Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Tamara Ward-Johnson: One Example of Many In What is Wrong With Canada (And the Ontario Election)

Earlier this week an ad was placed in the Thunder Bay Chronicle Journal for the Ontario Libertarian Party’s Candidate: Tamara Ward Johnson. Now, some of you may recall Ward-Johnson was originally a Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario Candidate for Thunder Bay-Superior North.

Ward-Johnson made comments in February of 2014 that Indigenous peoples and their businesses have unfair advantages over ‘poor’ and ‘innocent’ Ontarians. The uproar against her comments led the PCs to ditch her as their candidate, leading her to express that she was “removed for speaking the truth.” Others in the area took to social media to counteract Ward-Johnson’s clear use of misunderstanding, ignorance, and the Canadian public’s lack of understanding towards treaty relations/agreements. My friend, Damien Lee and a member of the Fort William Community/citizen of the Anishinaabeg Nation, was one such person.

In his opening letter he expresses to Ward-Johnson that she “made a number of accusations, including the argument that First Nations are getting ‘illegal’ tax breaks, that First Nations should follow Ontario law, and, most recently, that gas stations in [Fort William] price gasoline based on race.” Damien then goes on to dissect each accusation and explains how federal and provincial legislation/agreements/treaties formulate some of the differences that exist. In other words, Damien highlights how Ward-Johnson’s comments are misinformed and full of nothing more then ignorance and perpetuating stereotypes.

While the rest of us moved forward in our daily lives and were oblivious to ongoing tension between Indigenous peoples and a segment of Canadians, which is usually what happens here in the Canadian state – we only learn of a Canadian/Indigenous mishap when the crap has hit the political, national, and sociological fans (despite Indigenous peoples discussing it and countering it for months and sometimes years before), Tamara Ward-Johnson obtained the Ontario Libertarian Party’s Nomination for her riding in the Robinson-Superior Treaty area. During this time a twitter hashtag was also developed to counter Ward-Johnson in the social-media world: #RelaxTamara. Additionally, ongoing racial accusations and uninformed/stereotypical accusations where made by Ward-Johnson and her cultish/ignorant flavoured ‘koolaide-drinking’ supporters.

The Final Week of the Ontario Election & Ward-Johnson’s Racist-Indoctrinated Political Ad.

            Now lets forward to the week of June 9th 2014, when Ward-Johnson had a political ad printed in the Thunder Bay Chronicle Journal. The ad says:

Ward-Johnson's Ad in the Thunder Bay Chronicle Journal
“Voters: No group of people are above the laws of Ontario; No group of people can illegally block our roads and rail lines; No group of people are ‘entitled’ to handouts’ No group of people are owed a ‘debt’ by today’s taxpayers’ No group of
people ‘own’ Crown lands. Crown lands are public lands. Not native lands. We all own these lands; No group of people are ‘special’ and deserve first class ‘super-citizen’ status.”

It then follows with:
“Tax Payers: Help me stop this doctrine of entitlement; Help me stop the inequality; Help me stop the injustice; Above all else, help me stop the ‘gravy train; Seniors and retires, your children and grandchildren deserve the right to live in a fair, equal, and just Ontario. Vote for their Future Thursday, June 12, 2014. Vote Tamara Johnson and the Ontario Libertarian Party.”

Since this ad’s appearance on Monday it first got much attention through social media and those in tune with support of Indigenous rights, treaties, and coming to understand Canada’s true history and how treaties are the basis for Canada’s existence. My friend Damien Lee and many others took Ward-Johnson and the Libertarian Party to task over the last three days, with the non-Indigenous media finally paying attention as of today.

A Meme on Ward-Johnson's Racist Comments & Actions
            Many have taken to social media, media outlets, and to the streets to express outrage at such an abhorrent and ignorant attack on Indigenous peoples. Not only this but its clear lack of truth and comprehension of not only treaties but Canadian federal law, supreme court rulings, and, to an extent – Ontario Law. Spoofs and memes have been made to mock her ignorance and clear pandering to the misunderstanding of Canadian/Indigenous relations. One just has to go on their twitter account and search #RelaxTamara to see what is being said from those opposed to her spread of misunderstanding and hate. One just has to look at it and her own platform and social media pages to see how she truly does not fit as a representative of a population.

I say this because she expresses the need for fair, equal, and a just Ontario. Yet the idea of ‘the rule of law’ still has yet to be properly followed when it comes to Indigenous peoples. Treaties are forms of law but according to Tamara Ward-Johnson they do not need to be followed because they are specific to Indigenous peoples. So, it seems Tamara Ward-Johnson’s views are that when a law doesn’t favour her views, then it is unjust and ‘race-based.’ But if Ward-Johnson took the time to actually learn she would realize the laws she wants to be utilized over Indigenous peoples are raced-based themselves because they refuse to acknowledge or follow the treaties that are legally binding. – Someone needs to send her Roger Epp’s “We Are All Treaty Peoples,” A copy of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, A copy of the Ipperwash Inquiry, A copy of the Robinson-Superior Treaty, and a copy of Canada’s Constitution Act, 1982.
A Response to Tamara Ward-Johnson's Ad in the Thunder Bay Chronicle Journal from Fort William First Nation.

Not only does she need copies of these sent to her, but it is clear the provincial and federal political parties need to speak out on this. Why have the Green Party and New Democratic Party of Canada’s MPs (Hyer and Rafferty) for Thunder Bay-Rainy River & Thunder Bay-Superior North not spoken out against this? Why have the leaders of Canada’s federal political parties not spoken out against this (Harper, Muclair, Trudeau, and May)? Why have the provincial leaders not spoken out against Ward-Johnson’s comments (Wynne, Hudak, Horwath)? The only leader, Allan Small of the Ontario Libertarian Party, has made a comment – which is “no comment [on Tamara Johnson] until after the election.” This horrible situation is not just a 'provincial' issue, as some may argue. Indigenous/Canadian relations are interconnected to not only the Federal Government of Canada, in some cases, but also the Crown and its representatives. Additionally, these actions permeate from the local area and throughout Turtle Island and the land shared by Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples.

What Does Ward-Johnson Highlight?

A Spoof of Ward-Johnson's Ad.
The actions of Ward-Johnson and the inaction thus far from Canada’s political leaders is but another example of how Canada has such a long way to go in healing a tenuous and broken relationship, as Justin Trudeau referred to it at the Aboriginal Peoples’ Commission’s AFN event in July 2013, before it can be healed and even properly understood. Additionally, Ward-Johnson highlights the high amount of ignorance that still exists in understand Canada’s historical formation, apartheid-like & genocidal legislation, and the inability for Canada to come to terms with its historical & current relationships with the Indigenous nations it shares this territory with.

            Additionally, Tamara Ward-Johnson highlights that despite her claim to freedom of speech, that in Canada, when it comes to racism, Indigenous peoples are still a free-for-all target. Apologies are consistently presented when articles or comments are written about Women, Africans, Asians, middle-eastern, LGBT, and Jewish citizens – but when it is related to Indigenous peoples, it is still freedom of speech.

            However it is important for those espousing freedoms to remember: Freedom of speech does not mean freedom from judgement, protest or action from those who call bluff on your ignorance and stupidity.

In Conclusion:

Tamara Ward-Johnson – you are what IS wrong with Canada and its inability to not only decolonize and understand its past, present and future; but also why the ‘bridge’ between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples is easier to burn then kindling….

….like the bridge that linked Fort William and Thunder Bay.

Sources to Consider:

1 comment:

  1. Update: Tamara Ward-Johnson came in a very distant fifth place in Thunder Bay-Superior North, obtaining just over 900 votes (around 3% of votes casted)