Growing up as a South Asian second generation Canadian in suburban Montreal, I remember standing in the school auditorium on Remembrance Day as we’d hear stories of war from veterans of the second world war. I’d watch, along with my fellow classmates as they spoke to us about the heroic acts in which they both participated and witnessed. My little heart would burst with pride as I listened to these war heroes describe their trials and tribulations. We’d hear of their fellow soldiers who had perished, and messages they would have to convey to the loved ones back home.
I’d hear stories of my sister in law’s grandfather who fought in the second world war, of friends whose grandparents were medics and cared for soldiers in the trenches. We’d share these Canadian memories with a warm sense of pride and honour. We learnt to cherish these soldiers, respect them and honour their sacrifices. Doing so was an integral part of our Canadian upbringing in our parent’s adopted home. Learning of our nation’s history allowed us to better connect with its roots.
Years later however, public sentiment shifted. Our former government and its political rhetoric alienated members of the Muslim and South Asian communities and stripped us of that sense of belonging that had woven the threads of our immigrant experience. It divided our pluralistic community into a very us versus them mentality in which despite being a born and raised proud Canadian woman, I went from being an us to being a them. Our former government fell short when it came to the role of protecting the interests of the minorities. According to Cornel West in Race Matters,“the aim of a constitutional democracy is to safeguard the rights of the minority and avoid the tyranny of the majority.”
North American culture prides itself on its diversity, its forward thinking and on its tolerance. We are the world’s example of where people’s values and beliefs are respected, and thankfully where we are free to practice our own faith.
This year however, the winds have shifted. With Prime Minister Trudeau at our nation’s helm, and our culturally diverse cabinet of ministers, visible minorities and Muslims have a renewed sense of Canadian pride. With our current government in power, we as a society have begun to feel the warmth of the promised sunny days ahead. Members of parliament, for the first time in our nation’s history LOOK like Canadians. All Canadians. For visible minorities and members of these communities, that makes all the difference.