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Now that school is almost over (got called into a full-time temporary contract for June), I should have more time to write on the blog.  I apologize for the sporadic scheduling for the last month or so, hopefully over the summer months we can get back into a regular publishing rhythm.

While perusing the CBC website I came across an article about calls to “Cancel Canada Day” in light of the mass graves being discovered at residential school sites across Canada, and the opinions of five Canadians on the topic.

“Don Amero – Country and folk singer-songwriter, Winnipeg

“I think my own belief is that Canada Day is a thing in terms of how we approach it. I think that’s where we really need to kind of take a deeper look at it. I think to spend millions of dollars in celebration, not sure if that’s what we should be doing as a country now. I think maybe [we should spend] time to reflect and to really educate ourselves.

“It is an opportunity for every individual, every Canadian, to say, ‘Where do I fit in this story?’ And I think if you’re here and you’re in this country, you’re a piece of this story. And I think that you really need to educate yourself. You can be complicit, you can be ignorant or you can educate yourself. My hope is that what we do this Canada Day is we spend more time educating ourselves on our history and who we were, who we are now and who we want to be in the future.”

I think that people won’t bother to ‘educate themselves’ unless it directly effects how they interact with society, or their income.  I suspect that when asked, most Canadians will agree on the tragedy that was the Residential School system and sympathize.  But not much past that.

I doubt that many Canadians will actually spend time ‘educating themselves’ unless it is job to be in the know.  Historians, teachers, and the odd politician yes, but for the average person, most likely not.

If we move toward a society that values past knowledge and wisdom then then numbers may change a bit, but right now, sadly, we are not far behind the ahistorical United States when it comes to learning from history (see our Pandemic response vis-a-vis lessons the Spanish Flu Epidemic had to offer).

“Lynn-Marie Angus – Co-founder of B.C-based Sisters Sage, an Indigenous brand that hand-crafts wellness and self-care products, member of Gitxaala, Nisga’a and Métis Nations

Honestly I never celebrate Canada Day. I haven’t since I think I was old enough to realize what Canada stood for, what Canada Day is. I’m Indigenous, so I’ve been brought up in a culture of racism. This is just something that’s normal. It’s normalized, unfortunately. But this is something that I deal with day to day  It’s really difficult right now for Indigenous folks. So we’re all really suffering and traumatized and dealing with this very publicly through social media.

There’s a saying that people are saying now: There’s no pride in genocide. And that’s so true. So it’s hard to be proud to be Canadian. I’m proud to be an indigenous person. Our existence Is our resistance. We are still here.”

I’m not sure that Canada is all about the genocide, at least these days.  Canada as a minor power in the world does limited work on the world stage and mostly follows the lead of the US (like we have much choice in the matter).  The successive governments that have ignored indigenous concerns is certainly not a record to be proud of, but one can hope we can improve on our political record regarding the treatment of indigenous Canadians.

“Scott Clark – Executive director, Vancouver ALIVE, director of the Northwest Indigenous Council Society

“I’ve never been a supporter of [Canada Day], recognizing the ongoing process Canada is doing to our people. But [calls to cancel Canada Day] are starting to shed light on the history of the relationship between Canada and Indigenous people. I would say that if anything [cancelling] is going to bring light to the historical and the contemporary relations between the Indigenous people, I would support that.

“I think [that] the uncovering of the the unmarked graves … for some reason, this has taken off with the Canadian public. I think they’re empathetic. I think  they’re shocked.

“I do not identify as a Canadian citizen. That’s been imposed upon myself at birth.  And that’s a result of the Canada Indian Act. So this is why I say there’s a lot of unfinished business that Canada has yet to do. So I don’t consider myself a Canadian, let alone a proud Canadian.”

Well, you happen to live in the political boundary of the landmass we like to call Canada, so there is that, but as with all self identification, you do you.  Again, an appeal to shed light on our history.  Once this news cycle is over, I’m not sure how much light will be left shining on the issue.

 

“Parry Stelter – President, founder of Word of Hope Ministries, originally from Alexander First Nation-Treaty Six Territory in Edmonton, Sixties Scoop survivor

“I feel that this Canada Day should not be cancelled. We should be standing at attention … but standing at attention.in fully acknowledging the full history of Canada and all its atrocities and the genocide and the residential schools.

“I think it’s a matter of changing your total perspective on the whole celebration, because many people go straight to ‘Why would I want to celebrate the past? Why would I?’ So now it’s a matter of changing perspective and saying, as I celebrate Canada Day, I’m not going to celebrate it for what it has been in the past. I’m going to celebrate it for what I want it to be in the future.

“The fact of the matter is that we still all live here. And so we have to make the most of it and move forward and not just be resilient and not just survive, but learn how to thrive in our lives. But I totally understand if my people or anybody else don’t want to celebrate. I totally understand because we all grieve in different ways.

Parry has a great line in there –  I’m going to celebrate it [Canada Day] for what I want it to be in the future.  If we actually learned from our past mistakes Parry’s comment would resonate much more clearly.  Unfortunately, the way our society is structured, just keeping our head above water and getting some time away from the rat-race is always fully centred in our consciousness.  Historical reflection is a luxury many Canadians simply don’t have.

” Aziza Mohammed – Consultant for the World Bank, Toronto

“I don’t think it should be cancelled.I realize we’ve had some very troubling revelations, but the way forward is not to stop aspiring to be a better country, and it’s not to try and erase the existence of a country or erase history. It’s about acknowledging it and and trying to do something better.

“While acknowledging the pain of our Indigenous brothers and sisters, there’s lots of suffering throughout Canada’s history and even today. I’m a  Muslim woman, I’m a racialized person. We have our places of worship burned down, vandalized with swastikas. I’ve been driven out of the first home I bought, which was in a small town in Canada, because the racist locals made my life so unbearable, I had to flee.

“There’s  a lot for me personally to be upset about when it comes to our country, our history and fellow Canadians. But I still want to look forward. I still want to be positive…. Life here can’t just be suffering. It’s also a little bit of community and fellowship and joy. That’s worth celebrating to me.”

Tackling the more discriminatory elements in our society is a laudable goal.

 

What I think we should celebrate in Canada is the fact that we can (for the most part) state and freely share our opinions and thoughts.  We still have a social rights framework in which the common people can safely hold a myriad of political thoughts and opinions and be able to disseminate them in our society.    Without the freedom of the intellectual commons, Canada would be much diminished.  I’m guessing that most Canadians take for granted the rights and freedoms that we have, since we have been exercising our freedom of thought and speech for so long now.

All of the diversity of opinion expressed here goes away if we lose our superstructure of guaranteed rights and freedoms.  So, I think I’ll spend a little time reflecting on that fact that I live in a liberal democratic society that allows me to dissent from the majority and share opinions without deleterious consequences to my personal well being.  And for that I am proud and grateful to live in, and be Canadian.

 

 

 

 

 

   We have not written on America’s imperial adventures for awhile here at DWR.   Constant examination of the antithesis of our civilization lays bare the soul, to touch the carefully crafted web we ensconce ourselves in and shake it till the dirty bitter truths rupture forth, wearies the heart and mind.  To see things as they are, as Buchan does, empties the carefully nurtured vessels of hope and replaces it with despair and bitterness:

“You think that a wall as solid as the earth separates civilization from barbarism. I tell you the division is a thread, a sheet of glass. A touch here, a push there, and you bring back the reign of Saturn.”

  • John Buchan, 1st Baron Tweedsmuir Ch. 3 “Tells of a Midsummer Night”, The Power-House (1916)

There is only so much anger and rage to go around, and after awhile, the grave injustices of the imperial wars led by the US forces us to indulge (well mostly me as I primarily wrote about it) in the luxury of “anger fatigue” where we have the privilege of  simply not responding anymore to the toxic stimulus the entire war/torture/inhumanity scenario Guantanamo so perfectly engenders.

Doesn’t work so well if you happen to be residing in the Guantanamo black hole;  as a Canadian citizen well knows – thank goodness they have finally released Omar Khadr. But there is another less happy tidbit of news, this week marks the 10 year anniversary of “Gitmo” and the international embarrassment it causes and continues to cause for the USA.

This week marks the 10-year anniversary of the first prisoner arriving at Guantanamo Bay, making it the longest-standing war prison in US history. Guantanamo has been a catastrophic failure on every front. It has long been past the time for this shameful episode in American history to be brought to a close. 

President Obama has failed to shutter Guantanamo, even though on his second day in office he signed an executive order to close the prison and restore “core constitutional values”. In fact, the 2012 National Defence Authorization Act that Obama signed on New Year’s Eve contains a sweeping provision that makes indefinite military detention, including of people captured far from any battlefield, a permanent part of American law for the first time in this country’s history. This is not just unconstitutional – it’s just plain wrong.

I sure Hope he Changes that particular law, stat.  Indefinite detention is a precious handmaiden that portends the malevolent abuse of power.  Unfortunately until important (read the 1%) start getting detained it will remain out of the consciousness of the American public.

As documents secured by the ACLU demonstrate, Guantanamo became a perverse laboratory for brutal interrogation methods. Prisoners were subjected to beatings, sleep deprivation, stress positions, extreme temperatures and prolonged isolation. It started with two false premises: Those who were sent there were all terrorists picked up on the battlefield and that, as “unlawful enemy combatants”, they had no legal rights. In reality, a tiny percentage was captured by US forces; most were seized by Pakistani and Afghan militias, tribesmen, and officials, and then sold to the US for large bounties.”

Ah yes, back to the unreality of the GWBII’s rule.  The whole we are empire, we make our own story and you plebes conduct yourselves accordingly to our narrative.  This particular break with reality is not going away quietly.  The whole shining beacon of freedom and democratic rule narrative the US likes to trumpet to world is much less believable with the spectre of Guantanamo Bay lurking conspicuously in the foreground.

“Our nation continues to pay the price for those egregious errors. Torture is the principal reason for the astonishing fact that, more than 10 years after 9/11, the alleged perpetrators of those attacks – though in US custody for as long as nine years – have not been brought to justice.

The reputation of the US as a defender of human rights has been profoundly diminished because of Guantanamo’s continued existence. Our allies have refused to share intelligence out of concern that it will be used in unfair military commissions, and will not extradite terrorism suspects if they will end up in military detention. Perhaps most critically, military officials acknowledge Guantanamo has been used for years as a recruiting tool by our enemies – creating far more terrorists than it has ever held – thereby undermining rather than enhancing our security. And torture is also why federal courts were rejected in favour of military commissions with looser evidentiary standards. Even under this imbalanced system, only six Guantanamo prisoners have been sentenced for crimes before a military commission”

    The farther we fall from truth the more our lies become the reality of our consciousness.  Orwell, in 1984, describes the process, the thinking unthinking – the conscious denial of reality in pursuit of the ever dimming goal of security and “peace”.  We strive for security yet continue with actions and policy that directly undermine our stated goals.  There is official truth and then there is the reality of the situation.  Torture is never permissible in civilized society, but enhanced interrogation techniques are?  The dissonance is frightful, but goes on as a acceptable truth, a foul monument to media an its sterling misinformation campaign.  The media helps us forget our empathy – we overlook our role in the deaths of hundreds of thousands, innocents except for possessing the wrong ideology and skin colour.

Is starving to death not considered torture?  We should be asking the survivors who languished and suffered but managed not to die under the UN sanctions in Iraq during the 1990’s, about civilized behaviour.   We talk of rights, but extend them unevenly depending on ethnicity and skin colour.  We have the audacity to wonder why they still hate us after all we’ve done for them…

“Each branch of government shares responsibility for the perpetuation of Guantanamo’s legacy. Congress has chosen to score political points rather than do what’s right. It has repeatedly used its power of the purse to prevent the release or resettlement of Guantanamo prisoners cleared for release, and to bar criminal trials of those against whom there is evidence for prosecution in federal court.

Guantanamo was not a problem of President Obama’s making, but it is now one of his choosing. After his pledge to close Guantanamo within a year, the president failed to show the commitment necessary to build Congressional support, provide a logistical plan to release Guantánamo prisoners or bring them to trial. Like President Bush before him, Obama has also claimed the authority to detain without charge or trial terrorism suspects captured far from any theatre of war. 

Finally, the courts have refused to articulate and enforce clear limits on the executive’s detention authority. To be sure, the Supreme Court has on three occasions heard challenges to the Guantanamo regime, and every time has repudiated the excesses of the political branches. Those decisions held that Guantanamo prisoners could challenge their detention under habeas corpus, that the Geneva Conventions applied to the fight with Al Qaeda, and that the Executive Branch could not unilaterally create a military commission system with limited rights for the accused.”

Let’s bust out a little Dostoevsky, from his “The House of the Dead”:  “The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.”  How do we fare now that we embrace the concepts of infinite detention and enhanced interrogate techniques?

“All branches of government must rise to the task. The Supreme Court must define the scope of war-time detention. It must ensure the right to habeas corpus is a meaningful one that tests, and does not rubber stamp, the government’s case. Congress must lift the unnecessary restrictions on transfer and release from Guantanamo, particularly for the 89 men whom our security services and military have unanimously determined should be released.

President Obama must also show the courage of his previously stated convictions and either prosecute the other 82 men in federal court or set them free.

Then Guantanamo must close.”

Guantanamo must close indeed.

It is the first step in the necessary self examination regarding our claim to be civilized and protectors of liberty and justice.  Does one treat gangrene by ignoring the symptoms?  A little perfume for the rotting stench?  A fresh white bandage to mask the fetid pustules on our corpulent ideals?  (smacks about the head for mixing metaphors?)  Guantanamo is but a symptom of what is wrong with our society and democracy; it is at our own peril that we continue ignore the root causes the Gitmo’s, the Patriot acts, and challenges to our basic liberties.

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