I’m not a politically correct person. I won’t take this opportunity to offend everyone, but in my personal life, I don’t feel bound by the precious sensibilities of our nation’s most delicate people.
But ignorance is ignorance.
How can Quebec’s soccer authorities justify upholding a ban on turbans? Answer: they can’t.
NP columnist Michael Den Tandt doesn’t mince words, calling the prohibition “shamefully stupid”: http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2013/06/04/michael-den-tandt-quebec-soccer-federations-ban-on-turbans-is-shamefully-stupid/
For the record, I also thought allowing a Sikh RCMP officer to wear a turban on duty was a reasonable accommodation.
Acknowledging, even honouring, traditions doesn’t require us to remain static. History will still exist, good and bad, regardless of what we do moving forward. So when we ask ourselves what accommodations we should make for multi-culturalism, we need to make sure we keep a clear eye on what is cosmetic and what is substantive.
Sikhs don’t consider a turban cosmetic, of course. But to non-Sikh Canadians it’s, well, a hat. Do we really want to discourage qualified individuals from devoting their lives to keeping our communities safe because the hat they feel they must wear is different than the hat our officers have always worn?
Do we want to stop kids from playing soccer because their values require them to wear a piece of cloth on their heads?
You don’t have to like turbans. You don’t have to like baseball caps. Do you really care who wears either or neither?
Reasonable accommodation means we embrace new tastes, smells and sounds. We welcome exotic cuisines and spices, music and languages. They are vital to new Canadians and they enrich our lives, too.
At the same time, we should utterly reject fast or large shifts in the core values that have organically developed on this piece of real estate over hundreds of years.
This is tricky, though. The reality is that Western values are the most progressive on the planet. This has some downsides – social engineering by overbearing government and special interests – but more upsides. Yet as immigrant populations grow, and vote, there is a danger our politics will come to reflect more conservative values.
Some of you might like that. I won’t.
I don’t want more conservative attitudes towards women (or men, for that matter), more intolerance of alternative lifestyles or greater prohibitions on mind-altering substances (my favourite is beer, but my neighbor should get to enjoy a joint whenever s/he wants, too).
We used to think in Canada that the Liberal party had the immigrant vote in its pocket. That has shifted some, though, as Conservatives have courted the vote of new Canadians from traditional cultures. The Conservatives are far from right-wing dogmatists, despite attempts by their Lefty opponents to paint them that way. But it’s still worth noting that messages about traditional marriage, for example, resonate with much of the immigrant community.
We need immigrants. Nova Scotia in particular needs to attract a lot more immigrants. And people won’t choose to live where they don’t feel wanted. So if you don’t like people from away, tough: the future of your healthcare system and retirement subsidies depends, in part, on taxes new Canadians will pay.
But despite the populist view that “those immigrants” don’t want to change to fit in here, I think many do. I think many are excited about moving to a new country and discovering a new culture. Here’s the cool part: the new Canadians who don’t want to change may be more likely to go to big centres with large immigrant communities, such as Toronto, Montreal or Vancouver; my guess is the immigrants who come to Nova Scotia are more likely to be ones who want to learn about Canadian culture, and the Maritimes has one of the most robust and distinct cultures in this country.
Imagine knowing you could live in Toronto, with people from your homeland, but choosing to live in Halifax instead – or choosing to live in Amherst? An immigrant who chooses to live in Amherst is a person who is likely ready to embrace a new way of living.
Let’s not repel them by undervaluing the cultures they’ve come from, the traditions they’ve grown up with, and the contribution their unique perspective can make to the future of this province.
Let’s never be petty like the Quebec soccer league and penalize players because we don’t like their hats.
UPDATE: It occurred to me that I wrote at some length about not sweating the small stuff – enjoying the colour and flavor of other cultures and celebrating it here – but I didn’t elaborate on some of the Western values on which I don’t think we should compromise. They include items like the separation of church and state, free speech, democracy and rule of law, tolerance of difference, an emphasis on private ownership and individual liberty/responsibility. These values aren’t foreign to most countries on the planet, of course, but it’s my view that Western industrialized nations, among them Canada, have the most robust versions of these virtues.