I don’t think it’s a secret that Canada is shifting into something other than what most of us expected. We always touted Canada as a country that was less warlike than the US, the neighbour we most like to compare ourselves too, and desperately told ourselves palatable lies about our genocide against Aboriginal people so that would become true. We are both peaceful and accepting, and racism is a thing of the past amongst our differently shaded multitudes. We ignored news that declared the opposite, and pointed instead to other countries that were worse. That list, however, is growing shorter.
If the Buddha is right and evil rebounds, that perhaps that is what is happening now. The latest incarnation of our corporate-run government have started to show an interest in arms, the military, and the repression of dissent. One of the ways they express that dissent lately is this latest Bill. We tried to forget that parliament was prorogued so a vote of non-confidence against the government would not pass, and the numerous other times we’ve had to take to the streets just to beg the most basic of human dignities. We tried to temporarily set aside the anti-science and anti-democracy motions of the government we’d suffered from lately to realize that Bill C-51 is another in a long series of rivulets which exploit our fear of the amorphous enemy (which has differed over the years from communism to terrorists) in order to ensure the police state has the lavish powers over its citizens it has so frequently slavered over.
I am not a firm believer that marches accomplish anything, and I’ve seen the joy with which a demo has been embraced by those who use it as a thinly veiled social event, but if we are sliding towards fascism, then I feel it is incumbent upon us to at least make a gesture we can point to later and say I stood against. Numbers are important, for even our greediest and most crooked politician is afraid of losing their job. Therefore, they count carefully, just as carefully as the media miscount, who attends the rallies and protests. They have to know how many of their constituents are for or against a particular issue so they can tread the narrow knife’s edge of satisfying their corporate masters and retaining their ability to satisfy them another day.
This protest drew the regular amount of people, some three hundred, or if you believe the Winnipeg Sun—and why wouldn’t you—some dozens. There were old people, children and the young, hippie types from Wolseley, suburbers from the outlying areas, people who are already downtown and students. The rally was trapped in a square where we were treated to talks and exclamations by various politicians and local groups all wanting something in particular from a crowd that largely agreed with them.
Later we marched down Main Street to Portage and Main and then to the Legislature Building where all successful marches end up eventually. Along the way hundreds of people in cars going in the opposite direction honked and waved their support, and the yelling out of cars I’d expected, “Get off the road,” “Get a Job,” and other versions of “you make me feel guilty,” did not materialize. My friend noticed that one of the megaphone-enhanced marchers was evoking a particularly grim version of a police state. He cried that we would be harassed by police, we would be found with a black hood over our heads and never heard from again. My friend wanted to know how both of those things were possible, but the chants were little help in solving that conundrum.
Once we were at the Legislature Building, and a few more chants were done, people began to split up again. Even the police photographers, and the media, who were carefully positioning their shots to show as few people as possible, went home satisfied with a job well done.
I felt also that we’d at least given the police files a broader set of photos to run their face recognition algorithm on, and that we’d been counted by the faceless bureaucrats who chortle themselves blue on our dime inside the massive building. There they roll on the floors in delight, unable to believe their luck that the trough is still full and their snort-nosed mouths can still swill in joy.
Whether our friends will start to be targeted by the new police state remains to be seen. Israel is beating in the street and sterilizing in the hospital people who do not fit their notion of Jewish; anything is possible in a world where we forget so quickly. Either they have a really accurate memory of what happened to them or have forgotten completely.
If people start to be rounded up, if the camps which have been left conveniently functional on every continent are pressed into service once again, then maybe someone in the crowd will remember the old adage: “When they came for me . . .” and in their desperation try to rewrite an ending to a piece of folk wisdom that is endlessly bleak in its grasp of human psychology.