RE: Reflection on a fair country

I read Geoffrey Hill&rsquo;s column in the Oct. 3 issue of <em>Imprint</em> with a fair bit of disbelief and more than a small amount of disgust. The column regurgitates the narrative of Canadian history taught in elementary and high schools across the country without any regard for the facts this narrative fails to include. Hill claims that Canada, despite its many dichotomies, is a fair and just country because &ldquo;we are a people comfortable with complexity and uncertainty.&rdquo; While I cannot speak to the individual Canadian&rsquo;s level of comfort with complexity, this argument is irrelevant. The state of Canada is not, and indeed has never been either fair or just.

In 2013, the UN Right to Food Envoy reported that despite Canada&rsquo;s status as a developed nation, over 800,000 households within Canada, particularly those in Aboriginal communities cannot access a nutritional diet.

Last week, student groups at UW held a panel event on settler-colonialism. Among the topics discussed was Canada&rsquo;s current and historical role as a settler-colonial state. One of the panelists, Dr. Dalee Sambo Dorough, vice chairperson of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous People, spoke about the Conference on Indigenous Peoples that took place at a special UN General Assembly in September. At the assembly, Canada was the only country to raise objections over a landmark document re-establishing the protection of the rights of indigenous peoples. A fair and just country indeed.

Rising tuition costs across Canada are making higher education increasingly unattainable for many students. In 2012, the Canadian government cut healthcare for refugees. Canada is the only country in the world without a limit on the length of time for which migrants can be detained. Canadian mining companies extract resources all over the world with blatant disregard for environmental and labour standards. In 2012, Canada was one of only nine nations in the world to vote against granting Palestine non-member observer status at a United Nations General Assembly. A fair and just country indeed. Shall I continue?

My point, in case you haven&rsquo;t caught on: Canada is by no means a fair and just country. And making this claim is incredibly offensive to the millions of people within Canada and across the world whose lives have been harmed by the actions of the Canadian state. Additionally, claiming that Canada is a fair and just nation furthers a harmful narrative which has allowed Canada to commit incredible acts of injustice for the entirety of its existence. The vision of Canada as a peacekeeping nation is used by the Canadian state to hide actions that the vast majority of Canadians would strongly oppose.

Feelings of nationalism seem to be instinctual, but such feelings should be based on facts and not on one-sided historical narratives that ignore Canada&rsquo;s status domestically and its role internationally.<br />
As Canadian citizens and residents, we should also expect better from our country and our governments. If we are interested in showing pride in Canada, we should show it not by ignoring history but by holding Canada to a higher standard than we currently do. While I strongly disagree with the claim that Canada is currently a fair and just country, there are many efforts underway to change this. Idle No More and the 2012 Quebec student strikes are two national examples of efforts to hold Canada to a higher standard. There are also many similar movements happening on a smaller scale, such as a campaign to raise the minimum wage in Ontario. Even on our campus there are many students organizing to improve the fairness of both our campus and our country.

All of these movements, both local and national are working towards a more just society rather than simply claiming that we already exist in one. Hill&rsquo;s claims are not merely false, they are representative of a school of thought that hinders these movements from affecting social change and achieving a fair and just society.&nbsp;


Filzah Nasir
3B Environmental Engineering