Globe editorial: This is a story about race in Canadian politics. And it’s hopeful

Agree. Recent federal election largely confirms:

This is not a story about race.

But to understand how it isn’t, we have to talk about how, in another, less successful country, it could be.

In 2016, the census found that 31 per cent the residents of the City of Calgary were immigrants. Thirty-six per cent of the population were members of a visible minority, including 9.5 per cent who were South Asian. The picture is almost exactly the same in Edmonton: 30 per cent of residents are immigrants and 37 per cent are visible minorities, including 9.5 per cent who identify as South Asian.

Two weeks ago, the people of Edmonton and Calgary went to the polls and elected new mayors. Both were born outside of Canada. Jyoti Gondek, Calgary’s top magistrate, was born in England to parents of Punjabi descent and came to this country as a child; Edmonton’s Amarjeet Sohi was born in India and immigrated in his teens. On the census, both would be counted among the roughly one in 10 city residents of South Asian descent.

We bring up race not because it was an issue in the elections of Ms. Gondek and Mr. Sohi, but because it was not. And let us give thanks for that.

In many other countries – less happy, less peaceful countries – the story would have been very different. There, race, religion or ethnicity are the basis for politics. Sectarian divides slice through the possibility of shared citizenship, with lives and politics organized along those lines.

That’s how much of the world is. (Ask an immigrant.) In the worst cases, it results in the failed state of Lebanon, or the violently extinguished state of Yugoslavia, or the Rwanda genocide.

But here’s what we believe can safely be said about the mayoral elections in Calgary and Edmonton: The race of the candidates, their religion (or lack thereof), and their status as first-generation Canadians appear to have been irrelevant to most voters. Maybe not all voters, whether pro or con, but surely most.

Consider: Nine out of 10 voters in Calgary and Edmonton are not of South Asian heritage. Yet Ms. Gondek and Mr. Sohi each won 45 per cent of the vote. That means that most of those who voted for them were from “another” community.

And we put the word “another” in quotation marks because, this being Canada in 2021, most voters don’t see it that way. They weren’t marking their ballots through a prism of race. They didn’t see the winning candidates as coming from some other community, but rather as part of their shared community – Calgarian, Edmontonian, Albertan, Canadian – that transcends where you or your parents came from, where you pray or do not pray, and what colour your skin is.

Canadians are not saints, and Canada is not some magic land where racism never existed. It is not some place where no lines have ever been drawn labelling some people as “us” and others as “them.” Canada has a long history of evolving varieties of sectarian divisions.

But Canada also has a long and accelerating history of expanding the definition of “us,” and extending membership in the shared community to people who, in another place or another time, might have been excluded. For example, until 1954, the mayor of Toronto had always been a Protestant from the Orange Order. But that year, the citizens of Toronto ended all that, electing Nathan Phillips. Phillips was Jewish; nearly all of the city’s residents were not. Most were Protestants. It didn’t matter.

It was a similar story half a century later, in the three mayoral elections won by Naheed Nenshi in Calgary. The vast majority of the people of Calgary are not Ismaili Muslims; it didn’t matter. Overwhelming majorities chose Mr. Nenshi as their representative. And though three-quarters of the residents of Brampton, Ont., are visible minorities, in 2018 they elected Patrick Brown as mayor.

This ability to see beyond differences and biology and faith is something that Canada will need ever more of in its future. Canada is on the road to becoming a majority-minority nation, where no ethnic or racial group is the majority. That’s already the situation in Metro Vancouver and Greater Toronto, and the other big cities are not far behind.

The voting in Calgary and Edmonton is a reminder that this future is hopeful, not ominous. If a Canadian is defined by all that we hold in common, in spite of differences, then everybody’s part of the majority.


‘I’m Speaking Out:’ Calgary Firefighters Allege Decades of Racism

Of note:

When Chris Coy became Calgary’s first Black firefighter 25 years ago, his heroic vision of the profession was almost immediately upended.

First, he said, during training he was hazed more than his colleagues, strapped to a stretcher against his will and repeatedly doused with a fire hose. Then there were the co-workers who ostracized him at lunch. Throughout his career, he said, fellow firefighters used a racial slur directed at Black people.

For years, Mr. Coy said he suffered in silence as he feared speaking out would mean dismissal, or, worse, other firefighters not shielding him from danger in the field.

But since retiring in December, Mr. Coy has begun speaking publicly about what he said was decades of racially motived physical and verbal abuse, joining a group of current and former firefighters who have been voicing similar grievances. The city’s mayor and fire chief have acknowledged the racism within the department and pledged to address it.

“Here in Canada we are proud and sometimes smug about our commitment to diversity,” Naheed Nenshi, Calgary’s mayor, said in an interview. “I don’t want anyone who gets a paycheck I sign to feel that they aren’t valued because of the color of their skin.”

In Canada, a country that prides itself on its liberal humanism and multiculturalism, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made reconciling with Indigenous peoples an early priority of his premiership. Now, the country has been undergoing a national reckoning about institutional racism in its city halls, law enforcement and cultural institutions, particularly since the global uprising for Black rights spurred by last year’s police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Brenda Lucki, the chief of Canada’s storied national police force, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, was recently forced to walk back her previous denials of systemic racism within the force. Mr. Trudeau was among those arguing that police forces across the country were grappling with systemic racism.

While there have been complaints of discrimination in other fire departments in Canada, Calgary has become a high-profile case. The accusations of racism at the fire department were first reported by the CBC, the national broadcaster.

Port du hijab: le SPVM «ouvert» à l’idée pour ses policières

Good that it provokes discussion in other police forces located in diverse communities (the SPVM does not report publicly on its diversity last time I checked):

La Gendarmerie royale du Canada (GRC) permet désormais à ses policières musulmanes de porter le hijab, mais qu’en est-il des principaux corps policiers du Québec ? Le Service de police de la Ville de Montréal (SPVM) n’a jamais reçu de demandes à ce sujet, mais se dit « très ouvert » à l’idée.

Afin de refléter davantage la population canadienne et d’encourager des femmes musulmanes à envisager une carrière policière, la GRC a récemment décidé d’autoriser le port du hijab. La GRC insiste sur le fait que le foulard a été conçu pour être sécuritaire, après une série de tests rigoureux. La nouvelle a fait le tour du monde.

« Nous n’avons pas pris position sur le sujet, mais nous sommes très ouverts à ce genre de demandes », a indiqué hier la commandante du SPVM Marie-Claude Dandenault. Cette prise de position de la GRC incite le corps policier montréalais à évaluer la question, dit-elle. Au Canada, les forces armées, la police de Toronto et la police d’Edmonton permettent déjà le port du foulard.

« J’ai toujours dit, tant qu’il y a le visage découvert, je n’ai pas de problème avec ça », a quant à lui déclaré hier le maire de Montréal, Denis Coderre, en réponse à une question sur le sujet.

Comme le SPVM, la Sûreté du Québec (SQ) n’a jamais reçu de demandes de ses membres en ce sens.

 « On n’a jamais pris position », a indiqué le lieutenant Jason Allard, responsable des communications au sein de la police provinciale, qui a souligné qu’il ne voulait pas commenter la décision de la GRC

« On n’a jamais eu de demandes d’accommodement d’uniformes pour des motifs religieux », indique le lieutenant Jason Allard, responsable des communications à la SQ.

Le lieutenant Allard affirme que la Sûreté du Québec a fait des efforts au cours des dernières années afin d’augmenter le nombre de femmes et de membres issus des communautés culturelles au sein du corps policier. « On privilégie une meilleure représentation de toutes les cultures, mais on ne vise pas de groupe spécifique comme l’a fait la GRC », dit-il.

And Calgary is already ahead:

Reaction to Calgary cab video shows progress in fighting racism, says immigration lawyer

Raj Sharma on how Calgary is changing, using the example of a taxi driver who filed a complaint over the racist rant of a passenger:

One way to measure how this city has changed is the public response to a dash-cam video that recently surfaced, which has been seen and shared by many. It shows an enraged drunk inundating Sardar Qayyum — a meek, deferential, Pakistani émigré and Canadian citizen — with a racist diatribe.

Unlike those who preceded him, Qayyum felt that he could go to our law enforcement agencies. He didn’t necessarily have to turn the other cheek.

…The perpetrator in this case has been identified, shamed and has lost his job. Having run the gauntlet of the internet, he and his family will move on after the mob finds their next target.

The public reaction to the video has shown his behaviour is not condoned, it is condemned. That’s a good sign and the support that Qayyum has received is heart-warming.

Racism appears to have progressed. You no longer commonly hear the generic slur of “Paki” being smeared over all South Asians. Unfortunately, racist attacks and tirades against Muslims appear to be increasing. A network of women’s centres is reporting an alarming rise in intolerance, racism and violence against Muslim women in Quebec tied to the proposed Charter of Quebec values, which thankfully remained inchoate.

Violence against Muslim women on the rise, group says

The rant against Qayyum centred around his religion; this incident is merely a symptom of the overall disease wherein the vast majority of Muslims are being tarred and feathered for the actions of a tiny minority. Muslims are “terrorists” or “sympathizers,” but since 2001 nearly twice as many people in the United States have been killed by white supremacists, antigovernment fanatics and other non-Muslim extremists than radical Muslims. Racists, by their very nature, rarely let the facts get in the way.

As a result, it’s been a chilly few years for ordinary Muslims living in the West, including Canada. However, “ordinary” Canadians with their condemnation of one man’s unacceptable actions have spoken loudly. This should be celebrated in moderation for the concerns expressed above.

I am optimistic that, while it may well be chilly right now for Canadian Muslims, the beauty is that in Calgary, the next chinook is already on its way.

Reaction to Calgary cab video shows progress in fighting racism, says immigration lawyer | Mobile.

Gregory and Collin Gordon, Calgary brothers, join ranks of Canadians fighting for ISIS

The latest extremists from Calgary and again, no particular pattern as the brothers, born in Canada and converts to Islam, appeared to be well-adjusted and integrated. What made them change? And how did Calgary become a centre?:

“All I know about Collin is that he moved back home [to Calgary] and started to be hardcore Muslim,” said Akan Swisslizz Ekpenyong, a Vancouver-based hip hop artist who used to host parties with Collin in Kamloops and was his classmate.

Ekpenyong said it became increasingly difficult to communicate with Collin due to his religious beliefs — and that’s when he decided to “unfriend” him on Facebook. Ekpenyong had no idea how extreme Collin would eventually become.

No one CBC News spoke with can explain how exactly Collin went from sports, hip hop and tweets about wanting to marry American rapper Nicki Minaj in early 2012, to becoming one among thousands of foreign fighters trying to establish an Islamic state in the Middle East.

Heartbroken and confused, their parents told CBC News that they raised their children to be peaceful, kind and smart — and that both were well educated and never had any run-ins with the law.

Asking the media for privacy, the parents of the Gordon brothers provided the following statement to CBC News: “We would like all to know we love and miss our sons dearly. We are deeply concerned for their safety. At this time we refuse to speculate with regards to the end of their story. We continue to keep hope alive.”

And while their parents are keeping hope alive, Collin’s social media photos portray someone who has become well-adjusted to life as a foreign jihadi.

As Canadian-born, without dual citizenship, their citizenship could not be revoked unlike other members of the Calgary cell not-born in Canada.

Gregory and Collin Gordon, Calgary brothers, join ranks of Canadians fighting for ISIS – CBC News – Latest Canada, World, Entertainment and Business News.