BEYOND THE RIVER

As it stands, our social and political climate has brought us to point fingers at our neighbors to the south. Yet eyesights falls increasingly short as the distance widens in that direction. Past the orange skinned reality show host that the U.S. calls Mr. President, lays a whole continent sadly forgotten by the progressive and peace loving countries of the world. That’s right, America is not the United States and Canada, and the continent doesn’t stop at Rio Grande. Some might say with an air of self-righteousness “I already knew that!”. Popping out your chests which are now swollen with an air of superiority over those ignorant many who are oblivious of the wretched continent. But I advise this enlightened few not to fly too high in the cloud of their own pride. For all that is being said and done about the injustices in those countries, they should be even more ashamed than those who remain ignorant.

As we know, the most deeply embedded problems in this countries come from centuries of imperialism. Spanish, Portuguese, French, American, and British (among others) all got their piece of the pie, all contributed to the organized and continued rape of the land and abuses of its people. Entire ways of life where eradicated by the voracious hunger for capital gains, and locals paid for this gluttony with their lives and dignity. And for all this madness the righteous people of the West raised no voices, no complaints have travelled south from the mouths in the lands of freedom and democracy. As Eduardo Galeano once wrote referring to the events that transpired in Guatemala between 1954 and 1967 “The systematic butchery set no teletypes humming; no news-hungry reporters flew to Guatemala, nor was any reproving voice heard. The world turned its back while Guatemala underwent a long Saint Bartholomew’s night.”.

Why, you may ask, is this important in Canada? Canada is the good guy after all. Towering upon the skyline of the historical centre of Winnipeg rises the museum of Human Rights, testament of the will of Canadians to uphold this sacred principles. In international summits, statements by the young progressive prime minister, and from the mouth of the people a common tune arises “We’re the good guys!”. But the orchestra comes with a warning, and the smell of pride fills the air with a pungency that makes it feel quite fake. When the charade is lifted nothing remains but falsehood. Beyond the river, Canada has taken its share of the loot.

That’s right! Canadian mines wreak havoc throughout the world. From Congo to Mexico, this mineral magnates extract not only the riches of the earth, but the lives of the locals. This ravaged cultures now add to their long list of murderers and oppressors the good and faithful people of the true north. Once more, for all the talk of human rights, not one voice is being raised.

Like in 2009, when Honduras underwent an unconstitutional coup or now with the bloodshed that is taking place in Nicaragua, Canada stands still. While it would be unfair to compare the people of this country to their openly imperialist neighbors, it must be recognized that Canada, much like Pilate, tries to wash the unwashable. The silence in the universities, media, and government is deafening and deadly. It is a silence that condemns the people of the south to suffer on their own, to fight on their own, and worse of all, to die on their own. While speaking to a Nicaraguan refugee I heard once more the tired song of plea “We scream for the world’s solidarity, not its indifference!”, but as usual no news-hungry reporters fly to Nicaragua, nor is any reproving voice heard.

If human rights are truly part of our values, if democracy is not just an empty word, if Canadians truly want to live up to their identity, then this disinterested blindness and apathetic deafness must stop. The people and the media must join forces to demand that the life and liberty of the people beyond Rio Grande are respected. A watchful eye must be kept not only in our homes or our backyards, but in every neighborhood with which we share this great continent and beyond. After all, this sacred rights do not stop past the boarder officer, they permeate to every nation and must be demanded with urgency. We must inform, we must denounce, but most of all, we must stand together as people.