11/10/2016 12:12 EST | Updated 11/10/2016 12:13 EST

Canada Must Champion Diversity In Face Of A Trump Presidency

Jonathan Ernst / Reuters
U.S. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump holds a campaign rally in Delaware, Ohio, U.S. October 20, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/File Photo

It is hard to say anything positive about what happened on election night in the United States. A candidate who based his campaign on racism, xenophobia and know-nothing politics that disregarded facts, won the presidency. Intolerance for ethnic and social diversity, not to mention a closed mind to knowledge and learning, can point to a society in decline.

Donald Trump, supremely unqualified to be president of the United States, defeated a woman who worked hard, prepared diligently for debates, and was highly qualified for the office. This must have been a painful reminder for many women who have lost out on promotions to much less qualified men, as well as women who have had to work harder for less.

Barack Obama, because he was non-white and had a non-Anglo-Saxon name, faced questions about whether he was actually American (birtherism) and whether he was loyal to the United States. Meanwhile, Donald Trump ran a campaign stating America was essentially "not great" and he appeared to openly collaborate with a less-than-friendly foreign government, Vladimir Putin's in Russia.

Canada stands alone with the politics of ethnic division being swiftly rejected in the 2015 election.

This is a painful reminder to many visible minorities how their loyalty and identity in North America can be constantly questioned. How no matter how hard they try to be a part of the community, they can be seen as "foreign" and "outsiders," and never quite "one of us."

Furthermore, the fact that Donald Trump's campaign was openly based on hostility to Mexicans and Muslims makes members of these groups feel increasingly under siege and unwelcome.

Also, the next president of the United States is someone who openly bragged about sexually assaulting women, and then multiple women came forward saying he sexually assaulted them. That Trump could be considered fit to be president, be seen as someone who can set an example for the country, is appalling. This sets a horrible example.

The United States is a deeply divided country, it is hard to know if this divide can be bridged. It is hard to know how a Donald Trump presidency will play out. He could potentially undermine America's democratic institutions given his authoritarian tendencies. Also, the very unity of the United States could be under threat (already there is a California independence movement -- #Calexit -- gaining some momentum in the aftermath of Trump's victory).

On the other hand, the ever-unprincipled Trump may strike a conciliatory tone and govern as a moderate. However, that will not take away from the fact that he campaigned on racism and hate, that he was endorsed by hate groups including the American Nazi Party and the Ku Klux Klan.

So what does this mean for Canada?

An article in the Walrus stated that with xenophobic politics on the rise in Europe, and now the United States, Canada stands alone with the politics of ethnic division being swiftly rejected in the 2015 election, and with an official policy of multiculturalism. However, the article warned we cannot take this for granted.

The fact is American media permeates Canada. Donald Trump and his hateful rhetoric is broadcast widely here, it influences children in the schoolyard, and it mainstreams racism and sexism. The struggles and gains in human rights of the past several decades could be rolled back.

Many of us are angry, hurt and afraid. However, we must channel this into action. We must make our voices heard and press policy makers here in Canada to uphold the values of diversity and multiculturalism, to not be tempted to pander to xenophobic elements. We must condemn those politicians who try to play on ethnic and social divisions.

Policy makers must continue to pursue conciliation with First Nations, and must continue to uphold multiculturalism and human rights.

Canada stands alone with the politics of ethnic division being swiftly rejected in the 2015 election.

Public and private sector leaders must press for diversity in leadership -- representation of women and cultural and ethnic minorities -- and recognize the strength of diversity of viewpoints and perspectives this brings.

We must see diversity as a strength. When one is at the mall or downtown and sees people from various cultural backgrounds, speaking different languages, it should be recognized as a strength: an exchange of culture and ideas enriches us and our society, and if people from diverse backgrounds and from around the world want to be here, that is a sign that our community must be a great place to live that people want to come to.

We must try to be friends with people of other ethnic, religious and cultural backgrounds, to try to learn about and understand each other. We must not see each other as hostile or opposed based on ethnic or cultural differences. Extending the hand of friendship and kindness is very effective.

In whatever way we can, we must uphold multiculturalism, as well as civil and human rights. Despair and anger at Trump's election must give way to action. We must be vigilant about his rhetoric of hate and division coming to our side of the border.

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