There are two stories about Canada. They are both real – and they are at odds with each other.
The first is the story epitomised by Canadian anchor Peter Mansbridge on Wednesday. Tired as he may have been after leading the CBC’s coverage when first two soldiers were deliberately run down in Quebec Monday and then during Wednesday’s tragic shooting in Ottawa, he maintained his respectful tone and earned praise for not jumping to any conclusions about the shooter…
…The core of the first story of Canada is that we believe we are made stronger by our diversity: different but together, side by side. Ultimately, it’s a celebratory story, and it’s about as beautiful a national narrative as you’re going to get on this planet.
There is another story, though. The second story of Canada is relatively new, but equally real – and it’s emerged out of the limitations of the first story. It is the story of a Canada that is wary of (or at least a little worried about) how much diversity is too much. It’s a story shaped by anxieties about whether the tolerance built into our institutions has gone too far.
The story of the measured Canada, told so well in our national newspapers on Thursday morning, is perfect – but less perfect and still present alongside that story are the voices of a reactionary Canada. I witnessed Islamophobia manifest itself in the wake of yesterday’s attacks in real time on social media. “All our government needs to do is unrecognize Islam”, read one message. “I’m tired of these Muslims coming to our country,” read another.
What on earth do you expect? That people won’t notice that Islam is connected to an increasing number of violent attacks all over the world? Reading about the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria makes me feel physically ill. Boko Haram are about the same. Sorry if that hurts your precious feelings, delicate flower.