For almost two weeks, Canadians have joined people around the world -- and in the United States in particular -- to resist and protest assaults on the rights of their Muslim neighbours.
Beginning with U.S. President Donald Trump's January 27 ban on immigrants and refugees from seven Muslim-majority countries, followed by the shooting at a Quebec City mosque two days later, Canadians have been forced to confront the threats, discrimination and daily hatred faced by Muslims in our communities.
The response, by and large, has been inspirational.
Within 24 hours of the Quebec shooting, for example, thousands of people, including many Unifor members, surrounded the U.S. Embassy in Ottawa, holding hands and chanting "No hate, no fear, refugees are welcome here."
People take part in a protest against U.S. President Donald Trump's executive order travel ban outside the U.S. embassy in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, Jan. 30, 2017. (Photo: Chris Wattie/Reuters)
This past weekend, Canadians gathered in cities across the country, often outside U.S. consulate buildings and other locations, with a similar message that we will not allow the politics of fear and hate to take hold in this country.
It is in many ways very appropriate that all of this happening as we mark the beginning of Black History Month.
While many rightfully see such heritage months as a chance the celebrate the diversity of Canadian society and the many wonderful things our country's diverse communities have given to all of us, the events of the last couple of weeks are also a reminder of just how far we have yet to go.
When we mark Black History Month, we have an opportunity to look at the inspirational stories of the communities and the stories of struggle and strength that rarely make into our history text books, but are nonetheless a fundamental part of building the country we have today.
Much of that untold story is one of resistance, which continues today. Canada is a better place to live and a freer and more equitable society because of the long history of oppressed communities coming together and saying a better world is possible, and fighting to make it happen -- not just for themselves, but for the entire community and in solidarity with other oppressed groups.
We cannot allow ourselves to become complacent with the energy that can be felt from a rally or mass mobilization.
We have seen that tradition continue, including with the acts of solidarity the past couple of weeks with the Muslim community.
Central at many of the rallies and vigils this past weekend were members of local black communities and survivors of the Nazi Holocaust, telling stories of the oppression of their people and the importance of standing strong and standing together to push back.
Hearing such messages as we march through the streets with hundreds or in some cities thousands of others who share our ideas, it is easy to feel some optimism about what can be achieved when we refuse to be silent and demand more.
But we cannot allow ourselves to become complacent with the energy that can be felt from a rally or mass mobilization. Even as we celebrate the incredible support for the Muslim community that sprang up across the country within hours of the tragic events in Quebec City, we must remember that the suspect in the shooting was a young man who was attracted to extreme right wing ideas, believed in strict immigration laws and admired the Trump administration.
He is not alone. The politics of fear and hate that we see growing in the United States is finding resonance with many Canadians, as well.
A protester chants slogans during a rally against Islamophobia and white supremacy in Toronto, Canada, on 4 Feb. 2017. (Photo: Arindam Shivaani/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
For many of us, this is a wake-up call. It was too easy, in polite Canada, to pretend that racism and xenophobia were less of an issue here than elsewhere. But Trump and his ilk are making such people feel emboldened to openly express their hateful views out loud and in public.
For the black, African and Caribbean communities celebrating their history and heritage this month, it perhaps does not come as surprise such hate exists within our communities. The history of resistance in their communities is based on that knowledge and it continues to be an inspiration to move equity forward.
As we come together to push back against intolerance, we must all draw on that history, and learn from both the mistakes and the successes of the past as with fight for a better future for all Canadians.
A better world is possible. The danger comes when we stop fighting for it.
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