Thomas Mulcair & The Exercise of Racism

Thomas Mulcair & The Exercise of Racism

By N Oji Mzilikazi

(Originally published in Montreal Community Contact Volume 21, Number 11, under the title “The Exercise Of Racism And Its Impact.)

May 26, 2011

On the heels of the best ever showing of the NDP, Thomas Mulcair, its deputy leader, stated on national television that he didn’t believe photos of a dead bin Laden existed. To hear such absolute nonsense falling from the lips of an experienced politician, former cabinet minister and a lawyer none the less, had to be a calculated power play; a step in supplanting Jack Layton as party’s leader.

When it comes to politics, its politricks include politicians making use of any opportunities to get their name in print, score points, and articulating positions they do not necessarily hold to be true, but which will find traction with the public or deliver votes.

Case in point: Ken Melman who ran President Bush 2004 re-election campaign, was the chairman of the Republican National Committee, and pushed the Bush administration’s drive for a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. In August 2010, he revealed he is gay and was working in support of same-sex marriage.

Mulcair had to be cognizant that the outlandishness of his assertion will be newsworthy, reported abroad, and since the NDP was now Canada’s official opposition party, voila!  Reversal to his political invisibility.

The insinuation from this political nobody was that President Obama was a liar, and he had the nerve to qualify his statement with, I don’t think from what I’ve heard…” What loop is he in? What connection could he possibly have in the Obama administration to know otherwise?

His statement was demeaning and disrespectful; especially considering the United States is Canada’s best friend, trading partner and closest ally. It is not something someone with leadership aspirations says about a “friend” or to sustain a valued relationship.

It was just as insulting as when Francoise Ducros, a senior aide of Prime Minister Jean Chretien referred to US President Bush in November 2002, as a moron, and when in November 2004, MP Carolyn Parrish stamped on an effigy of Bush on, “This Hour Has 22 Minutes” comedy show.

Mulcair deserves demotion, but this is Canada. Our talent pool is so limited that every Jack and Jill can easily win Juno and Gemini Awards or get their star on Canada’s Walk of Fame.

In view of former Quebec premier, Honoré Mercier being Mulcair’s great-great grandfather and the NDP in Quebec gaining 58 new seats, Layton dare not and will not demote him. The party needs all their “stars.”

The passiveness of the mainstream press in regard to Mulcair’s statement ought to be noted. There was no real pressing.

What made Mulcair’s statement so unpalatable, was just a week prior, Obama had shut up Donald Trump and the “birthers” with the release of his full birth certificate. Their lie was finally put to rest, and here was one of our future political stars essentially pissing on Obama. I doubt he would’ve responded that way if Hillary or McClain was in the Oval Office.

Let us not fool ourselves. Race as a principle of ascription is well-entrenched. Being to the right of race and political populism are intricately entwined. Dumping on Blacks for political gain is common place. White privilege and white power are jealously guarded.

When Obama was considering a run at the White House, The Wall Street Journal’s John Fund, declared (12/18/06), the hype surround Obama is worthy of “Hollywood, not for the serous business of running a country in troubled and dangerous times.” Therefore he should practice “statesmanship in the face of enormous temptation,” and not run just yet for the presidency. He should devote himself “to listening, learning and becoming the most effective senator for Illinois.”

When Claudel Toussaint, Haitian, the chairman of the PQ committee on ethno-cultural relations was nominated to contest the 2001 provincial by-election in the Mercier riding, Gazette columnist, Don Macpherson did a piece (02/07/01) calling him “PQ’s token ethnic.” When Yolande James was elected in Neligan riding, he described her as being Premier Charest hand puppet. (09/22/04)

“Token ethnic” and “hand puppet” are negatively charged words that eliminate persons taking into account worthiness and qualifications. They conjure the sense of charity when in fact those persons could represent voting blocks and be a boon to a political party or organization. Considering the dearth of people of African descent in Canadian politics, Macpherson’s articles cannot but be interpreted as…

The 2007 provincial elections forced Charest to trim his administration. He dropped Lawrence Bergman and Geoffrey Kelley, and appointed Yolande James, Minister of Immigration and Cultural Communities. As if the sky was falling and a deluge of blackness threatened to overwhelm the Liberal Party, the racists were aghast.

The loss of Bergman and Kelley were positioned as a blow to the English community, and James appointment characterized as a betrayal to Anglophones. Allen Nutik, Jewish, declared the cabinet’s makeup was insulting to English-speaking voters, all “our” cabinet ministers were fired, and James is very young, a neophyte.

He launched Affiliation Quebec- a new political party for those dissatisfied (read angry white males) with the Liberal Party.

The Suburban and The Chronicle newspapers were awash with articles critical of James [Not Appearing In The Community Contact Published Article: and lamenting no Jews in cabinet.

So what if no Jew is on the Cabinet? The Jewish community has always been well represented at both the federal and provincial levels. It’s not the end of their world if one of their MNAs is without a portfolio. Must Charest keep salt on the table even if it has lost its savour?]

James is English, therefore Anglophone. As a cabinet minister, none could make the case that the Anglophone community, an ethnic or visible or a cultural community wasn’t being served. The hullabaloo about no Anglo minister was simply code.

[Not Appearing In The Community Contact Published Article: The unspoken is that with a Jewish person in the cabinet, the government gets one person wearing both a kippa and a hat; someone having their heart in the Jewish community and who could double as an English rights advocate.  Jews have been politically successful simultaneously wearing both head gears. James didn’t bring that duality.]

Racists are skilled at slight-of-hand. Thus, from the attack on James, being Anglophone, and a minister who is Anglophone was reserved for white males and synonymous with being an English rights advocate.  (It is to be noted that Macpherson continued to attack James in the Gazette at every opportunity.)

As long as the Caribbean/West Indian/Black/African Community continues to engage in somnambulism, it will continue being victimized, its interests seen of no importance, and the backs of our exemplars will not be guarded.

What does it takes to recognize we have no friends; that we stand alone?

Provincial and municipal elections aren’t too far off. In four years there will be federal elections. Political activism is needed now.

To Be Continued.

Canada Election Lessons For Blacks

Canada Election Lessons For Blacks

By N Oji Mzilikazi

(Originally published in Montreal Community Contact volume 21, #10)

May 12, 2011

America with a 12 per cent Black population elected Barack Obama a mixed-race/Black person as its president, showing among other things, unification under the Democratic Party ideology.

Here in Quebec, the Quebec Hellenic Congress sent a letter counselling its members who traditionally vote Liberal, not to vote for the Liberal Party in the Montreal riding of Laval-les-Îles because their candidate is not of Greek origin. They were further advised to support another candidate.

In other words, the politics of ethnicity trumped the political manifesto of the Liberal Party. The candidate in question, Karine Joizil, is Black- of Haitian descent, female, and a lawyer.

According to the Montreal Gazette, (May 2, 2011) the president of the Quebec Hellenic Congress said their stance was neither personal against Joizel, nor were they against the Liberals. They were against the decision to nominate her and how it was made.  Regardless as to his telling, their obscene and offensive position was about exploiting ethnicity and by extension race for political gain.

I’m not mad at them though. They are about community self-interest, something people of African descent and the Caribbean community ought to take note.

The response I’d like to see from Black leadership is a call to make our dollars our politics, and boycott all things Greek, especially their restaurants. It can be explained as nothing personal, just an effort towards recycling our dollars in our community.

Furthermore, in July 2006, Casa Grecque was fined $1million for tax fraud. 28 of 60 franchises pled guilty to filing false tax statements to the federal and provincial governments. Since taxes go towards paying for services and the like, responsible citizens ought not support business known to engage in tax fraud.

Whether Blacks do or don’t do, have a university education or not, the exercise of racism exists. People actively discriminate and practice racial inequality. Therefore, it behoves leadership to advocate our self-empowerment and to make sure our interests are always on the table.

Lest we forget: In July 2007, one week after the Federal Liberal Party leader, Stéphane Dion, nominated Jocelyn Coulon as its candidate from the upcoming by-election in Montreal’s Outremont riding, B’Nai Brith Canada asked him to remove Coulon because of his stance on Israel. Outremont is a Liberal stronghold with a Jewish population.

According to the 2001 Federal Census, Jews make up about 10 per cent of the Outremont riding. Consequently, B’Nai Brith request is akin to saying that the only person deserving of representing the area is one who has the interest of the 10 per cent, and it’s not in regards to Canadian needs and issues, but that of Israel.

In 2004, former Montreal MP, Yvon Charbonneau, was appointed Canada’s ambassador to UNESCO. The Conservative Party called upon the government to reconsider the decision for, “Charbonneau’s criticism of Israel in the past has offended many Canadians.” (Montreal Gazette, October 7, 2004)

Earlier this month, the City University of New York decided to bestow an honorary degree on Tony Kushner, a Jewish playwright. The honorary degree was vetoed by a pro-Israeli activist and trustee of the University, who accused Kushner of being anti-Israel. (UK Guardian, May 6, 2011)

As repeatedly played out in Canada, America and elsewhere, politicians (and others) are positioned to “eat the bread the devil kneads” if they don’t have the right Jewish/Israeli vision. All due to the power of their organisations, political machinery and financial investments towards ensuring their interests takes precedence.

On the other hand, people of African descent are always quick to show how nice and accommodating they are to others, and are unwilling to close ranks to advance community interests.

Despite the fact that the Black community has always been looked upon as dangerous, dysfunctional, given pariah status and left alone to fend for itself, leadership and prominent citizens act as if the race is going to get a better grades, and they increased political capital for showing how committed or supportive they are to the cause of others.

In December 2005, Representatives of the Black Coalition of Quebec, the Muslim Council of Montreal and the Indian community joined forces to denounce the kidnapping of four humanitarian workers in Iraq, and to criticize the backlash on Muslims for the acts of their fanatics.

Where were those organizations when Black Montrealers were being victimized and vilified prior to 9/11? Up until 9/11, the Muslim community, although comprised of Blacks as well, was invisible, identified and benefited from intelligent, hard working, peaceful and successful immigrant status.

In fact, Quebec was happy to bring in French speaking Muslim immigrants to boost its francophone population. Given all that has taken place with the Black community since that show of unity, I have yet to see reciprocity from the others whose cause Dan Phillip and the Black Coalition supported.

Palestinian and Jewish Unity, a Montreal-based human rights group launched a boycott of an Israeli made brand of shoes sold at a particular retailer. In January 2011, Marlene Jennings, Liberal MP for Notre Dame de Grâce-Lachine, and the first Black woman from Quebec to sit in the House of Commons as an MP, made it a point to go to the store to buy a pair of shoes, as is her right.

Conversely, I’ve never seen the distinguished MP, convene anything specifically towards Black community empowerment, and can’t remember the last time she lent her voice to any of our issues. Interestingly, after 14 years she lost her seat to a lesser known rival.

To Be Continued.