Today, as my neighbours to the south celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day to celebrate the life of one of the greatest spokesmen for Civil Rights we have ever seen, I have found myself bombarded with messages in the news and in social feeds that scares me as a Canadian. This is a unique MLK Day with the looming inauguration of Donald Trump as President of the United States, a man who has pulled no punches in sharing his discriminatory views during (and after) the election campaign and who has filled his cabinet with similarly right wing and discriminatory folks.
The words of Martin Luther King Jr are ringing in my ears as I look to the south of Canada:
There is nothing more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.Martin Luther King Jr.
But the language and messaging that has come with the Donald Trump election campaign and media fury has spilled over into Canada, into the country that I am proud to call home for so many reasons, the biggest of which is our inclusive nature.
No I am not naive enough to believe that Canada doesn’t have it’s own track record of blemishes in Civil Rights including our repeated mistreatment of our First Nations population or the treatment of Japanese citizens during World War II, but I am proud to say that the Canada that I live in today and that I have enjoyed for my entire life has at least recognized those failures and has attempted to apologize for them and work forward together with those that we wronged.
But today I read an article from CBC news that heralded the “alarming rise in right-wing populism” which spoke of the horrific hate that is starting to show up on Canadian University and College campuses. Flyers which espouse white-supremacist, racist, anti-gay, and other non-inclusive messages have started to show up across the company attempting to find some sort of footing among young Canadians.
Disgusted, I turned to my social news feed hoping to find some more uplifting news only to find messages of an Amber Alert for a missing 15-year-old Mississauga girl with the suspect listed as a “South Asian male” wearing an “orange turban”. My first thought and action was to share the Amber Alert message and to hope for a speedy and safe return of the young girl, but then I noticed the volume of comments on the post that was shared.
Rather than the “I hope she is OK” or “Hopes and prayers for her” type messages I hoped to read in response to the disappearance of a 15-year-old girl I was greeted by messages like:
You let any walks of life into canada [sic]. You try and help these people keep them safe, bring them to canada [sic] to live free, happy and safe. Then they start to pull dirty stunts like this. Help them keep them safel [sic], well who the HELL is going to keep our canadian [sic] brothers and sisters safe when they start to pull these same stunts here.
Lets catch these MUSLIMS and save this young woman.
comon pepal it’s not the safe Canada ENY mor spesly with un controld imagrashen [whole sentence sic]
Thankfully as the morning has gone on more of the comments have veered away from this type of racist messaging (and many commenters have taken the racist comment makers to task), but the fact that this type of sentiment is gaining traction in Canada is appalling to me. This is not the Canada that I am proud to be a member of.
I honestly believe that these types of messages are coming from the minority of Canadians, but even still I think it is critical for the rest of us to speak up and be heard. We cannot let these types of perspectives take root in Canada as they are counter to our Canadian values of multiculturalism, inclusion, and diversity.
We need to join together and stop this rhetoric before it can gain the traction it has to the south of us.
17 years ago we were introduced to Joe, an average Canadian, by Molson in a memorably advertising campaign:
Joe told us:
I’m not a lumberjack or a fur trader.
I don’t live in an igloo or eat blubber or own a dog sled.
And I don’t know Jimmy, Sally or Suzy from Canada, although I’m certain they’re really, really nice.
I have a prime minister, not a president.
I speak English and French, not American.
And I pronounce it about, not aboot.
I can proudly sew my country’s flag on my backpack.
I believe in peacekeeping, not policing.
Diversity, not assimilation.
And that the beaver is a truly proud and noble animal.
A toque is a hat, a chesterfield is a couch.
And it is pronounced zed, not zee, zed.
Canada is the second largest landmass, the first nation of hockey and the best part of North America.
My name is Joe, and I am Canadian!
While Joe did capture the importance of diversity to us in his rant I think we need to update the rant to speak to the challenges of today’s times in Canada.
Perhaps we need a new rant… something like:
I am not a Socialist or a Democrat (or a Republican or a Communist).
I don’t see race, religion, or sexual orientation as anything more than a personal characteristic.
And I don’t know Muhammad, Akio, or Abdalla from Canada, but I’m certain I would love to meet them.
I have a prime minister who believes in equality and inclusion, not a president who wants to build walls and deport residents.
I speak English and French, but I often regularly hear Arabic, Urdu, Mandarin, and many other languages spoken around me.
And I pronounce it “sorry” as often as necessary (not “saw-ry” when I get caught doing something wrong).
I can proudly wear my country’s flag anywhere in the world.
I believe in peacekeeping to help those in need, not war for oil.
Diversity and human rights for all, not borders and walls.
And that our First Nations founded our nation on the values of wisdom, love, respect, bravery, honesty, humility, and truth.
A turban, a headdress, a hijab, and a toque are all acceptable headwear.
And I am proud that Canada was the home of the first legal same-sex marriage in modern times.
Canada has the most lakes of any country in the world, has the world’s 3rd cleanest air, and is ranked the 2nd best country for social progress in the world.
My name is [INSERT YOUR NAME HERE], and I am Canadian!
Today we need to pull together and end the uprising of right-wing populism in Canada. We need to speak for our shared values.
We need to be CANADIAN.
(Feature image courtesy of Joinville from http://joinville.se/online-marketing-infographic-multicultural-marketing-canada/ – used without permission)
Tim Empringham, MBA
Tim Empringham is a passionate advocate for Innovation in organizations of all sizes as a mechanism to drive growth, create uncontested market space, create new customer value, and drive efficiency into the internal organization. His focus is on disruption of thinking and markets through integrative thinking, structured Innovation frameworks, and leadership development of Innovation and Change leaders within the organization.