Editorial: Canadians are too smug

Flags at half mast in Moose Jaw, on January 30, 2017. -- (Crystal Schick/Times-Herald)

Canadians have gotten far too much satisfaction out of watching our neighbours to the south struggle during the early weeks of Donald Trump’s presidency. We’ve consoled ourselves – often in an embarrassingly public, self-serving fashion – that we are better: a true multicultural nation, one of the last bastions of tolerance.

But make no mistake, the rampant racism and intolerance that is coming to the fore of American society is also deeply embedded within our own. We are a nation of immigrants living atop stolen Indigenous land.

We applaud our Prime Minister for welcoming refugees to Canada in response to President Trump’s executive order late last week that banned travel to the United States from numerous Muslim-majority countries and caused widespread uproar and confusion over the weekend.

“Diversity is our strength,” Justin Trudeau tweeted in response. And yet, as a country we remain woefully, inadequately silent about Indigenous access to clean drinking water, to good education, to necessary, life-saving health care.

Last November, six Indigenous girls committed suicide in northern Saskatchewan. In Northern Ontario this month, it took an anonymous donor to pledge the nearly $400,000 to fund a suicide prevention program Health Canada had refused to fund. Putting aside the fact the funding should have come from our own government, the donation is still too late to save the lives of two young girls who killed themselves on a northern First Nation.

As a country, we are too quick to label instances of racial hate as one-offs, to say that horrific acts are not representative of our country, and to rush to distance ourselves. We do not adequately interrogate the discrepancy between how we see ourselves as a nation and how we actually are.

Statistics from 2016 show hate crimes across Canada dropped in recent years but those against Muslim Canadians more than doubled. It’s an incongruity impossible to ignore after Sunday night’s terrorist attack at a Quebec mosque. Men sat down to their evening prayers and some never got up. Six people are dead and many more injured, some still fighting to survive.

Moose Jaw must not distance itself from these attacks.

Our city must turn shock and horror into an opportunity to fight hate in our own community, even if it is less physical and much more difficult to root out. We cannot afford to be complacent. We cannot pretend that we are a multicultural utopia and we cannot sit smugly as our fellow Canadians are the subject of vicious, hateful attacks and as they are murdered in terrorist attacks. They deserve so much better than our superior, unhelpful declarations that “this is not my Canada.”

It is your Canada.

We are not better, but we do need to do better.

— Moose Jaw Times-Herald

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