Black Lives Matter – Toronto, the self proclaimed “coalition of Black Torontonians resisting anti-Black racism, state-sponsored violence, police brutality,” issued on February 9, 2017 a statement defending the use of the term “white supremacy” in connection to the policies of the current federal governments in Canada and the US.
Without mentioning her name, BLM TO backs in fact its co-founder Yusra Khogali who came under fire following her latest controversial statement in which she called prime minister Justin Trudeau “a liar, hypocrite, white supremacist, terrorist.”
In an op-ed on huffingtonpost.ca, James Di Fiore, a film producer and political pundit, called on Khogali to resign from her leadership position at Black Lives Matter. “So when an individual at the helm of what could be a transformative movement distracts the public with hate, it is time for that individual to go,” wrote Di Fiore. “And if she really believes black lives matter, that’s exactly what she will do. Because optics matter, too.”
BLM TO’s statement accuses the Harper government of purposely targeting Muslims with the “Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices” law (banning early and forced marriage) and Bill C-51 (giving more powers to security agencies in the war on terror). Trudeau government is portrayed by BLM TO as in fact white supremacist because of its failure to repeal this legislation and its pandering to the “white supremacist” Trump Administration while ignoring the suffering of Muslims world-wide as a result of “increased acts of terror against Muslim people by white supremacists.”
BLM TO also provided its definition of “white supremacy” which includes among other things the “refusing to eradicate racist laws like Bill C-51, inaction on a police forces that terrorize Black and Indigenous people, inaction on the continued modern-day enslavement of people from the Caribbean… [and] policies that inflict terror on innocent civilians worldwide, from Yemen to Iraq, Somalia to Syria.”
In a previous statement (June 14, 2016), the “Black Torontonians” identified white supremacy, patriarchy, capitalism, and militarism as the “enemy” and blamed these four forces of responsibility for creating terrorism and homophobia:
It is with pain and heartache that the Black Lives Matter Network extends love, light, protection, and abundance to our family in Orlando, Florida. We love you. Black people are a diverse community, and though the hate-filled rhetoric of the conservative right is currently trying to pit us against our kin — we will always stand with all the parts of ourselves. Today, Queer, Latinx, and Muslim family, we lift you up.To honor our dead, and fight like hell for the living, we need a new vision for safety that prioritizes human rights and does not facilitate deadly violence. We need a world that realizes that the word “terrorist” is not synonymous with Muslim, any more than “criminal” is synonymous with Black. The enemy is now and has always been the four threats of white supremacy, patriarchy, capitalism, and militarism. These forces and not Islam create terrorism. These forces, and not queerness, create homophobia. These forces unleash destruction primarily on those who are Trans, and queer, and brown and Black, and we are the first to experience its’ violence. These forces create the conditions for our dehumanization and our death, and we will hold them to account, no matter whose face they may wear. Until these systems are defeated, until anti-Blackness no longer fuels anti-Muslim and anti-queer and trans bigotry, exploitation, and exclusion — we can never be truly free. But, we believe that we will win.
The following is the text of BLM TO’s latest statement (February 9, 2017):
Recently, in Canada, there was a national debate on banning “the veil” prominent in the election period targeting Muslims. The Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices law was passed, complete with a tipline; again, targeting Muslims. was passed into law, a broad crackdown on individual freedoms; again, targeting Muslims.
Two weeks ago, the new regime in the White House implemented a travel ban and suspension of the refugee program; again, targeting Muslims. Two days later, on January 29th, 6 Muslim people were heinously murdered while they worshipped. While they prayed.
On January 31, 2017, the House of Commons held a debate about what policies should change in the wake of the American travel ban.
The Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, did not attend.
In fact, Trudeau’s only gesture was a toothless platitude of 140 characters. There has been zero follow-through, amendments, or repeal of the policies that would make this possible.
Justin Trudeau’s priority was not the Muslim people in his country and globally whose lives have been interrupted by these new policies, whose hearts have been traumatized by increased acts of terror against Muslim people by white supremacists. To the contrary, the day of Trump’s executive order, Trudeau’s administration issued a notice through the CIC ending the policy to sponsor Syrian and Iraqi refugees by the Groups of Five/Community sponsors programs.
Justin Trudeau’s priority was ensuring that the consciously white supremacist people running the White House were not antagonized.
It is with this context that on Saturday, tens of thousands of people took to the streets from coast to coast to call on the federal government and the prime minister to actually act and to say no to Islamophobia white supremacy and implicit support for Trump’s white supremacist, and terror-filled policies.
Let’s be clear on what white supremacist means.
It may be a sensational term for some of you because it is often reduced to images of hooded fanaticals and swastikas. But it’s much more than that. Divorce yourself from the pretense of the term.
White supremacy describes any process or person that works to elevate white people in society above everyone else, therefore believing that non-white people deserve unequal access, differential laws, disenfranchisement, and violence.
Sometimes white supremacy does look like hooded fanaticals. But most of the time, it looks a lot less insidious.
White supremacy looks like promising heaven and earth to Indigenous people to get elected, refusing to adopt the policy changes you promised, and then offensively claiming that the most urgent need of Indigenous youth in this country is canoe storage.
White Supremacy looks like refusing to eradicate racist laws like Bill C-51, inaction on a police forces that terrorize Black and Indigenous people, inaction on the continued modern-day enslavement of people from the Caribbean who pick the food that we eat, and inaction on legislation helping migrants whose lives have been interrupted by the White House’s new policies.
White Supremacy looks like policies that inflict terror on innocent civilians worldwide, from Yemen to Iraq, Somalia to Syria.
Sometimes, it looks like politicians who decide that keeping white supremacists happy is more important than protecting the people they claim to represent.
The consequences to racialized people are still devastating.
Building a just society requires nuance, compassion, understanding and openness. It also includes having uncomfortable conversations about politicians role in implicitly enforcing policies rooted in white supremacy.
We have never been the ones to refrain from using speech because white people are uncomfortable when they hear it. And we never will.
Change can be arduous, but we are committed to the process. Are you with us, fam?
Black Lives Matter – Toronto
The demands, in case you forgot or were led astray. Here’s hoping for some public discussion on this:
1) The Canadian government to make an immediate public condemnation of the executive order by President Trump that bans Muslim visa-holders from seven countries and also bans all refugees from entering the US.
2) Canada to immediately open the Canada-US border.
This includes revocation of the Safe Third Country Agreement which bars most refugee claimants entering from the United States over land to claim asylum in Canada. The Designated Country of Origin list, which makes it almost impossible for US citizens and citizens of forty other countries to claim asylum in Canada, must be eliminated.
3) Canada to end racist, anti-refugee, anti-Black, Islamophobic exclusion of migrants and refugees within this colonial border.
This includes ending the system of indefinite immigration detention. The federal government must create a regularization program so that all undocumented residents can live here with their families rather than fear mass deportation. Migrant workers in Canada must also be given permanent status and open work permits. We want real, not symbolic, Sanctuaries that guarantee access to services and refuse collaboration with Canadian and American border agents.
4) Canada to rescind all federal legislation that attacks racialized Black and Brown Muslims and refugees, including the Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act as well as anti-terror legislation such as Security Certificates and Bill C51.