Following the incident when a white policeman killed African-American George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota, US, the names of the killer and his crime partners did not seem to matter as much as the grounds of that heinous crime. Nor was the name of Quebec’s Grand Mosque’s attacker, who martyred six praying men on 29 Jan 2017. The same applies to all incidents with innocent lives lost in different Canadian and non-Canadian cities.
A crime’s intensity and victim number isn’t the main focus either, even though that might strongly encourage, discourage or delay official investigations. It is easy to try offenders and plotters and convict them when necessary evidences are collected, but more important is probing into the grounds that led to such crimes and tackling them so that no more is committed, no matter what the crime type is.
Thus, it is essential to examine the roots of problems so that solutions get found. “Laws that made of blacks and natives second-class citizens are the root of what we are witnessing today,” said “No for Law 21” campaign coordinator Mr Ehab Lotayef while speaking during a rally held by Quebec’s Premier François Legault’s office Saturday, exactly a year after the bill got passed. “Even after these laws are no more, they remain a part of the popular culture for decades. And after they disappear from the mainstream culture, they still remain for a long time in the system and in some people’s hearts. Maybe for generations,” added Lotayef.
“Systemic discrimination” is not imagined, but real, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau admits, “There is systemic discrimination in Canada, which means our systems treat Canadians of colour, Canadians who are racialised, differently from others.” Still, Quebec’s Premier François Legault insists there is no such problem, “… There’s no system of discrimination, and it’s a very, very small minority of people doing this discrimination.” Bloc Quebecois’ Leader Yves-François Blanchet shares opinion with Legault, stating that whereas some individuals need some education on racism, the problem does not lie within the country’s governments. Blanchette as well denies Quebec’s government has anything to do with racism.
Psychologist and assistant professor at McGill University’s Psychiatry Department, Dr Myrna Lashely, believes Legault “doesn’t fully understand what systemic racism is. Maybe he’s just hearing the word racism and not the word systemic in front… They are rules that have been inherited and embedded into the system.”
“There are Quebeckers who want to re-enliven the history of discrimination against different people by drafting laws that ignite trouble as soon as they’re heard of, and more misfortune after they’re passed. On top comes Law 21, which “exemplifies “systemic discrimination”, with a set of underlying rules or practices that may be official or non-official, apparently neutral and not racially motivated,” explained Ms Hanadi Saad, President of Justice Femme while making a speech during Sunday’s rally.
Though Law 21, which prohibits religious garb in public institutions as schools, affects Jews, Sikh and Christians, it mainly targets women in hijab; today, such women are challenged with systemic discrimination driven by an official resolution. They can no longer take positions in public schools and are harassed by passers-by, as show the complaints received by concerned organisations like Justice Femme; the association has constantly been tracing cases of discrimination and harassment hitting at hijab-wearing women, who have been being denied jobs in many commercial and educational bodies because of their hijab.
The greatest menace within Law 21 is that it simulates a public atmosphere that despises whomever is different when it comes to faith, colour, language or race. These “different” masses have been victimised, for years, by systemic defamation by the media, and a state of strong enmity has ensued. It is urgently demanded that this be handled and limited. Stereotypes, too, must be changed now that they’re adopted by many, who perhaps now form a relative majority.
Yet things turn more dangerous once authorities take on such discriminatory ideologies, and most dangerous once they deny that discrimination and racism do exist. Even further menace lurks by when the officials in charge act unseriously whereas our community’s being targeted.
Alarming, this fact demands harnessing efforts and collaborating with all justice-seeking advocates. Even before that’s done, our community members must come together and leaders join hands, contrary to the state of disunion we’ve seen all over the place. Huge spaces – of unsolid grounds – between us have been shattering our efforts and getting enlarged, way more than the Coronavirus pandemic’s social distancing has created. We also need to rally harder in protests against Law 21; the numbers of participants have so far been very little and, thus, unseen.