Two years ago, I was a new immigrant to Canada. Very new.
My son was two and extremely friendly especially with pets and people who have pets.
We spent a lot of time in the square in front of our condo building. In October, it felt like winter had already gripped its arms tight around us. As newcomers and unconditioned to the extreme weather we layered our jackets and went out to the park. There my son saw a woman who was playing fetch with her little dog. My son wanted to join in the fun. The woman was nice and let my son pet her dog and play fetch with her pet.
The next day we saw her again. Seeing that she was friendly I went along with my son towards her. She let my son play for a while and then excused herself stating that her friend was coming. We saw her talking to another lady in the distance.
For the next few days, she chose either to hang out in the other corner of the ground than she normally did or leave the place altogether as soon as she saw us coming. Why am I sharing this? To me, this is a classic example of covert racism.
While many Canadians think diversity makes the country better, racism is still prevalent. A research published by Angus Reid Institute made public on Monday, June 21, states that three-in-ten visible minorities and Indigenous Peoples said they feel as if they’re treated like an outsider.
Hit by the hate crime committed in London, Ontario, and the discovery of the mass graves of 215 indigenous children in Kamloops, BC and most recently in Marieval Indian Residential School in Saskatchewan, Canada is confronted with dark past and tragic present, making the study momentous.
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The Angus Reid Institute partnered with the University of British Columbia, for the study report “Diversity and Racism in Canada” that sheds light on Canadians’ attitudes towards race and acceptance of multiculturalism.
The report published on June 21 states, ‘for a majority, there is a level of pride that comes with living in a racially, culturally, and ethnically diverse nation… \ However, there are competing views in public opinion of how far multiculturalism should go, and the extent to which racism and discrimination exist in Canada‘
Interestingly, 54 percent of female between 18 to 34 called Canada racist, significantly higher than the 33 percent male in the same age category. Many of the respondents expressed that they felt “warm” towards visible minorities (Black, East Asian, South Asian and/or Muslim). However, a quarter of the respondents said they felt “cold” towards Muslims, revealing the sentiment towards a particular group.
Interestingly, while 87 percent of respondents view all races as equal, 12 percent think that some races are superior. Not surprisingly, Indigenous Canadians reported feeling alienated from mainstream Canadian society. Thirty per cent reported that they were “treated as an outsider” in Canada.
This news and some of the recent incidents might come as a disheartening news if you are a new immigrant, or of any of the above-mentioned category against whom hostile sentiments were expressed. There is much work to be done to change the animosity and we, first generation Canadians, must do our part.
What can you do?
- Educate yourself. Read about the history of Canada and the policies of the Canadian Government which emphasizes on immigration to keep the economy thriving.
- Educate others. Faced with any situation where you can educate someone on how immigration moves this country, do it.
- Share. Talk about your culture and heritage and share how our aspirations are similar beyond the differences of our race and ethnicity.
- Watch out. If you see some signs of racism and hostility, call them out.
- Speak up. Through our voices we can change the vices.
- Don’t seclude. Become a part of the community by participating in programs and events.
- Don’t push too hard. If someone is showing no interest in engaging, leave them alone.
- Get to know your neighbours. Invite them for a chat with tea or drinks as and when possible.
- Celebrate together. Enjoy festivals that others celebrate.
- Don’t judge others’ way of life. Open your eyes and mind to see people as humans before putting them in a box.
- Remember diversity is strength and unity is power. Be a pillar of strength in your community.
- Everyone is learning. Be a part of the progress.