“The reasons why Corrado Paina is wrong”
by Rocco Galati
TORONTO - I read, with smirking interest, the debate in the Corriere about absence of Italo-Canadians in the Senate (or in Cabinet for that matter), created by the current “sunny” Liberal government. I also read, with dismay, Mr. Paina’s piece of November 16, 2016.
As a constitutional lawyer who has seen more than one rodeo on issues of discrimination, racism, and constitutional abuses by governments, whether they be Liberal, Conservative or NDP.
Costitutional lawyer Rocco Galati
The DNA of Canadian politics has always been, and continues to be, the same: racist and exclusionary to all “sub-tribes” except the two “Founding Nations” (English, French) of Canada. This Apartheid concept was defeated by the actions of a sole Native Canadian, Elijah Harper, who thankfully put the breaks to the Meech Lake Accord. The Accord might have constitutionalized that depraved, de facto, sociological and political reality in Canada.
Section 15 (right to equality) of the Charter makes it a constitutional requirement that we to be treated equally, regardless of various attributes, including national or ethnic origin. Section 27 further requires that the Charter be “… interpreted in a manner consistent with the preservation and enhancement of the multi-cultural heritage of Canadians.”
What does that mean in reality, on the ground, politically to governments? Nothing, or at best, not much. All governments find Constitutional requirements inconvenient. This government is no exception.
Frankly, I have a hard time understanding Mr. Paina’s opinion piece. In essence, he says that we are all “Canadian” so let us forget about being “Italian” (or Chinese, or Afro-Canadian, or Luso- Canadian, etc.). Well, that would be fine and dandy, if such distinctions of “diversity” when votes are needed, were not peddled like cheap cotton-candy.
Or, that such distinctions of “diversity” were not routinely used as sublime and insidious basis of discrimination and racism over merit, in public appointments. But the reality is that they are, in both instances.
The fact is that, when the ruling parties and Canadian “society” use the word “Canadian”, it means English/ French Canadian, and the rest of us are zoological sub- specimens.
Mr. Paina says forget all of that; forget the historical reality; forget the constitutional imperatives and most of all forget that the two ruling tribes do not forget all of that. My mother always used to say that “there are two types of persons.
The first type believes that we are all God’s children and equal. The second type of person believes that there are two types of persons…”.
It is the second type of person that controls and rules Canada. The rest of us, the subject of that depraved politics, struggle to move closer to equal treatment. You never get there by pretending that you do not exist as who you are, or that you are an invisible member of the group(s) trying to make you invisible.
That dynamic has been given attention by no less than an international treaty targeting crimes against humanity.
That dynamic of making invisible, and rendering absent that group, albeit cultural or linguistic, is a form of ethnic cleansing.
The fact that this cleansing takes on the form of a political dimension of exclusion, by pretending that we are all one type of person - when we are not – and, more importantly, that we are not treated as one type of person by the ruling elite and their particular ethnic markers, makes it no less offensive.
Quebec understands this very well. Take away the French language in Quebec and there goes the distinct Quebecois culture. They would then invisibly become (English) “Canadian”, or English “North-American”.
This is not difficult to understand. So why is it that the rest of us are different in pretending to be made the same, through assimilation and exclusion?
What this view, by the ruling government(s), wants us to accept is the absurd notion that “we are all Canadian”. If we were, I could retire as a constitutional lawyer. If we were, we would not need ss. 15 and 27 of the Charter. If we were, we would not be having this debate. If we were, we would not have a Prime Minister touting diversity for votes and then excluding Italo-, Chinese-, Luso-, Afro-, etc.- “Canadians” from Cabinet or the Senate.
A sprinkling of token appointments has never, and will never, cut it for me nor for the Constitution. The fact that the token appointments are rotated like musical chairs is not impressive.
It only proves and manifests the offensive manner of governance. If equality has any permanence, it will have to be constantly manifested on a permanent basis, not on a cameo appearance basis. We will stop talking about “diversity’ when it is permanently present.
A huge percentage of the ethnically diverse population of Canada is unrepresented and grossly underrepresented in Cabinet and the Senate, and in the Superior Courts (where less than 3% of the Judges are from ethnic visible minorities).
The Corriere’s numbers on the number of Italo-Canadians living in Ontario and Quebec are grossly wrong because its statistic relies on the numbers provided by Stats Canada, whose “analytics models” reduce the true numbers by applying artificial criteria such as fluency in Italian. No matter, it is not the quantity of the problem that is important, it is the nature of the problem. Except to say that the artificial reduction in numbers highlights and aggravates the nature of the problem. This is not restricted to the Italo-Canadian community.
What this government and Mr. Paina’s views are propagating is a form of delusional, invisible, and non- existent assimilation into being “Canadian”, not by means of inclusive and articulated definition, but by sublime segregation and exclusion.
That is: assimilation without inclusion; equality without equal participation; recognition without visibility and excluded segregation without discrimination.
I can never put it better than by paraphrasing Martin Luther King Jr.: “When you segregate a people, you necessarily discriminate against that people.”
Only in Canada you say? No, not exclusively, but still pathetic.
(Wednesday 23 November 2016)