Elizabeth Comack’s Racialized Policing: Aboriginal People’s Encounters with the Police unflinchingly describes disturbing police behaviours toward Indigenous peoples that enforce the racial order so embedded in the structure of Canadian society. With all the impartiality of her academic training, wielding her analytical tools with impassive rigour and precision, Elizabeth Comack documents the violent, and, too often, murderous, ways in which Canadian police forces establish “Peace, Order, and Good Government.”

Yellow Ribbons

Most Canadian intellectuals ask too many questions. They seem to love posing the kind of rhetorical query that hides a vicious truth-claim behind the innocent-looking interrogative form, flaunting a political mediocrity that masquerades as academic objectivity. Perhaps it is only the Socratic method at work. Perhaps it is a manifestation of that elusive Canadian politeness I’ve heard so much about. Or it could be an instinctual political caution that prohibits so many Canadian intellectuals from taking a firm and outspoken stand. Thankfully, A.L. McCready is not in their camp.

Born out of a 2012 dissertation at McMaster University, McCready’s newest book, Yellow Ribbons: The Militarization of National Identity in Canada, retains its objectivity while stating exactly where it stands. Yellow Ribbons charts recent changes in Canadian concepts of national selfhood, following in particular the state’s altered military role after September 11, 2001.

McCready demolishes the myth that “peacekeeping” is a major element in Canada’s foreign policy. This fiction is primarily for internal consumption anyway; it has not really been exported. As she points out, Canada actually plays a rather insignificant role in peacekeeping operations, with the bulk of UN peacekeeping roles borne by countries of the global South. McCready provides a highly instructive reading of the peacekeeping narrative as the “‘white man’s burden’ of managing global civility and creating order.” She likewise exposes the Canada-led “responsibility to protect” doctrine as permitting imperialist nations to “cloak their own interests and objectives in humanitarian rhetoric.”

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We never thought they’d deport him.

It seemed that, as a journalist in Pakistan, the Old Man had pissed off a general or two with his manner of political commentary. He soon found his name on a hit list, and fled to the USA.

After September 11th it was no longer safe to have dark skin in America, so he had made Montreal his home. We’d talk politics, and good literature, and he taught us how to read the newspaper like a journalist. The Iraq war was on and we’d watch CNN, analyzing and refuting it. Our conversations had all the depth and intensity of university seminars – and then some.

I was working as a presser in a garment factory, making just enough. A friend, just out of the army, was working in a paper-processing plant. The Old Man supplemented the cheap government cheque they give refugee claimants with back-breaking farm labour in the summer and flyer delivery in the winter. All of us desperate for a taste of life, for the callings we were meant for, none of us with the right combination of good fortune and connections. But we took pride in our smallest victories, and toasted each other whenever someone had a decent break.

stop the deportation
Photo Credit: Murray Bush, Flux Photo

Vancouver residents will remember the 2009 and 2010 dockings of the MV Sun Sea and Ocean Lady. These ships were intercepted carrying Tamil refugees who had fled Sri Lanka’s brutal (and, some would argue, genocidal) war on Tamils from the Northeast region of the island. Many Tamils felt their historical grievances with the state warranted political independence.

Xenophobia about the landings became a means to bolster Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s support among conservative voters, particularly white conservatives. Having won a majority in 2011’s federal election, Harper and his government took the opportunity to pass Bill C-31, among whose provisions was a clause entitling the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration, and Multiculturalism to designate any refugee entrance of two or more as an “irregular arrival.”