To recap, thousands of young, white men, chanting anti-Arab slogans, carrying beer bottles and waving Australian flags, attacked both people of Middle Eastern origin and police during a violent clash in Sydney on Sunday. They congregated via text messages and had slogans such as "We grew here, you flew here", and "100% Aussie". CTV news report here. Such incidents, as is prone in riots, do not go unanswered, and today, retaliatory attacks are reported by CBC.
I was told by a white Canadian friend sometime back that 'when times are good, there are no problems'. Indeed, in 1998, riots broke out in Indonesia when the currency Rupiah collapsed. The more successful Chinese minority was the target. In recent Paris times, segregation, high unemployment and discrimination forced Paris Arab youth to riot.
Canada, however, is the only G7 country paying down their debt, running a surplus, has its lowest job rate in 31 years, a growing trade surplus and so on. Crime is low. Immigration is sustained at a controlled level. If you are an immigrant here, the first generation can suffer as their foreign qualifications are not recognized, but the following generations can integrate easily should they wish. High school education is free. Generous student loans and scholarships are available from the government to cover university tuition or college diplomas. Yes, times are good.
Yet times were good in Australia too. Or were they?
Many people, amongst them white, British, describe the Australian society as one with serious race issues. I have a few Australian cousins, and certainly they tell me the situation has continued to worsen ever since Paula Hanson's dirty politics. Taking a look at the comments section on the BBC, the following are excerpts of a few comments.
Australia has the same attitude to race relations that the UK had 20 years ago. - James, London.
Whilst travelling through Australia, I found it a common occurrence for ethnic minorities to be called "Wogs" ... - Savio, London.
Responsibility for the riots in Sydney has to go to the very top. A government that has deliberately courted voters who fear migrants can not be entirely blameless. - John Romalis, Chicago.
To be fair, I have no way of personally verifying these statements. Are they applicable in Canada? In Toronto, I would say no. We are the most diverse city in the world and have a great tradition of multiculturalism in Toronto. If, however, you travel just a bit outside Toronto, the population diversity drops to almost zero. How would people behave in a situation, such as Australia, where large number of Muslims were arrested on terrorism related charges, or there was, God forbid, a terrorist attack?
Let us remember, the victims of the bombing of Air India Flight 182 are yet to receive justice. Let us remember, this summer Toronto went through one of its worst summers in terms of gun related crimes. Mostly, it was black gang members killing other black members. Yet everyone seemed to get seriously involved only when a non-black member of the community, in this case a young Iranian salesperson, was shot to death. Why does the government not investigate the social reasons for these crimes? Most black people are good citizens and decent law-abiding people (Muslims, sound familiar?). Yet the concern seemed less when it was black-on-black violence. I have heard outrageous comments that there is a 'culture of violence' amongst black people.
A criminal is a criminal is a criminal. The government should arrest all criminals regardless of ethnicity. It seems in Sydney the police turned a blind eye to some antics against white women by some youth of Lebanese origin. Such acts provide fodder for neo-Nazi style supremacists to hit back. Similarly, the government in Canada should be vigilant against all crimes, regardless of race.
Let us remember, during World War 2, the Canadian government arrested large numbers of Canadians of Japanese and Italian origin and interned them. Pierre Trudeau, Canada's enigmatic PM during the October crisis of 1970, the same guy who brought us our Charter of Rights and Freedoms and opened up Canadian immigration to everyone, when answering the question of how far he would go to stop the terrorists, replied "Just watch me!"
Clearly a macho culture is not exclusive to Australians.
The recent Conservative party ads feature (the 'Crime' ad) an older woman telling Stephen Harper she is tired of seeing gang members and drug dealers walking down the street. How can you tell who a drug dealer and gang member is just by walking down the street? Harper's statement - criminals being deported and not leaving - is especially troubling, as it implies that the bulk of crimes are immigrant-based. This ad advocates stereotypes.
Tazzy wonders about terrorism in Toronto. As she points out, during the SARS crisis, all of us were guilty of treating the Chinese community badly. And they are a prominent, well established community in Canada.
I guess I am rambling, but these events just enforce my fear that the thread of life as we hold it is very fragile, able to snap any minute.
Tags: Australia Riots Muslims Canada Black Immigrants Toronto