Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Race in Canada

It is a particular, peculiar belief of Canadians that racism is a minor element in Canadian life. Canadians take a certain pleasure in looking down upon our American neighbours and their unglamorous relationship with race. The juxtaposition of the slave-owning American Republic to our own country gives us a certain comfort.

While Canada has had a better overall relationship with those whose ancestors originated in Africa centuries ago, it is not so much better that we can stand proud. Our history mirrors that much more of the Northern United States than some Canadian idealism of racial harmony.

Who else? Aboriginal Canadians have a long and tragic relationship with the Newcomers. To this day, as a race, they occupy a lower socio-economic rung from other Canadians. Aboriginal communities are distinctly poorer and face immense social problems compared to their “Canadian” counterparts. Alcohol abuse, suicide, arrest rates are all higher. It’s a painful reality.

Euro-Canadians often disparage Aboriginal demands. They dismiss their historical grievances and view them as leeches on the state. This view has in some form stood with Canadian society for many decades. It is also unlikely to go away in the near future.

What of immigrants? Our immigration policy is comparatively progressive. We welcome the world, so long as they have the skills and resources we want/need. However, we’ve all heard the complaints and muttered anger. “Immigrants get a free ride,” “Look at what they get,” “Twenty of them in one house,” and on and on and on. Anyone who actually met families who immigrated the traditional way will tell you that there’s not much the government offers. Twenty members of a family live in one house because they cannot afford to live elsewhere.

Racial attitudes are ingrained here just as they are in other countries and places. Those ethnic groups associated with crime and poverty are likewise ostracized and, to an extent, ghettoized in Canadian cities. Racial discrimination has long been banished in a legal sense, but it lives on in the minds of Canadians. For better, and for worse racism has not been stamped out. To pretend otherwise is the height of naïveté. Things won’t change overnight. Coming from Brampton and growing up in a massively multi-cultural community I have faith in the future.

Racism has been a major social ill since at least the early modern era. I don’t expect to see it gone in my lifetime, nor my children’s, nor their children’s, but I can hope that the symptoms of this social disorder will fade.

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