How To Heal A Nation — Post Convoy

Police finally dispersed the Ottawa Occupation after Trudeau’s employment of the Emergencies Act (which gave police more power to restore order in instances of illegal activity). But while the streets of Ottawa and other cities in Canada may be clearing, alt-right extremism, hate, and violence continue in Canada.

Many Canadians and the media are talking about how we need to heal from the divisions of this convoy. There are people (in our comments, our DMs) who believe that “we need to stop talking about racism and start talking about how we can heal a country that up until now was completely peaceful.”

We’re going to give it to you straight; if you think that up until this pandemic/convoy Canada was a peaceful nation, your privilege is showing.

So let’s talk about how to truly ‘heal a nation.’

Actual Inequities in Canada

Let’s talk about where we see oppression in Canada, shall we?

  • We see it in Canada (which is both a financially and water-rich country), where all of us still do not have access to clean drinking water.
  • We see it every time we learn more about the Indigenous children that were ripped away from their families by our government to “kill the Indian in the child.”
  • We see it with the ongoing genocide of Indigenous women, girls and two-spirited folk.
  • We see it as we hear stories of how Indigenous women are being forcefully sterilized.
  • We see it in the fact that Indigenous land defenders have been consistently met with militarized police violence.
  • We see it in the ongoing police brutality of Black and Indigenous communities and in a so-called criminal ‘justice’ system that disproportionately criminalizes marginalized communities.
  • We see it in the gaping income inequity between Canada’s wealthiest and everyone else.

Oh Canada, our home on stolen land.

Canada has never been peaceful, and the divisions Canada needs to heal from predate the pandemic — it stems from when Europeans first colonized Canada, committing acts of violence and genocide to do so. It stems from the violent and inhumane slave trade Canada participated in that built white fortunes (both individually and for our country).

You cannot separate racism and healing our country because they are not two separate problems; they are deeply intertwined. Just focusing on the division of the white supremacist-led convoy will not holistically and sustainably address the divisions in this country.

Anyone who has been to therapy will tell you that you can’t half-ass healing. It’s hard work, but anything short of purposeful and systemic healing will be temporary. We have to start from where we were first hurt, not where people most recently felt pain. This is why we cannot talk about healing Canada and racism/white supremacy as two different issues because they are one and the same.

1. Decolonize Education

We deeply believe that a large part of the reason why we’re experiencing such division right now is the result of an incomplete education. Before you rush to tell us how many Ph.D.’s you have, hold up. Regardless of whether or not you received a degree/diploma, we’re saying that our public school education is inherently incomplete.

Why? Education of the masses can be a political tool. Canada has ten provinces and three territories, each responsible for creating curriculums to teach young people in Canada. These institutions shape the minds of the future by giving them the tools (reading, writing and arithmetic, etc.) to go out into the world and keep the same systems — and current colonial powers — in place.

What our education system wasn’t prepared for was a digital era where we can research, share and communicate about issues not covered in our classes. We have the information at our fingertips, but to address rising radicalization and hate, Canada needs an education system that actually talks about Canada’s truth, about what actual oppression looks like both here in Canada and globally and we need to stop centring whiteness and white fragility in our curriculums.

2. Decolonize Education

Another way to begin healing our nation is to have our media unsubscribe from the concept of neutrality around human rights violations and white supremacy. We need press dedicated to speaking the truth when covering, addressing and condoning symbols and acts of hate in Canada. We know it’s possible; we see how the media covers violence perpetrated at home and globally by BIPOC folk.

Canada’s legacy media (that, as a reminder, are controlled by a few major corporations) need to remember that #WhiteSilenceIsViolence, and that they need to lead in moments like this by speaking truth to power, instead of waiting to see what public responses will be. You cannot be neutral around the ideals upheld by the far-right; you either agree or disagree.

As Desmond Tutu said, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”

3. Better Social Safety Nets

The pandemic increased awareness around the shortcomings of Canada’s out-of-date, behind the times, social safety net. We’re talking about a system that better sets low-income and middle-class Canadians up for success by providing easy to access or free resources like, but not limited to:

  • Pharmacare
  • Guaranteed Livable Income
  • Universal Child Care
  • Comprehensive Long-term care
  • Mental Health support and services
  • Strategies for those who are unemployed, including income support programs
  • Support systems for gig and contract workers

You cannot half-ass social safety nets in a country. We need comprehensive and robust plans to meet the basic needs of all Canadians, with a heightened focus on Indigenous, Black, low-income folk, people of colour, and other marginalized communities.

Moving Forward

When we look at this convoy and think about the last few years, how will Canada know better and do better? How will we disrupt the status quo and build a Canadian narrative rooted in truth, reconciliation, healing and inclusive growth?

Yes, we need to heal, but we must do it in a way that is sustainable. We must systemically dismantle white supremacy from our systems and structures. We need to do better with educating Canadians, reporting and talking about issues in the media. We need a social safety net that matches the concerns and inequities in Canada today, not from Canada in the 60s.

As a wealthy nation, Canada should be doing so much more. As a settler colony, Canada needs to be doing so much more.

The reality is, without the public pushing for change, our government will continue to operate as-is. If we want a better Canada, we’re going to have to demand it by being louder than the alt-right. We need to unsubscribe from neutrality ourselves and use our privilege to speak up, and vote accordingly (Quebec and Ontario, you have an election coming up!).

Reposted from On Canada Project

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Founder, Executive Director and Editor in Chief at On Canada Project | @samkrish_ | she/her

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Samanta Krishnapillai

Founder, Executive Director and Editor in Chief at On Canada Project | @samkrish_ | she/her