Parker Clare is a senior advertising major.
In the weeks following Trump’s inauguration, some Americans, at least for a moment, desperately wished they were Canadian. For a select few expats, myself included, we could actually say that we had no capacity to impact what was going on because we were living here as lawful permanent residents.
With no means of participating, us Canadian green card and visa holders were forced to watch the most horrifying piece of American reality television that has ever been aired. We could take solace in the fact that our Prime Minister has been vocal in his support of the Muslim community. We could distance ourselves from the terror and uncertainty running rampant across the United States with the knowledge that, if it all came crumbling down, we have the ability to move home and everything would be all right. This, as I have come to accept, was complete ignorance.
On the evening of Jan. 29, a twenty-seven year old opened fire at the Islamic Cultural Center of Québec City. Canadian police charged the perpetrator with six counts of first degree murder and five counts of attempted murder. The French-Canadian student, inspired by Trump as well as French far-right presidential candidate Marine le Pen (giving a fresh face to xenophobia), murdered these individuals in the name of Islamophobia.
When reports of the attack began to pop up, I was almost in shock. How could this happen? Was it an American? All these seemingly useless questions cluttered my mind as if I was trying to hide something. Issues that I thought were confined by diplomacy naturally bled across the border, causing six Québec fathers to lose their lives.
Many news outlets blamed the Trump administration and the alt-right media for spreading these Islamophobic ideas into my otherwise peaceful country. I, too, searched for someone to blame. My mind raced with possible narratives and motives, but there was no way I could pretend that this was isolated or even the first instance of Islamophobia within Canadian borders.
Radical conservative groups in Canada, especially in Québec, have had tensions with the Islamic community for years. They have routinely made efforts to marginalize the Islamic community with both political attacks on religious freedoms and violence against local communities. We see stories spanning from former PM Stephen Harper attempting to set up a police hotline where “barbaric cultural practices” could be reported, to a woman being forced to remove her hijab in order to appear in court.
Canada is not a safe space. Canada is a nation with many problems including Islamophobia and white nationalism that seeks to destroy our core values of individual and religious freedom we have worked tirelessly to create. It was ignorant for me to have some fantasy of an escape to Canada, how it could act as a safe haven for me if need be. I was not addressing the issues that plague my home in the States, nor my home in Canada. I was shoving my head as deep in the sand as possible in order to find solace in a dream.
Ultimately, I find myself circling around the same question: where will the travel bans end if these feared refugees become Canadian? Will our differing stances on refugees impact the relationship between The United States and Canada? We must work tirelessly to ensure that these individuals are welcome and safe within our community both socially and politically.
We must work to understand the world we live in, especially when it seems to be falling apart. We must not waver when faced with a new era of bigoted nationalism. We must fully acknowledge this bigotry in all the nuanced forms it has taken and educate ourselves as well as our communities as to what steps can be taken to ensure our safety. Muslims being banned from the United States is just portion of the wave of atrocities yet to come.
Living in the United States as a naturalized citizen, permanent resident, or visa holder requires us to fight bigotry at all costs. As Canadians, we must work alongside our American allies to stem the tide of fascism and assess how we can ensure all individuals within our community are welcome and safe.