When I was 9 years old and living in the (then) Toronto suburb of Scarborough I was chowing down on Chinese food with my parents, and an East Indian family.
Our host was a man named Joe Pereira.
Joe and my Dad, Joseph O’Mara, became friends after being coworkers at a Scarborough insurance company.
I didn’t think much about it at the time but now I’m wondering if the Caucasian managers, adjusters and office folk thought, without saying it out loud, “Joe is friends with that Paki?”
We’re talking about the early ’70s.
“WHAT DO YOU CALL A N….”
At school, we told Paki jokes. And African American jokes that painted them as people with big lips who couldn’t possibly own anything unless they had stolen it. Stick their lips to a wall. What do you call a (n word) with a new bike? A thief.
We were young and ignorant.
I don’t know if comments were made behind Dad’s back. I’m hoping not. His managers did give us Leafs tickets a few times a year, mostly for games against the likes of the California Golden Seals.
That’s Reggie Leach, I’m a Flyers fan. Leach escaped from Oakland to win two Stanley Cups in Philadelphia. Leach is First Nations, Ojibwe.
Dad always sided with the targets of abuse or anyone he felt was being unfairly maligned. Maybe it’s because he had a neuromuscular disorder similar to MS. As much as he laughed at “A Fish Called Wanda”, Joe O’Mara cringed over every scene that featured Michael Palin’s stuttering character.
I know what Dad was thinking. “There’s nothing amusing about stuttering. I have a disorder, so does he.”
Dad would have slayed people on social media.
HOW ARE WE SOFT?
That ridiculous “Canada is soft” rant circulating on Facebook? Dad would have ripped it to shreds.
Canada is not soft. It’s a nation of strong willed , tougher-than-most people. We are resilient, We appreciate the support of our neighbours when things aren’t going so well. We donate to local food banks, and to causes around the globe.
The aforementioned Facebook post suggests Canada spends far too much on foreign aid when, in fact, our nation has been criticized around the world for not giving enough.
Stephen Harper’s Conservatives sent more dollars abroad (higher percentage of GDP) than the current government does.
We love our country, and anyone suffering through civil wars, drought and dictatorships in other countries.
I was born in Manchester, England. So, imagine if, in 1965, the Canadian government had said my family was not welcome here. Your home is being appropriated for a new motorway, tough darts.
One of my favourite Facebook friends is Farah Nasser. A few years back, Farah was diagnosed with polyarteritis nodarosa, which affects “the medium-sized arteries, which become swollen and damaged from being attacked by rogue immune cells.”
Farah is a Muslim, born in Mississauga. Here’s link to her Global News series, “First Time I Was Called…”
Cleary, we haven’t progressed much in terms of racial tolerance. That Facebook plea to “help our own at home,” slash foreign aid and halt immigration is a sad reminder.
Admission from yours truly. I developed a crush on Farah back when she anchored the weekend news on City TV. Dad was rather fond of Lisa LaFlamme.
The apple does not fall far from the tree. We like smart women.
Facebook is full of extremes. If I am here and you are way over there and there’s no chance of us meeting in the middle, farewell. Unfriend me. I will not be offended. Call me a snowflake. Maybe I am, If that means standing up for those who are being attacked simply by the colour of their skin or because you think white British or European immigrants are more Canadian than a Syrian refugee escaping atrocities we thankfully have never even imagined….
No, not gonna go there.
A RICHER NATION IN SO MANY WAYS
If you believe Canada is a better place in which to live or raise a family, welcome. We celebrate our diversity. You can drive down Markham Road in Scarborough, stop at the traffic light and see women in hijabs protecting adorable children from ongoing motorists and think…
They are Canadian and happy to be here.
You feel the same way.
Back in Manchester, my family had the choice to move a few blocks away. We wouldn’t have been threatened in any way. Recent refugees could have been murdered, jailed or oppressed.
We are one. A proud nation, envied around the globe.
Soft? No, tough as nails, especially on a hockey rink, but with hearts bigger than Lake Superior.