Black hockey players, aboriginals, gays nixed from Canada’s new bills

“The Bank of Canada considered celebrating gay marriages, black hockey players, and turban-wearing RCMP officers on its new plastic bank notes”

by: Obert Madondo  | Published Fed 11, 2013

Bank of Canada's new and "whitewashed" $100 bill.

Bank of Canada’s new and “whitewashed” $100 bill.

And so the Harper Conservative-inspired whitewashing of Canada continues.

Last summer, we learned that the Bank of Canada had nixed the image of an Asian-looking female scientist from its new $100 polymer banknote “after focus groups raised questions about her ethnicity.” Apparently, members of the “focus groups” had objected because they felt that her ethnicity wasn’t representative of Canada. Now The Canadian Press is reporting that the bank has nixed the images of non-whites and gays from it’s new series of $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100 polymer bills as well.

A very ugly racist game is on here. It’s taxpayer-funded.

The $100 focus group consultations, conducted in Toronto, Fredericton, Calgary and Montreal, cost Canadian taxpayers $53,000. Respondents “were especially critical of the choice of an Asian for the largest denomination”. One focus group respondent, a quintessential ugly Canadian from Fredericton, commented: “The person on it appears to be of Asian descent which doesn’t rep(resent) Canada. It is fairly ugly.”

In response to the racist feedback, the bank replaced the Asian women with someone from a “neutral ethnicity”. A Caucasian.

For the new $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100 bills, the bank paid Strategic Counsel, a market research company, $476,000 to come up with images that reflect our “diversity, inclusiveness, acceptance of others/multiculturalism”. It requested “currency images intended in part to reflect the diversity of Canada’s population, particularly the country’s varied ethnic character.”

From The Canadian Press:

Images that were considered included a Chinese dragon parade, the swearing in of a new citizen, Toronto’s annual Caribbean festival, children of different ethnic backgrounds playing hockey or building a snowman, and a person in a wheelchair playing basketball…

Drawing on focus-group discussions and workshops with Canadians in six cities, the consultant found strong support for themes of “diversity, inclusiveness, acceptance of others/multiculturalism.” Eventually, 41 image ideas covering several themes were tested and given scores.

Among the highest-rated images were those of children of different ethnic backgrounds building a snowman; faces of individuals from different cultures celebrating Canada Day; an image of a hand of many colours; and children of different ethnic backgrounds playing hockey. These selections were then presented by the Bank of Canada team to officials at Finance Canada for further vetting.

The bank nixed all of the suggested images “in favour of the more traditional images of a train, a ship and a monument.” Aboriginal art was rejected because “enough had been done by way of promoting aboriginal art” already. So much for images speaking to our “diversity, inclusiveness, acceptance of others/multiculturalism”. To Canada’s “varied ethnic character.”

Again, bank officials have offered the same tired excuse of opting for “neutral ethnicity” for their racist decisions. An insulting excuse that would have us believing that the bank always avoids “depicting any particular ethnic group when including people as representative images of a theme on a bank note.”

The truth is: these people used a taxpayer-funded public consultation process to mask their racial prejudices. To play their race card in broad daylight. And yet, their naked racism is an enabled one. Enabled and nurtured by the dirty politics of divide-and-rule under Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the Conservatives. The politics of pitting “Canadians” against vulnerable minority groups.  Racial caste is alive and well in Canada.

A few examples:

  • Last summer, Canada’s white supremacists saluted Harper after the Conservative majority in the House of Commons passed Bill C-304 by 153 votes to 136. The private members’ bill by Alberta Conservative backbencher, Brian Storseth, repeals Canada’s hate speech laws. It scraps Section 13 of the Human Rights Act, which bans Internet or telephone-based hate speech. It strips the Human Rights Commission of its ability to rule on hate speech cases. Most importantly, Bill C-304 relieves the commission of the power to shut down hate-mongering websites. The Canadian Bar Association (CBA) and other opponents called the passage of the bill an attack on the Canadian Human Rights Commission and the Act.
  • Recently, Rob Ford, the rabidly right-wing Mayor of Toronto, Canada’s most racially-diverse city, proposed exiling Toronto’s convicted criminals. Most of whom tend to be persons of color. Ford knows that. Then we learned that Ford had posed for a photograph with a white supremacist, Jon Latvis, during the 2012 New Year’s Levee at City Hall. Latvis is a member of the neo-Nazi band RAHOWA (Racial Holy War).
  • The Harper Government recently sponsored billboards in Miskolc, Hungary, targeting Roma (Gypsy) asylum-seekers. The advertisements dissuade the persecuted Roma ethnic community from trying to emigrate to Canada. Hindus termed the taxpayer-funded billboards as “highly inappropriate and blatant racism.”
  • Earlier this year, Harper’s immigrant-bashing minister of Immigration and Multiculturalism, Jason Kenney, introduced draconian cuts to health benefits for refugees, including coverage for pre-natal care. The majority of refugee seekers are persons of color, trauma survivors and other vulnerable people. The Canadian Medical Association Journal warned that the cuts, implemented through the government’s Bill C-31, posed serious mental health risks for refugees.  Kenney, the Conservative MP for Calgary South East who is also positioning himself to succeed Harper as Canada’s prime minister, then posted a petition on his website – jasonkenney.ca – asking Canadians to thank him for the backward-looking and vindictive cuts.
  • Kelly Block, the Conservative MP for Saskatoon-Rosetown-Biggar “celebrated” Kenney’s cuts with a flyer mailed to members of her riding. Dr. Ryan Meili, who ran for the leadership of the Saskatchewan New Democratic Party in 2009, called the mail-out “openly racist, seeking to pit Canadians against some of the most vulnerable people in our society”.
  • Last year, the House of Commons’ Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration invited witnesses from the Canadian Immigration Report – CIReport.ca – to testify. While CIReport.ca aggregates stories on immigration, it also propagates the inflated views and unfounded fears often expressed by white supremacists and related hate groups. It views non-white immigrants as a threat. For example, it warns that “European” values are at risk of disappearing in Canada as a result of immigration.
  • About two years ago, the Conservative government reappointed Immigration and Refugee Board adjudicator, David McBean, to another five-year term after he rejected all 169 cases he adjudicated since 2007.
  • Finally, the Native Women’s Association of Canada estimates that more than 600 Aboriginal women and girls have either gone missing or been murdered since 1990.  Both the United Nations an  Amnesty International have urged the Harper Government to investigate the deaths and disappearances. It’s an issue that was central to my recent hunger strike against Harper’s New Jim Crow–style new crime law, the deceptively named “Safe Streets and Communities Act” or crime Bill C-10. The government remains unwilling to act.

Jewish-American political activist, Nobel laureate, writer, professor and holocaust survivor, Elie Wiesel, has appealed to Canada to return to sanity. And so it must. The racism is nurtured by the triumphant racial narrative in our national conversation: we rarely, if ever, discuss racism.  It’s time we challenged the continuing institutionalization of racism in Canada.  It’s time we stopped cheering these racists on with our silence. And our reluctance to talk about race.

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Obert Madondo is an Ottawa-based progressive blogger, and the founder and editor of The Canadian Progressive. Follow him on Twitter.com/Obiemad 

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Obert Madondo

Publisher and editor
Obert Madondo is an Ottawa-based blogger, activist, photographer, digital rights enthusiast, former political aide, and former international development administrator. He's the founder and editor of these independent publications: The Canadian Progressive, a political blog dedicated to progressive Canadian journalism; The Zimbabwean Progressive, a political blog dedicated to producing fearless, progressive, adversarial, unapologetic, and activism-oriented Zimbabwean journalism; and Charity Files, a publication dedicated to journalism in the charitable public's interest. Follow Obert on Twitter: @Obiemad