These have been hard days all over and the same is true here at home in Canada. While we’ve seen the protests against racism in the United States, we’ve seen the same here at home. And just as there seems to be a renewed acceptance that there are unacceptable levels of racism in that country that needs to be addressed, the same is true here in Canada. It’s been something to behold and admittedly it’s involved a lot of contradictory messages at once.
While Canadians were protesting the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, we saw the video of the RCMP over the top arrest of Chief Allan Adam in Fort MacMurray, which was book-ended by the stories of two First Nations people being killed by police during routine checks. While the Prime Minister took a knee and admitted we have systematic racism in our structures of government, his government continues to ignore the rulings of the human rights tribunal regarding their systematic underfunding of First Nations child welfare services. And I could go on with more examples but while the words have been right, the actions haven’t followed as of yet.
It was through that lens that I saw the following event take place in the House of Commons this afternoon. In this moment of unity around opposing racism, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh proposed a unanimous consent motion that seemed should be very straightforward in this moment. But that’s not what happened. Here is the entire video of what happened because it’s just that unbelievable:
Where to start with this, oh where to start? Well let’s start with the motion itself, which seemed very straightforward. Singh’s motion repeated the claims about they systemic issues in the RCMP, which both the Prime Minister and RCMP Commissioner have said themselves. It then goes on to suggest ideas to help improve things, not in huge specific detail, but in a way that would allow the RCMP to work with them. All in all, it struck me as a very normal, basic, and certainly inoffensive motion that should have easily been destined to get unanimous consent.
Yet it was denied that consent and it became clear in the moments after the culprit that denied it. Bloc Quebecois Claude DeBellefeuille rose to say that Singh had called BQ MP Alain Therrien a racist. It appears that it was Therrien who denied that unanimous consent, for reasons that aren’t apparent to anyone out there. That lead to minutes of upset ranting from Madame DeBellefeuille, so upset that Singh would dare to call Therrien out for this act. In fact, she had nothing to say about why Mr. Therrien refused to give that consent, simply saying that “every MP has a right to their opinion”.
It continued on, demanding that Singh be removed from the chamber for pointing out the obvious. And let’s be clear, Singh didn’t dance around what he said in the moment, nor did he equivocate on it. He said he said it and that he meant it, which is about as clear as you can get when it comes to intent. When the Deputy Speaker asked him to apologize, he refused flat out, saying again that he meant what he said.
This entire episode really pissed me right off for two clear reasons. Firstly it laid bare the rank and totally hypocrisy that is the Bloc Quebecois today. I remember times 15 years ago when so many Canadians elsewhere in the country saw the BQ as a progressive force and that if it wasn’t for sovereignty, they agreed with a great deal of what they said. But over time they have changed, to the point where they have shown no problem with leaning into xenophobia in their attempt to win seats and gain any sense of electoral relevance. Remember this BQ ad from 2015, which they ran unapologetically across the province:
That ran in Quebec media, openly leaning into Islamophobic rhetoric in an attempt to win votes, all because it suited the BQ in that moment. I could stand on that example there alone but something else happened yesterday that really drives home the point about the Bloc rank hypocrisy here. It was a tweet from Ghislain Picard. Chief of the Assembly of First Nations Quebec-Labrador, after a meeting with current Bloc Leader Yves-François Blanchet and in light of what just happened, looks very different:
Yeah, Picard was thanking the Bloc leader for their chat and his apparent support for stopping human rights abuses against First Nations. And as a follow up to that pledge, Blanchet’s MP Therrien went into the House less than 24 hours later and denied a motion that would help to do just that. Seriously, less than 24 hours for the Bloc to turn tail and act like duplicitous buggers and for what reason? To try to “own” the NDP? Seriously this is such crap. The end of this who situation ended like this, which really sent the most discordant signal of all:
Yep folks, that was Jagmeet Singh, the first person of colour to lead a Federal political party in this country, being thrown out of the House of Commons for being “unparliamentary” for calling a spade a spade when it happened. So the end result of this was that motion not getting passed, the House not noting the problem staring us all in the face for the past weeks and instead of the sole, shallow and repugnant individual who denied the consent to pass that motion being admonished for his crap, it’s Singh that gets tossed for having the temerity for standing up and pointing that crap out. What a bad freaking joke that whole scene was and if there was any justice, the parliamentary press gallery would name that 15 minutes of parliament “The Aristocrats”.
So yeah, if you needed it all summed up that we have a real long way to go in dealing with systematic racism in this country, that showed it there. Thanks to the one-two punch of the BQ’s flocons de neige MPs for La Prairie and Salaberry-Suroit, we Indigenous people got a stark reminder of what we’re up against. The BQ offered kind words with one hand, while reaching out to slap us with the other and they are the ones who are pissed here. As someone who believes in the power of Canada’s democratic institutions to fix this problem and spent a decade of my life trying to go that route to do it, that moment was a complete kick to the balls with steel toed boots. Seriously, I’m mad, gutted and feeling completely frustrated by what I just witnessed.
I damn well hope that those two Karen’s from the BQ and their illustrious leader apologize for this entire sordid episode because damn, that was just ugly. But I won’t be holding my breath. It’s not in the DNA of the Bloc to apologize of anything they’ve ever done so I don’t expect it now. Sure the progressivism of the Bloc make-up has seemingly been driven out of their constitution, but the inability to see any wrong in their own actions lives on and just gets stronger. In the meantime, we’ve got a crapload of work ahead of us and when I say “we”, I mean Parliament. Because if this Parliament can’t do something as simple as pass that bland and reasonable motion to state the obvious, then there’s nothing we Indigenous peoples can do to help it. Canadians come get your MPs, they’re screwing up and you need to get them in line.