ohhhhh, Canada. Such disappointment

A beloved bistro in Montreal, L’Express

By Caitlin Kelly

As some of you know, I was born in Vancouver and grew up in Toronto and Montreal — moving to the U.S. at 30 to pursue a bigger career.

I carry only a Canadian passport and have long been proud of my country, reveling in adorable videos like this.

Not this week.

Not this month.

Not this year.

A Muslim family was out for a walk in London, Ontario, a regional city. Five went out and one returned — the rest mown down by a racist piece of garbage in his truck, who hated them for being…non-white. Non-Christian.

The sole survivor is a nine-year-old boy, orphaned.

The week prior, the remains of 215 indigenous children, sent away by law to residential school in Kamloops, B.C. were found, re-opening the old wounds of how thousands of these children were torn from their families and made to speak English and deride their native culture.

To become “Canadian” — white and Christian.

See a pattern?

And now a vicious and brutal attack on a gay man in Toronto for daring to be homosexual.

Not sure how I will celebrate Canada Day, July 1, this year.

Not sure I want to right now.

I haven’t been back to Canada since September 2019 because of Covid; the border has been closed ever since unless my travel is “essential” and it’s not.

Canadians so love to congratulate themselves for being polite and civil and compassionate, traditionally welcoming far more refugees and immigrants than the U.S. and many other countries.

Their social policies are generally much more generous than those in the U.S.

And they really enjoy making sure they are so much better than those nasty, violent racist Americans.

Today? I think not.

When I last lived in Toronto, the streetcar I took to the subway was filled with Caribbean Blacks, the bus down Spadina to my newspaper job filled with Vietnamese.

That was just normal life there.

No one noticed. No one sparked violence.

Pay your taxes, get along.

There isn’t a lot useful to say here, really, beyond expressing my horror and deep disappointment in my country of origin. Sadly, I just expect daily racism and violence in the U.S. It’s baked into the DNA here.

Canada is 100 years younger.

It did not have slavery — although its racist policies have destroyed generations of Inuit and indigenous lives.

To see this hatred is deeply deeply disturbing.

I am ashamed for my country.

20 thoughts on “ohhhhh, Canada. Such disappointment

  1. Jan Jasper

    This brings tears to my eyes. I don’t read the news at length everyday like I used to because it is too depressing, (even tho I’m still relieved that Biden won) so I did not know about these recent events in Canada. Maybe the fact that Canada is in some ways so much more welcoming, unfortunately, fans the flames of the haters even more? In any case this is very disturbing

    1. I don’t have much explanation for it. There is a current premier (like the governor) in Ontario who is as stupid and hopeless as Trump was. This may be exacerbating things.

  2. I was upset to hear about the bodies of the indigenous children but thought it’s what was done in America and learned from them and it was so long ago now, it couldn’t happen again .I’ve been worried over the last few years about all the Native women that have gone missing but I don’t know if that’s racist. But during the Trump years and before I heard all the hate rhetoric uttered by the Evangelical church that came to a point when Trump supported Evangelism and was happy to pour hate on all the immigrants at the border. It has to have an effect on those over the border who can hear it all and support Trump’s Big Lie.
    Canada still has a remarkable record to be proud of and though this mass murder is awful, especially for the little boy and the attack on a homosexual is rare enough to be newsworthy I can’t see this becoming the daily event it is next door. You have one crazy Governor but a very stable population of normal people rather than the almost 50% cultists who thought storming Congress with murder in mind was a good idea.
    Huge Hugs

  3. Beth Kaplan

    Thanks to your correspondent David Prosser above for some much needed perspective. This country is extraordinarily open to refugees and immigrants, extremely multicultural and generous. The residential schools are a huge and inexcusable stain on Canada, no question, and even more on the Catholic Church which has issued no apology, but the forces of reparation are moving quickly now. Like him I attribute the attacks on anyone who’s not white and Christian to Donald Trump and his team and, for some ironic reason, the evangelicals, who express their love of their god as hatred for the other. Trump’s beyond unbelievable cruelty, viciousness, vulgarity, racism, homophobia etc. unleashed the forces of darkness – mostly in young white men – that we thought had been locked away. He should have been toast the second he made such appalling fun of a disabled reporter. And yet on he went, 75 million people voted for him, and many millions still adore him and want him as president. It’s incomprehensible to the rest of the planet, as are the gun laws, the medical health system, the filibuster, and so much more. There is a great deal to celebrate in Canada and despite tragedies and lunatics, I am proud to do so.

      1. Beth Kaplan

        I wonder if you can think of a current Canadian, or even a past one, who’s had the negative world impact of Trump. Hmmm. Jordan Peterson, the right-wing academic? Not quite, perhaps. Our premier Ford is an idiot, but on the level of Trump, as you imply – “as stupid and hopeless as Trump” – not remotely close. Trump introduced a whole new level of stupid and hopeless into the world. I had to respond to your post, Caitlin, because I loathe our new world of instant condemnation. There’s no nuance, no grey area, no context, no historical perspective any more, just snap judgement and whammo, you’re done. I find it appalling and destructive. On the other hand, you have some wonderfully thoughtful readers; I admire their responses.

      2. I am aware this has hit some readers hard — and I am fine with it. If I lose readers, c’est la vie. I’ve written more than 2,000 posts here and this is the first that has so enraged people. I’m entitled to my opinions as are you/they.

        I lived 30 years in Canada and have lived decades now in NY. I am quite aware of the issues both countries face and how well (or poorly) they are doing.

        I find it interesting to see how immediately angry and defensive Canadians are…no acknowledgement of how appalling these attacks are, and not even anything new. That’s revealing as well.

      3. “There’s no nuance, no grey area, no context, no historical perspective any more, just snap judgement”

        Ok, let’s be serious here.

        The historical perspective on how abused First Nations people have been is very very well-known, thanks to the TRC! No one can deny that generations of Inuit and FN children were abused in these schools. As you also know (?????), there are reservations STILL without clean drinking water. So there’s no shining beacon here.

        Homophobic attacks? hahahahahah. I lived for years in Toronto’s gay-est neighborhood at the time and several of my close friends are gay and, oh yeah, I covered the AIDS crisis for two Canadian newspapers. But, sure, attack me for having no historical context.

  4. I haven’t “liked” your post because I find that you’re blaming all Canadians for the actions of – in the case of the Muslim family – one person, and in the case of the Kamloops residential school, a religious institution. Most Canadians ARE compassionate and also diligently working to change the racism that exists here. I would never suggest or state that all Americans are racist because Trump was elected or because a bad cop killed George Floyd. That is simply not true.

    I work in a First Nation community; most of my employees are First Nation. I had never considered myself to be racist, but working here has taught me that yes, I am, in ways that I just didn’t get. I have also seen First Nations react in racist ways against other ethnic groups, too. Nature selected for racism in order to ensure survival of the larger group, and we have to use the logic provided by our large brains to overcome that. But that is a hard, difficult road. We can only keep trying. All nations are racist to some extent, and to say that you are “ashamed” of your country (one you haven’t lived or worked in for many years) not only because of the above events but also because there are those among us who like to proclaim superiority to the US, tells me that you don’t really know it any more.

    1. That may be true, Lynette.

      I grew up in Toronto to the age of 30. It was, then, a decent city in many ways. The violence now is very worrying to me.

      I did NOT see, then, these sort of racist attacks — did you? Do you really think the country has not changed in this regard?

      And this is why I feel as I do…Canada has long vaunted itself as SO morally, ethically and politically superior to the U.S. (where I have now lived, as did you) and you know what? That act is TIRED. The hypocrisy is ridiculous.

      Even the disastrous way that some provinces have handled COVID…in a nation that offers “peace, order and good government.”

      Have values! Then live up to them. I see a lot of violence and lousy government and tremendous frustration among Canadians at this.

      My best friend, who lives in Kamloops, is of Cree heritage and a status FN. So let’s not assume I know nothing of this.

      So I’m fine with my feelings.

  5. carol

    Millions of people everywhere are at the breaking point. This is not an excuse – it is simple reality.
    Our social support networks were inadequate before the pandemic, what state are they in now?
    What is the general state of mental health worldwide in pandemic month 16? There can be no justification for what happenend to that family or that gay man, Somebody somewhere snapped – it happens all over the world, every day, day in day out. The world economy is collapsing, our leadership has never been more inadequate, millions have their lost their jobs, homes, businesses, relationships, loved ones through covid death – for many there will be no recovery ever.
    Is it really so hard to understand why people are attacking one another?
    Mass shootings are the new normal now – does this not speak to us of a mental health crisis?

    Canadians are as impacted as anyone – it has nothing to do with who we are as a nation.
    It’s not one bad cop, or one deviant priest, or one homicidal racist – or one particlar culture – racism is systematic and entrenched and in the case o the catholic church institutionalized – we are just begining to recognise this – it will take more than a century to change all that.

    My heart is with yours – broken and disappointed.

    Carolina Annschild

  6. Geez, Caitlin, you can hardly condemn an entire country for the crimes of a few. In a country of 37 million, the ratio of crime to population is infinitesimal. Don’t be so hard on your country of birth (mine too). Look at what goes on elsewhere. Thank god Canada does not have the gun culture of the USA. Thank god Canada never experienced the high numbers of horrendous Islamist terrorist attacks that we did here in France. Thank god Canada has universal health care and not the byzantine American health care system that is “beset with inequalities that have a disproportionate impact on people of color and other marginalized groups.”

    As Beth Kaplan wrote above – nearly 75 million people voted for Trump in the 2020 US presidential election. Now, that’s a story! If I were a journalist, I’d focus my lights on that truly scary phenomenon in an attempt to understand why.

    From afar, Canada looks like a pretty peaceful and tolerant society.

    1. In my reply to Lynette, I say what bothers me about this….Canadians are very smug about how much better their/our country is than many others, especially the Big Bad U.S….which has plenty of problems, like incessant racism and gun violence.

      Few nations like to think they’re “better than” and I have seen a lot of that attitude.

      A little humility goes a long way.

      This is a time for Canadians to figure out WHY such racist garbage thrives there.

      1. I’m not being smug, I don’t even live in Canada (neither do you.) As for your remark – This is a time for Canadians to figure out WHY such racist garbage thrives there – the answer is this: alt right. white supremacy. right-wing extremist groups. ultranationalist ideology.

  7. Beth Kaplan

    I wasn’t accusing you specifically of all those things, Caitlin; I was speaking of the whole culture of instant condemnation that we witness daily. I know Canada is far far from flawless. But it is an extraordinary country nonetheless, speaking as someone who just spent four days in emergency treatment in hospital and walked out without paying a cent; money was never mentioned. Several of my American friends who’ve lived in Canada for decades have started to make similar testy remarks about Canadian smugness. But you have been through the hell of the last four years, the country is still struggling with the party that wants to destroy democracy, insane gun violence, racism, the mad king and his millions raging – it’s a dicey time for America, despite the welcome decency and sanity of the new president. The whole world is hoping your adopted country can be fixed. Anyway, that’s enough. Thanks for the interesting discussion and best wishes to you.

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