Giving Permission to Canada’s Racists
Canada, a country of some 36 million people, stretched mostly in a ribbon along the country’s southern border, despite its geography of 10 million square kilometres. A nation founded on immigrants, initially mostly from Europe and the United Kingdom, and in recent years increasingly from East Asia and South Asia. My dad immigrated to Canada from Glasgow, Scotland, in 1920 at the age of three.
That Canadians have been seen around the world as decent, polite people has not only become a fixture in the country’s self-perception but American comics have had a field day poking fun at their neighbours to the north. I recall a software engineer from South Korea who was a member of my former Toastmasters group. He was a quiet spoken fellow. However, he also proved to be very funny when he gave a club speech on Canada. His gentle pokes at Canadians’ propensity to constantly say “Excuse me” and “Sorry” weren’t not just humorous but really spoke to the country’s culture of what’s actually superficial politeness. Put a Canadian behind the wheel of a motor vehicle and you witness the morphing from docile, flat accented individual to raging lunatic.
Raging motorists aside, Canadians are on the whole still pretty decent people. Yet it’s also important to keep in mind that their southern neighbours are also decent folk, as I shared in a recent post Why America is Good and Great. Unfortunately, when you’re the biggest kid on the block who’s expected to serve a multitude of competing interests domestically and internationally, it’s easy to see why you’d come under daily criticism. Canadians have taken perverse pleasure in knocking down Americans and their political system in an indirect way to boost their own self-esteem.
As probably the world’s biggest voyeurs, Canadians’ favourite entertainment past-time during the last two years has not been NHL hockey, CFL football, or the performing arts (which draws far more people than these two sports combined) but rather watching the political spectacle in the United States. The culmination was the election of Donald J. Trump as President, an outcome that surprised many but in reality the writing was on the wall.
The Coastal Elites, as they’ve been dubbed, still haven’t pulled their heads out of the sand. And what’s been astonishing to watch is not the expected protests (and in some cases riots) across America but numerous protests in Canada. Indeed, some Canadians actually travelled to Florida in the dying days of the Trump-Clinton campaign to help the Democrats. One can imagine Americans reciprocating that gesture. Nothing’s worse than a pissed off beaver.
There have been numerous reports of racist incidents across the U.S. following November 8th. That’s not surprising. What is shocking is the jump in racial abuse being heaped at non-white Canadians in Canada. Coincidently at the time of writing this post, CNN political analyst (and political activist and former Obama White House advisor) Van Jones commented in an interview that Canada isn’t immune to the rise in hate incidents in western countries.
Within a span of just a few days after the U.S. election, numerous hate crime incidents occurred in such cities as Toronto, Hamilton and Ottawa. Graphic hate graffiti, including swastikas (above photo), were spray painted on synagogs, churches and schools, including in my Ottawa west suburban community. In an interview with the media, Reverend Anthony Bailey talked about how his church, Parkdale United, was targeted by vandals: “The racial epithet that was used, it was directed at black people, myself as the pastor here. Some of the vitriol that has come from south of the border has emboldened people to say, ‘You know, I’ve harboured these sentiments for a long time, I feel permitted to do this now, to act it out.’”
A mosque was hit shortly afterwards. And around the same time that week, Ottawa’s Jewish community was on the receiving end, with three vandalisms. As Rabbi Idan Scher told CTV News: “These words are far more than just words. These words are representative and bring back very, very scary images in our history.”
Take a moment to read Rabbi Idan Scher’s powerful commentary Hate is Not Welcome in our City.
At a shopping mall in Hamilton, Ontario, Janice Lloyd was in a check-out line when a white man in his sixties turned around to face her. He showed her the front page of the newspaper which had Donald Trump’s face on it. He blurted out: “I’m glad he got in. I hope he cleans up the whole of North America.” The other shoppers in the line looked away. When Lloyd asked him what he meant by his statement, he replied: “You all shouldn’t even be here, you’re murderers and killers, you’re running around killing everybody, I hope he gets rid of all of you.”
In her interview with CBC News, Lloyd commented: “There was no raised voice or finger pointing in my face. Just a white man feeling he had the licence and permission to tell me exactly what he thought of black people—then casually walk away from me without a thought or care of the impact of his words. I fear the normalization of this kind of racist behaviour in our community.”
Note the word “normalization” that Janice Lloyd used. It’s key to understanding what’s taking place in gentle Canada. Sure, racism has been embedded in Canada ever since the country was created in 1867 and long before. It’s not news, except to a number of naive Canadians. However, for whatever reason, some Canadians now have self-empowered themselves by channelling Donald Trump’s xenophobic rants to their own perverted ends.
President-Elect Trump may be back-pedalling on a number of his statements made during both the Republican Primaries and Presidential Campaign, including some aimed at Mexicans and Muslims. However, he let the genie out of the bottle by making it permissible and safe for Americans to spout racial insults and threats. If a big-shot CEO can do it, a dude who’s been elected to the highest office in the world, then why can’t Joe Blow do it as well?
Here, in the Great White North, Canadians became WAY too involved in Trump theatre. While most Canadians have traditionally leaned towards the Democratic Party, a surprising number wanted to see Trump win. Reasons vary, but one only has to understand the dynamics of the Brexit referendum in the UK and the surprising June 23rd result to see how and why people even outside the U.S. supported Trump.
Donald Trump has given implicit permission to a subset of America to behave in unacceptable ways that are inconsistent with the country’s history of diversity.
The travesty of watching this debauched process unravel is how it has contaminated the spirit and values of a sovereign nation that happens to sit on the northern U.S. border. For not fully understood reasons, some Canadians (ie, white people) have self-initiated to express their resentment towards anyone without white skin.
To repel the rise in racism and bigotry in Canada, leaders at all levels need to engage. This isn’t just the responsibility of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. It requires provincial premiers to speak up. It needs municipal mayors and councillors to get engaged since they’re closest to the community. It means that corporate leaders need to voice their support for strengthening Canada’s diversity. And it demands that individual Canadians must shun racism.
As the above photo says: “Make racists afraid again.”
Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.
—Martin Luther King, Jr.
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