I would have to be stupid, or incredible naive, to think that racism doesn’t exist in this country. I mean, the last residential school closed in 1996. I was 15 by that time and I had never been told about this brutal part of our history. We have First Nations reserves that haven’t had running water for more than two decades. Two decades of broken promises and many, many Canadians who somehow feel that “those people” brought it on themselves.
Yeah, how dare they live in a country that we wanted to colonize.
I have been sitting uncomfortably in that colonialism for a few years, trying to figure out the best way to help and learn without interfering.
I had assumed that Canada was, in general, better at dealing with our immigrants than our First Nations, Inuit and Métis.
There is something about having racism thrust at you as a wedge issue during an election campaign. Something about discovering that, quite literally, your neighbours hold such hatred in their hearts and minds. It just pushes you right out of your comfort zone and you can’t quite get back in.
In fact I will probably never feel quite as comfortable around my fellow Canadians as I once did. Foolish as that might have been.
And I have to sit with this discomfort being fully aware of the privilege I have. I was born here, a full citizen – no dual citizenship either. I was born white in a good neighbourhood in a city. I went to good schools and I have a university degree. I spent unaccented English. (Well, a little Ottawa Valley twang gets in there sometimes).
The Harper government would have to search pretty hard to find a way to discriminate against me, except for the whole ‘woman’ thing. But even there, because I am straight, married and a mother I am put in a better place that single women, gay or trans folks and non-parents. I get all the tax breaks and non of the condemnation. The dirtiest word they can come up with for me is ‘socialist.’
The media and the pollsters are telling us that these issues – these racist issues – are moving votes in this election campaign. That, in fact, all of Quebec is moving to the hated Conservatives because they care so much about banning women from wearing niqabs. And if that is the case I am going to feel very uncomfortable living in this country with these voters under this government.
So uncomfortable that I can’t even begin to imagine what Muslim Canadian women are feeling.