THE BLOG

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Dr. Lisa Tomlinson Headshot

Canada Lost its Innocence Long Ago and Tried to Cover it Up

Posted: Updated:
Print
CP
CP

After the shooting incident on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on October 22, many Canadians across the county wasted no time in expressing their "shock" and bewilderment at the alleged terrorist attack against Canada. Many around the world were also taken aback by this sudden assault on Canada. Indeed, it comes as a surprise to many, considering that since the war on terror began, Canada has managed for the most part to protect its borders from such acts of terrorism.

What is more puzzling to me is not the attack itself, but people's naivete about Canada's supposed "innocence" and "civility." These are just a few of the adjective, I saw floating around social media to describe what Canada's image has come to represent in people's global consciousness.

Canada has always done a great job in concealing its wrong-doings against humanity and has successfully hidden behind the coattail of its American and British imperial overlords. Many of her atrocities committed in history and in current times have literally gone unnoticed by the wider global community or censored and white-washed by the Canadian media.

Historically, Canada has displaced the indigenous community through the colonization of their lands, forced assimilation via abusive residential schools, criteria for citizenship, and the creation of reserves (this was a model used for the apartheid system in South Africa) which have further marginalized the aboriginal presence in the settler-colonial society. Today, the quality of life of the Indigenous peoples has only worsened as the community faces a high unemployment rate, lack of adequate health care, increasing incarceration rate, and high incidence of drug and alcohol abuse. And the thousands of killed and missing aboriginal women have been of little concern to those in power and the issue has received inadequate attention from mainstream media.

The celebrated underground railroad that helped to free enslaved Africans fleeing U.S. slavery has also been one of Canada's mythical havens used to bolster her innocence. Unknown is the story of how some of the runaway enslaved Africans who came to Canada to escape the brutality and racial discrimination of the American south had to actually return to the U.S. Unbelievably, conditions in the Great White North proved to be much worst for them. Like the indigenous community, black people in Canada continue to grapple with social challenges that are also largely ignored by all levels of government. Their labour, just as with other racialized groups, continues to be exploited and the community is subjected to systemic racism from all areas of society.

Canada has made such a remarkable effort in hiding its ugly historical past that even Prime Minister Stephen Harper can shamelessly assert with great pride that Canada has "no history of colonialism." At the same G20 conference in 2009, Harper also affirmed that Canada was the envy of the world. I am assuming that the envy Harper referenced is Canada's ability to get away with such atrocities while fallaciously conning the world and its people of her innocence and peaceful nature.

As professor and social activist Dr. Tope Adefarkan poignantly sums up, Canada misconceived innocence on her Facebook page:

"Undoubtedly it is scary and tragic what happened in Ottawa today. However Canada did not lose its innocence today -- built on the blood, sweat and tears of Indigenous Turtle Island, Africans and other racialized peoples, Canada has never been innocent. This land is soaking in blood."

More recently on the international scene, Canada is without a guilty conscience and her bloody deeds still goes unknown. Canada has actively played an imperialist role in the destabilization of economies and the dismantling of democratically elected governments across the globe.

For instance, since the overthrow of Jean-Bertrand Aristide's government in February 2004, progressive Haitian and non-Haitian newspapers and commentators have described Canada as an "occupying force," "coup supporter" or "imperialist." While Canada and its allies continue to occupy Haiti, they have neglected the cholera outbreak (caused by unsanitary practices of the occupation force or MINUSTAH) which has led to the death of over 9,000 Haitians and over 750,000 illnesses. Major news outlet however does not critically discuss this; instead they choose to overemphasize Canada's humanitarian aid and "peacekeeping" mission in Haiti.

Canada has also been an active player in the fight against terror and has taken part in U.S.-led invasions and occupations in Afghanistan and other parts of the Middle East. Early this month, the Canadian Prime Minister disclosed that Canada is set to go to war in Iraq. The PM also announced plans to send CF-18 fighter jets for up to six months to battle the Islamic State in Iraq. The government's disclosure to go to war ironically, gained the support of a large majority of Canadians.

Returning to Harper's speech to the G20, in 2009, he concluded that: "Canada is big enough to make a difference but not big enough to threaten anybody. And that is a huge asset if it's properly used."

If this is the case, as Canadians, we must use this role to become more proactive agents against violence of all kinds. It is not enough to sport the badge of civility and innocence while we sit complacently and watch the senseless loss of lives at home and abroad; Canada's occupation of territories and the undermining of sovereign and democratic nations. It is important that as Canadians we join in solidarity with organizations that are committed to lobbying against governments that continue to promote war and threaten world peace.

Most significantly, the Canadian mainstream media must also play their part and be prepared to critically inform Canadians of the truth.