If there is one thing the Internet can be counted on for, it’s providing us with endless, oftentimes ridiculous, angry-bordering-on-lunacy, rants. It is a platform where people are free to spew hate-filled remarks, share cruel taunts and reinforce harmful stereotypes. It is good old-fashioned bullying without any real consequences for the bully.
But when a friend of mine shared such a Facebook post a day ago and I discovered it on my feed, it distressed me more than usual. Perhaps it hit too close to home (as an Immigrant who lived in Canada for over six years) or perhaps it burst my naive ‘All-Canadians-are-wonderful-and-accepting’ bubble. Either way, it has stuck with me for an entire day so I need to get it off my chest.
This woman had posted a picture of a Sikh RCMP officer on her Facebook wall:
Beneath it, she wrote (or rather raged):
‘This INFURIATES me. I am Canadian. I was born here. As long as I have been Canadian, our RCMP uniforms did NOT include a turbin!I have nothing against other people living in our Country. I am proud to be a Canadian and think our country is beautiful. However, we as Canadians, have allowed for our Heritage to be altered in fear of appearing prejudice towards all the other New Canadians! When does it stop? If I went to their Homeland do you think for one second I would be able to build a Catholic Church and have heaps of English speaking channels on the radio or television to choose from? Do you think my attire would be acceptable in their Country? I think not! I am all for having Multi-Culturalism in our Country, but I just feel like when you come to have a better life, you adapt to the new Country, otherwise if things were so great in yours, you would not have left in the first place…Rant Over!’
Yet this is not the worst of it. What is even more appalling is the number of people who agreed with these sentiments. One needs only to scroll down in the comments section to see others claiming that immigrants are ‘flushing our country down the shitter’ or ‘we are losing our customs just to make these foreigners feel more at home!’
I refuse to follow in such footsteps. I will not rant. I will not whine on about how this has made me sick to my stomach or how inexplicable it is to me that people can be so afraid of diversity when it is diversity which gives the human race its character, its spark, its beauty.
I was tempted to take this personally. To scream and shout (and rage) until there were no words left to explain how ignorant I found this. But over the past few years I’ve learned that such anger does not help. People are fiercely protective over their opinions; that it is especially these kinds of unfounded notions which are like centuries-old stone. You cannot blast through them. You must be patient and chip away at them slowly. So today, my gold hammer of choice will be reason.
1. There is no such thing as a ‘Canadian Heritage.’
This ‘Canadian Heritage’ which the author of this FB post is so intent on defending does not exist. It is simply a construct European colonizers used in the late 18th century to force Aboriginals to assimilate into their Eurocentric lifestyles. This ‘Canadian Heritage’ led to death, forced integration, theft of language and stories and the systematic eradication of entire cultures.
Contrary to the author’s beliefs, a Catholic Church and English-speaking television channels are not inherently Canadian. If there ever was a Canadian Heritage, it belonged to the Canadian Aboriginal civilizations who were here before the country was even formed. (And who incidentally did not say Merry Christmas to each other or celebrate Easter.) But that is a different story for a different day.
2. The Great Mosaic
Over the past centuries, immigrants have arrived to Canada from all over the world. They bring with them their skills and abilities and have contributed to making the country what it is: a thriving world leader. If the USA is a melting pot, then Canada is the Great Mosaic. It prides itself on providing a federal framework to allow such diversities to thrive and this is what sets it apart from other countries; how readily it embraces the individual differences of its people, its desire to not only welcome diversity but to thread it into the existing fabric of its culture.
So if we are to suddenly deny new Canadians their way of living, if we are to expect them now to leave centuries of traditions behind them just so another portion of the population can feel ‘safe’ in their own customs, it would mean destroying the very foundation of Canada’s character.
3. Just because you aren’t a White Christian doesn’t mean you are an Immigrant
It is ridiculous to assume that all non-white non-Christians living in Canada are immigrants who have come in search of a ‘better life.’ Difficult as it may be to grasp, just like the author of this piece, quite a majority of them were born in Canada. Black, brown, Muslim, Hindu – they are all Canadians. Therefore, like the author, are an integral part of the country’s colorful tapestry and with every right to influence its ever-changing culture.
On the Government of Canada website, it states: ‘Through multiculturalism, Canada recognizes the cultural heritage and the potential of all Canadians, encouraging them to integrate into Canadian society and take an active part in its social, cultural, economic and political affairs.’
So to the writer of this ‘rant’ who supposedly supports multiculturalism, this doesn’t mean suppressing other cultures, or fighting their right to express their own traditions. And it definitely doesn’t mean they should conform to your lifestyle. (I might add here: nor you to theirs.)
5. By giving someone the space and respect to practice their beliefs doesn’t mean yours will become less important
If accommodating this Sikh man in the picture meant that every single RCMP officer had to wear a turban from now on, regardless of their beliefs, then I might be inclined to agree that this anger was justified. Yet this is not the case. So how is wearing a turban any different from an RCMP officer who wears a cross around his neck?
To accept someone else’s beliefs does not mean to believe in yours any less. To make allowances for other traditions and other customs does not mean you are diminishing the importance of your own.
5. Let’s Get Our Priorities Straight
How is it possible that the the writer of this post has failed to grasp the most important aspect of this story? She claims that ‘New Canadians’ must adapt to ‘her’ country and yet she remains purposefully blind to the fact that this Sikh man feels so strongly about Canada, has assimilated so deeply, that he feels the need to protect and serve it. Shouldn’t she be proud to see the policing force of the nation reflect its ideas of pluralism and diversity?
Change is inevitable. And when it is for the better, when it is due to growth and compassion and understanding, why should we complain about what is being lost when we are gaining something far more important?