Well, it’s not day 100 yet (that happens on April 29), but as I wrap up my blog on President Trump’s first 100 days in office, there is more than enough evidence to suggest that his behavior during the election campaign has continued into his presidency, and not in a positive way.
The goal of this blog has been to make Canadians aware of Trump’s words and actions. That’s important because what the American President says and does has an impact far beyond that country’s borders. I believe it is essential that, as global citizens, we follow, question and critique Trump, so that we can call him out when his actions fall below the acceptable standards of decency and professionalism expected of a President.
Has there been a Trump effect in Canada?
On January 29, 2017, a 27-year-old man killed six people at a mosque near Quebec City. Another eight were injured. The alleged shooter was known as a right-wing troll who frequently expressed anti-foreigner and anti-feminist positions and defended President Trump. Views were mixed on whether it was a terrorist attack or a hate crime.
On February 17, protesters carrying signs with anti-Muslim slogans demonstrated outside of a Toronto mosque, blocking access for members trying to enter.
On February 20, anti-Semitic notes containing racist comments – one saying “No Jews” – were found on doors inside a North York condo building. The mezuzah, a carving with a Hebrew verse, was removed from the front doors of several residents of the building. Other residents found pictures of swastikas on their doors. Toronto police investigating said that, “hate is a fundamental part of the investigation.”
On March 22, anti-Islam protesters ripped a Qur’an – the central religious text of Islam – and stomped on its pages during a school board meeting in Brampton, demanding that students be banned from praying at school. A school board spokesperson said the situation escalated quickly as protesters began shouting “fairly horrific anti-Muslim comment.” Police were called to intervene. The Muslim students gather for about 15 minutes each Friday for Jummah prayers, a congregational prayer service held once a week in the Muslim community. The school board is mandated by the Ontario Human Rights Code to provide accommodation for all religions. This video shows the shocking display of some meeting participants.
In Ottawa, a mosque, synagogue and church with a black pastor have been spray-painted with swastikas and racial slurs. An Orthodox synagogue was defaced with Nazi slogans and emblems.
Can all these events be tied back to Trump?
Ryan Scrivens, from the School of Criminology at Simon Fraser University, says, “Trump has made hate a little bit more legitimate. Trump’s ideologies are more tolerated now in mainstream society.”
Richard Cohen, the president of the Southern Poverty Law Center, has said that, “since the election, we’ve seen a big uptick in incidents of vandalism, threats, intimidation spurred by the rhetoric surrounding Mr. Trump’s election. The white supremacists out there are celebrating his victory and many are feeling their oats.” It appears as least some of that anger and hatred has flowed north into Canada.
While I’m not saying we have never had racist incidents in Canada before, it does appear that the number and intensity of these incidents has grown in the past few months.
Should we be surprised? When a man who has criticized, condemned and denigrated women, immigrants, foreigners, homosexuals, the media and his opponents is rewarded with the highest office in the United States, is it any wonder that intolerant people think it’s okay to say and act disrespectfully with impunity? What message are his words and behavior sending?
Of course there were Canadians who were homophobic, sexist, racist and bigoted before January 2017. But in most cases, they didn’t publicly flaunt their opinions with quite the same intolerance that appears to be happening now. But Trump seems to have given people license to judge, belittle and attack those who look different, believe in a different god, come from a different country, love a different person or follow different traditions.
Canadians have always been proud of our reputation as a respectful, accepting, tolerant society. What happened? How could we have let one loud, arrogant, obnoxious, belligerent person change who we are or what we value?
Hopefully, the examples noted above will end up representing the actions of only a small number of people. Maybe they will come to understand that their words and actions tear our society apart, instead of bringing us together.
Perhaps, Trump will stop talking and acting so irresponsibly and recklessly.
We can only hope.
But if that doesn’t happen, then it is incumbent on all of us to remain vigilant, continue to monitor Trump, and say that we won’t accept a world where hate, intolerance, bigotry and prejudice are rewarded. That isn’t what I want my Canada to look like.