‘A work in progress’: after 50 years Canada’s multiculturalism policy a ‘model,’ but must shift to ‘dismantling’ discrimination, say panellists

Good overview of the plenary with three good speakers but Nenshi, as often happens, stole the show with his blending of the personal and political:

Fifty years after Canada made multiculturalism an official policy, Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi contrasted his life under the system to another political figure who, like him, was born within months of its enactment in 1971: the prime minister. 

Both men turn 50 within a matter of weeks of each other, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (Papineau, Que.) this coming Christmas Day and Mr. Nenshi a few weeks later, in February. During an Oct. 6 panel dubbed “Multiculturalism@50,” Mr. Nenshi said the last five decades and the two leaders’ paths to politics reveals some of the impact of the world-leading policy put in place by Mr. Trudeau’s father, Pierre Trudeau, when he led the country.

“He grew up in a life of great privilege. But in a life where, as a formally bilingual white person in this country, he had a very different view of what multiculturalism meant than others may have,” Mr. Nenshi said in his set-up, contrasting that with his early years and how he—that “baby boy”—grew up in Canada.

“He grew up as a person of colour, who could not avoid conversations about racism, or multiculturalism, because they were actually part of his life, every single day.”

During the 2019 election, Mr. Trudeau pointed to his privilege to explain how he as a teenager, and a man in his 30s, chose to don the racist garb of blackface and brownface.

Following the revelations, Mr. Trudeau said he had “a massive blind spot” borne from his upbringing in “a place of privilege.” His critics, including NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh (Burnaby South, B.C.), have noted a disconnect between his words and actions.

Last week, and again on Wednesday, Mr. Trudeau apologized for choosing to vacation in Tofino, B.C., on Sept. 30, the inaugural National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. The Vancouver Island town is a few hours’ flight west of Kamloops, B.C., where, in May, the local First Nation announced it had found 215 unmarked graves at a former residential school.

Mr. Nenshi did not mention the last campaign’s scandal or the prime minister’s record, but noted in thinking about “the different paths that we’ve taken, and where we’ve ended up, both he and I in public life, through very different ways, we start to understand, I think, what the impact of that policy has been,” Mr. Nenshi observed.

Canada’s multicultural policy, adopted in October 1971 in a world first, is “one of our country’s greatest achievements,” said Independent Senator Donna Dasko (Ontario).

Sen. Dakso, also a panellist for the Metropolis Canada event, credited the elder Trudeau for his “vision,” and though the approach had its detractors, she said it did not “impede its progress.” She said Canada “marched forward” with the approach, adopting the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in 1982, which “recognized the preservation and enhancement of the multicultural character of Canada,” and, in 1988, the Progressive Conservative government of Brian Mulroney passed the Multicultural Act, further “entrenching the principles and practices of multiculturalism.”

These efforts “marked Canada as the first country in the world to adopt these measures. And really, we did become a model of intercultural relations in the world,” said Sen. Dasko, a former pollster who said she has followed public opinion shift over the years so it’s now accepted as a “core feature of our national identity.”

Now, after 50 years, it’s time to focus on “dismantling,” and actions to address anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism, said former Liberal cabinet minister Jean Augustine, who became Canada’s first female Black MP when she was elected in 1997.

Despite equal pay legislation and commitments to equality, she questioned why Black Canadians are overrepresented below the poverty line and in Canada’s prisons.

“We need to ask questions. We need to get more complete answers. That is the only way that we can continue to write the story and also tell the story of a more accurate, inclusive, and genuine multicultural Canada,” said Ms. Augustine, who served as minister of state for multiculturalism between 2002 and 2004. 

Still, Ms. Augustine said she remains “steadfast” in her support of the policy, invoking Winston Churchill’s remarks on democracy; that it is the worst form of government, except all those others that have been tried.

“We can say the same about multiculturalism. It is the best form and the best set of policies to enable us to be the Canada of the future. This is a work in progress,” she said. 

Canada must “meaningfully address barriers” diverse cultural groups face and “meet the challenges head on,” she said.

“The full dream of what Canada can be will only happen when we embrace true inclusion and equity. And this demands that we situate our approach to multiculturalism within a space that is anti-racist, and anti-oppression.”

While Canada is “immeasurably better” than it was when Mr. Nenshi’s parents first came to Canada, the mayor noted the country is still in a time when politicians deny systemic racism persists. 

This week, Quebec Premier François Legault doubled down on past statements saying it doesn’t exist in his province, following the release of a coroner’s report into the death of Joyce Echaquan, an Atikamekw woman who filmed herself being insulted by hospital staff before she passed. Mr. Legault “incorrectly” defined the term to “bolster his argument,” said Mr. Nenshi, noting the province’s so-called secularism laws are “blatantly discriminatory.” One law prohibits some civil servants from displaying religious symbols, such as wearing a hijab or turban.

That means lawyer-turned-NDP leader Mr. Singh, if he had practised law in Quebec, would be denied a path to ever be a judge. The topic came up in the English-language federal leaders’ debates, when moderator Shachi Kurl also described the law as discriminatory and asked Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet, in light of the law, how he could say the province doesn’t have a “problem with racism.”

Remarking on the flood of criticism Ms. Kurl, a woman of colour, faced in the Sept. 9 debate’s aftermath, Mr. Nenshi said people of colour are often challenged for daring to “play the race card,”

“Let me tell you something, the race card is very rarely part of a winning hand,” said Mr. Nenshi, who, 11 years ago became the first person of colour to head Calgary and a major city in Canada, and the first Muslim mayor of a major North American city. In the city’s 136-year history, he’s one of seven non-white members elected to council, according to Mr. Nenshi.

But it was his religion that propelled him to the pages of the likes of Time magazine—even though it had barely registered in his municipal campaign. He could have said “no” to all those dozens of media interviews, he noted, but multiculturalism, in part, pushed him to have those public conversations.

“I thought that this was an opportunity to tell a story of a place where it does work [and] use my own ordinary, typical immigrant story as a beacon of hope for Canada and for the world,” he said, and while that story still feels real and true, “things feel different now.”

Mr. Nenshi said there’s been a shift in the last four or five years, though nominal compared to the flood of hate women of colour experience when they enter public life. 

“It seems that voices of division, anger, and hatred are growing louder and louder in our communities. And they sometimes seem to be winning.”

Echoing Ms. Augustine’s assessment, Mr. Nenshi agreed the next stage means a move from pluralism and multiculturalism to “true anti racism, to true reconciliation.”

Mr. Nenshi said he doesn’t know what that looks like, but he’s optimistic Canada can get there.

“But it starts by recognizing where we are. It starts by recognizing how far we’ve come, but it also starts by recognizing how far we have to go.”

Source: https://hilltimes.us10.list-manage.com/track/click?u=a90bfb63c26a30f02131a677b&id=dace268bc7&e=685e94e554

‘Pandemic of hate’: Leaders, experts warn anti-lockdown protests linked to far right

Of note:

Online conspiracy theories about COVID-19 and protests against public health orders are helping to spread dangerous ideas laden with racism and bigotry, says a network monitoring hate groups in Canada.

The executive director of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network said since last year people espousing hateful beliefs have linked themselves to conspiracy and anti-lockdown movements around the novel coronavirus.

“We have two pandemics: We have the actual pandemic and then we have this pandemic of hate,” Evan Balgord said.

“Things are kind of getting worse both online and offline … with maybe one pandemic, we have kind of a solution for, but the hate thing, we don’t have a vaccine for that.

Federal New Democratic Party Leader Jagmeet Singh was the latest on Monday to note a connection between anti-mask and anti-lockdown protests and far-right extremism.

His comments came as rallies against COVID-19 health orders are being staged across the country while many provincial doctors battle a deadly third wave of the pandemic.

“To brazenly not follow public-health guidelines puts people at risk and that is something that we’ve seen with extreme right-wing ideology, ” he told reporters.

These demonstrations have been met with frustration from some in the public over what they say appears to be a lack of police enforcement, and a few premiers have promised stiffer fines for COVID-19 rule-breakers.

The far right has become adept at integrating populist grievances into its own narratives and exploiting them to enhance membership, said Barbara Perry, director of the Centre on Hate, Bias and Extremism at Ontario Tech University, in a recent interview.

As a result, members of the far right have turned up at virtually all of the recent anti-lockdown gatherings, “trying to lend their support to that movement, and thereby garner support and sympathy, or solidarity, with their more extreme movement,” she said.

Mr. Balgord said such events make for “fertile hunting” for new recruits because hateful ideas are not being policed, and once someone believes in one conspiracy theory, it’s easy to believe in others.

“We now have a greatly increased number of people who are coming into close contact with racists and bigots of all stripes with more conspiracy theories,” he said.

And more than a year into the pandemic, Mr. Balgord said, organizers behind anti-lockdown protests in Vancouver, Toronto and the Prairies know figures from the country’s “racist right” are involved in their movement.

More recently, he said, some protesters have started showing up with Nazi imagery to depict themselves as being persecuted by the government.

“The racist right that we monitor and the COVID conspiracy movement are inseparable from each other at this point. We monitor them as if they are the same thing because they involve all the same people,” Mr. Balgord.

He said the network’s information is based on what it observes and the far-right figures it follows, but there is a lack of data tracking how conspiratorial thinking around COVID-19 has moved across Canada.

After Mr. Singh’s comments, Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet played down the idea of a connection between the protests and far-right extremism, saying arguments suggesting a correlation were politically motivated.

“I am absolutely certain — absolutely certain — that people which have been involved in such discussions in the last hours and days know very well that there could be no link between … two things that should not be what they are, but are not related,” he said.

The NDP leader said he sees a link between those refusing to follow public-health advice and the ideologies of the extreme right because both show a disregard for the well-being of others and put people at risk.

“There is a connection, certainly.”

Mr. Singh said declining to listen to COVID-19 health orders is dangerous and needs to be called out.

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi earlier called such demonstrations “thinly veiled white nationalist, supremacist anti-government protests” on Global’s “The West Block.”

Source: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/politics/article-pandemic-of-hate-leaders-experts-warn-anti-lockdown-protests-linked-to/

Mayor Naheed Nenshi to Canadians: ‘We need to talk’

Always worth listening to:

Welcome to Corridors. We’ve been sharing this space with contributors as obsessed as we are with policy and Canadian politics. This week, we bring you a voice from Alberta. Naheed Nenshi has been mayor of Calgary since 2010. He’s studied at Harvard’s Kennedy School and taught at Calgary’s Mount Royal University. Nenshi is a first-generation Canadian. His parents immigrated from Tanzania and, he says, “instilled the ethic of seva — service to the community.” He’s just announced he will not seek a fourth term in office and has been reflecting on lessons to share from his tenure. Over to you, Mayor. — Sue Allan, editor of POLITICO Canada.


When I announced this month that I won’t be running for re-election, I expected conversations about legacy, our historic investments in transportation, Calgary’s state-of-the-art library, or how we transformed government to deliver services more efficiently while maintaining the lowest tax rates in the country.

Instead, I’ve been mostly asked about racism and the increasing divisions in our society. In many ways, the exit interviews are a funhouse mirror to the conversations after I was first elected.

I found myself very famous the day after that 2010 election. Every national media outlet wanted a piece of me, as well as CNN, Time and Al-Jazeera. But no one was interested in my come-from-behind campaign or my radical ideas on how cities can work better; they only wanted to talk about my faith.

At the time, I took part, because I wanted to talk about this place where we live pluralism every day. I wanted to talk about how my race and my faith were not factors in the election, and that people just saw me as a Calgarian. Even in 2010, as I was seeing increasing waves of intolerance and hatred globally, I thought, and still think, that the story of Canada serves as a model for the world.

But now, things are different. We are more polarized than ever. Differences, whether political or cultural, are exploited to sow division. And with division, the threat of hatred, radicalization and violence grows.

You need only look to the dialogue around any of our current challenges. Either you believe climate change is real, or you love oil and gas (hint: most us think both are true). Personal freedoms are pitted against public health measures. This black and white, us-versus-them political positioning is not only a barrier to pragmatic solutions, it creates an environment where political disagreements stray outside the acceptable boundaries of debate.

Nowhere is this more obvious than on social media. In 2010, social media helped me, as a little-known academic, reach Calgarians during my first mayoral campaign. Twitter still held the promise of a platform to engage in constructive discourse. Today, social media is an anti-social battleground for unfiltered, post-truth put-downs and provocations. Whether I post about politics or a lost puppy, I can count on receiving vitriolic, racist and personal attacks.

This behavior isn’t limited to the online sphere. Political life has become increasingly adversarial, confrontational and dangerous. RCMP data shows threatsof violence against Canadian politicians are on the rise, and I’ve felt that in my own life. I’ve been asked to chair Council meetings remotely, or not to step outside. Attacks on gender, religion and race are much more common — all this at a time when we need better representation from women and people from diverse backgrounds.

Meanwhile, reports of anti-Asian hate crimes have risen to disturbing levels in North America, no doubt fueled by the former U.S. president labelling Covid-19 the “Chinese virus.” In Quebec, Bill 21 restricts what job you can have based on your faith. That’s not secularism, that’s bigotry, and we need to call it out no matter the political risk.

I don’t mind taking the arrows. I have broad shoulders and thick skin. But that doesn’t mean it’s okay. Not for me, not for anyone.

I fear that people, at a time when we need diverse voices in the public sphere, will see how I am treated, and how women in politics, who experience far more abuse than I could imagine, are treated, and will shy away, at the moment we need them most.

What we need now is a major shift in thinking. It’s a huge challenge, but one place we can start is with the way we interact with each other.

Politicians need to resist cheap political shots and rhetoric and we all need to hold ourselves and each other to higher standards, listen as much as we speak, and be disciplined in all we do. I know it sounds naive, but we need to learn to be much more deliberate, much less careless, or we risk losing, well, everything.

I still live in gratitude every day that I get to live here. There is no better place in the world to have these conversations. But we have to have them. And we have to have them now.

Source: Mayor Naheed Nenshi to Canadians: ‘We need to talk’

I’m Calgary’s Muslim mayor. We can learn from Trudeau’s ‘brownface’ moment.

One of the best articles:

When I saw the picture, it was like a sucker punch. But there it was, smack in the middle of the Canadian election: my prime minister, dressed up in some sort of Orientalist “Arabian Nights” get-up, his face and hands darkened, that smile the same today as in the 18-year-old photo.

Let’s dispense with the obvious: Yes, it was a stupid thing to do, as much in 2001 as now. No, he’s not a racist. Yes, he’s done incredible things for pluralism at home and abroad. He’s apologized honestly and acknowledged how his own privilege blinded him to the impact of his actions on others. No, we don’t need to demand more penance from him. Yes, he should have come to this self-awareness much earlier, particularly as a then-29-year-old teacher who also happened to be the son of a former prime minister. No, he shouldn’t resign over this; he deserves to be judged on the totality of his record and whether Canadians believe in his ability to do good in the future.

But this tawdry incident highlights a much more important conversation all Canadians — and citizens of all liberal democracies — need to have.

First, some context.

Justin Trudeau and I are the same age. He was born when his father, Pierre Trudeau, was prime minister, growing up at 24 Sussex Drive, Canada’s version of the White House. I was born six weeks later; my father and pregnant mother having recently immigrated to Canada not long after Trudeau père announced, in a statement to our House of Commons, that multiculturalism would be Canada’s official policy.

Justin’s and my upbringing were quite different, but we both grew up in a Canada that defined itself by opportunity: a place where a poor, first-generation kid could get a great public education, work hard and do well in his career, supported by a community with a stake in his success. Like the son of a well-to-do prime minister, he can even be elected to public office.

When I was elected as Calgary’s mayor in 2010, I suddenly became well known beyond the boundaries of my beloved hometown. It surprised me. I thought people might want to talk about my come-from-behind win, or how a wonky professor with little name recognition beat better-known opponents. But all anyone wanted to talk about was my faith: How did a conservative municipality known for cowboys, rodeos and hosting the 1988 Winter Olympics end up with the first Muslim mayor of a major Western city?

I was surprised. My faith was not an election issue. It rarely came up, and when it did, citizens protested. He grew up here, he’s one of us, they said on call-in shows. We don’t care that he fasts during Ramadan, we care what he thinks about public transportation.

I could have waved those questions away, but I felt there was an important story to tell. A story of Canada as a multicultural utopia, as a place that has long understood that everyone who shares this land deserves dignity and the chance to be the best they can be. I still believe that.

Even in Canada, people of colour (or color, if you prefer) don’t quite live in the same world as others. We sometimes have to work a little harder, we have to prove ourselves a little bit more, we have to put up with occasional irritations. But it’s part of the deal to live and have great lives here. And we’ve got jokes to help us sort awkward moments: Go back to my camel, you say? I don’t have one. It’s 2019! I use a camel-sharing app!

I guarantee you there were people at parties in Calgary and in your town this past Halloween who darkened their faces for costume. Heck, I’ve even seen pictures of people dressed as me (despite my annual public service announcement that “Sexy Mayor” is not an appropriate look). The folks dressed like me are generally fans. They’re certainly not racists. And “brownface” (Is that even a thing?) doesn’t have the moral weight and historical baggage of blackface. Does it?

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada with his face and hands painted in what he described as “brownface,” poses with others at an “Arabian Nights” party when he was a 29-year-old teacher at the West Point Grey Academy in Vancouver, in this photo published in the academy’s 2000-2001 yearbook. This image, published in The View yearbook, was obtained by Time. (The View Yearbook/Via Reuters)

Someone who is seen as an ally can still do senseless things, however. Even in my amazing country, we don’t always know who really gets it, and who, despite their best intentions, still isn’t quite there. And in the past half-decade, something has shifted. Here in Canada, the home of the Global Centre for Pluralism, a nation where our innovation and defense ministers both wear turbans, where another minister is a refugee from Afghanistan, and where, during the Syrian refugee crisis, political parties supported taking in more people, something isn’t quite right.

It’s become easier to be careless with our language and comments, both online and in line at the coffee shop. In the run-up to the 2015 federal election, the incumbent government flirted with haters by pledging to ban face veils at citizenship ceremonies and promising to institute a Barbaric Cultural Practices snitch hotline. Canadians, in their way, responded by reporting, My neighbor wears socks with sandals! I saw someone eat Thai food with chopsticks instead of the correct spoon and fork! That government was defeated.

Yet in this year’s election, we have a (hopefully marginal) political party vowing, “Say NO to Mass Immigration” and accusing politicians of promoting sharia law. (Neither of these things exist in Canada.)

Far more egregiously, it’s no longer just slogans or casual individual acts of racism. It’s moved into actual policy. In Quebec, a new law prohibits people who wear conspicuous religious attire from holding certain public-sector jobs, including teachers and police officers.

Jagmeet Singh, a lawyer, is running for prime minister as leader of a national party, but because he wears a turban, could not serve as a judge in Quebec. I, as a Muslim man, could hold any job I want, but under this law, a Muslim woman who covers with a headscarf cannot. Muslim men who wear long beards could claim it’s just a nod to hipster-dom, and be free and clear, but Orthodox Jewish men with the same beard or a yarmulke cannot. Montreal’s mayor can hold any role, but the leader of her opposition, who wears a kippah, cannot. They’ve stood together against the law.

It’s all flagrantly unconstitutional, but the province of Quebec used the “notwithstanding clause,” a constitutional override provision (ironically, like multiculturalism, a gift from the tenure of the first Prime Minster Trudeau) to protect itself from legal challenge.

What’s funny about all of this is that various national leaders have mumbled platitudes about how much they dislike this law, but also haven’t committed to doing anything about it — including the candidate who wears a turban. Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer leans on the notion of “provincial jurisdiction” in a way that echoes of the language of “states’ rights” in the United States.

Even though the federal government could restrict Quebec’s financing or use its legal power to enjoin the provincial legislation, our federal leaders so far haven’t demonstrated the courage to do so. They’re hardly even talking about it. The law is popular in Quebec, and among others in the country, too. In an election year, they must be thinking, why risk losing those votes?

I‘m grateful every day that I’m Canadian — that my parents chose this country on the other side of the world. There’s no better place to have these conversations. But we have to have them.

We cannot stand on moral high ground calling out leaders for offensive things they did, years ago, if we’re not also willing to stand up against the racist and discriminatory behavior that’s right in front of our faces in 2019. We cannot choose our values a la carte when they benefit us — we need to be all in, all the time.

Canada, like any other country, isn’t black and white. It’s many-hued. Sometimes, it’s brown. We’re a welcoming, diverse country, but we recognize that we have work to do. Now, let’s use Justin Trudeau’s old blunders to think about the links between individual action and real justice.

Source: I’m Calgary’s Muslim mayor. We can learn from Trudeau’s ‘brownface’ moment.

Naheed Nenshi’s real work: Calling out Calgary’s racism

Gary Mason on Calgary politics and Naheed Nenshi:

After the most bruising election of his political career, Naheed Nenshi is still a little tender in spots.

Although he won handily, his margin of victory wasn’t as awe-inspiring as in the past. Some of that erosion was to be expected: Any mayor who’s been in office for seven years is bound to rub some constituents the wrong way. But this campaign was also more divisive and personal than any other the Calgary mayor has experienced.

He doesn’t hide the fact that comments made about him, particularly online, were incredibly hurtful.

“Certainly, there was a lot of coded language about me which I found uncomfortable,” he told me while scarfing down Chinese food at his office desk. “When I raised the fact that the level of out-and-out racism and hatred and Islamophobia online was getting out of control, rather than condemning it the local media accused me of playing the race card.”

This he found deeply offensive.

“Saying you’re playing the race card actually means we will tolerate you in our society as long as you never remind us who you are,” he said, a tinge of anger in his voice. “I was surprised that in this day and age you could actually say to someone who calls out racism that it is inappropriate to do so.”

He found racism embedded in coded language. For instance, he would hear people say he’d become “too big for his britches” or that he’d “gotten uppity” – things, he said, people would never say about former prime minister Stephen Harper or the late Jim Prentice. This inherent racism was magnified online through bots and trolls, creating a level of ugliness the mayor had not known before.

Mr. Nenshi believes that racism is a bigger problem in his city than it was seven years ago, when he was first elected. Back then, he did not get the impression voters cared about his ethnicity or faith or the colour of his skin. But statistics show that acts of hatred and Islamophobia are on the rise across the country – and Calgary is no exception, he says.

“Certainly it’s an issue here, but you also see it in Vancouver when conversations about real estate too quickly become conversations about ‘the other,’ ” he said. “You’re seeing it in Quebec with Bill 62, saying it’s better to isolate people in their homes and not let them take a bus than it is to actually welcome these folks into our society.”

This isn’t the first time Mr. Nenshi has spoken out on the matter of race. He made headlines a couple of years ago when he told me he’d been personally “shaken” by the racist nature of the debate over accepting Syrian refugees. But generally he has steered clear of the subject, especially as it has pertained to racist rhetoric aimed at Muslims, like him.

That reluctance, however, is disappearing. The mayor now feels a need to sound an alarm about a phenomenon we are witnessing around the world – and certainly in this country. As Canadians, he told me, we need to think hard about our “polite language around multiculturalism” and whether it’s sufficient to protect the promise of a place where everyone can succeed.

“That is the big focus of our work,” he told me, brushing rice off his shirt. “And that is the core strength of Calgary – certainly more so than our proximity to carbon atoms in the ground.”

Mr. Nenshi now has four more years to champion this cause, and I hope he does. Few speak with as much passion and authority on the subject or can speak from his personal experience. Social media has given those who yearn for a society that existed in the past – who have no room in their hearts for people who may not look like them or speak like them – an unfiltered megaphone.

Still, the mayor has reason to be heartened. Voter turnout in Calgary’s civic election was the highest in 40 years. Citizens were convinced that something significant was at stake – something worth fighting for.

Maybe the kind of city they want to live in.

via Naheed Nenshi’s real work: Calling out Calgary’s racism – The Globe and Mail

ICYMI: Divided, Canada stands to lose what makes it great – Naheed Nenshi

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi at the September LaFontaine-Baldwin Symposium:

At our best, we’ve figured out a simple truth: We’re in this together. Our neighbour’s strength is our strength. The success of any one of us is the success of every one of us. More importantly, any one failure is all our failure, too.

When Canada works, it is because of that tolerance and respect for pluralism, that generous sharing of opportunity with everyone. It is because of that innate sense that every one of us, regardless of where we come from, what we look like, how we worship or whom we love, deserves the chance right here, right now, to live a great Canadian life.

That Canada, however, is incredibly fragile, and must be protected from the voices of intolerance, divisiveness and small-mindedness. That Canada must be protected from the voices of hatred.

Let’s talk about Bill C-24, the Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act, which allows Ottawa to strip Canadian-born citizens of their citizenship if they’ve been convicted of treason, spying or terrorism, if those Canadians have citizenship in another country or are considered able to claim citizenship in another country through a parent. The government can do so even if the conviction takes places in another country – even one that lacks the rule of law.

One of the highlights of being mayor of Calgary is that I get to attend citizenship ceremonies. Every time I do, I cry with joy to be with so many people who have worked so hard to become Canadian and have chosen to take on the great responsibility of citizenship. Sharing in that moment with new citizens, I always talk about how, growing up, I wondered why my father, mother and sister had these fancy citizenship certificates, while all I had was a lousy birth certificate. Only later did I appreciate two things about those pieces of paper: They were the most valuable possessions we had, and they were really the same document.

No longer.

How is it that those individuals I get to watch saying their oath should somehow be less Canadian than others? How is it that we should allow it to be easier for our government to strip them of the privilege and responsibility of citizenship? How is it that I, born at Saint Mike’s in downtown Toronto, could also have my citizenship revoked? One Canadian citizen committing the same crime should be treated the same as any other. They should not be subjected to a different sort of justice.

Most distressingly, the bill allows the minister of citizenship and immigration to exile people from Canada without any Canadian court being involved. That is a degree of power no individual should possess.

How did we allow this to happen?

I am deeply troubled by the language of divisiveness in Ottawa these days. The label of “terrorist” is thrown around with deliberate regularity. It is targeted language that nearly always describes an act of violence done by someone who shares my own faith, that ties violent action to individuals in a religious group here in Canada – many of whom are citizens. It does little to understand the causes of individual acts of violence or the potential solutions. Instead, it encourages fear and division; that’s the opposite of the country we aspire to build and nurture.

Our government likes to warn us of the radicalization of Muslim youth in our communities. But law-enforcement officers and community activists explain that the deeper cause of this radicalization is alienation and isolation – that the kids being radicalized are the same ones who’d often otherwise join gangs. In other words, according to individuals on the ground, the issue is not about religion. It’s about inclusion. Understanding this, we must work hard to make these kids feel part of the community.

But then the government, seeking to appeal to a certain segment of society, picks a fight on a completely irrelevant issue – wearing the niqab to a ceremony. It will appeal two court decisions and spend millions in taxpayer dollars to prevent one woman, Zunera Ishaq, from voting?

And what about those kids – the ones we’re trying to convince that there’s a place for them in our society? Bill C-24 warns them that, no matter what, they can never be truly Canadian. That their faith is incompatible with our values.

All that good work on deradicalization? Undermined.

When we act like this, whether the issue is addressing the extraordinary human suffering of refugees fleeing conflict or the social problems of our own youth, we are failing ourselves, our nation, and the world.

Let it be said: Such failures to become the Canada we hope for aren’t only recent. Far from it. After all, we are the nation that turned back Indian Sikh refugees on the ship Komagata Maru in 1914, the nation of the Chinese head tax, the nation of Japanese internment camps and the “None is too many” policy. We are the nation of provincial eugenics programs and generations of residential schools.

These, sadly, are also our origin stories. Many of us feel a deep, dark discomfort when confronted with them. The truth is not easy. It wasn’t easy for the victims of residential schools to tell their stories to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and it wasn’t easy for Canadians to bear witness to those truths. But it is important that we did then, and that we are doing so with the dark truths we see now.

The real answer to crafting the Canada we aspire to build lies in engaging muscularly with both the past and the future. It means undertaking a thousand simple acts of service and a million tiny acts of heroism. It means acting at the community level: on our streets, in our neighbourhoods, and in our schools. It means refusing to accept the politics of fear.

Source: Divided, Canada stands to lose what makes it great – The Globe and Mail