“Go back to your country”

Tracing the wave of hate crimes in Canada following Trump victory

By Sam Mathers, News Editor

Canada is often perceived as the peaceful, overly apologetic, level-headed neighbour of the United States. Throughout the tumultuous U.S. presidential election that captivated (and/or horrified) the world, numerous Americans threatened to move to Canada in the event of a Trump presidency – in fact, our immigration website crashed on November 8th as it became clear that he would prove victorious. Many have expressed their relief at being Canadian, as if the electing of Trump won’t affect us – but it seems it already has. In recent weeks, there has been wave of hate crimes in Canada, which some are attributing to Trump’s presidential victory.

The electing of Trump was validation for his hateful rhetoric. His racist, sexist, and xenophobic words and actions will go without consequence, and it seems people – even Canadian people – feel they too can express their hateful point of view without consequence. Others say that racism has always been here, maybe just a little more closeted before now. Either way, it is hard to ignore a connection between the widespread acceptance of bigotry in America and the targeted attacks occurring just to the north. These recent events have shown that we as Canadians might not be the peaceful nation we thought we were.

On November 13, Janice Floyd took to Facebook to share the racism she experienced in a Hamilton checkout line. A man standing in front of her turned around holding a newspaper with Donald Trump’s face on the front cover. He pointed at Trump saying to Floyd, “I’m glad he got in. I hope he cleans up the whole of North America.” When asked to explain himself, the man continued, “You all shouldn’t even be here, you’re all murderers and killers, you’re running around killing everybody. I hope he gets rid of all of you.”

Just a day later, more than a dozen posters with the bolded title, Hey, WHITE PERSON were found hung in and around Stan Wadlow Park in East Toronto. The posters continued with phrases like:
Tired of political correctness?

Wondering why only white countries have to become multicultural?

Tired of being told you’re ‘racist’ for celebrating your heritage?

Questioning when immigration will stop?

The posters invited its readers to join the “alt-right” and provided a list of websites that promise to deliver news from a pro-European perspective.

The same day in Toronto, on a St. Clair Avenue streetcar around 6 pm, a man was filmed yelling racist insults and threats at another man on the streetcar:

“Welcome to Canada.”

“He doesn’t even know what yes or no means.”

“He’s not from around these towns, I can tell by his face.”

“These people think they have a right to assault us.”

“Go back to your country.”

The man yelling alleged he had been punched by the second man, who stayed silent throughout the entire altercation. However, the witness who filmed the video says she did not see that happen. Both men spoke with police, who ultimately allowed the victim back on the streetcar, visibly shaken.

On November 15th, Rabbi Anna Maranta, who runs a Jewish prayer centre out of her Ottawa home, found anti-Semitic graffiti painted on her front door. Waking up in the middle of the night, Maranta was startled by a reflection on the glass of the front door – a reflection she immediately recognized to be a swastika. Caring for children during the day, Maranta covered up the graffiti with newspaper so they would not have to see it. Police have a teen in custody in connection with this attack, as well as five other incidents of racist graffiti targeting religious groups in Ottawa. Maranta believes it to be related to Trump’s victory, telling CBC news: “My first thought is that this is an example of what happens when you allow somebody who is in a position of power to speak openly racist, bigoted, misogynistic language…it allows other people to express their feelings, to express their hatred, and to feel like they’ve been given permission to do so because no one has effectively silenced that.”

Most recently, a car and an abandoned building in Queen Street East, Toronto, were found spray painted with swastikas. Senior Rabbi at Beth Tzdek Synagogue in Toronto, Baruch Frydman-Kohl responded with a chilling statement, saying, “The Holocaust didn’t begin with people being killed. It began with words that accelerated into hate speech that became amplified into acts of vandalism – and then it became large-scale violence.”

Whether you believe these recent acts of hatred are connected to the politics south of the border, whether you believe the politics south of the border will affect us at all, we are entering a frightening time. We are taking a step back to a time in which there are no consequences for hateful actions. While the man on the Toronto streetcar is being verbally attacked, a witness can be heard on the video saying to the commuter, “Not everybody here is like that.” One can only hope that is the case.

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