even politicians slip up

by Mr.Awesome on October 20, 2015 - 5:12pm

 cbc radio show Friday September 18, 2015

Mi'kmaq elder calls Harper's 'old stock Canadians' offensive and racist

 

Last night's federal leaders debate was about the economy. But, today, many people who watched it are focusing on Stephen Harper's use of the phrase "old stock Canadians. "The Conservative leader used the phrase when speaking about cuts to refugee health care, saying that both new immigrants and "old-stock" Canadians agreed with his stance. The use of the term quickly trended across social media, drawing confusion from many. Earlier today, Harper defined the term saying it referred to "Canadians who have been the descendants of immigrants for one or more generations." He also defended his stance on health care. Regardless, Mi'kmaq elder Stephen Augustine says the term is "offensive and racist. There are Canadians and I just like to refer to them as Canadians," he tells As it Happens host Carol Off. "I think our health-care system should be available to anyone who is in Canada regardless of their origin." Augustine is Dean of the Unama'ki College at Cape Breton University. He's also a Hereditary Chief of the Sigenigtog District Mi'kmawey Mawiomi. He has been at the forefront of a push to bring more Syrian refugees to Canada. "It's a matter of sovereignty that we should exercise to help desperate families running on the road with their children," he says. "It's totally inhumane what has happened to them trying to escape oppression and violence." Augustine says that Canada's indigenous people have a long history of welcoming people from around the world. "We have a long tradition of opening our doors and sharing our food and resources to people who are in need. We've always done that," he says. "I'm talking about John Cabot, Jacques Cartier, Samuel de Champlain … All these people arrived here … and the Mi'kmaq opened their arms and welcomed them and said 'you are our brothers.'"  Now, more than ever, he says that tradition should continue. Augustine is calling on other First Nations leaders to help out with the refugee crisis.  "I'm issuing a challenge to them to step up to the plate and ask the government to open its doors and let us welcome these refugees to our territories," he says. "This is our treaty right to be able to welcome new citizens."

 

Response:

 

Even professionals experience racial slip-ups

 

            Professionals, or even people that are responsible for being a voice on behalf of a majority, sometimes slip up and show racist tendencies. This article, being more a summary of a cbc radio show performed by Carol Off and Jeff Douglas on Friday September 18th 2015, describes an interview with Stephen Harper and Stephen Augustine. This interview describes racist comments derived from Harper in regard to Stephen Augustine, who is an elder chief of the Sigenigtog district Mi’kmawey Mawiomi as well as the Dean of the Unama’ki College at Cape Breton University. Using the term old stock Canadians to describe anyone of Indian decent as well as Indian themselves, during the times of colonization and discovery. Such statements rapidly created negative reactions on twitter as well as other social media outlets forcing Harper to publicly apologize for his indiscretion, while reiterating his stance of refugee health-care. Even during his public apology, Harper still stood by what he said using the term old stock Canadian a second time, as well as attempted to make his position on health-care even clearer. Augustine goes on to explain that he should not be so racist and that he should be open minded when dealing with refugees, and their needs. Augustine goes on to portray his view on the matter by demonstrating his opinion, saying that were are Canadians, not old stock Canadians, just,  “we are Canadians”.

 

            Race in itself is a subjective, cultural creation used to separate and define such separation of society. As Augustine states, “We have a long tradition of opening our doors and sharing our food and resources to people who are in need. We've always done that," he says. "I'm talking about John Cabot, Jacques Cartier, Samuel de Champlain … All these people arrived here … and the Mi'kmaq opened their arms and welcomed them and said 'you are our brothers.'"(Carol Off and Jeff Douglas) Audrey Smedley goes on to explain that [during times of indefinite peace, and the dawn of expansion, different populations traveled to distant lands, were received with hospitality, to which they traded with eachother, intermingled, married and even spread cultural knowledge from region to region”. (Audrey Smedley. Par 3) Such demonstrates that Race is socially constructed, as society was not always as barbaric in concordance with racism. Stephen Harper was Elected to be a representative of the people of Canada, all of its people, including those that were the former soul inhabitants of Canada. To say something as such, not only attracts negative attention to himself, but rather to society, as a majority elected him to represent us. To Refer to Indians as Old stock Canadians is, in my humble opinion, very racist, and should never be acceptable in no matter what domain the subject is currently talking/debating about. The fact that Harper goes on to discuss the foreign policy on how refugees should not get equal healthcare, in my opinion, puts him in a double jeopardy, as he used racist terminology during such a speech, could potentially show a hidden bias towards the situation. Harper only uses one term in the speech at hand, so to base the previous off of that, it is not enough evidence to support any actual claims but it is indeed enough to create controversy as well as a subject worth discussing.  To conclude, regardless of the situation or professional position you’re in, racist comments should always be kept to yourself. Society was not always as barbaric as racism sometimes makes us out to be. There is no excuse for racism, as it will always be viewed as disrespectful. We need to forget the ideology of race, and go back to a way of life, living by what Augustine previously stated ”we are all just Canadians”.

Comments

I chose to comment on this post because I think it is a very relevant issue especially considering how it happened in Canada and involved our very own prime minister at the time. I agree that referring to Native Canadians as old stock Canadians is racist however; I do not believe the Prime Minister meant it in a racist or patronizing manner. As you said, race is a very subjective cultural creation; Harper probably did not think what he was saying was racist nor did he mean it in a discriminatory manner. From my experience, people often do not realize when something they say can be taken as discriminatory or offend people in a racist manner. So many people get offended by many different things. It is very difficult for anyone, let alone the Prime Minister, to naturally voice their opinion without being offensive to someone. At the end of the day, even though he was the Prime Minister of Canada, he is still a human being that makes mistakes like the rest of us. That being said, if my thoughts on the matter are wrong and he did in fact mean it in racist way, what does that reflect about Canadian society and our views on different cultures?