Sunday, April 29, 2007

Canada: Not Worth Standing For, But Worth Fighting Against!

This is a follow-up on yesterday's post, about a Mi'kmaq high school student who refused to stand for Canada's national anthem and was subsequently kicked out of class, and later "roughed up" by other students.

Yesterday i didn't know the student in question was Mi'kmaq, because the media never mentioned this fact. Someone posted the information on my blog yesterday as a comment, and although i haven't found any other mention of this elsewhere, i find it entirely plausible.

Which does and doesn't change matters.

Of course i applaud and favour anyone who refuses to stand for the canadian national anthem. This is a country founded on and persisting through violence, theft and lies. That doesn't change whether the student in question is Indigenous or not.

But where it does make a difference is in throwing light on what then becomes a racist call by his teacher to throw him out of class. Plus a racist gang attack by his fellow students after school. Not to mention the racism of the media, which in covering up the anti-colonial nature of the student's refusal becomes complicit with the racist silencing and suppression of anti-colonial resistance.

Let's take a look at the words of this song for which kids are trained to stand from sea to shiny sea:

O Canada!
Our home and native land!
True patriot love in all thy sons command.
With glowing hearts we see thee rise,
The True North strong and free!
From far and wide, O Canada,
We stand on guard for thee.
God keep our land glorious and free!
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

Does it really take a white rocket scientist to see what Indigenous kids across this continent have no trouble grasping? Does colonial privilege really make people that stupid?

This is a song celebrating the establishment of Canada ("with glowing hearts we see you rise"), and its military defense ("we stand on guard for thee"). What exactly do you think the establishment of Canada meant, every step of the way? Dispossession, rape, exile, and death for Indigenous people is what it meant. That's why one of the main groups against whom military defense was necessary were the land's first inhabitants.

And you can add to this the special sexist allegiance owed to it by young men; "true patriot love in all thy sons command" - just some masculine quid pro quo for getting to rape Indigenous women and children would be my guess.

In line with Canada's "i don't see you, you don't see me" bi-national fantasy culture, the French version of course has different lyrics than the English. Here we have it all spelled out even more clearly:

O Canada! Land of our forefathers
Thy brow is wreathed with a glorious garland of flowers.
As in thy arm ready to wield the sword,
So also is it ready to carry the cross.
Thy history is an epic of the most brilliant exploits.

Thy valour steeped in faith
Will protect our homes and our rights
Will protect our homes and our rights.

In one arm the sword, in another the cross!!!

You know who was getting cut down with those swords, and what was being done under the sign of that cross. It was all, as they say, a "brilliant exploit", though perhaps not so brilliant if you were one of the ones being exploited...

Is it any wonder that this song is seen as an affront by many Indigenous people?

(This opposition to the racist song is not an isolated phenomenon; for instance the issue of the national anthem being played at sporting events has been taken up by residents of Kahnawake in the Mohawk Nation in recent years.)

Some idiots have been posting comments to my posting yesterday, implying that the student in question could somehow have avoided this trouble, or was to blame for getting "roughed up", because they had stood for the national anthem for months and only decided to resist now.

This is of course nonsense. Most principled positions, most acts of resistance, like most decisions in life of any sort, occur at a specific point in time. Vacillation - going back and forth on an issue - can sometimes indicate a lack of principle, but certainly past practice alone proves nothing of the sort. If anything, the fact that you do things one way and then change indicates that you are not taking your decision lightly, that it is the result of forethought and reflection, and as such this would tend to indicate greater principle.

The above is obvious to anyone and everyone who is not looking for a cheap-ass argument to slander those they disagree with.

Finally, a word on euphemisms: the media, in the two inches they devoted to this, simply stated that the student was "roughed up", reassuring us that "he wasn't seriously hurt." Suddenly the same newspapers which rant and rave in favour of "zero tolerance" to violence in schools, who whip up waves of panic about "violent youth" and "ethnic gangs", have no problem with a gang of canadians assaulting a Mi'kmaq youth. We are spared the blow-by-blow details which so often accompany stories about school fights, it all being left to the imagination... i mean, are we talking about this kid being kicked, punched, shoved or what?

The same folks who drool over every detail of some school violence are suddenly coy as racist white men when it comes to violence against Indigenous youth...

Perhaps more later...

For a very brief synopsis of the dispossession of Indigenous people in what is called New Brunswick, you can check out this short article on Infoshop.


  1. First of all the so called "gangsters" you are describing that roughed up the boy were also natives. NOT WHITE!!! Before you state things that you obviously have no knowledge of, you should check the facts first. You talk as if all the non-native students in the school are racists here. The only one who sounds like a racist is you. If your take on the issue is that the natives of Canada have no need to respect the anthem,flag or government then maybe this kid should not attend a school that is operated and funded by patriotic anthem standing taxpayers. Maybe he should attend on the reserve where he can do whatever the hell he wants!!!!

  2. Oh...he should stay on the reserve where the white people forced his people to live in the first place? I am from Miramichi, and I went to MVHS and the white people are racist towards those who are non-white, have a look around town, how many white people do you see??

  3. Sorry if you thought that was what I meant. That is not what I meant. I was trying to make a point about the original post before mine. Did you read it?

  4. Hey anonymous #1,
    if you could point me to some place which has the facts on this case, i'd appreciate it. Anything relevant i have found out has been through comments to this blog, not through the media. That's how i found out that the student in question was a member of the Mi'kmaq nation, and that he was making a stand for his people. This fact was purposefully censored by the journalists who had this story in the media, or at least in the media i have access to.

    As to your point: yes, if he was roughed up by Indigenous youth it is different than if he was roughed up by white youths. But the "difference" doesn't make it right, or excusable, and nor does it make the medias dismissive attitude any less racist or right-wing - they trivialized his being "roughed up" in a way they never do when reporting on school violence in other contexts.

    Nor does the fact that some Indigenous students did not approve of his action mean that i approve of it any less. By not standing for the racist anthem, and for not standing for this colonialist country, he made a righteous stand.

    In other words: ge did the right thing.

  5. It's me anonamous #1. The facts so far are this. You won't find them. No one has stated he was making a stand. The school board won't tell anyone anything except that the teacher was suspended due to not letting the student back in class NOT for sending him to the office is the spin they have got on it. And I totally agree with you on that them saying he was "roughed up" was trivializing it. But that's what they do here. The schools, the media and the local authorities. I have been told of students who have been beaten here (some white and some native) and all the local authorities try to push in their heads about it is to not use any racial conversations with other students even though they know they were racially motivated beatings. It's a shame that this hasn't gone National through the media but it won't. The media needs facts for a story and these officials in "let's pretend land" won't give them any.

  6. The grade 9 student was only going to school because he was on probation........... GOOD KID..... ah? AND THAT IS A FACT!!!!!!!!!!

  7. there's lots about probation, school, incarceration and colonialism that could be said...

    but i'm tired so i'll stick to my initial reaction to the latest comment:


  8. I appreciate your opinion, although I do not share it - one of the good things about 'this thing' we live in.
    I do completely encourage people to reject all aspects of an evil 'nation' or whatever that the disagree with - and I do not believe people should be forced to particpate in rituals they disagree with... and I do not believe anyone should then be forced to use Canadian money, banks, social services, health care, cheques, voting privileges, postal service, roads, infrastructure, etc. Yes, I completely support anyone's right to secede from Canada - an uncle of mine was quite the hermit who wanted very little from the outside world - as long as they as honest about it. No one should be forced to go to school at any age... just don't expect me to care in 10 years if they change their mind and need support or education at that time. Canada is bad - and people should avoid bad things at all times.

    BTW: the internet in Canada was set up by the gov't. So sad I won't be able to read your blog anymore...

    (I have a blog too...)