15 November 2016

Hate Crimes in Canada, Eh

by Melissa Yi

I was supposed to work on my novel on Wednesday. Instead, I found myself on Facebook, looking for wisdom and solace. Most of my friends are either writers, health care workers, or both. I did find comfort in them. But I was also shocked by my newsfeed.
Peterborough is a small city of about 80,000 people and home to Trent University. After I graduated from my program in emergency medicine, I did my first locum in an even smaller town close to Peterborough. Beautiful area, green, lots of smiling people. Almost all white people, but that's the norm in a small Canadian town. Usually, rural-ites are friendly. Not always. In my life, no one has flung urine at me.
Although once, a teenager ran up to my dad in Ottawa with a plastic bag clenched in his hands and said, "Are you Japanese?"
I was maybe twelve and didn't know what to do.
My dad said, truthfully, no.
The guy ran away with his bag, which seemed to contain some sort of brown liquid.
Close call.



This is not isolated to Peterborough. Basically, I'm astonished that some people think they have new and wide permission to spew hate.
It was always simmering. When I took my kids trick-or-treating in Vankleek Hill a few weeks ago, a little girl on Main Street stared at me and starting singing, "I see your Chinese eyes" and more under her breath. I looked at her mother, who was staring blankly into space, and back at the girl, who kept singing. I thought, Do I confront the girl? Do I point this out to her mother?
My kids were tired, and we were heading back to our car, so I opted to glare at the girl and keep going.
Afterward, I mentioned it to my white husband. He hadn't even noticed. He laughed and said, "You like to glare."
Actually, what I like to do is trick-or-treat without racist commentary. Wouldn't that be nice?
If you think none of this is real, or it's exaggerated, or it doesn't matter because no one was beaten or died, you may enjoy reading this report on hate crimes in Canada in 2013: http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/85-002-x/2015001/article/14191-eng.htm#a2
It has nice charts like this:


I can't not speak.
I respect other Sleuthsayers' right not to engage, but in my mind, there is no point writing about crime fiction and ignoring crimes in real time.
Let me end with some wise words from Dr. Dylan Blacquiere, a neurologist, writer, and friend. I have edited his brilliance for brevity, but you should seek him out:

1. We have to, have to, have to get our own house in order. That could mean engaging with civic politics, writing letters, joining community organizations, running for office yourself. Our institutions are only as strong as the people who participate, and the best way to keep someone like Trump from destroying what we build here is to make sure that we participate fully to strengthen what we have. Clinton lost on turnout. People were not engaged. That means we have to engage. 
2. We have to pay attention to why this happened. Most of his voters are not racists or sexists or stupid. Some of them are, no doubt. But many are people for whom the system is not working, and they saw nothing to lose. That means we have to face these issues head on. Economic inequality. Poverty. Unemployment. Economic uncertainty. Trump's message wins when people are disenfranchised, vulnerable, and uncertain. If our economy is working for everyone in a fairly distributed manner, then a lot of the power of his argument goes away. And ignoring these people, dismissing them, not understanding where they are coming from, not seeing their experiences and not declaring them important, means that they will find some other way to make themselves heard. It's hard to blame them for that; we haven't always been that great at taking their concerns seriously.
3. More than ever we have to stand up and support the vulnerable and stand up for equality. Women, people of colour, LGBT, people with disabilities, immigrants. We have to support our allies and friends in the States who are in a vulnerable and scary place right now. We have to make sure rights and freedoms don't get rolled back here as politicians like Kellie Leitch start rising. 
4. And we have to face some uncomfortable truths - we aren't perfect here, either. Racism exists here. Our relationships with First Nations, especially here, are fraught with broken promises, inequality, and disrespect. Those 
comments that Trump supporters make; Canadians make those too, about women, about natives, about black people and queer people and Muslims and Jews. Many of our institutions have been built on past inequality and oppression. Part of standing against Trump means we have to face up to that and make those things better here. We absolutely do not get to rest on our laurels here; in fact, we have to recognize the fact that in a lot of ways we've done, and are doing just as badly. We need to fix that. If we truly want to stand for something good in a scared and uncertain world it means we have to improve ourselves, too, not just wag a finger at others. 
Bottom line: There's a lot we can't do about this. It's frustrating and it's discouraging and it's depressing. But the sun still came up yesterday. It's going to come up today, and tomorrow, too. There's work to be done. Canada has the chance to be the light the world leaves on for when places like the States and Great Britain come around and come back home. We have to seize that chance by strengthening ourselves, staying involved, and helping to fix the problems that led here and the ones
that will worsen because we're here. 
I spent yesterday numb and avoidant. I plan to spend today roiling up my sleeves and getting to work.

6 comments:

O'Neil De Noux said...

Rolling up sleeves and getting to work? I admire your determination. I've been trying since the 1960s here in New Orleans and thought we'd made progress but on November 8th, I found I live in a country where over 59 million people voted for Donald Trump and turned over our entire government – the Presidency, the House of Representatives, US Senate and Supreme Court to him and his party. I live in a country where ignorance, bigotry and bullying is celebrated.

janice law said...

Absolutely right! Despair solves nothing and becomes part of the problem.

Art Taylor said...

Great post here, Melissa--though I'm sorry for the troubles at the heart of it. I've been so saddened by all that's happened in our country in the build-up to the election and now, accelerated, in the aftermath, and it's chilling to hear these stories from across the border as well.

Having grappled with this question of whether, why, and how to speak myself (my own post last week, building from a longer habit of keeping political beliefs private), I found this a troubling, moving, and inspiring post. This election has certainly changed many things, many perspective. Thank you for writing all this.

Eve Fisher said...

Melissa, I'm so sorry to hear that this crap is happening even north of the border. Is nothing sacred? Answer, no, it isn't.

Look, this isn't exactly comforting, but I've found that it really is true that we live in a fallen world, and one that keeps leaning to the dark side like a camel to water. But we either keep fighting, or we let the darkness win. Personally, I really do prefer to light a candle - even if it will continually be blown out - than curse the darkness (although, to be honest, I always do both.)

As for why it is this way, it's quite simple: despite our best efforts, each and every generation, each and every newborn, has to be taught how to be human, and how to be good. And that is not easy. Our instincts are, apparently, appallingly selfish. And we do not inherit our parents' morality, faith, hope, religion (or lack thereof), information, none of it. We all start from scratch. (There are a few apparent prodigies of virtue, just as there are prodigies of music, but damned few.)

So - keep teaching, keep training, keep hoping, keep working, keep fighting to keep that damn candle lit!

Elizabeth said...

Drumpf hasn't quite won the presidency yet. Hillary won the popular vote in a landslide. The rotting pumpkin didn't even win the electoral college ... only its commitments to vote as previously agreed to when the actual voting happens on Dec. 19.

Two of the electors announced they're changing their votes to Hillary. That was on the news this morning. Hoping others will follow.

Leigh Lundin said...

D'accord. Outstanding post, Melissa.