Gurpreet Singh: Premier Christy Clark is underplaying racism

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      Premier Christy Clark's reaction to recent vandalism of election signs reflects the tendency of political leaders to underplay racism and a lack of will to face the truth. 

      Naomi Yamamoto and Bowinn Ma are female candidates of colour running for office in North Vancouver–Lonsdale. Yamamoto is the incumbent from the ruling B.C. Liberal party while Ma is a New Democrat.

      Their signs were defaced with swastika—a controversial symbol associated with Adolf Hitler and the Nazis. Police may or may not be able to find the people involved, but this cannot be a coincidence.

      Clark simply responded by saying “People do dumb stuff during campaigns.”

      That is the dumbest response to this situation from the leader of the province. How can she describe these incidents as "dumb" when we all know that the swastika represents a racist ideology and white supremacy?

      Perhaps she should have made a much stronger and assuring statement against bigots in our communities.

      Moreover, these episodes follows a spate of racist incidents in B.C. where hateful flyers have been distributed in different communities over the past several months. Ku Klux Klan messages were circulated in Abbotsford and Mission, whereas racist pamphlets targeting Chinese people were found in Richmond. 

      If this was not enough, a massacre took place in a Quebec City mosque in January leaving six people dead. Though the shooting happened in a different province, B.C. is not immune to horrific violence targeting religious institutions. In 1998, a caretaker at Surrey Sikh temple was murdered by neo-Nazis.

      It is believed that the alt-right movement and racial intolerance have grown across Canada since Donald Trump was elected as U.S. president. His victory and anti-immigrant rhetoric have emboldened white supremacists and given cover to racism.

      Several alt-right activists recently attacked antiracism activists in Vancouver in the presence of the police. 

      Interestingly, Clark has been criticizing Trump without naming him at different events, yet she failed to show leadership when it came to responding to racism in her own back yard.

      Probably, she and others in Canada falsely believe that we are more open and tolerant and that racism only exists in U.S. Never forget that blatant racism existed in Canada time and again, and our leaders have apologized for the historical wrongs.

      Alt-right activists set off a smoke bomb last month at an antiracism rally in Vancouver.
      Gabriel Yiu

      Trump is only a symptom and not the cause of the problem. And it is this state of denial that gives room to bigots, like Trump, to gradually grow unchallenged and then capture the public space when the appropriate moment comes.

      The entire political leadership in B.C. should recognize that what happened in North Vancouver-Lonsdale cannot be delinked from other racist incidents that have occurred ever since Trump was elected. A pattern speaks for itself and all we need is strong leadership to deal with this menace.

      Ironically, our leadership keeps talking about the racist history of the province but lacks courage to face it and challenge it in the present. Recognition of historic wrongs is not enough if we cannot ensure that history won’t repeat itself.

      Gurpreet Singh is a Georgia Straight contributor and a founder of Radical Desi. He's working on a book tentatively titled Canada's 9/11: Lessons from the Air India Bombings