November saw some major shake-ups in the world of Canadian hockey. Calgary Flames coach Bill Peters resigned after black player Akim Aliu tweeted about the racist treatment he experienced from Peters 10 years ago. Don Cherry, longtime host of the Coach’s Corner segment on Hockey Night In Canada, was fired after criticizing ‘you people’, which many observers took to mean recent immigrants to Canada, for not wearing poppies before Remembrance Day.
Some critics have said that Peters’ and Cherry’s departures are just more examples of far-left political correctness, this time with hockey as its target. The thing is, though, that what seems like ‘political correctness’ actually goes back much further.
Aliu is not the only minority hockey player who’s faced racist harassment. Metis player Theo Fleury has been up front about the racism he’s faced as an Indigenous player, which angered him to the point where he nearly returned his 2002 Olympic gold medal. Ojibwe coach Ted Nolan had racial slurs and mocking ‘warrior chants’ thrown at him when his team played in Quebec in 2005.
As for Cherry, he unintentionally connected to a really ugly part of our history related to immigrants and the World Wars with his comments. Canadians of German, Japanese, Ukrainian and other backgrounds whose only ‘crime’ was to hail from countries Canada was fighting in the World Wars were rounded up and put in prison camps. Their property was stolen, their civil rights violated, and in some cases they were deported to their ‘ancestral’ countries despite never having lived there.
Cherry bungled his message by implying immigrants were the only ones who didn’t wear poppies when they should. If he’d called out Canadians in general for doing so, without singling any group out, he’d still have not just an excellent point, but a job.
The issues surrounding ‘political correctness’ aren’t limited to hockey, of course. Many Indigenous activists harshly criticized Canada’s 150th anniversary celebrations. What many people don’t know is that Chief Dan George did much the same thing during Canada’s centennial back in 1967 in his ‘Lament For Confederation’. Unfortunately, there are a lot of parallels between what Chief George said in 1967 and what many modern Indigenous activists said in 2017.
Nor are the issues limited to Canada. The #metoo movement exposed the crimes of men like Harvey Weinstein and Bill Cosby, but Judy Garland’s experiences show how long it’s been a problem in Hollywood. Garland was repeatedly sexually harassed by studio bosses and the actors who played the Munchkins when she filmed The Wizard Of Oz despite being an underage teenager.
The public exposure and criticism many powerful people have faced over the last few years, and the related social movements, didn’t just come out of nowhere. They aren’t necessarily ‘political correctness’ driven by the far left, either. In many cases, they're related to issues that have been festering for a very long time, issues that have a history stretching back much farther than most people realize.
Jared Milne is a St. Albert resident with a passion for Canadian history and politics.