Time to debunk the rhetoric and make it clear that when Canadian politicians and ordinary Canadians state that Black lives matter and have always mattered in Canada, they are telling a bold-faced lie. Historically Canada has misrepresented itself as being an open and accepting place for Black Americans seeking freedom from slavery in the USA. The fact is that Canadians owned slaves, but very cleverly called them servants. The truth of the matter is that Black lives have never mattered in Canada and probably never will. In this post I will try to explain why I believe this statement to be true.
- The 1685 Code Noir set the pattern for policing slavery in what was then called New France. It defined the condition of slavery, and established harsh controls. Slaves had virtually no rights. The blacks were usually called servants. Death rates among slaves were high. Canada may have let runaway slaves into Canada, but Canada also allowed for the keeping of slaves, the selling of slaves and the punishing of slaves that ran away. Marie-Joseph Angelique, owned by a widow in Montreal, was one such slave.
In 1759 there were 1,132 recorded Black slaves in New France.
- In Ontario, the Imperial Act of 1790 assured prospective immigrants that their slaves would remain their property. Canadians living in British regions of Canada during the 17th and 18th century owned Black slaves.
One hundred and four were listed in a 1776 nova Scotia census. 1783 saw that number jump to 2000 black slaves in British controlled Canada. 1200 to the Maritimes (Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island), 300 to Lower Canada (Quebec), and 500 to Upper Canada (Ontario).
That not one Canadian politician has ever expressed Canada’s need to officially apologise and seek some form of reconciliation with the descendants of Canadian Black slaves is a pretty good indicator that Black lives did not matter in early Canadian history and their lives continue not to matter in modern Canada either. Canadian politicians seem to think that because Canada’s role in the trans-Atlantic slave trade was so minor that it is okay just to pretend that it didn’t happen at all.
Afua Cooper, Canadian historian, author and poet states that slavery is “Canada’s best kept secret, locked within the National closet”.
In present day Canada, Canadian politicians and policy makers do not see Black people as a “People”. To Canadian politicians and policy makers this means that Canadian Black people do not exist as political entity. This in turn means that political leaders and policy makers need not concern themselves with vying for the votes of an organized Black voting bloc. Everything that set Black people apart from everyone else (language, culture, religion, heritage, homeland, and traceable ancestry), was stolen from black people as a result of African Slave Trade and American Slave Trade. These things are most noticeable to me during election time when politicians are trying to attract voters to vote for them. Politicians:
- will promise different things on the campaign trail to both sides of the French English debate; trying their hardest not to upset either side enough to lose voter support over linguistic issue and going as far as to give Quebec a distinct society status.
- compete for the Jewish, Asian, South Asian, and White vote; realising that they have important issues that need to be addressed.
- seek to win the upper, lower and middle class vote, but no politician in Canada feels it is necessary to go after the Black vote specifically.
I believe that politicians choose to believe that the interests of the Black voter can be addressed adequately in this category of voter. Politicians through their actions and lack of action have proven that they believe that there is nothing that sets Canadian Black people apart from all the other voting blocs; the exception to that ideology being color of skin. Canadian Politicians take it for granted that the Black voter will align themselves with the issues of their White counterparts.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke of the need for the government of Canada to be representative of all Canadians and Canada’s rich diversity. To accomplish this, he appointed women, aboriginals and Sikhs to his first cabinet to reflect Canada’s rich diversity. The Prime Minister also chose from the same group of the minority pool to improve the representation and diversity of Canada’s judiciary.
Justin Trudeau for all of his talk about wanting his government and the judiciary to reflect and represent all of Canadians failed to appoint one Black person to his cabinet, or the judiciary.
Is it that Prime minister Justin Trudeau felt that Black people:
- are not necessary to have in his cabinet to achieve his goal to have the law making process representative and reflective of Canada’s vast diversity?
- are not necessary to be appointed to any court as judges to achieve his goal to have the courts of law representative and reflective of Canada’s vast diversity?
- at the time of both sets of appointments there was not one qualified person in either instance qualified to do the job?
This is a further testament that Canadian politicians at the highest of levels of government do not see Black Canadians as a people, or as having any special needs other than those expressed by its White Canadian citizenry. This allows Canadian politicians to pretend that Black Canadians are sufficiently represented within the government and judiciary without the need for an actual Black person to be appointed to a cabinet post or a judicial post.
When was the last time you heard a political leader say, “We really need to reach out to Black people and encourage them to become politicians at all levels of government, because they are not being heard and are underrepresented?”
In closing I would add that as a country we are still debating whether or not:
- Black Face is a racist form of entertainment;
- the word Nigger should be removed from official federal and provincial heritage sites;
- statues, streets, and metro stops should be named after known racist at all, let alone exist in predominately Black neighborhoods.
That Canadians are still debating the pros and cons of these things, shows:
- the lack of respect that Canadian leaders, politicians and policy makers have for Black people;
- a lack of understanding of what Black people have had to suffer and endure at the hands of White Canadians;
- a lack of political will to acknowledge, apologise, reconcile, and compensate the survivors, or the ancestors of those done wrong by in Canada’s past.
This is why I believe that Black lives have never mattered in Canada and probably never will.