How antisecularists have overused and abused the expression “systemic racism” as a weapon to fight Quebec Bill 21.
Sommaire en français Comment les anti-laïques ont usé et abusé de l’expression « racisme systémique » pour en faire une arme contre la Loi 21 au Québec.
The word “systemic” is a perfectly legitimate adjective. According to the on-line dictionary Wiktionary.org, systemic means (1) “Embedded within and spread throughout and affecting a whole system, group, body, economy, market, or society” or (2) “Pertaining to an entire organism.” (This is not to be confused with the term “systematic” which refers to something which is orderly, planned or methodical.)
For example, discrimination against atheists and other non-believers is systemic in Canada, because it is specified repeatedly in the country’s constitution and federal legislation. The very first line of the constitution’s preamble declares “the supremacy of God.” Hate propaganda legislation grants impunity to statements which would otherwise be considered hate-speech provided that they are based on a religious text. Religious institutions are granted sweeping fiscal privileges. Citizenship judges are required to allow “religious solemnization” in ceremonies. And so on.
Another example: Systemic colonialism and racism in Canada’s “Indian Act” which regulates relations between the federal government and First Nations. Although amended many times since, the Act was first adopted in 1876 unilaterally, i.e. without negotiation with First Nations.
Canadian history is replete with systemic prejudice against Francophones, although less so today, now that laws suppressing the French language in several provinces have been repealed. Historically, anti-French and anti-native bigotry converged, as the French mixed with native populations (e.g. intermarriage) much more than did the English. This convergence of prejudice was most evident in the Louis Riel case in the 1880s.
The fact that the French language is dominant in one province, Quebec, gives Francophones a degree of autonomy and agency not enjoyed by First Nations peoples who are much fewer in number and scattered in many small, isolated reserves. Nevertheless, prejudice against Francophones remains a reality, and that situation has systemic aspects. The 1982 constitution was adopted without the approval of Quebec. Judges in the Quebec Superior Court and Quebec Court of Appeal are appointed by the federal government and thus, not surprisingly, tend to be prejudiced in favour of ideologies (such as cultural relativism) which are promoted federally. (This was patently obvious in the 2021-04-20 decision of Justice Marc-André Blanchard.) Furthermore, the federal government financially supports court challenges to Quebec laws such as Bill 21 (which partially implements State secularism in Quebec) via the Court Challenges Program. Strong—in fact, fanatical—opposition to Bill 21 by Anglo-Canadian media and politicians is an example of cultural imperialism.
One more example: Child sexual abuse is systemic in the Roman Catholic Church. It is not the result of a few bad apples, so to speak, but rather a consequence of how the Catholic system is organized. Priests are endowed with divine authority, thus granting them a great deal of moral authority over adherents of that religion. At the same time, priests are forbidden to marry or to have sex (at least theoretically), thus creating an overwhelming degree of sexual frustration. The combination of these two circumstances makes widespead sexual abuse practically inevitable.
However, in recent years the word “systemic” has been greatly misused for ideological reasons. In particular, the expression “systemic racism” has become almost ubiquitous because it is a major element of Critical Race Theory (CRT). CRT began as an academic discipline of legal scholars, studying racism from a systemic point of view, i.e. as a consequence of legal, cultural and social systems rather than the prejudices of individuals. CRT is the ideological centrepiece of the current so-called “antiracist” movement, but which should more accurately be called neo-racist or racialist as it rejects colour-blindness and is obsessed with race which it sees everywhere. Partisans of this ideology dogmatically interpret all disparities as caused by some kind of prejudice such as racism or sexism, never even bothering to consider that other factors—even random chance—might play a role. Thus, if a profession does not display the same demographic diversity as the general population, they then assume that prejudice must be the cause.
Ideologically motivated accusations of “systemic racism” have become commonplace. This is especially the case in the context of Quebec and secularism. The adversaries of secularism, in their zealous opposition to Bill 21, regularly accuse Quebec, Quebeckers or the Quebec government of “systemic racism.” They rarely if ever define exactly what is meant by that term. Questions such as: What system in Quebec is infected with racism? are never answered. Much has been made of the case of Joyce Echaquan, a Atikamekw woman who was the target of racist comments in a Quebec hospital and died of pulmonary edema. But that was obviously a case of individual racism, not systemic, unless accusors can point to objective evidence of some kind of systemic phenomenon.
We know full well what is really happening here. So-called antiracists are indulging in anti-Québécois bigotry—hey, let’s call it anti-Québécois racism to be perfectly blunt—as a dishonest means to denigrate Bill 21. Such “antiracists” are objectively allied with Islamists who regularly weaponize Canadians’ hostility towards Quebec in their efforts to kill Bill 21. Of course Bill 21 has nothing whatsoever to do with racism and is in no way discriminatory. Rather, it is the accusers who are themselves guilty of bigotry and racism. A particularly extreme example of this is Amir Attaran, professor at the University of Ottawa, who calls Quebec the “Alabama of the North.”
So far, Quebec Premier François Legault has resisted all attempts by these ideologues to pressure him to agree that “systemic racism” is endemic in Quebec. He is to be congratulated for his determination. Let us hope that he remains steadfast and continues to refuse to capitulate to such intimidation by antisecularists.
Next blog: Quebec Bill 21 for Dummies