Saturday, July 2, 2016

No Space for Hate in Canada

Vandalism at the Cold Lake, AB mosque in 2015.

What would you do if you witnessed a hate crime?

I have never been in that situation, so I don’t know what I would do. Bbut my friend Allison Courey has.

Allison is a 30 year-old white woman and chaplain at St. John’s College at the University of Manitoba. She was about to get on a Winnipeg bus in June when a man stepped back to let her board first—a fine and generous gesture, she thought.

When Allison saw another woman wearing a hijab walk toward her, she likewise motioned her to go ahead. That’s when the man stepped in front of both women and said: “Not her.”

Allison was taken aback. “Why?” she asked.

“It’s not safe” he said. “They’re Al-Qaeda. You have to be careful. We don’t want them.”

“There is no space for racism on Winnipeg Transit,” she said to the man.

He replied: “I used to execute them!”—a reference, Allison thinks by his accent, to the conflict that once raged in the former Yugoslavia.

Allison looked around the bus for support, but everyone else seemed to be looking away and not wanting to get involved.

So she said to the driver: “Do you have a policy about this or something? This guy’s talking about killing Muslims.”

Allison thought maybe she should take a picture of the man, in case he was dangerous and she should report him to the police.

But as she pulled out her phone, he became aggressive.

“He was clearly fixed on me, and my presence was upsetting him,” she says. “I was pretty sure that if I actually lifted the phone high enough to take a picture, he’d snap. That wouldn’t help anyone.”

Allison didn’t contact the police, but she did warn campus security. 

“I have too many dearly-beloved Muslim friends to allow a man like that to just wander through the campus at will,” she says, adding that the woman, who didn’t board the bus, “could have been a newly-arrived Syrian refugee.”

Unfortunately, the incident Allison witnessed is not unusual.

According to Statistics Canada, there were 1,295 hate crimes reported to police in 2014 (the year for which the most recent information is available). 

As for the groups most likely to experience hate, they are Jews, Muslims, and members of the LGBTQ community.

Checking the information from Statistics Canada, it was good to see that Manitoba had the third-fewest reported number of hate crimes in Canada that year. But even one is still too many.

As a white, straight, Christian male, the world feels pretty safe to me. I realize that isn’t the case for many others. It puts the onus on me to look out for any who might be in danger of hate because of their religion, race or sexual orientation.

And if I ever witness hate, I hope I can be as brave as my friend Allison.

You can get an up-to-date report of hate crimes against Muslims in Canada from the National Council of Canadian Muslims Hate Crime Map.

According to the Council, there have been 27 hate crimes in Canada against Muslims since January, double the number from a year ago at this time (June).

From the July 2, 2016 Free Press.

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