Canada is a country that likes to pride itself on the inclusion of many races and ethnicities, to lean on the pillar of multiculturalism, and to fete cultural communities in numerous festivals around the country. This week's events have resurfaced the roots of Canadian prejudice which started right after Confederation with the Chinese Exclusion Act (1885), the "Natal Act" which excluded Japanese immigrants (1900), and the blatant barring of certain immigrants based on race -- East Indian (1906) and Africans (1911) , or religion -- namely Jewish (1939).
First, the remarkably monochromatic political advert of the provincial party currently leading in the Quebec polls showcases a sea of Caucasian faces -- hardly the cultural mosaic of "a nation open to the world." The only split-second frame exposing the "designated black guy," Maka Koto, has the candidate standing at the back of the bus, undetectable to the naked eye. The whitewashed image does not mirror what Quebec society is, but how the quintessential xenophobe wishes it to be.
The Parti Quebecois' social engineering platform is reminiscent of the racial hierarchy favoured by 1869 Immigration Minister Clifford SIFTON, who used bigoted stereotypes to rank Caucasian immigrants of American, British, German, Scandinavian, and eastern European origin over perceived inferior ethnicities such as "southern Europeans, blacks, and Orientals," who he actively discouraged from coming to Canada. The PQ has established a hierarchy of languages (English being the inferior one), ethnicities (Purelaine Québécois being at the top of the food chain), and religion (with Catholism trumping all else, including in the National Assembly), in a bid to take their nation back. The slogan, "À nous de choisir " (translation: "It's up to us to choose") might refer to their achromatization of diversity rather than making choices at the voting booth.
The frightening trend was endorsed publicly by Mayor Jean Tremblay of Saguenay, QC, who derided a woman with 20 years of active participation in Quebec society as a "recent arrival whose name I cannot pronounce," followed by Trois-Rivières Mayor Yves Levesque's ringing endorsement.
Suddenly, there are to distinct classes of citizens: Quebecers and those who aren't real Quebecers; those who are welcome to participate in the societal discourse and those who are to remain quiet; those who are one of "us," and those who are one of "them." A small step for Quebec nationalism, a giant leap backwards for multiculturalism and values which were at one time considered national.
The xenophobia spilled over to the ROC (Rest of Canada) today when it was revealed that the Bank of Canada, our country's central bank, chose to carve out all hints of diversity from its one hundred dollar bank note after heeding to discriminatory judgements from focus groups.
One wonders if Canada should return Olympian Carol Huyhn's medal since her Asian heritage, according to some intolerant minds, does not represent Canada. What to make of former GG Adrienne Clarkson, Senators Vivian Poy and Yonah Kim-Martin, or Jack Layton's widow Olivia Chow?
Suddenly, Canadians of colour, numbering over five million, are "deemed unsuitable" to represent Canada in certain circles. Capitulating to thinly veiled racism and bigotry, the Bank of Canada replaced "Asian" features with what they call a "neutral ethnicity." Naturally, Canadians should expect the "neutral gender" to be male, but the jury is still out on what the Bank's "neutral religion" would be.
As Canadians born with names a rural Quebec mayor cannot pronounce, with facial features unfit for a Canadian bank note, with an "un-neutral" skin tone that continues to lag behind multi-generational Caucasian Canadians in employment , representation in elected office, and earnings it is high time Canada acknowledge its long legacy of divisiveness and address its ugly remnants in order to move forward to the pluralistic vision of our beloved Canada we have yet to fully achieve.
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