EDITORIAL: From Nelson to Quebec City and back again

Why the Quebec mosque shooting matters here.

The Quebec City shooting is mentioned in three places in today’s print edition of the Star: in this column, in Councillor Anna Purcell’s column, and in my front page article about Rahaf Zwayne which will appear online later today.

Why so many mentions in a paper in a small B.C. town that seems to far removed?

Because we have some Syrian refugees living here now. Because there are some children in our country whose fathers were murdered last week by a violent racist. Because, according to the Montreal police, it is in small towns and the suburbs, not so much in the large urban areas, that racist ideas flourish.

And because it’s unacceptable.

We will never know if Alexandre Bissonette would have shot those people without the inspiration of Trump’s announcement of a Muslim ban, but the timing is notable.

According to the Globe and Mail, Montreal police report that incidents of hate speech there have spiked since the massacre — 29 reports in the three days following the attack, with one man arrested. So it appears there are people out there ready to be triggered into violent speech or action.

The Muslims who live in Nelson are the kind of people who are increasingly the target of hate speech elsewhere in Canada. Let’s keep this in mind when we see them on the street.

Many of us do. Rahaf Zwayne, a Syrian, said she can’t get over how friendly and generous people in the Kootenays are, and how supported she feels. We can be proud of this, but we have not really been tested yet.

We (and by “we” I mean white people in Nelson) have not lived with real ethnic diversity since Nelson’s now-extinct Chinatown that had hundreds of residents a century ago. Or since we first encountered the Sinixt, long before that.

What if we suddenly had 500 Middle Eastern refugees here, arriving without notice? What if one day hundreds or thousands of migrants arrived from Central America?

What if they all arrived within a few weeks, with no money, their children as their only possessions, and nowhere else to go? This has happened in many towns and cities across the world.

Imagine them, all arriving in Nelson with its veneer of liberal-mindedness and its cool lifestyle. Would we be so cool then?

 

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