After the United States election results were announced on November 8th, 2016, it quickly became clear that Americans were not the only ones who were about to enter the unknown world of a Trump presidency. In fact, this event is part of a larger global trend, and Canada is certainly no exception.
This is precisely what the Mosaic Institute brought communities together to discuss on January 18th, two days before Trump’s inauguration. The community event, “Canada in a Trump World,” was part of Mosaic’s In Conversation series, a dialogue forum that invites guests to openly share their perspectives about issues that affect their communities. At this event, moderated by Warren Kinsella, the four panellists, Mosaic Institute’s Executive Director Bernie M. Farber, author and activist Desmond Cole, National Council of Canadian Muslims Executive Director Ihsaan Gardee, Chair of JSpaceCanada Dr Karen Mock, and 250 attendees came together to respectfully discuss Canada’s relevance to the new presidency in the United States, and vice versa.
The panellists discussed the unprecedented nature of the election results, as well as the racism and discrimination that Trump’s divisive rhetoric has fuelled. Dr Karen Mock summarised this idea by saying, “Trump is relevant, not because he is causing what’s happening, but because he is allowing the racists and bigots and the misogynists, and so on… to perpetrate their vitriol with impunity.”
While the panellists spoke about the implications of a Trump administration, much of the conversation urged attendees to reflect on the human rights violations that occur on Canadian soil. Reported incidences of hate crimes in Canada have increased since the election results. Bernie told us of spray-painted swastikas on places of worship, racist graffiti and posters supporting white supremacy right here in Toronto. Moderator Warren Kinsella showed us images of propaganda supporting the KKK and neo-Nazi websites that proliferated in cities and on university campuses across Canada in the wake of Trump’s divisive campaign.
Desmond Cole and Ihsaan Gardee reminded us that this overt hate and racism is not new in Canada. They encouraged us to be mindful of the systemic problems in our own government, independently of the United States. Ihsaan urged us not to forget the vilification of Muslims in Canada’s recent 2015 federal election, including the Conservatives’ failed pitch for a “barbaric cultural practices” snitch line. Canadian politicians with discriminatory policies have gained popularity since Trump’s victory, including Kellie Leitch, a Conservative leadership candidate with a hard-line stance on immigration. If Trump has shown us anything, it is that political rhetoric has the power to influence behaviour among the masses.
The event emphasized the longstanding systemic problems that we have in Canada, but it also acknowledged and heralded the many individuals and groups who strive to work together to combat these issues and hold our national and global leaders accountable for their actions. Warren Kinsella concluded the event with an empowering quote from Obama: “Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change we seek.”
Missed Canada in a Trump World? Watch the conversation here:
Blog written by: Allie Shier, Project Coordinator
Photo credit: Matthew Lipton