While Canada prides itself on its multiculturalism and diversity, Black people and other people of colour know hate lives here too. In the wake of the American Presidential election there has been a perceived increase of hate-speech and hate-based attacks in Canada. A phenomenon some have dubbed the 'Trump Effect.'
In one instance, a TTC passenger was captured on video yelling racial insults and threats at another passenger on a crowded streetcar, ending his racist rant with 'Go Trump'. In another part of the city, signs posted in a Toronto neighbourhood urging white people to join the 'alt-right' read: 'Hey, WHITE PERSON: Tired of the political correctness? Wondering why only white countries have to be 'multicultural'? Figured out that diversity only means 'less white people'? Questioning whether immigration will stop?'
Earlier this week, an Ontario judge apologized for a wearing a 'Make America Great Again' baseball cap in his court. Meanwhile in Ottawa, a rabbi woke up in the middle of the night to discover that someone had spray-painted a swastika on her front door along with a racial epithet. While the timing of all these events may be curious, correlation is not causation and the US Presidential elections are not only to blame for Canada's apparent surge in racism. It has been happening all along.
This month, the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI) in partnership with the City of Toronto launched the second phase of the their 'Toronto For All' campaign. Phase one of this campaign focused on xenophobia and Islamaphobia, whereas this phase focused on anti-Black racism.
One of the images featured in the campaign was of a black person beside a white person with the caption: 'Quick, rent to one.' The subtext read: 'Anti-Black racism happens here. Let's confront it. torontoforall.ca'. While diversity may be our strength, multiculturalism alone is not our saviour.
Canada is not devoid of racism because of our multiculturalism and the 'Trump Effect' must not eclipse the domestic racism that has long existed in this country.
"Racism did not appear in this country overnight and it will not be solved overnight. Although multiculturalism is worthy of celebration it does not mean there is no more work to be done."
Lest we forget, it was not long ago that former Prime Minister Stephen Harper was making racist and xenophobic remarks during the federal election when he appealed to 'old stock' Canadians. Shortly thereafter, Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau renounced Canada's colonial baggage, thus dismissing the long history of racism in this nation.
Racism did not appear in this country overnight and it will not be solved overnight. Although multiculturalism is worthy of celebration it does not mean there is no more work to be done.
Canadians need to stop being polite about their racism and start owning it. Resist the urge to get defensive of multiculturalism and realize not everyone experiences Canada in the same way. Multiculturalism alone cannot mitigate prejudice, not without action.
Campaigns like the one launched by OCASI and the City of Toronto are needed to prompt internal bias so people can take responsibility and ownership for the ways they contribute to the racism and prejudice that exists in this country.
Accountability starts with you. So, quick, who would you choose?
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