I want to re-iterate something off the top of this post: I love my country. I love how we have managed to find a way to safeguard individual freedoms without sacrificing our sense of mutual custodianship to each other. I love the fact that we pride ourselves on separating religion from politics, and are, for the most part, very willing (perhaps sometimes too willing) to accommodate the cultural practices of others. I love that things like guns and gay marriage and abortion, things that are currently tearing the United States apart, are relatively foregone conclusions here – not to minimize the struggles of the past to get things this way, but they were much shorter and less divisive.
I love my country… and I fear for it.
I fear for it simply because we are happy to close our eyes and pretend that racism is not an issue here. I was all pumped to write a short post about a news item I saw in the paper:
Hate crimes increased 35% between 2007 and 2008, according to a report from Statistics Canada released on Monday, with Jewish and black people the most targeted groups for attacks. The data shows hate crimes are on the rise in each motivation grouping: race and ethnicity, religion and sexual orientation.
I was going to say that we’re clearly not out of the woods, and that even though much of the rise may be attributable to an increase in the number of reported cases as people become more willing to call a hate crime ‘a hate crime’, a 35% jump is not something to sweep under the carpet, as it may represent a real increase. I was particularly chilled by the fact that Vancouver, my home, was the city with the highest rate of attacks (I immediately thought of Courtenay, BC). It was just going to be a quick piece, reminding us not to be complacent.
Then I read this truly execrable word salad of an opinion column written by Mindelle Jacobs, a woman who, if she got paid anything for writing this piece, was grossly overpaid:
If you look under enough rocks, you’ll find the slimy underbelly of discrimination. But let’s not blow this study out of proportion. After all, this is not Kyrgyzstan, where hundreds of minority Uzbeks have been killed.
The vast majority of Canadians embrace a live-and-let-live philosophy, partly because Canada is wealthy, stable and rooted in inclusive Judeo-Christian principles and the rule of law and partly because we are a nation of immigrants fashioning a comparatively new country.
Gah! So much wrong in only two sentences (I count the first paragraph as one sentence – those periods are inappropriately placed). Let’s see, right off the top we’ve got a brainless downward comparison (oh goody! We’re not as bad as a genocidal country! Calloo Callay!), and an appeal to that shiny old lie that Canada is founded on Judeo-Christian principles. Finally, after relating a completely off-topic story about a friend who wears a Star of David and fears being discriminated against, she ends with this gem:
Hate crimes constitute less than 1% of all our crimes. Yes, we have a few bigoted lunatics. But we have a powerful counter force — millions of Canadians without a discriminatory bone in their bodies.
“Don’t worry,” Ms. Jacobs says “everything is okay! You don’t have to worry about it! Only 1% of all crimes are hate crimes! And it’s only done by ‘those people’, not by good-hearted Canadians like you and me!”
Here’s a hint for Ms. Jacobs: if you’re going to write an article about race and race issues in Canada, it might help if you do… let’s say 5 minutes of reading on the topic before you publish an opinion piece with national circulation. This idiotic scribbling was picked up by dailies all over the country, spreading the pablum of “everything’s okay, we don’t have to make any changes because we’re not Kyrgyztan” to Canadians everywhere.
So this post is going to be just a little longer than it was supposed to be. Since we’ve already talked about Nova Scotia, both present and past, and of course Courtenay making the news, the particular challenges Canada faces with regard to race, and a number of recent examples of cultures clashing here, I thought I’d bring one more thing to the table.
Isn’t it great when, while the rest of the world is coming together to play soccer and set aside their differences, we here in Canada are happily tossing racist epithets at children? Yes Ms. Jacobs, there’s no race problem in Canada; well, unless you ask someone who isn’t white. This poor girl was not only the victim of comments from the other kids on the field, but by their parents as well. What kind of person do you have to be to insult a child… regardless of the nature of the insult. Hatred of Natives is widespread pretty much everywhere across Canada, and this incident is merely an obvious example of it. People here in Vancouver like to make insulting comments about Native people to my face, as though it’s okay to be racist against some people, because I’m not part of that group. I can only make assumptions about what kinds of things they say about black people when I’m not in the room.
So we’ve got racism coast to coast, and a columnist who seems to think it’s just a handful of isolated incidents. Ms. Jacobs asks if Edmonton and Calgary are hotbeds of racism, pooh-poohing the idea. This means that she has spent zero time talking to any black or Native people who live in these cities. She’s never bothered to look across the prairies and see how South Asians and Natives are treated by the communities there. She’s never seen the race divide and ghettoization of immigrants in Southern Ontario. She’s clearly never been to Surrey, or any Native reserve where white Canadians are distrusted and hated. No, Mindelle Jacobs clearly doesn’t know anything about race in Canada, happy to stick with the lies instead of poking her head out and seeing anything that challenges her rose-tinted view that Canada is a happy, Christian place where “only” 1% of our crimes are based on hate. I’d much rather live in the real Canada, which has its flaws, but where real progress can be made.