Growing up in a multicultural community, I think the concept of racism was lost on me.
I went to school with kids of every race and religious background. It was often that you would see me at an event that celebrated the uniqueness of someone’s community. We celebrated each other’s differences, so much so that it would have been weird to hear a racial slur or question someone’s religious clothing. I attended Indigenous, Sikh, Buddhist and any other cultural event that might be happening in our community. We understood and valued what those cultures brought to the table. Their customs brought us together as a community.
Growing up, it felt like every other weekend there was something to celebrate. Even our high school dances often looked like a scene from a Bollywood movie as Hindi music played. We never looked at it as cultural appropriation because it was driven by the students whose cultural background felt so welcomed and comfortable that they wanted to share that piece of their culture with us. We were inclusive, and there was no question as to whether we would be or wouldn’t be!
I understood at a young age that people were people. They had different backgrounds, beliefs and looks, yet at their core, they were no different than me. They struggled to make ends meet, they celebrated birthdays, marriages and funerals, and they were living their lives just like me. Never did I think as a Canadian that I would ever see a day that wearing religious or cultural garments would be against the law, as it is in Quebec. Nor did I think we would be debating whether blackface is racist — it is.
We shouldn’t care who someone loves, what they believe or what they do behind closed doors as long as it’s between consenting adults and it isn’t hurting others. A person’s body is theirs to decide what they want to do with, even if our personal opinions differ. I understood from a very early point in my life that I should be tolerant of others’ views, even if they are drastically different than mine. It’s what makes us unique. It’s what makes us Canadian. It’s what makes our country a great place to live.
Where else in the world do you have Sikh superfan Nav Bhatia will the Raptors to an NBA title, or two-spirit Indigenous couple James Makokis and Anthony Johnson win the Amazing Race Canada, or Nigerian immigrant Kaycee Madu become our current Minister of Municipal Affairs? Canada is filled with millions of stories of individuals who may be perceived to be different, yet they exemplify what it is to be Canadian.
I hope we all find the time to learn about and celebrate the individuals who make our communities better, and that we embrace the idea there are thousands of Canadians in the world who just haven’t arrived yet. Let’s not judge others by their race, skin colour, religion, sexuality, gender or personal values and attributes, but by their acts and deeds. By doing so, we make our world safer and stronger, and keep Canada as the welcoming, multicultural country we know and love.
Strathcona County Ward 2 Coun. Dave Anderson was first elected in October 2013. He can be contacted by calling 780-464-8002 or by emailing email@example.com.