In the wake of Donald Trump’s election as President of the land of the theoretically ‘free’, and home of the allegedly ‘brave’, a series of hate crimes broke out throughout the United States.
Young children exposed to hate speech at home, began imitating it in elementary schools throughout the country, bullying children whose skin tones were different from theirs, and insisting that they “go home”.
Any naïve hopes that Trump would change his ways once elected—that a year of bigotry, misogyny, and explicit racist behaviour would change once he became president—came crashing down with the White House’s announcement that Muslims from seven nations would be banned from entering the United States.
The slamming of the door to innocent Muslims created a gust of wind so strong, that it made its way up to Quebec where once again, we saw that hate inspires hate.
Canada, which has experienced very few acts of terror on its home soil, was faced with a devastating one last month.
A young, Trump and Le Pen supporting, Quebecois male decided to open fire on a room filled of innocent Canadians.
While no borders were closed in Canada—no bans were mindlessly ordered—the feelings of exclusion, hatred, and division were undoubtedly felt by Canadian and American Muslims alike.
It was with great pride and relief to watch Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, say in the aftermath of the attack “this was a group of innocents targeted for practicing their faith. Make no mistakes, this was a terrorist act.”
Too long, have acts of violence perpetrated by Muslim individuals been distinctively classified as ‘terrorist acts’.
But what precisely, distinguishes an act of violence committed by a Muslim individual versus one perpetrated by a non-Muslim individual?
Why are certain individuals’ acts of violence categorically different?
If every shooting in the US got the same press coverage as a ‘terrorist’ attack—if every white-skinned American murderer was labelled a terrorist—islamophobia may not have seeped its way into the homes of millions of American and Canadians; Racism may not have been so rampantly contagious.
Trudeau stayed quiet after the election of Donald Trump.
But since his inauguration, Trudeau has been subtly standing up to our southern bully by supporting Women March protestors, demanding that FOX NEWS rectify false information victimizing Muslims, and by reminding Trump in his speech last week, that violence against minorities is an act of terrorism.
Justin Trudeau is stuck between a rock and a hard place.
As a self-proclaimed feminist, whose socially liberal ideals have defined his leadership, he is faced with the difficult task of navigating relations with a racist President who stands for everything Trudeau ideologically condemns.
Meanwhile, healthy relations with the United States is pivotal for a stable Canadian economy.
Trudeau is faced with a difficult task.
Either he stays quiet, embodying the Canadian stereotype of being polite to a fault or he takes a far scarier path, and refuses to surrender in the face of hatred.
Although his future actions are unknown, perhaps Trudeau has already unveiled his plan for the next four years.
Last week he said simply, “we will not meet violence with more violence. We will meet fear and hatred with love and compassion, always.”
Maybe hate—which divides and alienates—can be overcome when met with love and compassion, which unifies.
Perhaps Canadian values of politeness & kindness are not so impotent after all.
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Cover Photo Credit: John McCallum/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)