On the surface, Canada presents the image of a nation of peace and calm, but unfortunately, it still carries the colonial undertone of racism, bigotry, and xenophobia.
Recently a Muslim family of five was deliberately ambushed by a twenty-year-old driver in London, Ontario that sent shock waves throughout this multicultural country of 38 million people. Only a nine-year-old boy survived this terrible tragedy.
And a few days earlier, an unmarked mass grave of some 250 children was discovered in a residential school in Kamloops, B.C. Once again, for many Canadians, this was also a shock while the Indigenous communities have been saying all along that many of their children never came home after they were whisked away at an early age ordered by the Canadian government.
Residential schools were in operation between the 1870s and 1990s. Approximately 150,000 First Nations, Inuit,and Métis children are estimated to have attended residential schools.
Residential schools were established by the Christian Churches and the Canadian government to educate, convert and assimilate Indigenous youth into Canadian society. Instead, the schools disrupted lives and communities, causing long-term harm to the Indigenous people.
It is a fact that non-white Canadians often appear to be the target of racism, even though Canada is a country comprised mainly of immigrants from around the world. Since last year’s COVID-19 pandemic, Canadian Asians have been the target of hate crimes. Vancouver experienced a 717% increase in hate crimes against Asians, reflecting a legacy of discrimination in a country often considered welcoming newcomers.
Once again, many Canadians are alarmed as to how such barbaric acts could still occur today in a multicultural country. Well, the unfortunate irony is that bias and bigotry still exist in many areas of Canadian infrastructure from hospitals to the military.
At the memorial of a Muslim family, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, as well as other political leaders expressed their deep sadness and promised that more needs to be done to tackle racism.
While the words are soothing, but what is required for all levels of government and policy-makers is concrete action. And there needs to be accountability.
I believe what is required is education and training when it comes to different cultures, religions, LGBT, people of colour, individuals with disabilities, etc. This needs to be done not only in the general society and in the workplace, but also in schools starting in grade one to post-secondary.