On Multiculturalism in Canada: It’s Time To Practice What We Preach

So, yesterday was pretty much a write off for me, as I suspect it was for many. Our neighbours to the south voted in a fascist for president, and the reality of what that truly meant was quickly setting in. I reflected about what this victory meant for women, people of colour, people with disabilities, Muslims, the LGBTQ community, and anyone who has a vision for a society that is compassionate, just and inclusive. I thought a lot about my little brown skinned cousins. To know they woke up yesterday in a country that was perhaps now more dangerous to them made me distraught. I worried. I cried. I got angry.

I had a fleeting moment of reprieve when I thought to myself, “They can always move back to Canada. It’s not as bad here”. But then I really thought about it. I realized we are doing ourselves a great disservice by assuming Canada is immune to what has happened in the US. We have our own issues of racism and hate here. We’re all too ready to proclaim that we are a melting pot country and that we all get along smoothly here, as if it’s a badge to wear. As a person of colour, I can tell you that my reality differs. The statistics would also indicate that Canada has a growing problem of intolerance. A recent poll shows roughly 70% of Canadians feel that minorities should try harder to fit in and rid themselves of their languages and traditions, which to me flies directly in the face of the multiculturalism we like to celebrate in Canada.

If we look at exit polling from the election, the racial divide is pretty clear. White America put Donald Trump into office, completely disregarding the safety and needs of their fellow Americans of colour. Some people would like to say that it was the poor, forgotten and disenfranchised people that were moved to vote for Trump, but the people that voted him in came from all classes and demographics. Trump capitalized on the huge problem of racism that exists in the US.

And this what worries me. There are many people in Canada that would like to see something similar happen here. In the not so distant past, the openly Islamophobic Harper administration used race baiting to polarize voters. Don’t forget about the Barbaric Cultural Practices hotline. That wasn’t that long ago. Most recently, Conservative MP Kellie Leitch celebrated Trump’s victory and said that it was “an exciting message that needed to be delivered in Canada as well”. We have a member of parliament celebrating Trump’s tactics. Let that sink in.

What happened on Tuesday scared the hell out of me. Knowing that something similar can happen here should scare the hell out of you too – that is, if you love your country like you think you do. We can’t smugly continue on assuming that racism isn’t a problem here. We need to get on top of this. We need to nip it in the bud. If we don’t, well, you know what can happen.

We need to stop talking about multiculturalism and start practicing it. Furthermore, and most importantly, we need to engage the very people that just might turn their back on us. We need to understand those who hold bigoted views. We have to figure them out and learn how to connect with them. We can’t simply just yell at them and tell them to stop being racist. It’s going to take thought and nuance and it will undoubtedly be an arduous task. But, I do think it is possible.

Frankly, I’m not sure where to start. But, we desperately need to do something and we need to do it now. I love Canada and I am legitimately concerned about what will happen to it if we don’t start to acknowledge the problems we have here at home. We’re all in this together. Let’s get to work.

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