I knocked on 3,000+ doors during my campaign in the 2015 Federal election. I knocked on doorsteps in the city of Moose Jaw, farms and rural towns, villages, resort villages and hamlets. For the first part of the campaign what mattered most to people I met were political issues– abolishing the senate, reversing health care cuts and affordable daycare were the main issues brought up to me.
But then, the case of Zunera Ishaq became national news. Not only did the issue of women wearing the niqab during citizenship ceremonies become a political issue, it seemed like every racially based issue came bubbling to the surface. Before the end of the election over half of the people I talked to on the doorstep brought up racial issues and a good chunk of those comments were fearful, spiteful and ignorant.
I did not try to educate racial notions that were false or un-compassionate. In the months following the election I had come to regret my inaction. Here are five things I heard on the doorstep and how I wish I’d responded.
*The photos are not of the actual white people I talked to.
“I’m not a racist or a bigot or anything but if those people are going to come here, they better start acting like us or go back to where they came from.”
You don’t get to decide if you are a racist. Other people decide if you are racist based on how you talk, your actions and the attitudes you hold in life. If your friends and family deem you are racist they will probably never tell you. But I can tell you that the phrase, “go back to where they came from” is a comment so typical of racial phrasing at this point it’s become cliché. If I were teaching a creative writing class and someone wrote a racist character saying what you just said, I would tell them their character is too unbelievable.
“I’m not ok with Natives getting all this money.”
I’m not sure what money you’re talking about.
If you’re talking about the $5 given out to every “status Indian” on Treaty Day, this is mostly symbolic and is a very small amount of money to be upset about.
If you’re talking about the money that the federal government gives reserve communities I think you should reconsider your view. Reserve communities act a lot like your town. They are responsible for water, roads, fire & emergency and have many extra responsibilities that your town isn’t responsible for. They need money to do those things just like your town. Your town gets money from: 1. Taxes 2. Provincial government and 3. Federal government. A reserve community gets money ONLY from the federal government. They cannot collect taxes and they are not a provincial responsibility.
Roads go unpaved, many reserves have been on boil water advisories for years and many reserves cannot pay their bills to fire halls in nearby communities. Last year Loon Lake refused service to the nearby FN3 because they were months behind on their bill. Two young children died in the blaze.
Reserves often start businesses like gas stations or casinos in able to keep their people safe and out of poverty. No town or city in Canada would be expected to do this.
Cutting this funding would be even more devastating to already underfunded communities.
I know you like to blame poverty on reserves on corrupt band councils. Corrupt band councils do exasperate the problem but a few corrupt band councils do not shirk the responsibility of a government that has intentionally underfunded the most impoverished of their citizens.
“When my grandparent’s came to Canada they had to change and become Canadian. These people should too.”
MY RESPONSE: Your Grandparent’s did not come to Canada and have laws implemented against their cultural practices. In fact, when Europeans came to Canada, not only did they keep their culture they tried to assimilate the First Nations into European culture, even kidnapping their children and putting them into residential schools to end First Nation’s culture and had many laws restricting their cultural practices.
This process is colonialism and the desire to outlaw niqabs at citizenship ceremonies (or other places) is colonialism 2.0. The first step is dominating Western culture over all cultures that are here before European arrival. The second step is dominating Western culture over all those that arrive after.
“I want to vote for the party who doesn’t want those immigrants coming in here. I’ll vote for whoever let’s the least amount of immigrants in.”
MY RESPONSE: Hmmm Well you’re giving me a Conservative voter vibe.
“Can you do something about those people who live across the street. They come here and take up our jobs”
And Later she said.
“I don’t think that one even works. He’s always just sitting around the yard.”
MY RESPONSE: You can’t be mad at them for being lazy AND stealing jobs. I like that they put low-income housing across the street from expensive homes such as your own. People of all incomes should live side by side. I have door-knocked on all of those doors across your street and I can tell you that half the doors I knocked on were answered by children whose parent’s weren’t home because they are working two jobs to try to get ahead in a new country. It’s amazing what you can learn from talking to your neighbors.
But I’m concerned that you brought up these issues not because you are concerned about the economy but rather because you are looking for reasons to dislike people who are not like you. I’m concerned that politics in general has become one of the last bastions where people can freely speak their un-acceptance of other groups of people. I’m afraid that political issues have become a smokescreen for the outdated idea that one group can be better than another. I really wish I had said this to you.
I heard racist comments from supporters of all political parties. It may sadly be the only common thread that runs across the gambit of politics. Racism is not a Conservative problem, it’s everywhere. But I stand by the statement that if wanting the least amount of immigrants/refugees its the only policy that is important to you, voting Conservative is your best bet.