Canada

MacDougall: Imperfect Canada can afford to give itself a break

Thankfully, the country is still learning. Pace the most fervent “anti-racists,” we aren’t in need of a mass societal reset, nor are we in need of the mother of all guilt trips for white people, including any forced readings of huckster texts such as Robin DiAngelo’s White Fragility. Putting people into boxes only blinds them further. Besides, guilt or moral panic is rarely constructive; it’s better to rediscover the liberal fundamentals that underpin our free society and use them as guideposts for strengthening and renewing our (admittedly sclerotic) institutions.

We certainly won’t get further along by focusing on our differences, not when there are so many now thanks to years of profound and beneficial change. The shorter path is to focus on what’s the same. My school pictures were lily white, whereas those of modern city classrooms are not. That’s different, and good, but they’re all still children. And while it’s true the upper echelons of our institutions don’t yet reflect this diversity, give them another generation or two and they will. They’ll have to.

And while the urge to shove the process along more quickly than it goes on its own is understandable, provoking a bitter cultural backlash will only delay the inevitable. Renaming every Dundas Street in the country feels like a victory, but it’s a symbolic one. Even worse, it urges others to aim for similar low-hanging fruit, instead of focusing on the bigger problems.

Reckon with our past, sure, but focus more on our future. And be constructive. So let’s make CVs “blind.” Let’s push governments and corporations to actively seek minority hires. Most importantly, give people the space to have difficult conversations and show them charity if they stumble along the way. We’re not always going to get it right.

Easy for me to say as a white guy, I know. But I have two small children who are half-Arab. Their maternal grandparents came to Canada with little money and a funny surname, but their mother is now a national television reporter (initially hired in local news through a diversity hire program) and their futures will be brighter still.

If, that is, we give ourselves a break.

Remember: perfect is the enemy of the good. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. The English lexicon is full of expressions urging caution in the face of mania. We need to rediscover that corner of our language because, right now, things are hard enough without looking for any extra trouble.

Andrew MacDougall is a London-based communications consultant and ex-director of communications to former prime minister Stephen Harper.

Can we give ourselves a break?

I ask, because the country is still under tremendous stress from the novel coronavirus. Millions are out of work, the economy is tanking, and parents are going insane trying to “work” from home. Is now really the time to beat ourselves up for being one of the most progressive, tolerant and accommodating societies ever constructed?

Let’s rephrase the question: Why is so much of the opinion-forming upper crust now in crisis over Canada being one of the most peaceful, progressive, tolerant and accommodating societies ever constructed? My élite-stuffed morning scroll is full of bleats about how the country and its institutions are systemically racist and/or failing. Either I am following an unrepresentative crowd or the country has changed a lot during my seven-year absence (hint: it’s the former).

At the moment, it feels a bit cheeky to declare that Canada is a swell place. Or to suggest the mass integration happening in Canada is a long and complicated journey into unexplored territory. Lest we forget, rarely in human history have so many people from so many different backgrounds and cultures existed in peaceful, democratic harmony. We’re not doing too badly.

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