Two year-end surveys of Canadians, respectively conducted by Forum Research Group and by Abacus, provide some potentially useful insights into the relationship between discrimination and prejudice. The surveys remind us that prejudice is uneven, and that some groups are viewed less favourably than others.
When stigma is attached to a community, there appear fewer persons ready to come to the defence of the targeted group. In part, members of other communities see such support as a partisan issue. Others fear that such defence will result in their being associated with the group that is deemed unpopular.
Even those Canadians reporting the highest knowledge about immigration history believe we have always been welcoming. Yet the country's history offers more than enough examples of restrictive immigration practices to suggest that there is at least a bit of ignorance among those of us presuming the most knowledge.
Trump's scapegoating of Muslims, Hispanics, blacks and other "others" for political gain is exposing a racist ugliness, and dangerously inflaming it. Who knows how big the fire might get? "Never forget" became a Jewish slogan in hopes our collective memory might prevent another Holocaust, but also because we can't forget. It defines us. So as hard as it is to hear Hitler's name all over the news, let it at least remind us why we must stop Trump and all leaders who traffic in racism and xenophobia before such hate defines anyone else.
In Canada, the term assimilation is especially unpopular. It's associated with painful events in the country's history. But the country's proponents of forced assimilation often underestimated the inevitability of resistance on the part of their targets. The lessons of our history seem lost on many Canadians as it's surprising to learn how many endorse making "others" like "them." Paradoxically, several Canadians that continue to fear assimilation are amongst those most apt to believe that their own cultural survival depends others assimilating.
Denials of reality about the Jihadist roots of this violence are already feeding frustration in Western populations who know better. The well-intended strategy of protecting Muslims in the West will actually do the opposite -- it will very likely guarantee a backlash against Western Muslims by a growing right-wing movement.
At a time when LGBT communities face frightening and growing prejudice from governments overseas, Canada's Bill C-279 serves as a stark moral contrast with the likes of Uganda, Russia, and numerous undemocratic regimes across the Middle East. It is often overlooked that the "T" in LGBT refers to the transgender community, members of which continue to face serious discrimination in some quarters. In supporting C-279 and calling on Parliament to enshrine greater protection for transgender Canadians, I am proud that we continue the legacy today.
The situation Canadian Natives face is not befitting of Canadians' genuine compassion and sense of fairness. But Canadian Jews have, like American Jews during the civil rights struggle, a special duty born of shared experience to actively support First Nations' efforts "to be a free people in their own land" (from the Israeli anthem).
Think of the many cultures throughout history that have disappeared, some for which we've no account, and others now only known by artifacts or bits and pieces of written history. Rather than focus on the cultures that have been lost, First Nations can focus on the one that has survived thousands of years,
To this day, I cannot watch footage of the faces of Jewish mothers, fathers, and children consigned to the gas chambers in German concentration camps without, as a Canadian, feeling a great sense of sorrow, loss, and guilt. The government of Canada ignored not only the plight of the Jews, but also the protests of the Canadian people and the pleading of the press. Why was nothing done? Because of political expediency; because the prime minister had a visceral distrust of Jews, and in government circles an open-door policy was very unpopular. But prime ministers are not chosen to seek popularity. They are elected to provide leadership.
Rock throwing. Beatings. Bullets. Shouts of "F----ing kike." Ambushes. Theft. Threats. Tear gas attacks. This is not history. This is today. The French Jewish community expects and deserves a far greater degree of respect, as well as a strategic response to the blatant anti-Semitism they are experiencing.
When I was a child growing up in Ottawa in the 1950s and 60s, ours was one of only a small number of Jewish families in the city. We inescapably got enveloped by the Christmas spirit. I still recall my parents' sardonic smiles the year I came home to announce that I would be playing Joseph in the school pageant. That same year, I decided I would sit on Santa's lap at Frieman's department store. Turns out Santa was none other than Moishe Gorinsky, a Jewish friend of my father's moonlighting that season as a department store Claus. It was a sobering experience for a 9-year-old, to be sure.
Trudeau's Protection of Privacy Act made it illegal for people to use wiretaps and other forms of electronic devices without a person's consent. The law has since evolved, but its spirit still resonates with Canadians. That explains the widespread wince last winter, following Vic Toews' tabling of an "online snooping bill" that put an electronic prisoner's bracelet on every Canadian. And members of the LGBT community were left disturbed and frightened when a GLBT-themed message from the minister's office landed in their email inbox in September. The Harper government's Orwellian strategies constitute an affront on the Canadian way of life and the freedoms we all cherish.
In 1994, while in the employ of the United Jewish Appeal and Jewish Federation of Greater Toronto, I was given the task of overseeing former Israeli prime minister Yitzchak Shamir's trip to Toronto. But of course, as fate would have it, Saudi Arabian sheiks were staying in the same hotel as he was. What was I to do?
On June 21, a Jewish woman was detained for hours by Israeli police for praying at the Western Wall. Why? Because she was wearing a tallit -- a prayer shawl. Some say that women who are wearing the tallit are flaunting their piety, but is this really the case? Shouldn't we, as a Jewish people, give women the benefit of the doubt when they honour Hashem?
In September 2012, a successor to Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, the current Chief Rabbi of the United Kingdom, will be appointed. The new rabbi will begin his tenure in September 2013. If the post will not undergo a major transformation and become purely one of spiritual and educational leadership, then it is far better to leave the post empty than to continue the institution of a chief rabbi.
"Polish death camps," isn't the first embarrassing "misspeak" by President Obama. But for some reason, when Palin makes a gaffe about Russia, it gets parodied by comedians. When Obama makes a gaffe about the Holocaust or concentration camps, all that ensues is an apology. Like warfare, politics isn't fair.
It was difficult for bullies to gain a public pulpit. Letters to newspapers were closely monitored to ensure that slander and intimidation were not published. Magazines and television likewise; the professional mainstream media for the most part undertook the responsibility to self-regulate. Today anyone can publish virtually anything, and personal attacks are de rigueure.