Sears: Canadian Muslims’ anguished demand: how many more times?

Reads as overly “triumphant” given that the solutions are neither simple nor easy. But yes, the political presence of all major political leaders, the regrets of Conservatives regarding “barbaric cultural practices” are significant signals of changing social norms (even if not much evidence in right-wing media):

What a difference a year makes.

It seems unlikely that the massive nationwide reaction to the murder of a Muslim family in London, Ont. a week ago tonight would have been as deep and all-embracing before the death of George Floyd. His death, and the global revulsion to it, forced new lessons on all of us about the depths and costs of systemic racism.

This week, impressively, the majority of those demanding change were not Muslim. Also remarkable was the sight of every political leader from every level of government at the London vigil. They all underlined that there is simply no political space anymore for even dog-whistled racist tropes in our politics. Stephen Harper was the last politician to suffer for his 2015 campaign’s sleazy racist whispers. Premier Kenney, who blamed South Asians’ cultural practices for the spread of COVID in their communities, seems likely to be the next.

A European friend reminded me recently that we should be proud that we are the only nation in the developed world where there is zero traction for a racist or anti-immigrant political party. It is a feature of our politics that we should celebrate. We saw it again this week.

American politicians’ declarations of their nation’s “exceptionalism” cause many Canadians to twitch. Barack Obama’s bizarrely ignorant claim that his victory could only have taken place in one country made many of us shout “not true!” at our screens. So, it is with some trepidation I suggest that there are few places in the world where an entire nation will leap immediately to the defence of a wounded Muslim community and demand action from all their politicians.

What we cannot pat our collective back for, however, is success in fighting the visible rise in calls for violence from white supremacists. Incited from the depths of the social media swamp, we can no longer deny the cancerous growth of racial hatred. We find it in members of our military and police services, in too many hospital and LTC workers and on too many city streets. We cannot excuse our political leaders for their continuing incompetence and failure to take even the most basic steps to block racist attacks.

As one sign at the London vigil demanded, “How Many More Times?” Neither the prime minister nor Premier Ford embraced the call for an emergency national summit to create an action agenda, despite their powerful rhetorical performances that night. Nothing effective was done after the mosque murders in Quebec City. So far, the political response to the Afzaal family’s murder has been promises to write another cheque. A more severe application of criminal justice is not the answer. Harsh punishment following the next attack will do nothing for the dead victims.

The fundamentals to rolling back racism are well known. They start with frequent public acknowledgment of our reality by leaders in every institution. Delivering stories of the power of communities devoted to inclusion and diversity, beginning at the elementary school level. Heavy consequences for social media platforms that grant safe harbours to this poison on their sites. (Removing hate speech after an attack is not good enough, Facebook.) Every one of us confronting the slurs we see and hear too often. And yes, using the law to hammer the attackers.

Source: Canadian Muslims’ anguished demand: how many more times?

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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