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Historic, corrosive misdeeds against Indigenous peoples undermine our just and decent society

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Chinese workers were integral to the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway | Photo: Courtesy of the Royal BC Museum and Archives

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Oh Canada. 

Hearing that phrase, many Canadians envision square-jawed Mounties, standing like granite next to billowing Canadian flags, sparkling lakes, majestic mountains, and words like equality, fairness, acceptance and equity float to their minds like a soft, warm, enveloping breeze.

Others don’t.  

(With good reason.) 

The mythos of Canada as a warm and fuzzy place, an accepting and welcoming haven, began in the 1960’s and 70’s and in some respects that was, for the most part, true – at least, from that point on.

Due to the influx of immigrants after WWII, and as the fabric of Canadian society changed, Canada became more multicultural, more diverse and Canada’s image to the world was promoted as the “vertical mosaic”, in opposition to the U.S.’s “melting pot”.

Canada was painted as a tolerant, accepting, fair society where everyone was accepted and respected, the ultimate “kumbaya”, the manifestation of every Coca-Cola commercial of peace, love and happiness.

I love Canada. I am very proud to be a Canadian and my Hungarian-Jewish parents blessed Canada every minute of their lives after being accepted here as immigrants. My husband, an immigrant from South Africa, never stops thanking Canada for welcoming him here.

But, it is imperative that we separate the mythos of Canada from the myth of Canada – after all, where are we if we are without Truth?  

The Truth is, that Canada’s history with immigrants is not the mythos of a just decent and accepting country and if we, as Canadians, are going to move forward and deal with current discrimination and racism in our country, we must be honest and we must deal with our reality.  

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Chinese workers building the TransPacific Railway were paid less than half of other workers and they paid for their own food and supplies. They were callously used to plant dangerous explosives when building the railway lines, they were segregated from other workers, and the exploitation and abuse of the Chinese community in Canada has a long and vicious history. 

Canadians of Japanese, Italian and German descent were interned in camps during WWII; there was no consideration as to whether or not these could be patriotic Canadians. Interned in camps, many of them lost their life savings, their children were not properly educated and their lives were seriously impacted.

After 1793 and the ending of slavery, former slaves and other People of Colour lived in segregated areas, had segregated schools, and faced ongoing discrimination. Many Canadians were shocked when they learned of Viola Desmond, whose image now graces our $10.00 bill. Canada’s own Rosa Parks refused to leave a whites-only section of a movie theatre in Halifax and was arrested in 1946.

The Truth and Reconciliation Report made hundreds of recommendations about how Canada can make amends for and rectify the mistreatment of First Nations and Indigenous people

As for Jews in Canada, the level of anti-Semitism in Canada is highlighted by the flagrantly anti-Jewish sentiment expressed by Prime Minister Mackenzie King and civil servant Frederick Blair. When they were asked how many Jewish children would Canada save while they languished on the ill-fated MS St. Louis, they callously replied, “None is too many”. Until well after WWII, many stores wouldn’t hire Jews, Canadian universities and businesses had quotas for Jews, signs stating “No Jews or dogs allowed” were the norm in Canada, and there were real estate prohibitions as to where Canadian Jews were allowed to live. 

These are only some examples of blatant discrimination in Canada; sadly, there are many others. Virtually all ethnic and religious groups that have immigrated to Canada have suffered some form of racism and discrimination. 

This is a tragic and appalling situation and one we must all work towards remedying if we are to have a truly inclusive Canada.

However, that is not enough. 

It is not enough to deal with the discrimination and racism demonstrated against immigrants in Canada; until such time that we honestly and truly deal with our Indigenous peoples there cannot be a claim of Canada as a just and decent society. Every Canadian must educate themselves about the corrosive misdeeds that have been historically perpetrated against Canada’s Indigenous peoples. 

Not one immigrant group in Canada has ever experienced the collective, and yes, systematic racism and discrimination endured by Indigenous peoples

In Winnipeg, this summer, two encampments of homeless people, mostly aboriginal, were removed due to serious health and safety issues

Forced sterilization of their women for decades upon decades; residential schools, even under our current prime minister’s father, designed to rob 

Indigenous people of their culture, their language, their religion. Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW), too many to count, disappearing without a trace; spiraling youth suicide, and no one investigating; dirty drinking water as a matter of course; disgraceful housing conditions, abysmal healthcare, inadequate education -the list goes on and on. 

The result of these years of abuse and neglect has taken heavy tolls on Indigenous peoples and the Federal Government of Canada should ensure that these basic rights are met.  It is the federal government that imposed the Indian Act upon the Indigenous peoples, an act that was used as the blueprint for South African apartheid measures.

If Canadians believe that we can create a fair country, where everyone has equal opportunity, we are then obligated to ensure that all Canadians are given the same chances and possibilities. Clean drinking water, proper housing, medical care, and education are the rights for ALL Canadians. 

If we want to make the words, “The True North, Strong and Free” true, if we want Canada to honestly be strong and free, we must care about our Indigenous peoples and afford them the same basic opportunities that we provide all Canadians. Let’s make that our truth and our reality.

Vivienne Grace Ziner is a real estate developer, human rights activist,entrepreneur, writer, speaker and educator. She has been described as “the iron fist in the velvet glove” as well as a “pitbull with lipstick”. She loves both descriptions

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Happy reading!

Thank you for choosing TheJ.Ca as your source for Canadian Jewish News.

We do news differently!

Our positioning as a Zionist News Media platform sets us apart from the rest. While other Canadian Jewish media are advocating increasingly biased progressive political and social agendas, TheJ.Ca is providing more and more readers with a welcome alternative and an ideological home.

We revealed the incursion of anti-Israel progressive elements such as IfNotNow into our communities. We have exposed the distorted hateful agenda of the “progressive” left political radicals who brought Linda Sarsour to our cities, and we were first to report on many disturbing incidents of Nazi-based hate towards Jews across Canada.

But we can’t do it alone. We need your HELP!

Our ability to thrive and grow in 2020 and beyond depends on the generosity of committed readers and supporters like you.

Monthly support is a great way to help us sustain our operations. We greatly appreciate any contributions you can make to support Jewish Journalism.

We thank you for your ongoing support.

Happy reading!

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