Minister’s race woes draw ugly responses from rivals
Minister’s experience of bigotry draws ugly responses from two political rivals
Of all the Canadian responses to the “I Can’t Breathe” movement, one of the most offensive comes from Randy Hillier, a Progressive Conservative legislative member in Ontario.
Ahmed Hussen, the federal Liberal minister of families, children, and social development, had said on CTV: “I have been followed in stores. Instinctively my back gets up when a police cruiser comes behind me as I drive.”
Hillier tweeted: “A guilty conscience?”
The empathy vacuum, the denial of racism, the hint that the black victim must be a criminal — they turn the stomach.
Even worse was the response to Hussen from Ed Ammar, longtime Alberta conservative and founding chair of Premier Jason Kenney’s UCP.
Ammar said to Hussen on Twitter: “Don’t bring this to Canada you f ***** loser.”
Ammar later apologized and called his comment “ill thought out,” when in fact there was no evidence of thought, just anger.
He explained that as an immigrant from a persecuted minority in Lebanon, “I am well aware of the ugly face of discrimination, having lived it first-hand.”
“I do get offended when some people try to lump us in with events south of the border,” he said.
Hussen wasn’t importing anything, though. He was talking about things that happen right here in Canada.
A member of Parliament, a Minister of the Crown, he finds himself followed in stores because of the colour of his skin.
But he is also a Liberal, and that seems to be enough for the knee-jerk deniers. They’re the ones who import an American problem — blind partisanship that disables both the brain and the heart.
Into this debate steps Jon Cornish, the former Stampeder great and one of the most admired people in the city.
Cornish told Postmedia News he’s never experienced racism in Calgary until last week, when he and his wife were out walking and happened to go down a back lane.
A woman began yelling and told them she was going to call the cops. Then she followed them in her car.
This was their own neighbourhood. Racism turned out to be right down the street, Cornish said.
The episode sounds a bit like the recent incident in New York’s Central Park, where a woman threatened an African-american man with the police. His only offence was birdwatching while black.
And a few days later George Floyd was killed — it’s right there on video — by a white police officer who casually ignores Floyd’s appeals for life.
America’s problem is uniquely ugly and lethal. But saying the U.S. is worse is just a lazy excuse for denying Canada’s own long-standing racism.
My wife once went for pizza with five friends; two white and three of colour.
They were told that people of colour couldn’t come in, but the whites could. They argued: Why not? “Isn’t it obvious?” said the proprietor.
We have a grandnephew who is black. One horrible day he was loudly berated on an Edmonton street by a man outraged to see him with white people.
The boy was tearful, hurt and confused. He was also four years old.
Ahmed Hussen is Somali-canadian, the first person of his immigrant group to be a federal minister. He was born in Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia, a tough, dangerous town where I was once bounced around by three armed military police until I feared for my life.
There was clear racism in their attack. They were amused.
I learned something powerful that bleak night — it’s terrifying, and infinitely lonely, to be oppressed by the forces of the majority simply because your skin is a different colour.
Nobody should have to go through that.
But too many Canadians know the feeling. And too many in political life don’t have a clue.