Saturday, October 31, 2009

Racialist Canada

The creepy basis on which they want the Brandon Huntley decision reviewed

Johannesburg - At the end of last month Canada's minister of immigration, Jason Kenney, applied to the federal court for a review of the decision to grant refugee status to the white South African wastrel Brandon Huntley.

There may well be good grounds for review. It seems likely Huntley was chancing it in his application, with his unsubstantiated claims of being the victim of a series of racist attacks by black South Africans. The original ruling also expressed a somewhat distorted view of South African race relations.

But Kenney goes well beyond responding to the original finding on narrow legal and factual grounds. What is slightly creepy about his memorandum of argument is that it denies some fairly basic realities about post-apartheid history, and effectively condones the discriminatory policies white South Africans have been subjected to over the past thirteen years (see here).

It is long established ANC policy to reduce the proportion of white South Africans, in all spheres of society, to their percentage of the total population (under 10%). In order to give effect to this policy this minority has been stripped of most protections against racial discrimination in employment.

This programme has been implemented more ruthlessly in certain areas (the civil service, police and judiciary) than others (the private sector.) In terms of the logic of ANC ideology this principle would ultimately have to be applied to property ownership as well - something which would require the kind of race-based expropriation measures employed by Zanu-PF in Zimbabwe. This was certainly where South Africa was heading until the Polokwane revolution knocked it off the usual post-‘colonial' trajectory.

In his memorandum Kenney does not dispute that this has been ANC government policy. He notes that both Huntley and the main witness Laura Kaplan "blamed their respective failure to find work or progress in their career after democratic rule was instituted in South Africa on the government's efforts to ensure that the work force was reflective of the racial makeup of the country. As described in the decision, the affirmative action policy seeks to ensure that black South Africans and other underrepresented racial minorities are adequately represented in the workforce."

Kenney then goes on to argue that the application of this principle is unobjectionable: "There is nothing offensive to Canadian values or the principles which inspired the Convention in this description", he states. He equates this policy with a regulation of the Canadian federal government, recently upheld by the supreme court, which allows "aboriginal fishers the chance to fish for salmon in the Fraser River and to sell their catch before fishing was opened to other general public."

Whether this comparison is appropriate is open to question. When diligently enough applied the pursuit of ‘demographic representivity' deprives white South Africans of any opportunity for advancement in the land of their birth (not just the ability to fish along a particular patch of water). In Canada the government is intervening in favour of a small minority, not acting against it. If it goes too far with such measures, the majority can intervene democratically to halt them.

It is also seems incongruous for the Canadian government to regard the application of this principle to a productive but politically vulnerable minority as morally unproblematic. This is, after all, the principle that racial nationalist regimes almost always invoke to plough this kind of minority under.

Not least, the effort to reduce Jewish overrepresentation in business and the professions, and thereby solve the ‘Jewish question', was central to mainstream Western anti-Semitism in the 1930s (before it crossed over into its final murderous phase.) As has been noted elsewhere, a central demand of the April 1 1933 boycott of Jewish shops and businesses in Germany was for the "introduction of a limited quota for the employment of Jews in all professions, according to their proportion in the population."

According to the instruction issued by the NSDAP to its local action committees "In order to increase the impact of this step the demand should be limited to three areas for the time being: a) attendance at German high schools and universities; b) the medical profession; c) the legal profession."

A few months later the situation in Germany was the subject of a debate in the British House of Commons. The Times' man in Berlin reported that correspondents for the German press in London "appear to have noticed that the Labour and Liberal members who took part in the debate were predominantly Jews, who, according to the version of the Bรถrsen- Zeitung ‘are represented in the English Parliament (as used to be the case in former German Reichstags) in a disproportionately large number in comparison with the percentage which members of their race form of the total English population'" (July 7 1933).

When it came to Sir John Simon's criticism of Nazi policies towards the Jews The Times

This principle was subsequently enshrined in anti-Semitic legislation in a number of European states as they fell under Nazi hegemony. It was also briefly embraced by Hendrik Verwoerd as a possible solution to the Jewish question in South Africa.

It does not say much for Canada if, as its government now asserts on its behalf, it regards this old racialist principle as inoffensive to its values. Or, that its government describes the mass emigration of a racial minority, precipitated by its application (along with violent crime), as the product of understandable "social disruption."

Kenney further complains that the "board's failure to cite any evidence from which one might conclude that South Africa's affirmative action policy reflects an animus or reprisal against white South Africans shows the perversity of its findings."

The board may not have cited any specific examples of racial animus on the part of the Mbeki administration, which implemented this programme, but absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Discrimination against white officials in state employ was pervasive and often vindictive through the Mbeki-era. The ANC often preferred to keep critical positions vacant rather than promote qualified white applicants to fill them. Mbeki himself repeatedly expressed a deep seated animus towards the white minority. The rhetoric of the ANC of Mbeki was that all whites (except those who had joined the ruling party) had "blood on their hands", were "racist" enemies of the people, regarded black South Africans as "sub human", and had "stolen" their possessions from the black majority.

Again, it says very little for Canada if its diplomats in Pretoria failed to notify Ottawa of the racially driven approach of the Mbeki government between 1997 and 2007. White South Africans were told during that period that they had no right to equal treatment, and were only being allowed to participate in the new democracy on sufferance. For example, in late 2000 members of the Portuguese community marched to the Union Buildings to protest against the high levels of violent crime they were being subjected to. A memorandum that they had handed over provoked a vicious response by the then Minister of Safety & Security, Steve Tshwete (see here). In his reply, in all likelihood ghost written by Mbeki, Tshwete effectively said that Portuguese South Africans had no moral right to complain about crime given their past:

"[Some among the Portuguese community] came here because they knew that the colour of their skin would entitle them to join ‘the master race', to participate in the oppression and exploitation of the black majority and to enjoy the benefits of white minority domination. It is perhaps because you have not outgrown these white supremacist ideas and practices that you wrote your memorandum, which you delivered to the Union Buildings."

The claims made by Huntley that black South Africans hate whites due to the injustices of the past, while untrue, do not emanate from nowhere. The major proponent of this view in the post-apartheid period was Mbeki himself. From the time he was deputy president he argued, in line with African nationalist thought, that white overrepresentation in the higher activities of society (or ‘racial imbalances') constituted the central grievance of the black majority. If the white minority resisted the kind of measures mentioned above they would bring down upon themselves an "explosion" of black anger.

In a letter to Pik Botha in September 2007, written in response to the latter's criticism of demographic representivity, Mbeki described the ANC as "a buffer between a deeply aggrieved black majority and a white minority that seems mercilessly insensitive to the grievous harm that was done to millions, in its name."
reported the semi-official response from Germany as follows: "As for the Jewish question, it is said that he ought to know that this is not being treated in Germany as a race question, but is merely a matter of reducing the Jewish element in public life and other activities to a degree consonant with its proportion of the population."

3 Opinion(s):

Tim Johnston said...

This is the best summary of the argument I've read, and it's frightening that the Canadians are thinking this way. They might consider asking the large number of South Africans who are in Canada their opinion on the subject.

Toronto mls listings said...

Let's avoid generalization - it's not Canadians who are thinking this way, it's the "official position". Mostly it's just about lack of information, so thank god for blogs like this one.


Anonymous said...

@Julie. Okay, let's not engage in semantics. The Canadian voice is via the elected officials.