BEYOND BORDERS – By Raheel Raza
Reflecting on 2010
I’m so glad we’re in the New Year although people act as though this is a unique phenomenon that’s never happened before. 2010 included many memorable events for people all over the globe. But I want to take stock of experiences that impacted me and my little world in Canada.
In the spirit of diversity Canadians celebrated many festivals but when it came time to say Merry Christmas publically, we were still being politically correct. At least this has led to some dialogue. A debate titled “Political Correctness- an excuse for avoiding Culturally Sensitive issues” was held at York Library and I spoke in favor of the motion which was accepted by the majority showing that Canadians are getting the PC fad.
Being politically incorrect, my family took a stand and sacrificed our own celebration of Eid at the end of November, because we wanted to show solidarity for minorities being routinely killed in Pakistan. Pakistan has suffered immense loss due to recent floods and I spent part of the year raising funds which were personally delivered to my niece who disbursed them to the needy.
Toronto adopted the slogan “Embracing the World” but embraced Rob Ford as Mayor. Good luck to them. In Mississauga, Queen Hazel McCallion didn’t really surprise anyone by keeping her seat, but Carolyn Parrish’s defeat was disappointing. Mississauga should adopt a slogan like “McCallion’s Multi-faith, Multi-lingual, Multi-ethnic Mosaic” because it’s a happening place with green space, parks, halal shops and burqas at every corner. I wasn’t invited to the opening party for the three Marilyn towers I hear it was awesome and these buildings have changed the skyline of Mississauga forever.
In faraway, frozen Calgary they voted in a Muslim mayor. He’s being asked by some media whether he’s Muslim or Canadian. It’s apples & oranges. One’s a nationality and the other’s a faith – like me he can be loyal to both without conflict.
2010 was a year of travel for me. Each time I leave Canada, I appreciate this country more, especially when I travel to the USA where there seems to be a permanent orange alert to keep Americans in a state of fear. They may as well make it a red-alert now. Which reminds me that I’ve been slapped with a new label – RED (Retired and Extremely Dangerous) shamelessly stolen from the film of the same name. Going the other way across the Atlantic has its own challenges since London, UK has become impossible to trespass with a handbag bigger than my wallet. When they say No at Heathrow, they mean No – so one piece of carry-on only.
I figure that since most New Year resolutions are made to break, I’ll make some suggestions for New Year resolutions for Canada, which they are at liberty to keep or discard.
– Keep Canada secular. Unlike what some people believe secular doesn’t mean without faith. It essentially means treating all faiths equally without giving one special accommodation over another. More importantly it means separation of church and state and we need urgently need this.
– Keep Canada free. We need to respect and support our liberties and freedoms which include freedom of speech. Too much is at stake when voices are muzzled by people who don’t like what’s being said. I was at the Human Rights Council in Geneva where I learnt that Canada is party to the ICCPR (International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights). Section 19 of this covenant clearly identifies that hate speech is not part of freedom of speech. Here is a refresher:
1.. Everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference.
2. Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.
– 3. The exercise of the rights provided for in paragraph 2 of this article carries with it special duties and responsibilities. It may therefore be subject to certain restrictions, but these shall only be such as are provided by law and are necessary:
– (a) For respect of the rights or reputations of others;
– (b) For the protection of national security or of public order or of public health or morals.
– Keep one system of laws and one school system across Canada. If every faith community wishes to have their own systems, we’ll have multiple layers of law and a school at every corner offering courses in a different language. Of course if we want to close schools for the holidays of every ethnic community in Canada, teachers will be glad to know that schools will be closed at least 200 days of the year.
– Canada needs to re-interpret Pierre Trudeau’s vision of a Multi-cultural Canada. I don’t think Trudeau meant that one or two cultures should dominate. Rather we mix and blend with each other, respecting, learning and understanding each other without cultures being thrust down people’s throats or being imposed on each other. This is called Pluralism and we are a pluralistic society, so let’s behave like the best the world has seen.
I hope this doesn’t offend – but Happy New Year to all.