Friday, October 11, 2013

Public education needed in small and medium-sized towns and cities to better integrate new-comers

Nothing can explain or justify the actions of these young men who have allegedly perpetrated hate crimes against Muslim students. (See Globe and Mail article by Jill Mahoney below) Hatred, bigotry and fear continue to dwell in the hearts and minds of those continuing to resist the inevitable and quite consequential demographic changes that are sweeping the world, including Canada. We have historically been a relatively welcoming country, incorporating immigrants from many countries into our culture, our workplaces, our schools and our shops and restaurants. Yesterday, on Princess Street in downtown Kingston, my wife and I noticed and commented on the picture of three middle-aged Muslim women munching on Big Mac's in the window of McDonald's, as a sign of the degree and permanence of the changes.
As the world changes, however, government programs, including perhaps programs initiated by the colleges and universities of this country, would help to inform those new-comers about how our society works, and also long-time residents about the need for respect, tolerance and hospitality not only towards all citizens, but especially to those who have arrived here from distant places. We need to do much more to built bridges between the local culture and the new arrivals, and consider not merely the accidental and incidental encounters, but also the formal and structured opportunities to learn about people from all countries of the world, focussing especially on those countries from which most immigrants in any area have come.
Learning about the geography, history, culture, economy and political systems under which these immigrants lived, prior to emigrating to Canada, in our schools, our colleges and our universities, and also through the propagation of those information sessions in the local media, would do much to reduce the tensions that have obviously erupted in what are not called "hate crimes" that will likely prompt both sides to ratchet up the rhetoric. And such programs cannot be left to the religious communities, where one might assume there might be both a higher level of tolerance (NOT!) and where there also might be some knowledge and awareness of comparative religions (also not likely!)
These have to be secular programs, financed by the federal and provincial governments, in which not only public servants and retailers could and should participate, but also ordinary citizens could benefit from exposure to such information as well.
Of course, some of this work could be and probably is being undertaken by local service clubs who could invite immigrant spokespersons to address their members, and possibly their members' spouses.
Ironically there is more likelihood that such programs exist already in the large urban centres; nevertheless, there is a growing need for them in the smaller and medium-sized communities, where generally racially-tinged attitudes are more prevalent. We have to re-evaluate our conventional perceptions that large numbers merit large dollars, and this is one of those situations.
Furthermore, this act, and others like it, would barely merit a mention in the large urban dailies, unless someone were wounded or killed. Yet in the smaller towns and cities, this is even more significant. Perhaps that is why the Globe and Mail carried it on its digital edition.
We thank the Globe for paying such attention, and look forward to local community leaders, including the heads of both universities and community college, along with civic leaders and local politicians to put their heads together to develop a strategy for public information programs, their curriculum and their public dispersal.

Police arrest three men in suspected anti-Muslim hate crime in Kingston, Ont.

By Jill Mahoney, Globe and Mail, October 11, 2013

Police have arrested three men and are searching for a fourth after several Muslim students in Kingston, Ont., were attacked in what investigators are calling a hate crime.
A group of six Queen’s University students was targeted by four young men on bicycles who yelled “racial slurs and hate-based profanities,” police said. The students were attacked as they walked back from seeing a movie in the city’s north end early Sunday morning. 
“It’s a crime that dictates a swift response from the police,” said Detective Constable Jay Finn of Kingston Police. “This type of behaviour won’t be tolerated in our community.”
Investigators say the random attack began when the suspects approached the male students with an offer to sell them drugs. When they declined, the suspects began shouting racial slurs and attacking them.
One of the suspects had a weapon, believed to be a baseball bat, and hit one victim on the arm and leg, causing bruising.
Queen’s principal Daniel Woolf denounced the attack, saying the university was committed to protecting its students and staff from hate and discrimination.
“I am shocked and dismayed to learn that anyone in this community would be the victim of an unprovoked attack of this kind, let alone six of our students,” Mr. Woolf said in a statement. “I can only imagine how shaken they must be feeling after this incident, and my thoughts are with them.”
Police released a grainy photo one of the victims took on his cellphone, saying they believed the suspects likely lived close to the area of the attack, which happened on Fraser Street near Patrick Street. Det. Constable Finn said the photo helped lead to the arrests.
Three men, who are 18, 19 and 20 years old, face charges of assault with a weapon and uttering threats. Two also face charges of breach of probation.
Police are still looking for a fourth suspect.

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