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“Out-of-order: Black Canadians in Multicultural Canada”

Photo of Michele Johnson

Michele Johnson

The presence of persons of African descent in Canada – assumed by many to be constituted primarily of Caribbean immigrants along with “continental” African communities – has often been perceived and portrayed as relatively recent and certainly problematic. This is entirely in keeping with Canada’s tendency to link its identity to the idea of the “Great White North,” replete with symbolic images of snow, wilderness, emptiness and innocence, characterized by benevolence and giving birth to tolerant multiculturalism. Among Black people living in Canada, however, these self-congratulatory constructions often ring hollow as the anti-Black sentiment that generates the suspicion, skepticism and surveillance that frame their daily lives declare them to be outside of the nation, to be “out-of-order.” Until and unless Canada examines, addresses and repairs the debilitating consequences of its systemic anti-Black racism – whose roots are as deep as they are strong – its self-portrayals of a harmonious multicultural society will remain, at best, illusory.