Editorial: The Canada You Know And Love Is Racist
Quebec and Canada Share a Deeply Racist Past That Permeates Into the Present
The energy and anger expressed at the anti-racism protest on Sunday, despite the rain, shows there is significant opposition to the Coalition Avenir Québec’s nationalism.
We agree with the protesters that the CAQ, and now the Bloc Québécois, foster an intolerant environment in the province.
Protesters supported their claim by citing a recent report from Quebec’s human rights commission showing hate crimes are underreported in the province and have spiked in recent years.
Demonstrators also say the passing of the secularism law formerly known as Bill 21—which prohibits workers in the public sphere, including teachers, from wearing religious symbols—promotes Islamophobia and affects Muslim women the most.
The immigration reforms, formerly known as Bill 9, were passed by the CAQ under closure, as we also denounced. The reform reduced immigration in the province by 20 per cent and slashed about 16,000 applications from hopeful immigrants.
The Quebec government is enabling racism by providing cover for intolerance under the guise of secularism. The disproportionate targeting of non-white, non-Catholic communities shows that their supposed religious neutrality is not neutral.
The observable rise in hate crimes in recent years also show that racism is a growing issue in the province, despite the Premier’s insistence that it doesn’t exist. It isn’t hard to see the link between the divisive Bill 21 and the emboldening of Islamophobes to commit hateful acts and harass Muslims in public.
The current Quebec government not only turns a blind eye to systemic racism, it actively denies its existence. Many in Quebec were fine with crosses prominently displayed in public buildings for decades. But, Muslim women in Montreal wearing a veil suddenly caused a groundswell of support for laicity—showing the law comes from a place of intolerance.
Suddenly, laws that restrict people’s rights and freedoms that disproportionately affect women and visible minorities became acceptable because the majority supports it.
Majority opinion does not indicate moral justification for the oppression and prejudice of others.
For those who say this is not the Quebec nor the Canada they know, we would raise that it always has been, and they didn’t know Quebec or Canada well enough.
The state was built on racism, which formed a basis for the settler colonialism we know today. Indigenous peoples were stripped of their lands due to the settlers’ idea of having a right to the land,, or being better stewards of those lands.
We have seen years of institutionalized racism and cultural genocide perpetuating that legacy, from the Indian Act and residential schools to the issues we still see today, with First Nations still fighting for rights to their own land and human rights in their own home.
This Canada that we supposedly knew and loved saw Japanese internment in 1942. This Quebec we thought we knew needed the Jewish community in Montreal to build its own hospital to employ a growing number of Jewish doctors who were having trouble finding jobs due to prejudice.
This Canada we supposedly knew saw its last segregated schools close in 1983, not so long ago, and its last residential school closed in 1996.
This Montreal we thought we knew saw a police force that used photos of Black men for target practise in the 1980s. A report released in 2019 reveals the SPVM discriminates against Indigenous, Black, and Arab people, echoing the accusations of civil rights and activist groups.
So, racism is nothing new in Canada, and hate toward religious minorities is growing. But this is not normal and should not be normalized.
As one protester, Marwa Khanafer, was quoted saying to The Link, we as a society need to stop rejecting differences, because diversity is what makes our country so beautiful. Don’t we pride ourselves on being tolerant?