Given recent racist attacks in the country and racism hurled at campaigning candidates, racialized people living in Canada say they’re concerned that systemic racism hasn’t been at the forefront of any of the party leaders’ messages.
Some almost 8 million Indigenous, Black and people of colour living in Canada, making up 22 per cent of Canada’s population, are wondering why there hasn’t been more focus on racism and issues of race during the election campaign.
“I’m a woman of colour every day of my life, I don’t get to turn that off,” Samanta Krishnapillai, founder, executive director and editor-in-chief of On Canada Project, an Instagram account that shares information targeted towards Canada’s millennial and Generation Z populations, told CTV News.
She said she had hoped that systemic racism in Canada would be more central to all of the candidates’ campaigns.
“I think that is really frustrating to see,” she said.
For Krishnapillai, she feels as though the issues that impact people of colour haven’t been seen as crucial during the election campaign.
“The fact that there are party leaders that are able to just move on from this subject and not constantly have it as part of what they’re talking about kind of sucks … It’s not like our experiences aren’t as important,” she said.
Not only is Krishnapillai not seeing these important conversations about race, she’s also not seeing the issues of young Canadians reflected in the election campaigns.
“People keep saying, ‘young people don’t vote.’ What are you doing to get me to come vote? What are you talking about to get me to care, to get people like me to care?” she said. “It’s just been a really lackluster election.”
And she’s not willing to accept the answer that it’s “just politics.”
“Why is that what we accept as politics, if you know that you can do better, why aren’t you? You shouldn’t have to wait until someone dies or bodies are recovered to do it,” Krishnapillai said.
When Justin Trudeau was elected prime minister in 2015, Krishnapillai said she was excited. She saw a feminist leader who was going to make change, but she sees things differently now.
“I think he’s capable of greatness, but I also feel like, it just feels so performative and it doesn’t feel genuine,” she said.
That’s especially true, she said, after the death of George Floyd in the U.S. kicked off protests across Canada last year in response to police violence against Black and Indigenous people here. This year, meanwhile, thousands of unmarked graves at former residential schools were brought to light, and a family in London, Ont. was killed because – according to police – they were walking while Muslim.
“It really could have been, it could have been my mother,” Sarah Barzak, executive director of the London School of Racialized Leaders, told CTV News.
Barzak said that she experienced racism in Canada since she was a child, with other kids telling her: “‘go back to your country,’ – like, I heard that a lot as a child.”
She said she is disappointed that while politicians turned out to a memorial for the family killed in London in June, they have since gone silent on Islamophobia in the country, and systemic racism in general.
“They came, they took the mic, they took all their photo ops, and then they left,” she said.
The candidates have spoken about diversity in Canada, but Barzak said just talking about it isn’t enough.
“I don’t think it’s enough to just say things like ‘diversity is our strength’, when hate crimes are clearly on the rise and there just isn’t enough funding and enough push back,” she said.
And some forms of racism she says have gone unmentioned by the candidates on the campaign trail.
“I haven’t heard any of the leaders discuss anti-Asian racism, and that has also been on the rise in relation to COVID and xenophobia and anti-Asian sentiment,” Barzak said.
After a tumultuous 18 months in which marginalized and racialized communities were hit harder by the COVID-19 pandemic, Barzak said it is time for the candidates to address these issues.
“Every marginalized community has really gone through the gutters, especially under this pandemic and I don’t think there are excuses anymore,” she said. “I think even just acknowledging it is the bare minimum.”
Barzak said she is disappointed that issues of race haven’t been central to the candidates’ election campaigns, and she doesn’t think she’s alone in this feeling.
“I look at leadership and I’m just shaking my head,” said Barzak. “This isn’t leadership, this is failure to me, and I think this is failure to a lot of people across the country.”
“This is systemic neglect,” she added.
Some voters were hoping for more, especially after politicians took a knee with protestors last summer.
“I definitely wish that after the year and a half that we all witnessed, you know, Black issues would be centred a little bit more anti-Blackness and issues particular to the Black community would have been discussed a little bit more,” Danièle-Jocelyne Otou, director of communication and strategic engagement of Apathy is Boring, an organization that aims to get younger Canadians involved in politics and Canadian and global issues told CTV News.
At the English-language leaders debate, where not a single Black person was invited to ask the candidates a question, issues that impact Black Canadians were left unaddressed. The anti-Asian hate that has been on the rise since the COVID-19 pandemic began was also not a topic of discussion.
“I wish that Black voices would have been amplified and highlighted throughout the debate as well. I would have loved to hear from some Asian folks about the last year that they’ve had and the issues that they would like to see moving forward,” she added.
Sometimes leaders do the bare minimum to engage voters, especially younger ones, and Otou says that’s not enough.
“There’s this assumption that all you have to do is one little TikTok meme and you’ll get the youth vote without taking into account, again, youth interests over the last year and a half have drastically changed and they’re paying more attention than ever to Canadian politics,” she said.
Indigenous voters are also feeling left behind, as the federal party leaders have largely ignored the continuing discoveries of unmarked graves on the grounds of former residential schools.
The chief of Serpent River First Nation in Ontario had hoped to see the candidates present real solutions to healing these historical wounds.
“Canada needs to have truth before we can have reconciliation,” said Chief Brent Bissaillion. “We still haven’t gotten to that truth.”
Bissaillion said he feels that issues impacting First Nations, Metis and Inuit in Canada haven’t been central to the parties’ campaigns.
“So it does get swept under the rug, and I feel that a lot of the issues that pertain to indigenous people pertain to a lot of other minorities and marginalized folks, and it is kind of disappointing that it’s gone to the wayside during this campaign,” he said.
With more and more unmarked graves being discovered in the country, Bissaillion reflects on other moments that seemed like a reckoning in Canada.
“We’ve had several reckonings this country continually has reckonings every few years. And we continue to be in the same spot. Everything is symbolic,” he said.
Bissaillion said he would like to hear more about what steps the parties will take to follow through on various promises, and issues that impact First Nations, Metis and Inuit in Canada.
“I’d really like to hear from all parties on how we’re going to start returning land back to our community so that we can take stewardship,” he said.
Krishnapillai, Barzak, Otou and Bissaillion will participate in CTV’s Voters’ Viewpoint panel with CTV’s Your Morning host Anne Marie Mediwake as part of CTV News’ special election coverage. Join the Voters’ Viewpoint conversation online on CTVNews.ca, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok.
U.N. plane aborts landing as air strike hits Ethiopia’s Tigray
An Ethiopian government air strike on the capital of the northern Tigray region on Friday forced a U.N. aid flight to abort a landing there, the United Nations said.
In neighboring Amhara region, people were fleeing intensified fighting.
Humanitarian sources and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which controls the area, said a university in the regional capital Mekelle was hit by the air strike.
Government spokesman Legesse Tulu said a former military base occupied by TPLF fighters was targeted, and he denied the university was hit.
Reuters was not able to independently confirm either account. TPLF-controlled Tigrai TV reported that 11 civilians were wounded in the air strike. It was at least the fourth day this week that Mekelle had been attacked.
The United Nations suspended all flights to Mekelle after a U.N. plane with 11 passengers had to abort landing on Friday.
The flight from Addis Ababa had been cleared by federal authorities but was told by the Mekelle airport control tower to abort the landing, U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said
“This is the first time that we had a flight turn around, at least to my knowledge, in the recent past in Ethiopia because of air strikes on the ground,” senior U.N. aid official Gemma Connell, who heads U.N. humanitarian operations in southern and eastern Africa, told reporters in New York on Friday.
The passengers were aid workers traveling to a region where some 7 million people, including 5 million in Tigray, need humanitarian help, she said.
The flight safely returned to the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, Dujarric said.
‘THE WHOLE CITY IS PANICKING’
The two sides have been fighting for almost a year in a conflict that has killed thousands of people and displaced more than two million amid a power struggle between the TPLF and the central government of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed in Addis Ababa.
The TPLF dominated the Horn of Africa country’s ruling party for decades before Abiy, who is not a Tigrayan, took office in 2018.
The government has stepped up air strikes on the Tigray capital as fighting has escalated in Amhara, a neighbouring region where the TPLF has seized territory that the government and allied armed Amhara armed groups are trying to recover.
Residents in Dessie, a city in Amhara, told Reuters people were fleeing, a day after a TPLF spokesperson said its forces were within artillery range of the town.
“The whole city is panicking,” a resident said, adding that people who could were leaving. He said he could hear the sound of heavy gunfire on Thursday night and into the morning, and that the bus fare to Addis Ababa, about 385 km (240 miles) to the south, had increased more than six-fold.
There are now more than 500,000 displaced people in the Amhara region, the National Disaster Risk Management Commission told Reuters.
Seid Assefa, a local official working at a coordination centre for displaced people in Dessie, said 250 people had fled there this week from fighting in the Girana area to the north.
“We now have a total of 900 (displaced people) here and we finished our food stocks three days ago.”
Leul Mesfin, medical director of Dessie Hospital, told Reuters two girls and an adult had died this week at his facility of wounds from artillery fire in the town of Wuchale, which both the government and the TPLF have described as the scene of heavy fighting over the past week.
(Reporting by Addis Ababa newsroomAdditional reporting and writing by Maggie Fick and Ayenat Mersie in Nairobi, additional reporting by Michelle Nichols in New York; Editing by John Stonestreet, Peter Graff, Alex Richardson, William Maclean)
Nigerian state to shut camps for people displaced by insurgency
Nigeria‘s Borno state, the epicentre of an ongoing Islamist insurgency, will shut all camps that are holding thousands of internally displaced persons by the end of the year, its governor said on Friday, citing improved security in the state.
The conflict between the insurgents and Nigerian’s armed forces has also spread to Chad and Cameroon and has left about 300,000 dead and millions dependent on aid, according to the United Nations.
Borno, which shares a border with Niger, Cameroon and Chad has for more than a decade been the foremost outpost of an insurgency led by Islamist group Boko Haram and later its offshoot Islamic State for West Africa Province (ISWAP).
Speaking after a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari in Abuja, Borno governor Babgana Zulum said security had improved in the state so much that those living in camps in the state capital Maiduguri could return home.
“So far so good, Borno State government has started well and arrangements have been concluded to ensure the closure of all internally displaced persons camps that are inside Maiduguri metropolis on or before 31st December, 2021,” Zulum said.
But humanitarian groups say most families are unwilling to return to their ancestral lands especially in the northern parts of Borno, which they deem unsafe.
Buhari has in the past months claimed his government was gaining ground on the insurgents. Last week the country’s top general said ISWAP leader Abu Musab al-Barnawi was dead, without giving details.
Zulum said Borno state authorities would continue to repatriate Nigerian refugees from a camp in Cameroon.
Boko Haram’s leader Abubakar Shekau died in May and Nigeria says hundreds of fighters loyal to the Islamist group have been surrendering to the government since then.
(Reporting by Maiduguri newsroom, Writing by MacDonald Dzirutwe; Editing by David Gregorio)
Exclusive-U.S. hopes to soon relocate Afghan pilots who fled to Tajikistan, official says
The United States hopes to soon relocate around 150 U.S.-trained Afghan Air Force pilots and other personnel detained in Tajikistan for more than two months after they flew there at the end of the Afghan war, a U.S. official said.
The State Department official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, declined to offer a timeline for the transfer but said the United States wanted to move all of those held at the same time. The details of the U.S. plan have not been previously reported.
Reuters exclusively reported first-person accounts from 143 U.S.-trained Afghan personnel being held at a sanatorium in a mountainous, rural area outside of the Tajik capital, Dushanbe, waiting for a U.S. flight out to a third country and eventual U.S. resettlement.
Speaking on smuggled cell phones kept hidden from guards, they say they have had their phones and identity documents confiscated.
There are also 13 Afghan personnel in Dushanbe, enjoying much more relaxed conditions, who told Reuters they are also awaiting a U.S. transfer. They flew into the country separately.
The Afghan personnel in Tajikistan represent the last major group of U.S.-trained pilots still believed to be in limbo after dozens of advanced military aircraft were flown across the Afghan border to Tajikistan and to Uzbekistan in August during the final moments of the war with the Taliban.
In September, a U.S.-brokered deal allowed a larger group of Afghan pilots and other military personnel to be flown out of Uzbekistan to the United Arab Emirates.
Two detained Afghan pilots in Tajikistan said their hopes were lifted in recent days after visits by officials from the U.S. embassy in Dushanbe.
Although they said they had not yet been given a date for their departure, the pilots said U.S. officials obtained the biometric data needed to complete the process of identifying the Afghans. That was the last step before departure for the Afghan pilots in Uzbekistan.
PREGNANT AFGHAN PILOT
U.S. lawmakers and military veterans who have advocated for the pilots have expressed deep frustration over the time it has taken for President Joe Biden’s administration to evacuate Afghan personnel.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin was pressed on the matter in Congress last month, expressing concern at a hearing for the pilots and other personnel.
Reuters had previously reported U.S. difficulties gaining Tajik access to all of the Afghans, which include an Afghan Air Force pilot who is eight months pregnant.
In an interview with Reuters, the 29-year-old pilot had voiced her concerns to Reuters about the risks to her and her child at the remote sanatorium. She was subsequently moved to a maternity hospital.
“We are like prisoners here. Not even like refugees, not even like immigrants. We have no legal documents or way to buy something for ourselves,” she said.
The pregnant pilot would be included in the relocation from Tajikistan, the U.S. State Department official said.
Even before the Taliban’s takeover, the U.S.-trained, English-speaking pilots had become prime targets of the Taliban because of the damage they inflicted during the war. The Taliban tracked down the pilots and assassinated them off-base.
Afghanistan’s new rulers have said they will invite former military personnel to join the revamped security forces and that they will come to no harm.
Afghan pilots who spoke with Reuters say they believe they will be killed if they return to Afghanistan.
(Reporting by Phil Stewart; editing by Grant McCool)
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