will be associated with adherents of a religion.


If our authority figures show us that these people cannot be trusted, we will also develop distrust for these groups. As a result these groups feel alienated and will tend to segregate themselves, only widening the gap between what is being created as ‘us’ and ‘the other’. We no longer think of ourselves as ‘black’, ‘white’, ‘Asian’, ‘Spanish’ etc. We’re now Canadian and Arab.

It has happened in the past and it is currently being perpetuated against Muslims and Arabs in Canada. Security certificates are no longer just a security measure, they’ve become a justification for discrimination and racism.

16 comments:

Ali said...

I like what you said: security certificates are used to justify systemic discrimination.

It's a sad world. Muslims are too nice to not do anything about it!!

I guess everyone, both sides are into too much worldy life and materialistic gain.

omusao said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
omusao said...

I totally agree with your take on this government policy. This has caused a lot of unnecessary confusion and discrimination. With these kinds of policies in place the public has no choice but to be discriminatory towards Muslims or people who resemble terrorists. Since Canada claims to be very culture/religion friendly it has yet to show this on the policy level.

Anonymous said...

funny how a country of > 30 million can honestly divide into the white and then the arabs...makes you think, doesnt it? i think that regardless of religion, race, or culture...we have all been through a similar situation like the aboriginals, the japanese, etc...and now like the arabs and muslims. its sad and we cant just sit here and watch our country do something like this.

Dustin said...

I'd like to have a little more faith in the Canadian system vs. our American counterparts. While our systemic discrimination has been documented, and just recently been acted upon (see public apology to the Japanese just last year I believe), we learn a lot from the mistakes of others. Same way, there are some people who are not raised in the same kind of temperament as they claim to be or ideally should be. It's just a commentary that yes, there is progress being made in some regards, but there also remains much work to be done.

From The Margins said...

Yes Dustin, they apologized for incarcerating people for 2 years, but there have now been detainees under these certificates who have been detained for up to 7 years now.

Funny how we 'apologize' for the past, but we're doing the same thing again.

It begs the question how sincere these apologies are if they're still doing the same thing to other groups.

Aziza said...

- Your article brings up many interesting arguments and some really shameful examples of how our government has treated people they unjustly percieved as 'enemies'
- I certainly hope that Muslims in Canada will not face the same difficulties that American Muslims are currently facing but it doesn't look too encouraging.
- As individuals we need to question these policies and then make our voices heard; the rest is up to our leaders to listen: I choose to remain optimisitic because the alternative sure isn't pretty!

Anonymous said...

It is dissappointing that this discrimination is taking place. I think Musliims should fight this by continuing to live their lives in the Islamic manner they always led or moreso. They shouldn't feel the need to change their modest manner of dress or not bring a Quran in their carry on luggage or shave their beard in order to avoid being a target or hassled. It's a way of fighting the power. And this whole thing about terrorists being referred to as "Islamists" by ignorant members of the media? I guess the American government over the decades should be called "Christianists" with all the acts of terrorism they've inflicted on other nations either directly or indirectly...

Anonymous said...

I think its a bit of a stretch to say the Canadian government is trying to create muslims at the "other". Its more out of ignorance that people discriminate. In the case of our Canadian security the discrimination and the 'need' for security certificates seems to be more out of fear because they do not know what they are up against. I would hope our Canadian intelligence and authority figures are above that.

Anonymous said...

Interesting to see how the Canadian government has acted over time; However I think there are several other nations around the world that have done even more drastic and unthinkable acts. I guess everyone makes mistakes even Canada!!

Aysha said...

Your article makes some strong points. Certainly, that Canada claiming to be a multi-cultural country is infact flawed in that ideal. I hope this isn't on the road to leading to a similar situation for Muslims as they are in America.

Anonymous said...

I think you should read the book 'Dark Days'. It talks about these issues in more detail and specifically deals with the negiligence of the Canadian government with respect to the whole thing that happened with Maher Arar and 3 other Muslim-Canadians that were detained in a torture chamber in Syria and Egpyt. The sad part is that Canada won't assume any responsibility because they were tortured outside of Canada... but guess who sent them there?

It's easy to conveniently 'forget' that part of our history, as you have said. But I think so long as we continue to forget these things, history will repeat itself, just as is happening now with the Muslims in place of the Japanese and Chinese.

maria said...

This article brought to light various discriminations that our fellow Canadians faced in the past. And I agree with the previous comment that we have to remember the history to prevent these injustices/discriminations occuring in the future. As well, I feel that as citizens of this very Multicultural society, it is our duty to work together to ensure that no other group is discriminated against. Injustices against Chinese/Japense/Muslims should mean injustices in every language, because we are all Canadians and it's all about "us". And we all have to play our part to ensure that government is treating everyone fairly.

I questioned your post and said...

I dont think its necessary to know our past in order to prevent injustices. Injustices are injustices.

I find it rosy when everyone talks about 'how we have to stand up', but how many of us are writing our MP's and our Prime Minister?

Chris said...

You've done it again. Pure brilliance with the commentary. I'm actually about to do a research paper on the way hegemonic structures are used by the media and government to support the current status quo and ensure that the neo-liberal agenda is furthered. When you wrote " Now what in the world is an ‘Islamist’?! It’s not a word that these groups have used, because it’s not even proper grammar. It’s like saying ‘Christanity’ist’ or ‘Hinduism’ist’. These were terms conjured by either the government or the media. " sums it up perfectly, the hegemon uses various means of communication to further their agenda.

Keep the struggle going keep questioning the new world order and how the threat of terror has been used to oppress the same people that the gov't is suppose to protect and keep free!

Anonymous said...

I think the racism and other forms of discrimination in Canada are ignored and people see it as an "Americain problem", but sadly, due to the media distorting the image of whoever does not fit the "secular mold", western countries in general are becoming weary of accepting diversity. The truth is that those who are seen as "different" are ostracized. This is due to the infringement of fear concerning so-called "threats to national security" that have plauged western society. I found it intersting that you touched on the issue of the media-coined term "islamist": "These people are not categorized as terrorists anymore, they’re being defined by their religion"...its so true...as I visible muslim myself I sometimes feel like freedom of religion in Canada is a lie. So much for our "true North strong and free"...