Vicky Mochama: The voice of Metro News.
Vicky Mochama: Celina Caesar-Chavannes was right. Bernier does need to check his privilege.
Canadian legislative history has insisted on division and injustice. A handful of money for arts and sports does not divide, writes Vicky Mochama. Imperfectly and insufficiently, it helps to heal and correct.
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Two Parliamentarians got into it over the government’s decision to put several million dollars towards Black and racialized communities in Canada.
Conservative MP Maxime Bernier took issue with the use of the word “racialized” in a tweet by Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen. Bernier wrote, “...What’s the purpose of this awful jargon? To create more division for the Liberals to exploit?”
In response, Liberal MP and parliamentary secretary Celina-Cesar Chavannes exhorted him to do his Googles and read a bit more, adding, “Please check your privilege and be quiet.”
Before I continue, just know: there is no dignity on these Twitter streets. Political Twitter is a bar fight for people who have early bedtimes. It is both an asset and a flaw.
Case in point, Bernier’s response: "Edifying comments from a distinguished member of the HoC. 'Please check your privilege and be quiet.' You are aware we live in a democracy with free speech as one of its building blocks, right?”
Chastened, Cesar-Chavannes attempted an apology, which from a politician usually only comes before a resignation or after a headline that leads to a resignation.
She wrote, "I am not too big to admit when I am wrong. Limiting discussion on this important issue by telling you to be quiet was not cool.” She proceeded to invite him to meet in person to discuss further. Bernier declined.
Unlike the lie we tell to children, no one has to accept an apology. But I do think you should only say Sorry when you mean it. In all honesty Cesar-Chavannes was right: Bernier should have checked his privilege and stayed quiet.
In a later tweet, he wrote that the use of categories around race, gender and sexuality in the creation of policy “only creates more division and injustice and will balkanise our society.” What a horrifically short history of Canada he possesses.
Over the last few years, Canada has apologized for residential schools, the Komagata Maru, the treatment of LGBTQ members of the RCMP and armed forces and the head tax on Chinese immigrants.
Canadian legislative history has insisted on division and injustice. A handful of money for arts and sports does not divide. Imperfectly and insufficiently, it helps to heal and correct.
As a French-Canadian, Bernier has benefited from a seriousness of attention that Black people, racialized people, the queer community and Indigenous folks continue to fight for.
Failing to see race is a failure to see history and how it shapes the present.
Identifying Black and racialized communities doesn’t create division. But politicians who’d prefer that no one pay attention to them just might.