Punishing the Principled

Inevitably, it seems like we always pay when we stand up for our principles.  Right now, Jason and Bonnie Devine might be facing the highest possible price for opposing racism in the City of Calgary — Alberta Child Services is considering taking away their four children.

Normally, I wouldn’t be telling you their names.  Anti-racist activists most often have to live in secrecy, in order to avoid violent retaliation from groups like the Aryan Guard who once haunted Calgary (and still sort of do in an unofficial capacity).  Unfortunately, local members of the white supremacist group discovered Jason’s identity a few years ago, and threw a molotov cocktail through the window of their home in 2008.  Since then, they’ve had swastikas and “C-18” spray painted on windows and doors on multiple occasions, slanderous leaflets posted in their neighbourhood and  a projectile shot through a window.

On Sunday night, five masked skinheads invaded Jason and Bonnie’s home and stormed Jason and a friend.  The pair were attacked with baseball bats and hammers.  Bonnie and their four children were asleep elsewhere in the house and escaped injury.

Alberta Child Services is investigating removing the children from their home, by saying that their anti-racist involvement makes them a danger to their kids. The media is often faring no better, with CTV this evening saying nothing about the neo-nazi aspect of the attackers, and quipping that “most home invasions in Calgary” are connected to the drug trade.  Insinuate much?

Meanwhile, Calgary law enforcement has been otherwise slow to do anything.  The past firebombing was dismissed as vandalism and even this violent attack was initially dismissed as a robbery (despite the fact that nothing was taken), until Jason went to the media with the truth about what took place.

So of course, this attack is not serious enough to energetically investigate, but it’s important enough to seize the victims’ children.  What the fuck?!?

Unfortunately, this is far from unusual, and authorities in many jurisdictions have long histories of punishing those who stand up for social justice, or subjecting them to investigation, harassment and even arrest. Such as the November 5th police raid on a social justice-aimed educational bookstore in Victoria.  Or the internationally infamous G20 protests in Toronto.  Even Canada’s spy agency, CSIS, gets in on the act by investigating peaceful citizens because they belong to social justice and LGBT groups.  (Including Albertan trans groups and activists.  Twice.  That I know of.)  God help the peaceniks.

Positive change is badly needed.  And positive change is not going to happen if the powers that be are allowed to bury their collective heads in the sand.  It’s not going to happen by dismissing this home invasion as a robbery or insulting the victims with intimations of drug motives.  And it’s not going to happen by failing to investigate and apprehend hate-driven criminals whose objective is to intimidate and do violence.

Or by punishing the people who are standing up for peace and justice.  Which is something that Calgary law enforcement and Alberta social services could stand to do from time to time.

Update: Word has come through that Alberta Child Services has in fact backed off.  Now if only the attackers could be found, charged and tried, then perhaps something might genuinely be done to ensure the safety of this family.

  1. what happened with the calgary police? they must have dropped the ball on this one. I remember the cheif of police in calgary giving a speech at the Pride festival of 2009 saying that calgary would not tolerate intolerence in his city. its time that he steps up and takes action against those individuals who have threatened this family with their actions. When will this world live in peace and understanding of all people, regardless of their own personal feelings on any issue.

      • dentedbluemercedes
      • November 13th, 2010

      I remember that speech too. Unfortunately, they don’t always live up to what they say.

      In Calgary, the anti-racist protesters largely strive for peaceful resistance (there’s sometimes a small number in the crowds of 100s that get carried away, but that’s discouraged), but are treated like the violent ones whenever there’s a conflict between the skinheads and counter-protesters. The media has sort of followed the PD’s lead on this, especially after a reporter was beaned in the head by a sign.

      But part of the problem is something that’s endemic of law enforcement in the western world. Nobody wants to admit that there are people in their community who are hateful to the point of violence, because then people start asking why something isn’t being done about them. When the pressure first starts, the knee-jerk reaction is to deny it and push back at the people who are making the claim, rather than thoroughly investigating. I would like to believe that in the end, they’ll do what’s right, but it ultimately ends up being up to them to prove it.

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