The orange t-shirt has become the symbol of residential school survivors. The recent grisly discovery of hundreds of unmarked graves of indigenous children who had been inmates at residential schools has provoked a somber reflection in Canada about the impact of our colonial history. Some have proposed that Canada Day be cancelled altogether. Others have urged using the moment to think about truth and reconciliation. Is Canada Day also our own “Nakba Day”? Read more….
Palestinian American historian Rashid Khalidi spoke to a webinar organized by OFIP last November to discuss his most recent book “The Hundred Years War on Palestine: A century of settler colonialism”. I asked him how he distinguished “settler colonialism” from “ordinary” colonialism.
“The goal of colonialism” he explained is to exploit the labour and resources of other countries and peoples. A “settler colonial” enterprise takes over the land and replaces its inhabitants with colonists, creating a new country in the image of the colonising power.
Based on Professor Khalidi’s definition, there were many “settler colonial’ enteprises during the period of European expansion around the world. The French in Algeria, the British in Australia, and the Afrikaners in South Africa are well known examples. By the same measure, Israel and Canada are both “settler colonial” enterprises.
The objective in both cases was to replace existing societies with new ones, based on a different model. They inevitably are rooted and justified by the racist notion that the colonisers are in some fundamental way “superior” to the colonised.
Resistance is universal… and predictable
Each settler colonial regime has its own specific characteristics depending on various factors including the geography, the “justifying rationale” and the relative strengths between the colonisers and the colonised. The Zionist rationale for taking over Palestine and expelling Palestinians (“a land with no people for a people with no land”), is different from the British “doctrine of discovery” which justified the conquest of North America and other places.
But settler colonialism is always resisted by the people whom colonisers are trying to replace. In turn the colonising powers turn to a fairly predictable range of tactics to carry out their strategic objectives.
Here is a list of 6 fairly common tactics (several of them now identified as “Crimes against humanity”) used by settler colonial powers around the world – including Canada and Israel. They may use some or all, simultaneously or sequentially, or use one tactic in one area and another elsewhere:
- Expulsion (also known as “transfer” or “removal”
- Segregation (e.g bantustans, reserves, walls, apartheid)
- Unequal and discriminatory legal regimes
- Denial (or restriction) of political rights
- Use of police, military and incarceration
Canada Day is an opportunity
Canada Day is an opportunity to reflect on the injustices of the past and the impact of the settler colonial project that has led to the creation of Canada. The “discovery” of the remains of nearly 1000 indigenous children buried in unmarked graves has demonstrated that we are only at the beginning of the process of recognizing and admitting the Truth of what settler colonialism has done. Until that truth is fully recognized, no Reconciliation will be possible.
A parallel process is even more urgently necessary in Israel, which still stubbornly refuses to recognize the truths of its own settler colonial project.
Canada Talks Israel Palestine (CTIP) is the weekly newsletter of Peter Larson, Chair of the Ottawa Forum on Israel/Palestine (OFIP). It aims to promote a serious discussion in Canada about Canada’s response to the complicated and emotional Israel/Palestine issue with a focus on the truth, clear analysis and human rights for all. Readers with different points of view are invited to make comment.
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