Adapted for the small screen, The Book of Negroes' Canadian debut occurs one month ahead of the U.S.A. premiere, appositely scheduled for Black History Month. As with any historical film depicting the bowels of inhumanity towards people of colour, it is an uneasy subject matter for the mostly lily-white CBC personalities.
It benefits us all to be honest with ourselves and recognize that adopted in 1971, enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in 1982 and further enacted in law in 1988, Canadian multiculturalism is a socio-economic failure that now stains our national mosaic. There is nothing new in pointing out the failure(s) of multiculturalism. However, what has yet to be engaged as a public conversation is the consideration that, as our society's seeping open secret, the socio-economic failure of multiculturalism is what explains the festering phenomenon of black support for Rob Ford.
Way back in May, I had commented about my unease with Ford's relationship with young black males. I said that his proximity to these kids as a football coach smelled of the Penn State scandal. Was Ford a teacher? No. Was Ford in anyway involved in the education system? No. Was Ford a crack user? Yes. Was Ford an alcoholic? A pathological liar? Yes and yes. I'm sorry, but there is no way I would have wanted my child, who as Ford said would either be "dead or in jail," groomed and mentored on how to become a man by a drunk crack addict who could pretty well end up dead or in jail when this fiasco comes to an end.
One day we will all be in stitches, laughing together at the symbols which have lost their racist tone of yesteryear. Today, we are not there yet. Mario Jean's minstrel portrayal of a black person hurt members of the larger Franco-Canadian family. No one, not even the privileged members of the dominant culture, can deny it.
Are race relations in Canada so much further advanced than in the US that the Trayvon Martin tragedy would never happen here? I'm not so sure. As troubling as it is to face, the Canadian version of the Zimmerman-Martin horror would actually look something like the following scenario: Zimmerman is a South-Asian or Asian male. Trayvon is an Indigenous teen girl who was simply walking to her home in one of Canada's upper-middle-class suburban neighbourhoods. She is brutalized and dumped on the side of the road afterwards. And the Canadian public doesn't bat an eye.
Statistics Canada has finally released its 2011 pseudo-long form census data. Of the 29 visible minority MPs, half of them are in the NDP. The Conservative Party is a close second, which is a testament to the inroads the party has made to court the so-called "ethnic vote." The Liberal Party, self-styled "inventors" of multiculturalism, is dead last in diversity as the caucus stands today. As the third-place Liberals renew and rebuild, they might be wise to emulate the nation's demographic self-portait.
There is a small but vocal fringe in the Idle No More movement which advocates for the deportation of said "settlers". This unfortunate sentiment has turned potential friends into foes -- especially in the black community where it's a chilling reminder of the first time Africans were forced to traverse the Middle Passage. The similarities between aboriginals and black Canadians abound: both were oppressed people, both were driven/captured from their homelands by mostly Europeans. Both were dehumanized and denigrated as wild, suspicious and uncivilized.
For all the racial adversity the Unites States have faced, they still elected a minority to head a major party and their country. When it comes to honouring their heroes, American cynosure comes in all colours. Canada could stand to learn a thing or two from this particular slice of Americana which fosters a more inclusive, more perfect Union. In Canada, the archival whitewash persists.
Canada has lost one of its fiercest, most uncompromising, contentious and passionate pursuers of justice and equality, Mr. Charles Roach. On October 2, Roach passed away after a hard-fought battle with cancer. Of all his pursuits for a fairer and more just society, however, the most controversial of Roach's advocacy efforts was his push, since 1988, to get a Canadian court to recognize that it is a violation of individuals' constitutionally guaranteed freedom of conscience to require prospective Canadians to swear an oath of allegiance to Queen Elizabeth II.