Cana­di­ans need to self-re­flect dur­ing times of vi­o­lence

Ris­ing Is­lam­o­pho­bia proves Canada isn’t a ‘safe haven’

The McGill Daily - - News - Heather Law­son Com­men­tary Writer Heather Law­son is a U1 Phi­los­o­phy & Eco­nom­ics stu­dent. To con­tact the au­thor, email heather. law­son@mail.mcgill.ca.

On Jan­uary 29, six Mus­lims were killed at a Québec City mosque dur­ing evening prayers. Out­pour­ings of sup­port and con­do­lences im­me­di­ately be­gan to grace tele­vi­sion screens and so­cial me­dia feeds. I’ve be­gun to no­tice a trend fol­low­ing th­ese tragic in­ci­dents: we, Cana­di­ans, be­gin to pri­or­i­tize our own feel­ings, and above those of anger, sad­ness and empathy, we feel de­nial. We say things like: “This is not our coun­try,” “how could some­thing like this hap­pen here?”, “this is the sort of thing you ex­pect to see in the U.S.”

We Cana­di­ans will go to ex­treme lengths to blame any­thing and any­one for is­sues that hap­pen within our bor­ders. After the mas­sacre in Que­bec City, we pointed fin­gers at Trump. In fact, at a Mon­treal vigil to re­mem­ber and cel­e­brate the lives re­cently lost, an­tiTrump sign and chants took cen­tre stage. An op­por­tu­nity for Cana­dian re­flec­tion on vi­o­lence and our part in it be­came a rally against an­other coun­try’s gov­ern­ment. Turn­ing Cana­dian grief into Amer­i­can scape­goat­ing fails to ac­knowl­edge our so­ci­ety’s re­spon­si­bil­ity to hold its own mem­bers ac­count­able for their ac­tions.

Trump’s ban of refugees, es­pe­cially Mus­lims, dur­ing a time of po­lit­i­cal un­rest and war, has mo­bi­lized racists and Is­lam­o­phobes across the world to be un­abashedly big­oted. No two coun­tries, es­pe­cially not coun­tries that share a bor­der, ex­ist within a vac­uum. Canada has be­come all too fa­mil­iar with the rip­ple ef­fects of U. S. pol­icy and U. S. in­tol­er­ance. This can be seen in the forms of Canada’s eco­nomic suf­fer­ing as a re­sult of the 2008 hous­ing crash or the Flag Shop, for ex­am­ple, fac­ing sur­pris­ing de­mand for the con­fed­er­ate flag, a sym­bol in­trin­si­cally tied to the legacy of slav­ery, in cities such with lit­tle link to the con­fed­er­a­tion of the Amer­i­can south such as Van­cou­ver and Ot­tawa. The Amer­i­can Mus­lim ban desta­bi­lized not only refugees but per­ma­nent res­i­dents who had left the coun­try to travel and found them­selves un­able to re­turn home. This ban af­fects a great num­ber of McGill stu­dents who ei­ther can­not re­turn home to their fam­i­lies or can­not pur­sue higher ed­u­ca­tion in the U. S..

How­ever, ex­cus­ing tragedy as an iso­lated re­sult of fac­tors Canada is not re­spon­si­ble for, es­pe­cially when that tragedy is deeply rooted in racism and set­tler colo­nial­ism, is weak and dis­mis­sive. The nar­ra­tive of Canada as a ‘safe haven’ for marginal­ized groups is an in­ac­cu­rate rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the coun­try. Stephen Harper’s elec­tion cam­paign rested heav­ily on the ban­ning of the niqab, which for­tu­nately was ruled un­con­sti­tu­tional. Fre­quent van­dal­ism of mosques and other hate crimes per­pe­trated against the Mus­lim- Cana­dian com­mu­nity are tes­ti­monies to the big­otry that ex­ists within our bor­ders. Quite frankly, Canada could do with­out its self-fel­lat­ing ex­cep­tion­al­ism and con­stant pats on the back, es­pe­cially when they oc­cur as a knee-jerk re­ac­tion to con­crete and home­grown ex­am­ples of Is­lam­o­pho­bia. When as­saults like th­ese oc­cur, whether we de­fine them as acts of ter­ror­ism or hate crimes, it is a call to crit­i­cally ex­am­ine our own prej­u­dice and xeno­pho­bia. We must re­al­ize that pre­tend­ing we are more tol­er­ant than oth­ers is not a so­lu­tion to in­tol­er­ance. It is ac­count­abil­ity for our own short­com­ings that makes na­tions safer, not the main­te­nance of a rep­u­ta­tion Canada does not de­serve. I hold a firm be­lief that what makes you a pa­triot is not your unchecked love for your coun­try, but your com­mit­ment to im­prove it.

Now is the time to mourn; those killed, in­jured, and af­fected dur­ing the re­cent at­tack de­serve our sor­row and our sup­port. But more than that, they de­serve jus­tice and the as­sur­ance that Cana­di­ans will learn to re­flect and progress rather than blame and dis­miss.

Nishat Prova | Il­lus­tra­tor

Vigil held in Mon­treal for the vic­tims of the Que­bec City mosque shoot­ing.

Conor Nick­er­son | The Mcgill Daily

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