NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh came to the House of Commons Wednesday intending to get unanimous consent on a motion calling out systemic racism in the RCMP. He was forced to leave early because apparently calling out racism in other house members violates parliamentary decorum.
The motion calls on the House to recognize that systemic racism exists within the RCMP. It also calls on the government to review the federal police force’s budget as well as accountability measures and training and raise non-police spending on mental health and addiction support.
It should have been easy to pass. RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki has even admitted that systemic racism does exist within the force.
The Liberals supported the motion, so did the Greens. Even the Conservatives didn’t stand against the obvious reality that everyone knew and were ready to give it unanimous approval.
Enter the Bloc Québécois with a very audible objection. What happened next wasn’t picked up by the mics, but it turns out that it doesn’t really matter.
Singh told Speaker Anthony Rota, after Bloc MP Claude DeBellefeuille raised an objection, that there was no need to listen to a recording of the exchange as yes, he did indeed call Bloc MP Alain Therrien racist. When asked to apologize, Singh refused and Rota, at the Bloc’s urging, told Singh he would have to leave the chamber for the rest of the day for using “unparliamentary language” and not apologizing.
Apologize? No, an apology is something that is warranted when someone uses vulgar language or makes an unfounded insinuation. Or if someone uses racist language themselves.
At least that’s what it should be. I couldn’t find racist on this list of banned words in Parliament from 2011, but if it was added later, it shouldn’t have been.
What the speaker was asking Singh to do was retract an accusation while using the language of parliamentary decorum as a smokescreen. After leaving the chamber, Singh held a press conference (which you should watch) where he reiterated that opposing the motion was, in and of itself, racist.
The Bloc later claimed that it blocked the motion because it supports a request that a Commons public safety committee study the existence of systemic racism in the RCMP and that it would be “inappropriate” to jump the gun by saying systemic racism exists. Translation: Instead of doing anything about the problem we all know is there, let’s go back to debating if the problem exists.
But why? As Singh mentioned in his press conference, the RCMP is clearly under Federal jurisdiction, so there is no trampling of Quebec’s autonomy involved.
If it was a call to look into systemic racism in the SQ (which there is, btw), I’d get the Bloc being up in arms. But it’s not and now the Bloc is defending the RCMP in a way that the RCMP doesn’t even want to defend itself.
It’s, as Singh admitted, a small step but a logical one. If the Conservatives aren’t afraid of bigots in their base turning on them over this, I can’t imagine the Bloc being scared about it.
So if opposition isn’t about Quebec’s jurisdiction or even a political ploy and it’s clearly not about the public interest, what does that leave? Racism.
In his press conference, Singh referenced Therrien’s dismissive gesture after he caught the NDP Leader’s eye. That reads to me like “look at my privilege, I’m doing this because I want to. And you can’t stop me. What are you going to do? Call me a racist?”
And Singh did. And the Bloc cowered and begged the Speaker to punish the him for stepping out of line and calling out racism. And the Speaker obliged.
Or, as Niall put it:
Systemic racism is having the first racialized leader in Canadian history calling out racism in the HoC and then being asked to apologize for doing so… #Gaslighting101Posted by Niall Meyshar on Wednesday, June 17, 2020
The Bloc are fucking racist for opposing this motion. If I was in Parliament, I would apologize for the curse word, but not for the assertion. And Jagmeet Singh has nothing to apologize for.