01/31/2017 11:04 EST | Updated 01/31/2017 11:28 EST

Quebec Mosque Shooting Is A Turning Point In Canada's Welcoming Narrative

Chris Wattie / Reuters
Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau delivers a statement on a deadly shooting at a Quebec City mosque, in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, January 30, 2017. REUTERS/Chris Wattie

We as Canadians are eager to point out that we aren't as bad as the U.S., but our actions, policies, and history state otherwise.

For example, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's tweet about accepting those that the United States won't.

And not one day later, there was a mass shooting at a mosque in Quebec City. It may be the largest mass shooting in Canada in nearly three decades.

The shooting in Quebec is a turning point in Canada's narrative. We have long maintained a sense of pride in being pro immigrant, refugee friendly, and a safe haven for all. This act of terrorism proved without a doubt that this is not the case. Instances of Islamophobia, racism, and anti-immigrant sentiment have been present in Canadian society for longer than most would like to admit. The murders of innocent people at their place of worship was deliberate. It was done to further divide an already unstable society, in an inarguably unstable time.

It is also no coincidence that this attack came on the heels of Trump's "Muslim ban." And if we aren't careful, it might not be the last.

Throughout history, American politics have managed to make their way across the border. During World War Two, America turned away the St. Louis, a boat full of Jewish refugees. The boat then continued to Halifax, where our government refused the refugees as well. Many of them were sent to various concentration camps across Europe, where they were eventually killed. The memories are especially sharp with the Holocaust Remembrance Day being just a few days ago.

Jewish refugees were sent back because of the U.S. government's fears of the refugees being dangerous spies. If this logic sounds familiar, it's because it's Donald Trump's reasoning for enforcing the Muslim ban.

So, suppose we do take in those that the United States won't. What's next for these newcomers?

They could face more Islamophobia, which has been going on long before the unfortunate massacre at the mosque. Right after the attacks in Paris in 2015, there was a rise in Islamophobic attacks across Canada. The only mosque in Peterborough, Ontario, was firebombed. After the shooting on Parliament Hill, I overheard a man say, "That's what happens when you let those people into this country."

Immigrants could potentially end up in migrant detention centres. The Canadian government actually has no mandate on how long they hold migrants. They can be kept in facilities for months, even years, without being charged. Some are mentally ill, and have no access to health services. Families, and even lawyers have a hard time getting in to see those detained. Canada has some of the strictest migrant detention laws in the western hemisphere.

Before we tell migrants that they are welcome here, we need to make sure that that's true.

With all this, are we still allowed to say we are better than the United States? There are citizens in the U.S. who are being detained in airports because of Trump's ban. Here in Canada, we shuffle them off to centres where they can't be seen or heard from until they are released.

When we are inviting migrants in, what are we inviting them into? We are protesting, criticizing policies, and saying never again. But it is happening again. It has always been happening. Before we tell migrants that they are welcome here, we need to make sure that that's true. Otherwise, we're asking them to integrate into a burning house.

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