Over the months that Idle No More has been around, there have been those who are strong advocates for the movement and there have been those who are strong opponents to the movement. And in between, there are a number of people who have populated the spectrum between the two.
One of the most recognized names in the opponents corner is Michele Tittler, and her rants against Indigenous peoples is what some consider to be extreme. But who is Michele Tittler?
She claims to have attended Humber College in the early 80s. She records herself dancing and uploads the videos to YouTube. Mainstream media reports that she’s in her fifties and has a history of harassing people. And CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) has referred to her as an aggressive and racially charged Internet troll.
Michele Tittler’s most recent video is certainly one for the books, and at around 16 minutes in length, there’s considerable repetition combined with comments and behaviors that seem intent on flaming the fires of racial hatred, from the headdress she wears as her protest against “Indian industry” and “Indian dialogue” to her demand that indigenous peoples stop talking about the genocide that has happened over generations.
To facilitate this dialogue, I’m providing a very brief history of the term genocide and how it is viewed in International Law.
The term genocide didn’t exist before 1944 when Raphael Lemke, who worked for the U.S. War Department, created the word, and used it in his essay, “Axis Rule In Occupied Europe.” He created the word by combining the word geno (meaning race or tribe) and cide (meaning to kill) thereby creating the word genocide. The United Nations General Assembly included Article III (c) in the Genocide Convention that was passed on December 9, 1948. Article III (c) states that “direct and public incitement to commit genocide” is a crime.
[G]enocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:
(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
In Michele Tittler’s video, she accuses First Nations peoples of being the “least productive, least contributing, least respectful group of people in Canada.”
She accuses First Nations peoples of “holding progress back,” of “impeding the progress of mankind,” and of “oppressing Canadians.”
She refers to discussions about First Nations issues as being “cruel, vile, divisive, repugnant dialogue.”
She alleges that “a lot of good came out of residential schools” and that “the damage of residential schools is a bunch of lies.“
She accuses First Nations peoples of being “part of a lying culture,” and says First Nations peoples “don’t even know what colonialism is.”
She loudly proclaims that “everyone who immigrated here lost their language and their culture.” It’s an odd sort of pronouncement given that across Canada, many who immigrated to Canada — or whose parents or grandparents or even great-grandparents immigrated to Canada — have held on to their traditions, their culture, and their language.
There are mosques and synagogues and churches where culture and spirituality thrive. There are different sections in major cities across Canada where ethnicities are celebrated in their restaurants and their shops and on city streets. Quite clearly, her assertion that “everyone who immigrated here lost their language and their culture” is incorrect.
What Michele Tittler hasn’t done is educate herself on the issues that are central to the Idle No More movement. She doesn’t seem to know much about any of the Treaties, and she doesn’t seem to know much about Canadian or World History.
It’s unfortunate when someone who is so passionate about matters insists on ignoring the facts in favor of the controversy and attention such controversy may bring her.
And contrary to what Michele Tittler claims, we have a very good understanding of what colonialism is. It’s the policy or practice of acquiring political control over another country for the purpose of exploiting the country’s resources economically and flooding that country with one’s own people to achieve that goal. And no, colonialism should not to be confused with imperialism, which is altogether a horse of another color.