2020 man, it just keeps doing its thing. Yesterdays incident in the House of Commons between the NDP and the Bloc Quebecois is continuing apace, with the Bloc demanding a “sincere apology” from NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh for saying what he did. There are many things I could say about this entirely predictable development, but I’m just going to say my piece here and move on.
The past approximately 24 hours around this story have been draining for me. For years of writing, in this blog and my previous one, I have always had a rule to never write while mad. I’ve had that rule because sometimes we don’t express ourselves the best when we do and honestly, it’s something to keep myself from getting in trouble. I broke that rule yesterday when I wrote what I wrote, which I stand by and don’t feel bad about writing. That’s how I felt in that moment and honestly still feel, so I am fine with that.
But in the time after writing it I have to admit that I’ve had alternating feelings of frustration and extreme disappointment. I was raised to believe in our democracy, regardless of how imperfect it may be. I have believed in and work on finding solutions to the problems our country faces through that avenue. I spent a decade on Parliament Hill trying to do that and over 15 years of political activism pushing to correct the wrongs against Indigenous peoples like me. During all that time I would face skeptical people who would tell me I was wasting my time and while I understood where they were coming from, I disagreed with them and sought to prove them wrong.
I sought to show that we could do better, and that Canada’s Parliament was capable of rising to our challenges, regardless of what history has shown us. But yesterday was just the opposite, and I have to admit it’s affected me more than I probably expected. Seeing what I saw yesterday left me feeling gutted, depressed at the state of things, and muttering to myself that maybe those people were right all along.
There was no reason to say no to that motion, especially less than 24 hours after the BQ leader told the top First Nations leader in Quebec they would fight against human rights abuses against Indigenous peoples. Mr. Blanchet said that, then 24 hours later his House leader Mr. Therrien went in and did what he did. And he just didn’t deny consent. He didn’t meekly utter his objections under his breath. As Singh pointed out in a press conference later, Therrien yelled his objects, waving his hand in a dismissive manner, as if this didn’t matter a damn. That sends a message and it deserved to be called out.
But in the aftermath the Bloc is upset that they are being called racists, saying that they aren’t such and to say so is insulting. Here’s the thing about the Bloc and that assertions, it’s not like people are basing their judgements here on just that incident yesterday. That’s not an isolated incident for them, as I pointed to yesterday. Remember during the election 5 candidates on Mr. Blanchet’s team were caught making a number of Islamophobic and racist social media posts, for which he apologized. Not them, not those five candidates, but him on their behalf. It should be noted that he refused to name who any of those candidates were, which was mind-blowing at the time and undercuts the “sincerity” of any apology that he offered for that. When people talk about this topic and the BQ, they’re looking at a track record of the BQ doing this crap.
Even if you are charitable and put that part aside, the explanation of why they refused yesterday was as upsetting as anything else. The Bloc claimed they refused consent because a committee was going to study if there were issues of systemic racism in the RCMP, and said that if they approved this motion that would mean the House would be jumping to a conclusion. That of course completely ignores the number of reports gather dust on shelves that have said this is a problem long ago. RCAP, the Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and the Report into Missing and Murder Indigenous Women and Girls have all said as much. Hell, the Commissioner of the RCMP Brenda Lucky said that herself, in her own words, just days ago. So to hear the Bloc say that House of Commons shouldn’t move to act because a Commons committee hasn’t decided on if there is a problem yet was galling to me. It seriously made me mad, fuming. When the person who is in charge of the RCMP says there is a problem, doesn’t that mean that the question of “if” has been settled? I would think so, yet the Bloc wants to study it more. If that’s not a failure of our democratic institutions I don’t know what else is.
Yet despite all of those facts and that history, still so much of this conversation has revolved around Singh’s reaction. He just explained how he reacted when Therrien just waved his hand in a dismissive way at that legitimate motion, yelling loudly, not just meekly saying he refused consent, as if there was no problem and everything was fine, and how that made him react. Yet I’ve seen too many comments about how it wasn’t polite or Parliamentary. It’s true that using that word in the House is unparliamentary, but maybe the problem here is that it is. When Romeo Saganash said in a matter of fact way that the Trudeau government didn’t give a fuck about Indigenous Rights, he was forced to apologize too. But the fact that the word he used was unparliamentary didn’t mean that it wasn’t the right thing to say. It may be uncomfortable for the recipient of those honest words to hear them, but that doesn’t change their truth. Yet inside the House of Commons, the rules are designed to shield MPs from the truth under the guise of being polite.
The fact is that Singh was expected to be polite towards an MP who was showing no politeness, regard, or respect towards Indigenous peoples. Seriously, that is screwed up and if MPs aren’t talking about fixing something as simple as that, there maybe there is no hope for that chamber being a help or path to fixing things. Sorry but I’m tired of having to “be polite” towards others who don’t give me that same respect, just to get them to act right. I’m tired of always being expected to turn the other cheek and not respond “too emotionally” towards people who are denying the clear and evident basics that affect my life and family. So yeah, I’m glad Singh did what he did, even if it’s not exactly how I myself might have done it. If we can’t be that honest in this moment, in this time when Canadians across the spectrum are calling for our politicians to address these issues, then I don’t know what we can do to help. We’ve asked politely, waited patiently, worked within the system, and given constant respect to people who have given us none of that in return. So if the Bloc are hurt that Mr. Singh didn’t politely ask again for them to act like respectful human beings, well that’s their problem. I for one am exhausted and not willing to waste another ounce of energy on that. Canada, this is for you to fix and it’s time to get your crap together. That’s starts in Parliament and if there’s no will to fix things there, there’s nothing I can do to help you. I’ve got a family to look out for and if you’re not willing to do your part, I’m going to spend my time trying to protect them from what you refuse to change.