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The presence of xenophobia in Canada

by Barbara Madimenos March 28, 2017
The presence of xenophobia in Canada

CBC’s Radio-Canada’s new poll shows that Canadians aren’t as accepting as they seem

In February, a poll done by CBC’s Radio-Canada asked Canadians about their stance on a series of issues, specifically about populism and xenophobia. The results revealed that our so-called far and wide land that is “free” is not as hospitable as one may think.

Out of 2,513 Canadians surveyed for this poll—1,024 of whom were from Quebec—74 per cent of respondents answered they would “very” or “somewhat” welcome the act of screening immigrants on their values to determine if they coincide with those of Canadians.

Sixty per cent of Canadians believe refugees are great additions to our society, and 83 per cent feel they enhance our cultural diversity. However, when asked again if Canadians would be open to enforcing a Muslim ban, a quarter of them answered they would “strongly” or “somewhat” accept such a motion.

Is this really shocking? No, it shouldn’t be. Realistically speaking, as much as we would like to deny these discomforting revelations and promote that we are the overly-polite nation that accepts everyone, it’s time to face reality. Canadians are scared, Canadians are judgemental and Canadians, just like everyone else, are easily influenced. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that Canada is very much reflecting xenophobic characteristics when those characteristics are so prominent in today’s news.

In another survey done by the Angus Reid Institute (ARI) in 2014, Quebec’s results were just as negative. The survey, conducted with the help of The Province, a branch of the Postmedia Network, the Laurier Institution and the Canadian Race Relations Foundation, asked Canadians about their views on radicalization and homegrown terrorism. When it came to questions about whether people were supportive of religious symbols or religious clothing in public, Quebec scored the lowest for all Muslim symbols, such as the niqab and the hijab. The crucifix was the most accepted symbol, nationally.

It’s only human nature these views seep into our consciousness. We absorb what we are surrounded by. We live in a world saturated with overly-dramatic and mostly-negative media and we are instinctively accustomed to form likes and dislikes through personal experiences with particular people. We are drawn to what is familiar rather than unknown. Hence, our biases and escalated fear.

Take, for example, the rise of hate crimes in Canada. According to Mélanie Lajoie, Montreal police spokesperson, in Montreal alone, 81 hate crimes were reported in 2013, 89 in 2014, 112 in 2015, and we closed off 2016 with 137. Furthermore, entering the new year, 14 hate crimes were reported just after the Quebec City mosque shooting, already a 10th of last year’s total.

Sadly, even our nation’s leaders seem to be in the same boat. Racing to become the next leader of the Conservative Party, exhibiting Trump-like qualities, Kellie Leitch has proposed a method of screening newcomers to Canada, in order to make sure foreigners’ values reflect those of Canadians. On her campaign’s website are the values: equal opportunity, hard work, helping others, generosity, freedom and tolerance.

Insinuating these values only belong to Canada, and not to other nations, is insulting. Leitch, as well as her long-lost twin, Trump, seem to have a strategized method of targeting minorities, particularly Muslims, who are already marginalized and feared for no reason. They instill fear and anger into their supporters. Knowing that people’s emotions are sometimes stronger than common sense, the tactic works, and an increase in xenophobia ensues.

Does this mean we’re doomed? Not at all. Luckily, these sentiments can change, and it is up to us to educate ourselves and challenge in how we see and treat different cultures, religions and ethnicities. We can then feel confident in being known as a country for its inclusiveness, hospitable nature and multiculturalism. When we surround ourselves with different types of people, experiences and environments, we not only develop tolerance, but we develop further knowledge of the world as a whole.

It is not too late for Canadians to take a step in the right direction, and to learn, most importantly, to live with one another and appreciate our differences.

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