WORLD

THE NEW MAIN MAN

CARL MOLLINS October 30 1995
WORLD

THE NEW MAIN MAN

CARL MOLLINS October 30 1995

A COMMON CHORD IN CANADA

WORLD

Toronto black activist Chaiies Roach has taken part in dozens of antiracism protests. Like many of the 200 Canadians who travelled to Washington for Louis Farrakhan's Million Man March, he came away euphoric. Although Canadi an black leaders often disagree with the tactics of Farrakhan's Nation of Islam, the fiery U.S. ora tor's view that people must take responsibility for their own lives strikes a resounding chord. Like their U.S. counterparts, says Roach, black communities in Canada are wracked by youth unem ployment and violence. "The issues," he says, "are the same in both countries." Henry Bishop, curator of The Black Cultural Centre for Nova Scotia in Dart mouth, is among those who reject many of Farrakhan's controversial beliefs, such as the segregation of the sexes. But he, too, wants to see more positive action. Early next month, Bishop plans to stage his own motivational rally, called Ramdatt: treat Operation Show and Tell, at families better which 19 black RCMP off, cers who were born in Nova

Scotia will be honored as role models. Says Bishop: “We want to heal wounds and change perceptions.” The day Farrakhan spoke, about 50 of his supporters in Toronto staged their own march on the provincial legislature. Among them was Carl Ramdatt, 20, vice-president of the African Canadian Students’ Association. He was touched by Farrakhan’s call for personal atonement. Said Ramdatt: “We don’t treat our women as well as we should, and we could take better care of our families.”

But preaching that message is not as easy in Canada as it is in the United States, where the black community is far more homogeneous. Blacks have come to Canada from all over the world—-traditionally, the United States and the Caribbean, more lately Africa—and have never been galvanized as a single group. Today, more than 500,000 Canadians are of African origin; they form about nine per cent of the population in both Halifax and Toronto. Nation of Islam, which has small branches in Toronto and Montreal, hopes to unite them through religion, but that has had limited success.

Still, many Canadian black leaders see Farrakhan as a positive force. Roach, a lawyer, says the American has earned respect throughout the community. Dan Philip, president of the Montrealbased Black Coalition of Quebec, believes Farrakhan is saying what many blacks want to hear. Says Philip: “They are looking for people of power with solutions.” With no single charismatic figure of their own, many Canadian blacks are turning in Farrakhan’s direction.

TOM FENNELL