A mostly youthful throng estimated at more than 15,000 people braved the coronavirus pandemic yesterday evening to join the Fight for Equity rally against racism at the Alberta Legislature in Edmonton.
The rally was organized in response the public murder of George Floyd, an African American man, at the hands of Minneapolis police officers on Monday, which set off a week of demonstrations across the United States and throughout the world.
The size of the crowd is a telling sign of how troubled young people are by the institutionalized racism that continues to plague many countries — including Canada.
Yes, things are terrible in the United States right now. But we owe it to our country to stop pretending systemic racism is just an American problem, and to quit engaging in racism denial as so many people on this side of the Canada-U.S. border seem so stubbornly inclined to do.
It was much more than this, of course, but the huge, peaceful and mostly socially distanced crowd delivered a telling rebuke to Alberta Energy Minister Sonya Savage’s fatuous recent claim that, thanks to COVID-19, “now is great time to be building a pipeline because you can’t have protests of more than 15 people.”
As the last few days all over the world should have made clear even to Alberta’s United Conservative Party, if the cause is important enough, Canadians will rally for what they believe is right even during a pandemic.
It is also worth noting that had the UCP’s so-called Critical Infrastructure Defence Act passed by the Legislature last Thursday been proclaimed into law, the entire demonstration could have been declared illegal with a snap of Premier Jason Kenney’s fingers, its leaders and participants jailed and heavily fined for exercising rights guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
After all, what infrastructure could be more essential from the perspective of a career professional politician like Mr. Kenney than the Legislature Building itself, and the public parks, public square, and public sidewalks that surround it? And the legislation allows the cabinet to declare anything it fancies to be critical infrastructure.
To give Mr. Kenney his due, he acknowledged yesterday in one of his Twitter homilies that institutional racism is real in Canada. But his invitation not so long ago to white nationalist Faith Goldy that she would always be welcome in Alberta suggests the premier may still have some work to do on this file. As far as I know, it has never been retracted or explained.
Mr. Kenney should note that the longstanding Alberta habit of shrugging off inappropriate comments about race by prominent Alberta Conservatives seems to be coming to a much overdue end.
Former Alberta cabinet minister and Canadian Alliance leader Stockwell Day found himself in hot water Tuesday after denying on a CBC commentary program that systemic racism exists in Canada. Mr. Day apologized, but soon got the bum’s rush from both his generously compensated gig on the Telus Corp. Board and his role as a Power & Politics commentator.
Mr. Day probably would have gotten away with it had he not compared being a victim of racism to his experience as a child of being teased for wearing glasses. You have to shake your head at this remarkable lack of perspective, for which even his profuse apology could not compensate.
Also last week, Calgary reality TV personality and oilpatch billionaire W. Brett Wilson found himself under attack for accusing Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi of playing “the race card” in a debate over the city’s Green Line public transportation project, which Mr. Wilson opposes.
Mr. Wilson, who is notorious for tweets calling for environmental activists to be hanged for treason, has apologized to Mayor Nenshi.
But Royal Roads University in Victoria, which granted Mr. Wilson an honorary degree in 2010, yesterday afternoon tweeted a statement saying it “has been deeply disturbed by the comments made on social media by Mr. Wilson. Such comments are inconsistent with RRU’s values and the president’s recent statement on anti-racism. … We are considering our next steps in this matter.”
Readers will recall the outrage among Alberta Conservatives, including Mr. Kenney, when the University of Alberta granted an honorary degree to broadcaster, environmental activist and scientist David Suzuki.
Despite their similar political views, under the circumstances Mr. Wilson probably shouldn’t expect Mr. Kenney to rush to his defence.
On this D-Day anniversary, don’t forget Russia’s vast accomplishment in the east
Today is the 76th anniversary of the D-Day invasion. Slightly less than a year later Hitler was dead and Germany had fallen.
Normally on this date, I remind readers that, despite the heroism and vast historic importance of the Allied landings in Normandy on June 6, 1944, we would probably still be fighting there, or worse, were it not for the valour and vast sacrifice of the Red Army in the east.
Like U.S. President Donald Trump, who tweeted last month on the anniversary of the German surrender in May 1945 that “America and Great Britain had victory over the Nazis,” it is now strangely easy in the amnesiac West to forget that if the Allies in the West were the hammer that stuck Hitler’s armies, the Russians were the anvil on which they were crushed.
About 80 per cent of the German Army’s casualties were inflicted by the Red Army, which after June 1944 cleared the Wehrmacht from Eastern Europe, wiped out an entire German Army Group and opened the road to Berlin. We should never forget this when we rightly celebrate our own accomplishments fighting fascism.