MacDougall: Imperfect Canada can afford to give itself a break

Microsoft News
Justin Tang Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino Microsoft News | James Alexander Michie

© Justin Tang Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino, second from top right, leads participants in swearing the oath to become Canadian citizens during a virtual citizenship ceremony July 1. As an experiment in diversity, equity and tolerance, Canada doesn't always get it right, but we're trying hard.

Can we give ourselves a break?

I ask, because the country is still under tremendous stress from the novel coronavirus. Millions are out of work, the economy is tanking, and parents are going insane trying to “work” from home. Is now really the time to beat ourselves up for being one of the most progressive, tolerant and accommodating societies ever constructed?

Let’s rephrase the question: Why is so much of the opinion-forming upper crust now in crisis over Canada being one of the most peaceful, progressive, tolerant and accommodating societies ever constructed? My élite-stuffed morning scroll is full of bleats about how the country and its institutions are systemically racist and/or failing. Either I am following an unrepresentative crowd or the country has changed a lot during my seven-year absence (hint: it’s the former).

At the moment, it feels a bit cheeky to declare that Canada is a swell place. Or to suggest the mass integration happening in Canada is a long and complicated journey into unexplored territory. Lest we forget, rarely in human history have so many people from so many different backgrounds and cultures existed in peaceful, democratic harmony. We’re not doing too badly.

We are failing on some fronts, however, as many Black, Indigenous or minority Canadians are busy pointing out. But why are disclaimers being placed on the Canadian flag only now? Why the loss of confidence in what’s gotten us so far? Hasn’t the country always been riven by faults and tainted by failings? Indigenous versus the European settlers; the French versus the English; Catholic versus Protestant; “old stock” versus the wave of post-First and Second World War immigrants; men versus women; and so on. Some of these faults — particularly the oldest — remain painfully unresolved.

Thankfully, the country is still learning. Pace the most fervent “anti-racists,” we aren’t in need of a mass societal reset, nor are we in need of the mother of all guilt trips for white people, including any forced readings of huckster texts such as Robin DiAngelo’s White Fragility. Putting people into boxes only blinds them further. Besides, guilt or moral panic is rarely constructive; it’s better to rediscover the liberal fundamentals that underpin our free society and use them as guideposts for strengthening and renewing our (admittedly sclerotic) institutions.

We certainly won’t get further along by focusing on our differences, not when there are so many now thanks to years of profound and beneficial change. The shorter path is to focus on what’s the same. My school pictures were lily white, whereas those of modern city classrooms are not. That’s different, and good, but they’re all still children. And while it’s true the upper echelons of our institutions don’t yet reflect this diversity, give them another generation or two and they will. They’ll have to.

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Source: Andrew MacDougall | Microsoft News

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