By Frank Finley, February 7 2017 —
People like to imagine that where they live is safe and that the hate-fuelled misfortunes of the world won’t happen here. But this is not always the case.
On Jan. 29, a shooting at a mosque in Quebec City left six Canadians dead. The perpetrator of the attack may have been a lone terrorist, but it is dangerous to dismiss the ideology that surrounds this attack as existing within a vacuum.
The Quebec City attacker is not unlike some students we may know. A political science student with an admiration for Trump and Marie Le Pen, classmates described him as quiet in person but rude and confrontational on social media.
University campuses aren’t immune to acts of hate. A Facebook page advertising the town hall for Prime Minister Trudeau at the University of Calgary was changed with malicious intent on Jan. 23. The page in its original form appeared to be a simple invitation with over 2,500 attendees. But the day before Trudeau’s visit, the title, description and content of the event were radically altered.
The posts on the event page shifted from questions about the town hall to anti-immigrant, anti-Semitic and Islamophobic content. Some comments focussed on immigrants with posters expressing worry of the ‘Islamification’ of Canada while others targeted Jewish people with images of Nazis, a tactic often used by white supremacists online. While it would be convenient to dismiss this as an isolated event, this is not the only time the U of C community has dealt with xenophobia and racism recently.
In October, anti-Muslim posters were plastered around campus. This came two weeks after a similar incident at the University of Alberta where posters targeted the Sikh community. While the majority of people at our universities might not subscribe to such clear bigotry, it is apparent our campuses are not sheltered from hateful rhetoric.
Hatred is not always an active shooter situation. The reality is far more complex. Bigotry, prejudice and exclusionary politics are an ugly, creeping vine. It is the ‘barbaric cultural practices hotline’, proposed by the Conservative Party of Canada or a test for ‘Canadian values’ being championed by Kellie Leitch, a CPC leadership candidate. It is conspiracy theories regarding Muslims, Jews and other religious minorities. It is saying and doing nothing when others are attacked. It is political figures using fear of minorities to bolster their political status. It is thinking that you will never be affected by bigotry, and thus have no responsibility to speak out.
To think that we are safe from hatred in our multicultural and metropolitan city is wishful thinking at best and ignorance at worst. Those who claim we are in a post-racial society, or that minorities in Canada are not targeted in hate crimes are wrong. A great deal of work needs to be done. Assuming we are better than the rest of the world is an unjustifiable mistake.
Frank Finley is a second year Law and Society Major and Vice President External for the University of Calgary Debate Society. He writes a monthly column about student and youth affairs called A Jury of Your Peers.