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.