Imagine my utter surprise when only several years ago, my Mother told me that she had seen Alabama governor George Wallace speak at Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto in July 1964. He appeared there on an invitation from the Lions Club for their national convention. Also slated to appear was Dr. Norman Vincent Peale and NASA’S Lt. -Col. John A. Powers.
I’m perplexed as to why she never mentioned it to me before.
She was well aware of my interest in human rights and life long admiration of the late Dr. Martin Luther King and all that he stood for.
I had never pegged her as being the political sort in her younger days and so I asked her why she would attend such an event. She replied that she was a member of the Lion’s Club and was working as a volunteer.
Of course, I then remembered her taking me to several meetings when I was very young up until I was about six years old. I always walked away from these meetings with my pockets stuffed with little toys and prizes that they handed out to children during their fundraisers.
“So,” I asked her, “How long before the protesters tried to shut him down?”
“There were lots of protesters picketing outside,” she said, “But the police were there.”
Then I asked:
“What about during his speech?”
“It didn’t take long till somebody raised the segregation issue,” she replied.
“As soon as they did he shot back with:
“How can you talk to me about discrimination when you live in a country that treats aboriginals like second class citizens? Deal with that and then we’ll talk.”
At least, that’s how my Mother described it.
I was intrigued.
And so, I did a little research online and found an article that appeared in The Toronto Star on June 29, 2013 written by Kevin Plummer.
According to this Toronto Star’s newspaper account of George Wallace’s visit to Toronto, Rabbi Plout had fervently lobbied to try to get Toronto city council to cancel the event.
Here is a portion of how the Toronto Star reported the damage control being taken in the aftermath of Mr. Wallace’s comments during his visit:
*Rabbi Plaut responded eloquently to critics of the demonstrations who’d rightly pointed out that the Deep South had no monopoly on racism and discrimination, expressing hope that Wallace’s visit would prompt Canadians to examine their own discriminatory policies and practices. “In fact, we owe you still another debt of gratitude,” he address Wallace in an open letter. “Your coming here has reminded us once again that we have unfinished business in Canada. We are more keenly aware that Eskimos and Indians have problems in the solution of which we have been less than assiduous. We have our own areas of discrimination and segregation in practice if not in law. We have practiced discrimination in our immigration policies, hiding behind mythical preferences of national origin. Your presence in our midst will help us tackle this unfinished business with greater speed and concern.”*
This happened fifty-two years ago.
After all this time one would think that the government of Canada and it’s people would have made better progress to end discrimination against indigenous Canadian Aboriginals, wouldn’t one?
Obviously, we still have a long way to go.