I woke up this morning to some really sad news. I thought that things couldn’t get much worse, but I was wrong. Was it positive thinking? Or naivety? I wish I could go back to yesterday. When I was hopeful that Canada stood for something more than fear and hate. Yesterday I wanted to write a post about diversity and explore the ways in which it brings people together, but I can’t. Late last night there was an attack on a mosque in Quebec City that killed six people.
I am not so naive to think that Canada could be immune from this type of hate. But it honestly surprises me. I was at a loss for words after learning about the Muslim travel ban over the weekend, and now I’m utterly speechless. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted this, in response to the travel ban: “To those fleeing persecution, terror and war, Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith. Diversity is our strength. #WelcomeToCanada”. This tweet has been getting a lot of attention, and rightfully so. As of January 1, Canada resettled over 39,000 Syrian refugees. Which is four times the number of refugees that the US resettled in the same time frame. I can’t find the quote, but I believe Trudeau also said that Canada would take in anyone affected by the US travel ban. Further promoting the notion of a diverse nation.
Historically, in Canada the number of events like this are minimal. And even smaller targeting a religious group. So why now? The answer seems obvious. There is so much hate being spewed right now. People highlighting differences in a bad way. Maybe the difficult part of people is that they don’t understand. So instead of educating themselves on the topic, they assume a multitude of misconceptions. They look to leaders and people in power to tell them what is right. But most of these people already have an opinion about these topics. No matter how many times we use the #WelcomeToCanada, they are still going to continue perpetuating the stereotypes. No matter how many events are held to support the groups that are being marginalized, people are still going to breed hate.
As I write this post, I’m reminded of a Bob Dylan lyric in the song “The Times They are ‘A Changin’”. Dylan writes “and don’t criticize what you can’t understand” in reference to the world changing at a rapid pace. He wrote that lyric over 40 years ago. And at a time that might even seem somewhat comparable to today in many ways. People were fighting for their rights at that time. Now they are fighting to keep their rights. This is what I can’t understand. Everyone should have the same rights, regardless. We shouldn’t have to put a list of those we shouldn’t discriminate after the word “regardless”. It should just have a full stop. Period. The end.
But we don’t live in that world. We live in a world that doesn’t understand differences. It doesn’t understand equality. It doesn’t understand how to accept people for who they are regardless. A large part of my job is to educate people on one very specific human right. I often struggle with the education part of my job because I feel like I shouldn’t have to explain these things. Historically, we have create barriers that doesn’t allow for participation by all groups. The education piece is important to help staff understand how to eliminate these barriers, and how to prevent more from being created. If everyone could get on board with the idea of equal rights, I wouldn’t have to spend so much time explaining it. Maybe I’d be out of a job?
I had wanted today’s post to be positive and uplifting. I wanted to be able to write about diversity in a way that highlighted the benefits. That showcased how great differences can be. But I can’t right now. The only thing I can do is control my actions and thoughts. I am going to look for good news stories this week and try to do my part to make this week a bit more bearable.