Growing up in the apartheid-plagued South Africa, Prema Arsiradam’s childhood was steeped in institutional racism.
“There are still systems of oppression embedded in our society and in our laws that privilege some and disadvantage others,” she shared.
“In Canada, there is racism against people of colour, immigrants, and above all racism against aboriginal people.”
The Canadian government’s denial of treaty rights have affected the quality of life of its aboriginal people, including inferior educational funding and the denial of the right to protect their land, air and water.
Eliciting applause from her audience, Arsiradam said that Bill C-51 is further evidence of the government’s systemic racism.
“Aboriginal people will be severely affected,” she said. “If this law is passed, it means that anybody demonstrating — for example, against pipelines destroying First Nations land, opposing pollution of water and land through toxic waste disposal, and protesting against fracking can be charged with committing an act of terrorism.”
Prince Albert MP Randy Hoback said earlier this month that peaceful protests will not fall under Bill C-51’s wing, however the anti-terrorist bill’s vague wording has created some doubts.
There are still systems of oppression embedded in our society and in our laws that privilege some and disadvantage others. Prema Arsiradam
The bill is poised to classify activities that affect the “economic or financial stability of Canada” as terrorism, calling to question protests against things such as natural resource extraction.
It’s not just Bill C-51 that has Canadians concerned, Prince Albert Multicultural Council executive director Shayne Lazarowich shared.
While certain MPs in the federal government strive to “use fear and irrationality to shape our national debate for their own political gains,” he noted that Canadians need to stand up against federal MPs who represent us.
New Brunswick MP John Williamson has faced recent criticism for using the terms “whities” and “brown people” while criticizing the temporary foreign workers program.
Ontario MP Larry Miller recently said that those who refuse to remove their niquab while swearing their citizenry oath should “stay the hell where they came from.”
“We need to say no to these people and their attempts to use inflammatory rhetoric to divide us,” Lazarowich said.
“We need to say no to racism, to fear-mongering and hate.”
Spread a more positive message, Arsiradam encouraged.
“Racism is so pervasive — so spread out and common that it is often perceived as normal,” she said. “But, solutions to address racism must be pervasive, spread out and common, too, as racism itself.”
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