“I Have Never Experienced Racism in Quebec”

Photo by Marek Piwnicki on Unsplash

These were the words that jumped off the page while I was going through the data gathered from a recent whole systems change method I co-facilitated a few weeks ago.

“I have never experienced racism in Quebec.”

And if you’re wondering, no, this was not coming from a white male nor female. It came from an immigrant. Just like me. The difference was that this person has been in this country for less than 10 years.

And believe it or not, this was NOT the first time I hear some version of this statement — also from other visible minorities.

As an immigrant, I can understand where this is coming from. I had my share of ‘they opened their country to us’ speeches. Some of us are brought up to ignore and even normalize racist comments and microaggressions (see a note about microaggressions below) on the pretense that we need to be forever grateful for even having had the chance to immigrate to this country. We are brought up to look at the world around us through some really rosy immigrant glasses —

Everything is great.

At least it’s better than our country of origin.

We have everything here. Just be grateful.

And that’s how we go about life- secretly thanking every Canadian for the chance to be here.

I immigrated to Canada when I was only 8 years old, almost thirty years ago. Even though I wasn’t born here, I was already a Canadian citizen thanks to my dad who had been living in Western Canada since he was 17 years old. My brother and I had a difficult childhood. My parents tried to make it work but the weight of immigration was too much for their already frail relationship. They split a few years after we joined my father here. Let’s leave that story for another day — well, maybe.

Don’t get me wrong. I am lucky. I didn’t choose to come here but definitely feel lucky when I look at the state of the world. We are all lucky to be Canadians. But should I ignore what’s going on in my own country? In my own province, just because I feel lucky? Nope. At least, not anymore.

I bet some of you didn’t think I meant Canada when I said ‘my own country’ did you? Like they say in my field: the problem is in the room!

I have to be honest; the reason why I have the courage to speak out now (even if it’s still quite vaguely I find) is because of the current movement towards Equity, Diversity and Inclusion. I draw parallels to the women who came out with their #metoo stories many years after it actually happened because a few had the courage to do it first.

I don’t have the guts to do it yet. AND where do I even start? There are sooo many stories: from microaggressions to more overt forms of racist and islamophobic comments over the years; I don’t know where to begin. All I know is that it’s hard to write about anything else at the moment. My intention was to begin writing about my work experience, my expertise, my organization development mandates, but no. This is not happening at the moment. I need to get all these pains out of my system somehow. Hopefully, the consequence would be to convince those who still need stories to believe that systemic racism exists.

Just because you think you’ve never experienced it, it doesn’t mean it is non-existent. Please don’t diminish people’s experiences with these types of statements. Believe me, racism in Quebec and Canada is alive and well into our systems.

A Note About Microaggressions: Microaggressions are brief verbal or non-verbal encounters that can subtly convey humiliating, derogatory, or negative attitudes toward underrepresented or marginalized groups. Microaggressions can be intentional or unintentional — meaning that the person perpetrating these actions may be unaware of the impact of their actions and words.



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