By: Ajamu Nangwaya
The news of Senator Don Meredith's expulsion from the caucus of the ruling Conservative Party of Canada based on an allegation of sexual relations with a 16-year-old girl was greeted with shame, embarrassment and deep disappointment from some members of the Afrikan-Canadian* community, which they expressed on social media. A collective "what a shame" reverberated on Twitter and Facebook.
Meredith's fall from grace is seen as a collective one, because there are a lot of black people who see his presence in the Senate as a collective achievement; he's seen as "one of us who made it to the top."
But it is high time for the community to become more politically sophisticated with our political affiliations. We are so eager to see black faces in positions of power that we get caught up in the "excitement" of seeing someone who looks like us on the political stage, and we fail to pull back the curtain.
The publisher/senior editor Arnold Auguste of Share newspaper is on-point with his expectation of Afrikan people in responsible positions:
"It is time we stop supporting people just because they share our skin colour. We need more than that. We need to know that they share our values; our concerns; our fears, our sense of place in this society and, when placed in a position to make a difference, are willing to step up."
Senator Don Meredith is a politically conservative politician who went to Ottawa to execute the Harper government's economic and social agenda that has been detrimental to the welfare of the working-class, Afrikans and other racialized peoples, Indigenous peoples, women, the environment, trade union members, students, retirees, unemployed and the socially marginalized Canadians in general.
Meredith is not on record opposing any of the anti-people laws of the right-wing regime in Ottawa.
Senator Meredith went before the national convention of the Akwa Cross Association of Canadaextolling the virtues of the predatory Canadian companies that are operating in Nigeria.
He also praised the Canada-Nigeria Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement. It is a bilateral trade treaty like others signed with a number of Afrikan countries, which puts Canadian companies in a position to sue a government if it tries to get them to commit to any value added production in the country, according to foreign policy commentator Yves Engler.
Canadian mining companies have an unsavoury reputation in Afrika for their involvement in human rights abuses, labour exploitation and environmental destruction. Actually, the exploitative activities of Canadian firms are encouraged by the Harper regime through its opposition to passing a law that would regulate their operation in the global South.
On the domestic front in Canada, Senator Meredith's political agenda is in line with that of Harper when it comes to the social safety net. Even when the good senator is supportive of the federal government providing assistance to single working individuals, lone-parent families and people with disabilities, he is in full alignment with the Harper regime's copying of the Elizabethan Poor Laws' idea of only helping the deserving poor.
Meredith's Income Inequality and Wealth Statement that was delivered before the Senate supported the use of tax benefits to direct income to poverty-stricken sole-parent households and single working individuals.
The provision of a publicly-funded national child-care program, a guaranteed annual income, relaxing the restrictive eligibility rules of the Employment Insurance plan and increasing its benefits level, and allocation of robust funding to social housing would go a long way toward eliminating poverty. This policy direction would be too good for the socially-marginalized.
There are petty bourgeois admirers of Senator Meredith in the Afrikan community who point to his advocacy for Afrikan youth, participation on a number of police-created community liaison committees, advocacy for the acknowledgement of Afrikan-Canadian veterans, and support for the recognition of the late Lincoln Alexander.
It certainly does not take a lot to impress some political actors. The members of the Afrikan-Canadian working-class need adequately funded social and income security programs and a strong social safety net. Symbolic political representation is useless to their material needs.
Given the direction of the policies favoured by Senator Meredith and them not being beneficial to most members of the Afrikan community, there are no logical reasons for it to feel shame over the predicament of this conservative politician. Ideologically-speaking, Meredith is a class enemy of the Afrikan-Canadian working-class majority.
* "Afrikan Canadians" or "Afrikan" refers to all people of Afrikan racial ancestry living in Canada and is inclusive of those born in Canada, Afrika, the Caribbean or elsewhere. Afrikan is spelled with a "k" because most Afrikan languages follow this convention.
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