LETTER FROM MONTREAL
In Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Toronto or Montreal, thousands of Canadians rallied alongside their American cousins in early June to protest racism and police violence, chanting in turn “Black Lives Matter”. At a demonstration in Ottawa on June 5, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau kneeled down in honor of George Floyd, whose agony filmed on May 25 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, sparked a worldwide movement dispute.
A few days earlier, when asked about his systematic refusal to comment on the attitudes and actions of Donald Trump, he had expressed a long silence. Twenty-one seconds of deafening and accusing silence. “The harshest criticism ever against the American president”, have judged some commentators. “One more mark of the cowardice of the Canadian Prime Minister”, attacked some political opponents.
But his apparent difficulty in facing his powerful neighbor did not prevent Justin Trudeau from throwing a stone in his own garden. “It is time for us Canadians to recognize that we too have our challenges. Discrimination is a reality experienced by black and racialized Canadians every day. There is systemic discrimination in Canada ”, did he declare.
Canada has certainly never adopted race laws, such as the Jim Crow laws in force in the United States in the 19the and XXe centuries, which deprived black citizens of their rights and imposed segregation. However, until the 1950s, the country had restrictive property agreements which prohibited the sale of properties to blacks, Jews or Chinese immigrants.
And, if a debate started well on whether it was wise to speak of “Systemic racism” – Quebec Premier François Legault rejects this accusation, for example – recent surveys show that discrimination still persists today in access to employment or education for the black minority in Canada. Several police officials, including that of the city of Montreal, have also announced future measures to combat racial profiling with which their services would still be complicit in arrests.
But the wave of denunciation of racism that swept across Canada has had the main effect of pushing the country to face up to the fate it reserves for its own stigmatized and discriminated minority, that constituted by the First Nations peoples. In a few days, several dramas featuring Aboriginal people came to remind us of the extent to which they were still not considered as full citizens.
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