Politics

Halifax activists discuss ‘resistance’ to Trump

Panel suggests education, solidarity, empathy as key tactics

Left to right: Diane Obed, El Jones, Erin Wunker, KelleyAnne Malinen, Ardath Whynacht, Isaac Saney and Candida Hadley.
Left to right: Diane Obed, El Jones, Erin Wunker, KelleyAnne Malinen, Ardath Whynacht, Isaac Saney and Candida Hadley.   Regina Peters

The six speakers at a “Resistance in the Time of Trump” panel on Saturday agreed that the greatest threat Donald Trump poses to Canada is a cultural threat.

The event took place at the North Memorial Public Library in Halifax. It was sponsored by Fernwood Publishing and political activist group, the Radical Imagination Project.

Trump being elected as president of the United States has “emboldened racist, misogynist speakers,” said sociologist KelleyAnne Malinen. “The speech of some in fact silences the speech of others, in a way that is not simply competition for air time.”

Trump has, for example, publicly bragged about touching women without their consent, promised to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and claimed that Barack Obama was not born in the U.S.

On Nov. 19, a white supremacist group celebrated Trump with Nazi salutes, even though Trump disavowed them.

There is a “false binary” between Canada and the U.S. when it comes to racism, said El Jones, a teacher at Acadia University, political activist, and former poet laureate of Halifax.

“White supremacy is completely active in Canada,” she said. “We don’t do it vulgarly like Trump, but we do it in more subtle ingrained ways.”

As an example, Jones spoke about Canadian prisons, in which a disproportionate number of inmates are black or Indigenous — although the number of prisoners in general is going down.

She urged all those present at the event to work together and to show support for causes that are “not necessarily your own hobbyhorse causes.” That way, people can avoid being divided by prejudice.

Diane Obed, an Indigenous student support worker with the Halifax Regional School Board, said for Indigenous people, the biggest concern is Trump’s stated stated disbelief in climate change. She said he might “muzzle the media and scientists.”

“We need to look at the world relationally,” she said, as opposed to looking at the land as a possession.

Several speakers referred to Kellie Leitch, who is running for leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada, as Trump’s Canadian counterpart. They urged the audience to join the Conservatives in order to vote her out.

Leitch has spoken of having immigrants tested for “Canadian values” and setting up a police hotline to report “barbaric cultural practices.”

Other suggestions for resisting Trump’s influence were centred around education: teaching children about power dynamics, prejudice and independent thinking. Three of the speakers brought their children with them, including Candida Hadley, managing editor of Fernwood Publishing. She invited her nine-year-old son, Indra, to write down any questions he had.

Candida and Indra Hadley discuss the U.S. election.
Candida Hadley and her son Indra discuss the U.S. election.   Regina Peters

“Why are black people, gay people and First Nations people hated?” Hadley read aloud from her son’s paper.

“Because that makes it easier to take their money and steal their land,” answered a member of the audience.

Hadley maintained that answering these questions is important, especially now.

“We need to talk to (children) honestly, in a way they can understand,” said Hadley. “We have this idea in our society that children should remain innocent, but a lot of kids in the world don’t have that privilege.”

After the speakers were finished, Alex Khasnabish, the host of the event, encouraged the audience to break into groups so they could discuss further activist events in Halifax.

“Thank you for not letting these forces steal our future,” he said. “A social revolution is in progress.”