Being put on this earth as a white, Christian, heterosexual, physically and mentally capable female has given me a certain amount of privilege. The female part has not always worked in my favour...in fact, there have been times in my life when I have experienced blatant discrimination. This was especially the case in my younger years before legislation was enacted to counter those kinds of experiences. However, for the most part I consider myself lucky. My life could have been different.
I could have been born in a war-torn country, or my family might have practised a faith which was seen as unacceptable. Rather than being heterosexual I might have been born as someone having to decide whether I should come out of the closet...or even have been born in a country where a variation in sexuality is punishable by death.
In this part of the world we take pride in the idea that we are a democratic society. We tell ourselves that we see all others as equals. That should be true. Yet, news headlines tell us that is not the case. Hate crimes in Canada have reached an all-time high. In 2017, the last year data was gathered, it was reported there were a total of 2,073 hates crimes - compared to 1,409 the year before.
Data has been collected and recorded for a decade. While there have been small, steady increases since 2014...it has been noted that from 2016 to 2017 the increase in hate crimes nearly doubled. Information from Statistics Canada, as reported by one news source, indicates that 43 % of these crimes were motivated by race or ethnicity, 41% were motivated by the hate of religion and 10% by sexual orientation.
That means that I - a white, heterosexual, Christian woman lucked out. While I may have been put down – or thought as being 'less than' because I am a female, or possibly because I am an elderly female – I have not been the target of a hate crime. For me it has been the Luck of the Draw. Some folks might figure I might be willing to sit back and bask in my luck. The truth is that those statistics make me very angry. How is it that some people who are fortunate enough to live in a free, democratic society give themselves permission to commit crimes against people who are not exactly like themselves. Some of those crimes have caused death...such as the Mosque shooting in Quebec.
Some experts believe the increase in hate crimes is the result of polarizing politics. The push by some against immigration, and the impact of the nationalistic sounds made by the leader of the country to the south seems to have made hate of 'others' acceptable. Then we have the home-grown movement, the Proud Boys. This is the creation of the far-right political commentator, Gavin McInnes. McInnes moved to Canada from Great Britain at the age of 4. The reason for the move was to find a better quality of life. His being able to obtain degrees from Carleton University and Concordia University speaks to the quality of his life. While he has benefited from his life in Canada, and now the United States...he does not seem to be willing to share his good fortune with all others.
His organization is considered to be white nationalistic. Some use the words neo-fascist to describe this alt-right group. Women might want to be aware that McInnes refers to himself as a western chauvinist. We likely remember the Canada Day, 2017, incident in Halifax when 5 members of the Canadian Armed Forces, who identified as Proud Boys, disrupted an Indigenous ceremony. It would seem that the persons in that group somehow didn't realize the only people who are true citizens of Canada were those they were taunting and pushing around. They have always been here...the rest of us are immigrants.
Hate is so destructive. It takes lives, is destructive to lives. It diminishes lives...those who are the recipients of the hate...and especially those who do the hating.
Shirley Hallee is a freelance writer living in Amherst. Her column appears weekly in the Amherst News.