The amazing thing about our country is that we're still young. Compared to other countries we're like barely-legal young. We're still losing our baby teeth, learning how to walk, working out the kinks and growing into our clothes. And from what I see, the core of what Canadian-ness is, is multiculturalism. So I have problem with Black History Month, and the reason is this: I don't believe we should assign one month out of the year (and the shortest month, mind you) to one race. Why? Because although, yes, it brings awareness to the history and celebrates its triumphs, it sets them apart from the norm, reiterating this whole notion of "otherness."
The fact is our student populations are becoming more diverse, though that's barely mirrored in the staff make-up of most urban schools. And while there is recognition of a need to hire teachers that better reflect the student population, reaching that goal remains a long way off considering the comparably low number of teachers who self-identify as visible minorities. In the meantime, we need to foster culturally sensitive and inclusive schools where student engagement leads to higher graduation rates, the de-glamorization of gangs, and the nurturing of productive citizens of all backgrounds.
Until we find concrete and genuine ways to take into account cultural differences and the institutional power relations that inform that reality in Canada, Black History Month, like multiculturalism, will continue to be sidelined and watered down to satisfy Canada's mythical narrative of togetherness, racial justice and equality.
The Sri Lanka case shows that the declared safety of a foreign country depends on Canadian politics instead of evidence like returned Sri Lankans experiencing torture and possibly worse. Politicians are not an authority on persecution. When they act like one, friends are called safe. Then domestic demands shift and suddenly they balk, tugging along lives with whims.
In terms of visible minorities, the Globe and Mail is doing no better than its national print-based competitors in providing a forum for ethnic Canadian voices. This diverse demographic is projected to grow to a third of the Canadian population by 2030. Is traditional Canadian media doing anything to include, reflect or address their experiences in the multicultural mosaic, building on the wave of the present and future? The examples are few and far between.
The Supreme Court of Canada is the highest court in the country, and the final court of appeals in the Canadian justice system. That's why the latest SCC appointment by Stephen Harper has ruffled so many feathers, as he appointed yet another male to replace Marie Deschamps on the bench, bringing the total count to three women, six men.
There are many differences between the platonic idea of secularism and the secularist statute proposed last week in Quebec. These differences will doubtless count against the Charter of Values, especially in English Canada, where a discrete conception of religious freedom and suspicions of sovereigntist motivations have elicited much scepticism.
During my several visits to Quebec, I have been spit upon, hurled insults at my face, not served at restaurants, and ticketed by traffic police for driving while being Ontarian. I do not speak French and I am not a Francophone. If my experience of Quebec ended with just this story, and with the recent developments of the minority Parti Québécois proposed plan to introduce the Charter of Values as law in Quebec, I would not be hard pressed to imagine the people of Quebec to be one of the most bigoted and unfriendly specimens of the human race the world has ever seen. But I love Quebec.
Multiculturalism is not about dwelling on our differences. It is about emphasizing our commonality. Unfortunately that principle gets lost when multiculturalism gets viewed as a foreign phenomenon designed to "tolerate" immigrants. Policies that nurture interaction between the various communities will reduce suspicion and finger-pointing.
The Fédération de soccer du Québec (FSQ) caused quite a stir when it announced that a ban on headgear -- religious or not -- would be upheld. If a soccer club makes an exception for the turban, what other exemptions follow? The yarmulke? The kirpan? Why would regulations apply to some but not to others? As FIFA struggles to address persistent racism exhibited in the sport, is it wise to add additional bias to the field? By eliminating a religious symbol, the FSQ strengthens this cherished sporting sanctuary to which congregate almost half of all Canadian kids. In this oasis, there is room for only one religion: the one called "soccer."
The individuals who admit selling illegal narcotics to the Mayor of Toronto were repeatedly referred to as "Somali drug dealers." Senator Mike Duffy, (former) PMO Chief of Staff Nigel Wright, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford and Councillor Doug Ford all boast heritage from the British Isles. How different would the national conversation be if the foursome had another ethnic lineage?
What's troubling is that the homophobic and racially slanted comments allegedly made by Rob Ford have received little or no scrutiny. The biggest stain this scandal brings isn't the possible addictions of a well-known politician. It is the fetid stench of acceptance and normalization of blatant bigotry that stinks to high heavens. Have we become collectively complacent in the face of bigotry?
Here in the "Canadian Mosaic," issues of race are largely stricken from the language of the everyday. We prefer not to speak openly about racism, for deconstructing it might chip away at that illusory façade of Canada as a nation of perpetual tolerance and chronic multiculturalism -- a delusion we all hold dear to our glowing hearts. Unfortunately for all those "liberal-minded" Canadians out there who view our country to be so forward thinking and accommodating that racism is a non-issue, institutionalized multiculturalism is not the same thing as social racial equality.
Why is it that in 2013, Canadians and foreigners alike still believe we are the Great White-(Only) North? Canada is boxed into a stereotype of snow, lumberjacks and igloos. No wonder foreigners think we're so boring! When I travel abroad, no one ever guesses I am as Canadian as poutine and beavertails.