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.


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