I am a first-generation Canadian citizen. I have always thought that, on the question of multiculturalism, Canadians were at a more respectable level than the Americans. I used to think that racism was not something that was prevalent in Canada, because I didn’t explicitly witness it.
However, recent aberrations such as these white nationalist posters around UTSG have made me rethink my conception of Canada as a whole. Sometimes, I feel scared to see such visceral dislike of all people who are not white.
Sometimes, I feel sad for those responsible for the posters. They fail to see that they are immigrants, just like the people they abhor, and are therefore also not entitled to Canada. The only ones who can truly claim this land are Indigenous peoples.
Someone pointed out to me that these posters are placed around to draw media coverage and attention to these organizations, which in turn helps to recruit like-minded thinkers. This makes for a complicated picture. On the one hand, we should bring attention to these incidents in order to identify the existence of explicit racism, but on the other hand, we risk inadvertently strengthening racist causes.
This incident is especially saddening because U of T, and Toronto more broadly, is so multiculturally rich that I had thought that most, if not all, people here would not agree with such an ideology. And yet, here we are. There are people who feel emboldened enough to post these blatantly racist posters to stir people’s emotions and play with their notion of being Canadian.
I appreciate that University of Toronto Students’ Union representatives have spoken out against this incident, but I don’t know what more can be done about it. Freedom of speech exists in Canada and some may not consider the posters to be hate speech. For now, we can only be aware of these incidents and not let them shake us.
We have all worked hard to be here. No one should feel superior or inferior to any ethnicity, race, religion, or otherwise in Canada. This is what multiculturalism means: respect and acceptance for all.
Ateeqa Arain is a first-year Master of Education student at OISE.