Trump’s divisive win yesterday brought a flurry of emotions from people around me and on my social media. I saw (and felt also) the disappointment, the sadness, the fear for many Americans who now feel unsafe, but also cheering and celebration, and above all, shock. I saw, too, mixed in with some of that surprise, fear, celebration, the quiet relief, the whispered pride of Canadians for being so much more inclusive.
Look at how the immigration site crashed when Trump won, we tell ourselves. Everyone wants to be Canadian because we’re so great!
There are definitely some things, like the absence of extreme polarization in our political system, that we can definitely be thankful for. In the Conservative Party of Canada (aka CPC) leadership race going on right now to replace former Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Canadian Conservatives (and everyone else!) are fortunate to have a wealth of options, policy stances, directions in which to go (and many of them rational and genuinely reasonable) for the party.
But we must never think ourselves better than Americans, that there is some magical quality to being Canadian that makes us more ~inclusive~ and better than the rest of the world. There are a bunch of real, tangible factors that have led to our greater perceived inclusivity, some purely out of dumb luck, some of our design. These are factors like the privileges of our geography (we have nothing surrounding us but water, snow and the US– we would never have illegal immigration like certain European countries or the US, and it’s a lot easier to remain pleasant & loving about policy issues that we have much control over), how heavily Canada continually relies on immigration to fill its working ranks & how these immigrants are continually highly educated (it’s a lot harder to have prejudice against immigrants when we’re literally a country of immigrants), and how Canada continues to have one of the highest percentages of post-secondary education attainment against the rest of the population in the world (these high education levels would purportedly correlate to higher levels of social mobility, critical thinking, and social acceptance).
But let’s bring it back to the CPC leadership race I just mentioned. One of the perceived frontrunners is Kellie Leitch, who I had previously thought was a very cool woman. She’s an orthopedic pediatrician and a previous Minister for the Status of Women in the Harper government. Yesterday, during the leadership debate, she applauded Trump’s win and paraded her idea of screening every visitor, immigrant and refugee for “Canadian values”.
What are “Canadian values”? Does anyone know? Let’s also never forget that, during the 2015 election, she and Chris Alexander (who is also running) unveiled the Conservative proposal for a “barbaric cultural practices” hotline, a horribly inflammatory and incredibly racist way of calling out crimes that would otherwise just be considered crimes, if not for the fact that they are being committed by specific, “barbaric” cultures.
We think that we’re so safe in Canada, at home. But looking at Kellie Leitch’s leadership run, it’s not difficult to see clear echoes of his bigoted rhetoric in Canada, and to remember that many of Trump’s most dangerous actions have been to mobilize the quiet racists, the silent homophobes, the whispering bigots who are our neighbours, peers, and coworkers whose beliefs, previously thought of as unwelcome in society, were normalized.
All over social media, I’ve been seeing passionate, driven citizens mobilizing, readying themselves to fight, getting ready to act for their rights and the rights of their loved ones for the next four years. Learning, too, is action–learning about other cultures, other people, the political system in which we live, the economy, the environment.
In Canada, we are equally as bound by this duty, this responsibility to keep hatred at bay–we must learn. We have to learn about the Canadian political system. We have to learn about the policies, about the candidates, the power that you have as a citizen to affect change & all of its possible avenues. Learn enough that you can make informed decisions and educated suggestions and proposals. Learn about other cultures, learn about the LGTBQ+ community, listen, empathize, learn from their lived experiences, learn why pronouns matter, how all they want to do is simply live a normal life.
Learn, keep learning, and act. Educate. Show that segment of the Canadian population who will be electrified by Kellie Leitch’s divisive rhetoric the inefficiencies, the abhorrent inhumanity of her desire to screen newcomers for their “Canadian values”. Ask what our Canadian values are. Ask what being a Canadian means. Never, ever let yourself fall into the trap of “Canadian exceptionalism”. Trump didn’t plant the seeds of hate into an entire country– he simply helped them bloom. Never forget that the seeds are already here, planted, waiting.