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LUSU Releases Statement in Solidarity with Indigenous Rights Activist and Student Union Leader

During the summer of 2017, Masuma Khan, activist and student at Dalhousie University put forth a motion for the Dal Student’s Union to boycott Canada 150 celebrations. The boycott motion was a statement of DSU’s solidarity with the Indigenous people of Nova Scotia and Canada as a whole. It had no specific consequences for the campus, as the student union is not open on Canada Day. Yet Khan nonetheless faced backlash and harassment for her solidarity move. PC: Justin Tang – Canadian Press Ongoing backlash to Canada 150 criticism shows that Canada’s history has been systematically sugar coated, leaving most of us clueless about the destruction that settler colonialism caused for our First Nations, Metis and Inuit citizens. This sugarcoating of historical facts in the Canadian education system recently went viral: a textbook nonchalantly stating that Indigenous people “happily” made room for settlers. It is no wonder, with our delusion about this country’s history seen through rose coloured glasses, that so many Canadians remain ignorant to the way Canada was founded: on Indigenous land, at the violent expense of Indigenous people. Colonialism is not just responsible for the initial founding of Canada, but acts as a system that continues to marginalize vulnerable citizens. Those invested in current power dynamics will go to great lengths in avoiding discussion of Canada’s violence, abuse, and marginalization. This is how the hierarchies of power remain dominant and avoid being challenged: they dehumanize and invalidate the people who seek justice.

General ignorance to the violent history of Canada is not without consequence. It means that we alienate, judge, and dismiss calls to action from activists like Khan who are speaking truthfully about the conditions still affecting Indigenous people today. Following the outcry due to the DSU’s Canada 150 opposition, Khan posted a Facebook rant using the term ‘white fragility’ in reference to the abusive critics targeting her boycott. This term, coined by Robin DiAngelo, expresses white people’s discomfort and lack of stamina when dealing with racially focused conversations. It makes sense. We do not face daily harassment to remind us we are ‘white’. We are simply the viewed as the average, and proceed with confidence that our identity is accepted and valued by society. This average has been reinforced and protected through 150 years of violence against minority groups. This violence means that racialized groups are still commonly viewed as ‘the other’, and heightened fear of ‘the other’ is propagated through a variety of means. Take for example, the Quebec face-covering ban, which perpetuates racist and Islamophobic ideas of who might be hiding under a hijab or burqa. (Hint: a normal woman trying to live her life.) PC: THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO – Meghan Tansey Whitton It’s not new to see calls for social change being perceived by the status quo as “divisive.” Including the hashtags “#Unlearn150,” “#White fragility can kiss my ass,” and “#Your white tears aren’t sacred, this land is,” it makes sense why Khan’s post about white fragility enraged so many.

Political speech like this is aimed to challenge systemic power and it is our right as Canadians to express our opinions without fearing prosecution. When Dalhousie announced they were investigating Khan’s post as a result of formal complaints, the Dal legal department promptly wrote a letter expressing their dismay at the news. They reiterated that Khan’s words were protected under Canada’s freedom of speech laws, and the pending disciplinary action against Khan was unlawful. They went on to state that “ Encouraging speech which challenges us as a community to […]

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