When President Donald Trump issued an executive order halting the intake of travellers from seven Muslim-majority nations on Jan. 28, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted in response, “To those fleeing persecution, terror & war, Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith. Diversity is our strength #WelcomeToCanada.”
Many Canadians were quick to point to this as evidence that we’re more welcoming and tolerant than our southern neighbours, who seemed to be sliding further towards an ideology of hate. But while it’s easy to mock Americans for electing a buffoon as their leader, taking a critical look at our own country would reveal how we fail to live up to our own cheery reputation.
Contrary to what his tweet suggests, Trudeau’s government hasn’t actually introduced legislation that would increase Canada’s intake of refugees. Rather, refugees are now braving the freezing temperatures to cross the U.S.-Canadian border in Quebec and Manitoba. While scenes of their being welcomed by the RCMP make for nice photo ops, it loses its lustre when you remember those refugees are crossing only to be detained . . .
And it doesn’t stop there: the Quebec City massacre in early February, anti-Muslim flyers shared at the University of Alberta, anti-Asian flyers in Vancouver, and opposition to M-103, a motion that would see a committee study religious discrimination in Canada, are all recent events around the country that tarnish our welcoming reputation. And a recent Angus Reid Institute poll showed that one quarter of Canadians want a Trump-style travel ban on refugees. But we’re still good, right?
Not really. Being smug about Canada in relation to the U.S. does nothing but ignore the same problems the States are currently facing. It benefits no one to pretend, and we’d be better off taking real action where we can.
So, where do we start? Being critical of our own politicians, for one. Right now, the Conservative Party of Canada is holding a leadership race, with some candidates — like Kellie Leitch — actively courting far-right crowds and promoting Islamophobic agendas. It’s up to Canadians to call out bigotry when they see it, from regular citizens and our elected officials.
In addition to holding power to account, if there’s a change you want to see, be that change. Be active in your community, and join organizations that advocate for causes you believe in. Not only will you contribute to a growing sense of community, but you’ll help others out in the process. And that’s something you can be smug about.