Canada and the cover of whiteness

Canadian immigration - while discouraging Roma from applying for refugee status - welcomes the worst of Apartheid South Africa's perpetrators.

Photo: IQ Remix, via Flickr CC.

It was in Yeoville sometime in the 1990s that a ‘spook’ from South Africa’s now ruling party, the ANC, with whom I was acquainted began asking me questions about my father.  My family had migrated to Canada, which he knew, and he was asking questions like, “when,” and “was your dad ever in the SADF (the apartheid army)?” and “what does your dad do?”  It seemed rather odd to me (but then spies of any ideological persuasion are) until I picked up a copy of the weekly Mail & Guardian (I cant recall whether it was still known as the Weekly Mail).  And there, in black and white, was the answer to my puzzlement.  The paper was reporting on a rather nasty character, Dr Aubrey Levin, who had immigrated to Canada from South Africa.  He was known for his virulent racism and dedicated support to the National Party (as it was the party of Apartheid).  He was also foul in the administration of a technique of aversion therapy to ‘cure’ homosexuals of their ‘deviance.’

His cruelty towards conscientious objectors to the Apartheid army (all white males were conscripted) is the stuff of Truth and Reconciliation investigations.  He was employed as a psychiatrist in the apartheid army and evolved a reputation as Dr. Shock.  We share the same last name and religion.  He is old enough to be my father.  But thankfully I was blessed with a much better man to be my dad.

I was reminded of that encounter when I hear the news that Dr. Shock had just been sentenced to 5 years in prison for molesting court-appointed patients in his adopted home of Calgary, Canada.  How this man ever gained citizenship here, and how he was permitted to practice as a psychiatrist for the state, is a scar on the immigration laws of this country.  Partly this was a function of Levin’s litigious tactic against any papers reporting on his past.  He had claimed that aversion therapy was accepted practice which was never undertaken without consent.  He made a similar claim in relation to his current sexual assault charges about how fondling his patients’ genitals was an accepted practice for erectile dysfunction.

The Canadian newspapers have hardly delved into his past in reporting on his case with the exception of a 2010 Globe and Mail article and, last week, an article in the Toronto Star.

In fact, some stories, without a hint of irony, reported on the arguments made in mitigation of his sentencing that “all the good the psychiatrist has done in his life has not been erased by the bad.”

None have asked how this person got past the immigration authorities and the Saskatchewan and Alberta medical boards.  An immigration board decision is currently under review for accepting the claim of refugee status for a white South African man.  And the Canadian government currently has billboards up in Hungary urging Roma not to apply for refugee status in the country.  Maybe the message is that we can all steal into this settler colony, under the cover of white.

Further Reading

This is Freedom

The AIDS activist Zackie Achmat reflects on South Africa’s 5th democratic elections in this interview with Cape Town independent media outlet, GroundUp.