Min­is­ter’s race woes draw ugly re­sponses from ri­vals

Min­is­ter’s ex­pe­ri­ence of big­otry draws ugly re­sponses from two po­lit­i­cal ri­vals

Calgary Herald - - FRONT PAGE - DON BRAID Don Braid’s col­umn ap­pears reg­u­larly in the Her­ald. dbraid@postmedia.com

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.

Ahmed Hussen

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