Letters and Editorials 1095 Views Peter Tremblay

Bloc Quebecois leader should be apologizing for Alain Therrien's racist conduct

The hot topic of systemic racism just got a lot hotter in Canada this month after MP Alain Therrien, made a dismissive gesture at NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh during a recent parliamentary proceeding. At the proceeding, Singh had attempted to pass a motion to stop RCMP discrimination.

Singh later described  MP Therrien’s gesture as a racist brush-off of his concerns about police brutality and discrimination and had called the MP a racist right there in the middle of the proceedings. This action got Singh tossed out of the House of Commons for the rest of the day for breaching parliamentary rules, not before Singh was asked to apologize to Terrien and of course, refused.

Speaking to reporters after the incident, the party whip member for the Bloc Québécois Claude DeBellefeuille, quoted on Flare, stated: “I do not believe that a leader of a party can, here, treat another member of this House, call them racist because we don’t approve the motion that was just moved. The NDP unabashedly is treating the member of La Prairie as a racist person and this is unacceptable in this House.” She went further to accuse Singh of defamation, asking that he apologize.

However, rather than demand for an apology from Singh, shouldn’t the Bloc Quebecois leader be taking action against Alain Terrain for blocking a critical motion to hold the RCMP accountable.

Below are the details of the NDP motion proposed by Singh as quoted on Rabble:

That the House recognize that there is systemic racism in the RCMP, as several Indigenous people have died at the hands of the RCMP in recent months, and call on the government to:

1.  Review the nearly $10 million per day RCMP budget and the RCMP Act.

2.  Increase non-police investments in non-violent intervention, de-escalation, and mental health and addiction supports.

3. Ensure that the RCMP is truly accountable to the public.

4. Release all RCMP incidents of use of force reports and the associated settlement costs; and

5. Immediately launch a full review of the use of force by the RCMP, including reviewing the tactics and the training that is given to RCMP officers in dealing with the public. ​

While it is extremely difficult to think of many other believable reasons (asides racism) why someone would oppose a motion to end racism, DeBellefeuille, issued a news release claiming thatTherrien voted nay to the motion because there is a parliamentary committee already tasked with studying racism in the RCMP and the Bloc does not want to prejudge its work.

Singh however told reporters he does not think a committee would be adequate, in light of recent events involving cases of police brutality, killings and racism among blacks and indigenous people in Canada.

As is to be expected the incident had elicited quite a response from other members of parliament and the general public, with some MPs making an effort to downplay the incident.

For instance, according to a report on National Observer, Bloc leader, Yves-François Blanchet recently attempted to dismiss Terrien’s gesture as too vague to mean anything.

“How could someone interpret, or imagine the way someone looks at somebody else, or a gesture, which nobody seems to remember?” he said. “Who is entitled to say, ‘Oh, he moved his hand in such a way, and this means this or that?'”

Blanchet alsoattempted to make up his own definition of systemic racism.

“Systemic racism — I’ve come up with my own definition. Perhaps I’m a wannabe anthropologist.” Blanchet told reporters.

According to Blanchet, systemic racism is “a residual effect that is found in some institutions, and results in conduct in those institutions”

Blanchet insists that while “there are individuals that are racist, one should avoid saying that all individuals in that particular group are racist.”

If someone “fully, deeply believes that systemic racism does not exist within our institutions,” he admonished, “it does not mean that that person is a racist.”

However, one question still remains unanswered: Why would someone choose to believe that systemic racism does not exist within our institutions in the face of overwhelming everyday evidence that proves it does?


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