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The 10 Most Racist Incidents of 2014: Canadian Edition

01/03/2015 10:47 EST | Updated 03/05/2015 05:59 EST
Richard Wolowicz via Getty Images
MONTREAL, QC - FEBRUARY 2: P.K. Subban #76 of the Montreal Canadiens skates during the NHL game against the Winnipeg Jets at the Bell Centre on February 2, 2014 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. The Jets defeated the Canadiens 2-1. (Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)

As the year winds down, news readers are treated with a feast of annual compilations. From fashion to finances it is a time to look back at the hits and misses.

In quintessential Canadian style, the subject of race relations is missing from the roster. Every year. Until now.

Here is a compilation of low-lights in racial discrimination the country that coined multiculturalism.

1. Subban's Sochi Snub.

When the top defenceman of the NHL gets just a few minutes of play at the Winter Olympics, you've got to wonder... but when a Canadian fan flies half way across the world to "support" the sole Afro-Canadian player on Team Canada in blackface, it boggles the mind.

With 400 years of African presence, 200 years of slavery and another hundred years of legalized racial discrimination under our collective Canadian belts, you would think these PK Subban "fans" would know enough not to resort to a disgraceful practice to cheer him on.

Finally, the Habs let their star player twist in the wind for far too long before ceding to public pressure and singing him for a long-term commitment. Since then, French-speaking TV commentators have scorched the lad repeatedly, despite his performance. Let's hope the obsession with Subban's salary subsides in 2015.

2. Brampton Bêtise.

The organization Immigration Watch Canada distributed a flyer entitled "The Changing Face of Brampton," featuring two images -- the top photo shows a group of "mainstream Canadians" (commonly known as white people), while the bottom photo shows the diversity that the Greater Toronto Area has incarnated. In such a rich part of Ontario, it seems the hate-filled group spent time and money denigrating their "non-mainstream" neighbours in Brampton and at York University.

3. Odious Offences Towards Olivia Chow.

She soldiered on stoically in the wake of her husband Jack Layton's passing. She aimed for the mayoral seat in Toronto, Canada's "most multicultural city." Despite the Hog Town's slogan, Olivia Chow faced xenophobic remarks, racist cartoons, and an aide deriding her for "not speaking English at home." Torontonians are waking up to the fact that multiculturalism alone is no antidote to racism.

4. Shame After Ottawa Shooting.

In the hysteria and confusion of the "Ottawa shooting" that paralyzed Parliament Hill, the nearby University of Ottawa went on lock down. The campus coffee shop gave refuge to scared students -- except the one who was tall and Black. In a blog, the ostracized student recounted his experience "Maybe to [the Second Cup café staff], my life doesn't matter as much as that of the others, or worse, he thought I was the shooter." When push comes to shove, one's true character is revealed.

5. Saguenay Saga.

Following vandalism at a mosque in Chicoutimi, rural Quebec's overt xenophobia did not settle in 2014. The Fédération des Québécois de souche's anti-Semitic and homophobic stickers littered mailboxes and public signage in the Saguenay. No word on when the "investigation" will yield tangible results for fearful residents of colour and Jewish citizens.

6. Wrongful Writing from Winnipeg.

Winnipeg mayoral candidate Robert-Falcon Ouellette exposed the racism he faced during his campaign. The 18-year veteran of the Canadian Armed Forces was reduced to his racial heritage via abusive comments were posted online. He also received hateful emails about his aboriginal heritage. "Go back to drinking. That's where Indians belong," said one.

It is amazing how citizens of a nation which borrowed an Aboriginal word to name itself, founded on Aboriginal land, send so much vitriol to an upstanding Canadian because of his Aboriginal heritage.

7. Blackface Blunders.

Québec school plans an xmas play where kids appear in blackface. Not to be outdone, Montreal's Rideau Vert theatre's year end revue show includes a sketch in which a white comedian appears in blackface. Worse, the franco-Quebec pundits and TV producers defend it vehemently. Is there nothing more insulting than members of the dominant culture instructing minorities how to feel about their own depiction?

8. Kids Can be Cruel.

An 11-year-old boy in Westport, Newfoundland had to transfer schools because of the extreme and racist bullying he has endured in his community. Torrence Collier is the only black child in the community. The bullying at his school was so bad that he was under constant supervision and had to use a separate washroom to avoid harassment from his classmates. One parent claimed that the real bully was Torrence: "He's not the victim. He is instigating a lot of this to other children." Is being black now a form of provocation in Newfoundland? Unfortunately, the same attitude prevailed in Georgina, Ontario, where students hurled racial slurs as they beat a black school mate. In both cases, there seemed to be no repercussions for this bad behaviour.

9. Prejudice Made Public by Montreal Police Union Head.

Montreal's diversity is an asset, not a threat, says Mayor Denis Coderre. But the head of Montreal's police brotherhood union doesn't agree. Yves Francoeur was quoted as saying that Montreal police officers' safety might be at risk because of the city's "multi-ethnic character." Asked why he thought Montreal police could be targeted in an attack like the Brooklyn shooting, Francoeur replied: "We worry in Montreal on account of its multi-ethnic character, on account of the (attacks) in Ottawa and St-Jean-sur-Richelieu."

Both the cited tragedies were perpetrated by heritage Canadians, born and raised in Canada. So were the RCMP killings in Moncton. But that didn't stop the perception that "multi-ethnics" are threatening. In an era of racial profiling, these statements smack of xenophobia.

10. Multiculturalism Minister's Misadventure.

Canada's Minister of State for Multiculturalism, Tim Uppal, had a difficult experience at an Edmonton tennis club. The Minister and his family overheard a woman express disgust that the Sikh-Canadian family was allowed membership, using a racial slur. She went on to suggest that Uppal was probably unemployed. For Craig and Marc Kielburger, it was an ugly reminder that Canada may be the land of multiculturalism, but we are not immune to racism.

As we turn the page on 2014, one hopes Canadians can look forward to less chatter about racist incidents and more action to curb the assailants' un-Canadian behaviour.

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