Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence...
Which brings us to Yusra Khogali.
In an earlier post, I said Yusra Khogali's anger should not frighten us. I also said that not fearing her anger does not mean we cannot answer what she says. And some of what she says, quite simply, contradicts what we know about history. Yusra Khogali accused Justin Trudeau of being a white supremacist because the Canadian state is founded on the genocide of indigenous people and the genocide and enslavement of African peoples. The first is true. Canadian society did displace, dispossess, and in many cases and many ways destroy the original peoples and cultures they displaced. If the displacement of the First Nations had not happened, Canada would be a profoundly different place today.
The second claim, that the Canadian state is founded on the genocide and enslavement of people from Africa is not true in the same sense. Both before and after Columbian contact, people living in what is now Canada practiced domestic slavery on a small scale, just as people did throughout the world. In Canada, some of those slaves were African. The economy in what is now Canada never depended on slavery in the same way the European agricultural colonies of the Carribean, and the colonies, later states, of what is now the American South did. Canada was not "founded on" slavery in anything like the sense Canada was founded on the displacement of the First Peoples. In this city over two hundred years ago the legislature of Upper Canada passed one of the first anti-slavery laws. By 1819, just under two hundred years ago, Upper Canada was effectively free soil, almost three generations before the emancipation proclamation in the United States and well before most of the rest of the world.
|John Graves Simcoe|
by Saharalipour, via Wikimedia Commons
These are the facts. They may not change the sense of truth about our world each of us carries within us. Yusra Khogali's passion is real. But facts provide the only basis for shared truths. The facts matter, whatever we think of them.