Good news, Canada! According to at least one prominent national columnist and the Premier of Quebec, racism apparently doesn’t exist in Canada anymore. Phew. Glad we got that sorted. I guess everyone can stop protesting and take down those black squares now. (Also, uh, you might want to rethink those anyway?)
As widespread protests against racial injustice and police brutality continue in both the United States and Canada this week following the murder of George Floyd, there have been a handful of attempts to claim that systemic racism like the kind currently being protested in America somehow doesn’t exist north of the border.
On Monday, National Post columnist Rex Murphy penned an op-ed arguing, among other things, that Canadians shouldn’t be called to address generations’ worth of well-documented institutional racism and discrimination because the country “while not perfect, has been doing its best to be tolerant and welcoming.”
Cue a Trudeau-worthy pause.
Murphy appears to have taken issue with recent statements made by Canada’s Infrastructure Minister Catherine McKenna, who has been actively commenting on the protests on social media. In particular, one claiming that Canada needs to acknowledge its own struggles with racism.
It’s not the first time Murphy has courted controversy with one of his columns, but the article led to quick condemnation from both readers as well as Murphy’s fellow Postmedia colleagues.
Murphy wasn’t the only one to wrap himself in the “polite Canadian” stereotype as a security blanket this week, either. His comments were indirectly echoed by Quebec Premier François Legault on Monday in his daily COVID-19 address to reporters.
Legault’s remarks came following Sunday evening protests in Montreal that resulted in nearly a dozen arrests, and began with a message of support for those protesting, both in Quebec and abroad. “As premier of Quebec, I stand with all of you who stand against racism,” he said. “We must continue to build a society where racism no longer exists.”
However, while Legault acknowledged past incidences of discrimination in the province, he attempted to downplay their severity, telling reporters, “We have this discussion very often. I think that there is discrimination in Quebec, but there is not systemic discrimination. There’s no system of discrimination, and it’s a very, very small minority of people doing this discrimination.”
The reaction was equally swift, as both Black Quebecers and historians quickly jumped in to fact-check the Premier’s claims, saying that the kind of erasure and denial shown by Legault only contributes to the ongoing problem.