In her autobiography, La détresse et L'enchantement, Gabrielle Roy writes of her identity as a Franco-Manitoban. Existing between the two separate worlds of French and English, she ultimately comes to embrace her bilingual and bicultural identities. When meeting with the director of her teaching institution, he briskly informs her:
“The tragic thing about minorities is that they have to be better, or disappear.”
While this may have been the case at the turn of the twentieth century in Canada, things have ultimately changed. Our country has made great strides in the areas of racial relations, gender equality and cultural acceptance, but Canada was never the proud and pure - in fact, far from it.
If colonial times fail to bring about an understanding of prejudice in British North America, widespread deportations and immigration cut-offs from both World Wars and the Great Depression might spark insight. During this time, Canadians were writing to the Prime Minister complaining not only about the scarcity of work, but wanting to rid the country of those immigrants claiming relief and obtaining work they felt was rightfully theirs. Not only was this a sign of the desperate times, nativist sentiments were wildly spreading from coast to coast across North America.
With both wars over, Canada once again opened their borders during the Fourth Wave of immigration occurring after WWII. Different populations from other European nations were making their way to Canada, but prejudice still remained based on the point system. The federal government set regulations to provide admission for those deemed ‘desired.’ We are now in the Fifth Wave, starting in the 1970s with a continued policy of strictness and favourability. Our social policy, on the other hand, is positively different.
Regardless of the acceptance that our country has come to embrace, Roy’s quote still rings loudly in my mind.
People across the country are still being pushed down for their differences.
These oppressive situations take many forms from bullying in our schools to setting mosques on fire throughout the narrow-minded cities of our nation. Groups need to continually rise against, celebrate and honour their differences no matter what they may be. Being a metropolitan city, we see things quite differently. It is for no doubt that new Canadians seek home in one of the priciest cities around the world. Toronto offers acceptance with the ability to succeed and provide for families in a safe place called home. With this comes a diverse range of students who bring great attributes and lived experiences to our classrooms. These learning opportunities provide great insight into the world unexplored and unmediated by online pressures and common misunderstandings.
While many people often associate the term diversity with culture and religion, we also have diversity in opinion. Whereas people around the globe are fighting for their right to be heard, we often take for granted that of which we live and breathe every single day.
Freedom is not a given right, but rather our responsibility to uphold.
With this responsibility comes the power of education fostered by the strength of discussion.To displace an incorrect perception is to destroy the capacity and willingness of understanding; a crime we cannot commit.
Coming from a Mediterranean background, our family fought to uphold cultural values and tradition through the institutional forces of community. In doing so, we built a cultural association. However, as the generations advance, interest has been lost to the point that our strength in numbers has been diminished. Is there still hope for our heritage, or is it just easier for us to disappear?
Publisher: Fifth Year Undergraduate, I/S: History & English
When he’s not frolicking around Toronto or trying to take over the world, you can usually find him swapping paint colors for his condo or picking out new outfits and man purses for his future Pomeranian, Efron.