“In my view, there is no racism in Canada.” So stated Senator Beyak, quoted in Shelby Ch'ng's letter of April 10 in the Fort Frances Times. Please allow me to share an example of racism I witnessed.
On Sept. 13, 2017 while sitting vigil at a hospital deathbed, I took a meal break at the Canasian Family Restaurant in Fort Frances. Present was one employee, an Asian immigrant man, and one customer—a Caucasian Canadian man.
As I began eating, the customer began a vitriolic diatribe against Indigenous peoples. Worn down by the events of my day, I debated what to do. I did not want to keep silent, but experience has taught me, a Caucasian woman, that I could expect a reply of the “Shut up, bitch” variety.
I wish I could say I bravely and eloquently defied him, but this is what happened; I waited to see what the employee did, but perhaps he was too shocked or maybe, like me, he felt intimidated by the speaker being a white man.
The rant continued.
Finally I got up, said I was leaving and asked the employee to pack up my meal.
At the till, my hands shaking so badly I could barely handle the debit card, I to the employee, “I don't like racism with my dinner.”
He said, “Sorry.”
I replied, “It's not your fault. He makes me ashamed to be a white person,” whereupon I left.
I think this tale in penny-ante stuff compared to what Indigenous and other oppressed peoples must endure. That there is no racism in Canada, be it of the personal or systemic and institutional varieties is, I am certain, a luxurious fiction in which only white people can indulge.
I continue to ponder this incident and hope that by sharing it, possibly it may become a vehicle for constructive thought, dialogue and action.