By Nicole Brumley
People concerned about the effects of Donald Trump’s political agenda on minority and Indigenous groups, gathered to address means of resistance in the United States and Canada.
The event, Resisting Trump’s Agenda Against Women, Racialized and Indigenous Communities, was held at Ryerson on March 7. Panelists, Kike Roach, Sandi Wemigwase and Haroon Siddiqui, condemned political tactics of discrimination and misogyny. They urged attendees to not only focus on U.S. issues, but also on the shortcomings in our own ‘backyard’.
Haroon Siddiqui, distinguished visiting professor and former Toronto Star editor, said Trump’s triumph reflects the age of anger that we live in today.
He said in addition to economic reasons, the politics of white identity or “white lash” has fuelled a “toxic mix of misogyny, white supremacy, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.”
“White lash is against a changing country, against a Black president whom more than a third of Americans suspected of being a closet Muslim,” says Siddiqui. “It is fury at the women’s movement, fury at the progress made by the LGBT community, and most crucially, fury at [the] impotence to stop these social changes.”
Speaking to increased attacks on the Muslim community, he said women, especially those who wear the hijab and/or niqab, face the highest rate of hate and are being spat on and harassed in public spaces, not by Muslim men, but by non-Muslims.
Siddiqui urged that many people need to stop being in denial that “such nastiness” does not happen in Canada.
He reminded attendees of former Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s proposal to ban niqabs and Conservative candidate, Kelly Leitch’s plan to implement a Canadian values screening test for immigrants.
Aima Warriach*, a first-year politics student and attendee, said as a Muslim woman who chooses to cover herself in a niqab and hijab, policies that affect her community try to “dehumanize and marginalize us from connecting with others.”
She said it was important for her to come to the event and voice her opinion because people generally think of niqabis as people who are conservative and unaware of the issues that surround them.
Panelist, Sandi Wemigwase, an Indigenous activist and PhD student at U of T, spoke about Trump’s decision to “push out” the people of Standing Rock, days after he was elected into office.
She said Trump’s intentions are the same as past U.S. settlers, “They want our land.”
“His problem with us is that we are not dying fast enough … He wants the land so that he can extract all the oil and make all the money,” said Wemigwase.
Regardless of this, she said Indigenous people are resilient because of their humanity and their community and family ties.
“Those are my family members, those are the people who share the same language as me and that means when I see them again, it’s having the respect to want to take care of them and having responsibility,” says Wemigwase. “That is what has kept us alive and that is what will keep us alive, is being responsible to one another.”
Kike Roach, Unifor-Sam Gindin Chair of Social Justice and Democracy at Ryerson and lawyer, urged attendees to pay attention to political images of progress that hold value only at surface level.
She spoke about the widely-circulated photo from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s visit to the White House, with him and Trump surrounded by women at their round table discussion.
“But who were those women?” Roach questioned, adding that most them were white and CEOs of multinational corporations owned by men.
“It reminded me that in the evolving technologies of patriarchy, that our bodies–female bodies–can simply be displayed … as symbols of diversity and inclusion when really they are doing nothing more than maintain the status quo,” said Roach.
She pressed that Canadians need to focus on home issues like the gender wage gap instead of focusing on the “orange glow from the States.”
Nicholas Tsergas, a Ryerson Masters student in Nursing, said he has created the “A Strong Canada” campaign to resist the “Trump-like agenda” in Canada.
His plan is to form a collective of non-Conservative supporters to join the Conservative party and cast their vote against “hateful politicians who are currently running in their leadership.”
Tsergas called it a “a full-scale [takeover] of the conservative party by left-wing voters, progressives, people who normally vote liberal or NDP or Green.”
He said his campaign has reached over 60,000 people in a week.
Tsergas said after March 28th, the deadline to register for the party to vote in this year’s leadership election, he will assess the viability of his campaign candidates and whether they can stand up against opposing the likes of Kelly Leitch and Kevin O’Leary, the current Conservative front runners.
*CORRECTION: In a previous version of this article, we name Aima Warriach as Alima Warriach. The Eyeopener regrets this error.