Canada, We Need to Talk

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Today I have “write a Thanksgiving blog entry” on my schedule, as Canadian Thanksgiving is only a week away.

The first thing I read this morning was an article about a young Muslim woman being attacked in Toronto, and all thoughts of turkey and pumpkin pie left my head. Apologies in advance, I have to get political here. Also, secondary apologies – it’s been a long weekend, it’s 6 am, I’m not totally awake yet.. But I HAVE to rant. It may not end up being the most coherent, or laid out in the most clean manner.. But enough is enough. I have a lot to say!

Having been born and raised in Canada – moving to the USA in my mid 20s – I am incredibly thankful for the culture I grew up in. It was a culture of MULTIculturalism. It was about celebrating different cultures. It was about pretty much my entire hometown looking forward to Folklorama each year – a HUGE festival of multiculturalism. It was about growing up with Hindu, Sikh, Muslim, AND Jewish neighbours as a kid, and learning about all of them, no fear or animosity.

It was about learning about Canada’s awful history with their treatment of First Nations people, and aspiring for BETTER, going forward. About acknowledging that things weren’t perfect, but that we should be doing better. Even when I was very young, none of the schools I went to glossed over what happened, or what was still happening, and it was always framed as being VERY wrong.

There’s a saying about how if you stick a frog into a pot of boiling water, he’ll jump out… but if you stick a frog in a pot of lukewarm water and bring it to a boil, he’ll stay there to his death.

Well, Canada… your pot has been slowly being brought to a boil over the past decade or so. We need to talk.

I moved to the USA not because I wanted to leave my homeland, but because of logistics. When marrying someone from another country, you have to take a good hard look at both circumstances, and decide what makes the most sense. For us, he was the home owner who’d been working in a great, solid career for a decade, and I was self employed and renting. It made the most sense at the time, but we were definitely in agreement that some day, we’d be moving to MY home.

Since that time, I’ve had to sit back and watch, horrified, while my homeland has become more and more unrecognizable.

I’ve watched the tone of elections ads go very dark and attacking, nothing at all like I grew up with.. And very much like the American style of campaigning that was so jarring when I moved here. I’ve stopped listening to my favourite radio station out of Toronto over this. 20 years of being a fan, many of which were over the internet… because I just can’t handle the ominous, negative Harper ads. When listening to a station as a way of staying connected to my culture and homeland… it was very out of place. Really kind of depressing, too.

I’ve watched as the things that meant most to me about being Canadian have been stripped from our country. I’ve watched attacks on education. I’ve watched the government adopt the same sort of anti-intellectualism that perplexed me about so many American politicians. I’ve watched certain Canadian politicians actively campaign against the necessity of public libraries. I’ve watched in horror at the things that are being done to the fishery and oceanography scientists. I’ve read article after article about how our scientists are being muzzled by the government. As someone who was originally intending to BE one of those scientists working for the Canadian government? I have no words for how angry, disgusted and disappointed I am to see this turn in our government.

I’ve watched the government go after our human rights laws, which WERE some of the best in the world. I never really thought about things like hate speech laws while I still lived in Canada. It was only when I moved to the USA that I saw their value- I was horrified at the amount of hate getting spewed not only out loud, but broadcast. Bigotry I’d certainly never been exposed to before, just proudly laid out there for all the world to see. Very jarring.

I could rant for days about all of the horrifying changes I’ve had to sit back and watch, stripped of my birthright to vote.

That scene in 2009’s Star Trek where Spock had to watch Vulcan destroyed spoke to me on a deeply personal level, even 6 years ago… and things have just gotten worse. I am WAY beyond the point of being emotionally compromised over this.

This morning’s news of that young Muslim woman getting attacked makes me sick to my stomach. This was the absolutely obvious result of a campaign of fear and bigotry. This is NOT the Canada I grew up in, and it’s not the Canada I want to move home to. The victim is only 5 years younger than me, from my hometown, and the attack happened in Toronto – the city we’ll eventually move to. That just hits far too close to home. Where did our empathy go?

Islamophobia was a new thing to me when I moved to the USA, and it confused the hell out of me. I grew up with Muslims (and Sikhs, because apparently they’re exactly the same thing here, to those who need to be afraid of anyone different than them!), and they were always the most lovely, kind hearted, and peaceful people ever. My American Muslim friends are also the most lovely, kind hearted, and peaceful people ever. It’s been heart breaking to see the bigotry they get subjected to here. I have one friend – she’s literally half my size and would never hurt a fly – who can’t even go into Home Depot to buy stuff for her cosplay projects, without getting treated like she’s a terrorist!

Let that sink in for a minute. The fact that she has a piece of fabric on her head is literally what prevents her from getting treated like a human. FABRIC.

I was beyond horrified when Harper started up this nonsense campaign against the niqab. It was racist and xenophobic and unwelcoming AND sexist, all rolled up in one. It was using the American style tactic of campaigning with FEAR as a tool – not something I’d ever been exposed to, growing up. It was “othering” in a way I’d never seen from our government.

His issue itself is a complete non-issue. I’ve been through the citizenship process – you provide ID at many steps in the process – over many months/years – and sign the oath of citizenship after having been IDed for THAT step. Not only could I have been completely covered head to toe when I did the actual ceremony, I could have literally had someone else stand in my place. Citizenship isn’t granted based on that ceremony, it is granted by everything leading up to it. The ceremony is ceremonial!

Beyond that, we’re talking about 2 women. It’s not thousands and thousands of people, that would cause logistics issues, it’s two cases. Two cases that have no been made into THE BIG ISSUE of this election. This is despite the fact that it’s very easy for the two women to lift their veils in private for ID just before the ceremony anyway, and have offered to do as much.

The amount of bigotry and fear I’ve seen from not only the government, but now more and more from the people who are LISTENING to that government … it’s horrifying. Canada, we’re better than this.

When I first moved to the USA, my husband had to explain that you had to “filter” the news. About how it’s not to be taken at face value, that it’s far more sensationalized than I was used to. That America didn’t have laws against lying or misleading on the news. It all seemed incredibly manipulative, how both the media and politicians seemed to thrive on keeping people afraid of… well, everything, really. Fear gains viewers, fear inspires votes here. It’s .. Bizarre.

To see those tactics seeping into my homeland is horrifying. I had really hoped that our culture, our collective upbringing would be enough to have us all very aware of what is happening… but this attack tells me otherwise. The comments I’ve seen on news articles back home tell me otherwise.

Canada, you are being manipulated and shaped into something you’re NOT. There is absolutely a reason that Harper doesn’t want expat Canadians to vote. Seeing these changes from afar is different from being the frog in that pot – it’s being a witness to the frog in the pot, knowing what’s happening… and now being prevented from doing our part to help stop it.

Thanksgiving is in one week. I will be celebrating it as a Canadian – a Canadian who is thankful to have grown up in the culture she did. 1 week later is the most important election of my lifetime, and I will be sitting back and hoping that Canada votes for who they are, who they’ve been.. And NOT out of being manipulated by fear.

Please do better for yourselves, Canada. For ALL of us, even those who have been stripped of our voices.

3 thoughts on “Canada, We Need to Talk

  1. Marie,

    I know you see those stories in the news a lot and I sympathize. I want to let yo know there are a lot of us here who are as horrified as you are by what is happening. There is a huge amount of grassroots campaigning for ABC (Anyone but Conservatives/Harper) and I am desperate to see us dump him and them in their current state. Even my life long conservative step-dad is now actively helping the Liberal campaign. Thanks for your post. I am hoping helps get more folks to pay attention and to vote. Harper has to go, he is destroying our lovely country.

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