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  • March 11, 2024

    Open conversations: Bridging racial divides 

    Innovation is needed to bridge the racial divides and stop hate  

    Recent data show that race or ethnicity is the most common motivation behind hate crimes in Canada. In 2020 alone, it amounted to approximately 1583 cases which represents 63 % of the whole number. 

    A nice family stepped out for a walk in London, Ontario, on a beautiful Sunday morning. It was June 6th, 2021. They were part of a very well-established Muslim community in that city. They must have been having a nice conversation while heading to a grocery store, the mosque or a park. They had not done anything wrong; they did not represent any kind of threat to other people. However, their lives were brutally cut short by a hate act committed by a young adult who deemed their lives worthless. What kind of ideology is so powerful to blind someone to the point of not being able to recognize the same humanity in other people? How is this kind of hatred being fueled nowadays? But more importantly, what can be done to prevent these heinous acts from happening again? 

    Canada has gained a worldwide reputation for being a welcoming country, open to people from all over the world willing to migrate to this land, following the rules of respect and inclusivity. My personal impression, more than a year after landing on this soil, is that in general Canadians are polite and respectful towards newcomers. This might also be the experience of many other migrant families such as mine. However, I do not intend to extrapolate a complete statement about this topic from just a few cases. In fact, it would not be real to deny that extremism, radicalization and polarization is a concerning trend spreading around, including places such as Quebec, Ontario or Manitoba. 

    In fact, recent data show that race or ethnicity is the most common motivation behind hate crimes in Canada. In 2020 alone, it amounted to approximately 1583 cases which represents 63 % of the whole number, being religion, sexual orientation, sex (or gender) and others, the rest of reasons leading to this kind of attacks. In the same year, within police-reported cases motivated by hatred towards a given race or ethnicity, Black and East & Southeast Asian people are the groups that have been more frequently targeted, with 600 and 250 cases each. However, beyond how accurate these numbers might be, there is a dire reality challenging us. This could only be the tip of the iceberg if data were collected and revealed about more cases, that are not usually reported to authorities, such as bullying at school or online. On this last environment, hatred has sadly found a place to thrive due to the anonymity provided by screens and social media outlets, e.g., Telegram or Tik Tok. 

    Furthermore, there is a wider context as well. Canada is not a place immune to influence from the interconnected world we live in. Polarization is currently growing due to protracted armed conflicts like the case of Israel and Palestine, recently reignited since the October 7th attack, carried out by Hamas on southern Israel, and the disproportionate response led by the Netanyahu’s government. This case has triggered hate crimes in North America under the form of antisemitism and islamophobia. On the other hand, complex situations are also being used to fuel more intolerance; for example, the crisis in the U.S. southern border is creating a standoff between the federal government and the Texas governor, Greg Abott. As a result, there are alt-right voices calling for secession from the rest of the country amid a growing concern for what has been called a migrant “invasion”. It should not be forgotten either that in that U.S. state, recent hate crimes are still a fresh memory, just like the one that took place on August 3rd, 2019, when 23 people were killed by a White nationalist man motivated by anti-Latino hatred. 

    A good idea to fight intolerance and bigotry could be suggesting educators, students, and parents to get involved in designing and creating original online content to break down barriers and foster understanding. 

    In view of these facts, and many similar ones that take away our faith in humanity, what can be done to prevent extremism, radicalization and violence that comes from racism and the fear of “the other”? Schools are certainly a place to foster respect and inclusion through intercultural and interethnic dialogue, specially taking into account how diverse students are in Canada. However, its influence is being displaced by social media content. Therefore, a good idea to fight intolerance and bigotry could be suggesting educators, students, and parents to get involved in designing and creating original online content to break down barriers and foster understanding. This would be certainly more appealing to children and youth, in addition to discussions and dialogues which are also necessary to raise awareness about this issue, especially within the educational system. Memes, short videos, pictures and easy-to-digest texts about inclusion, different cultures around the world, good examples of intercultural/interfaith joint ventures, and more initiatives like these, might help to build those bridges we all need to humanize the vision of the otherness, to see differences as a benefit for communities instead of considering them a threat.  

    Written by: Nicolas Dousdebes, Praticum Student at MARL 

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