It happened a few years ago.
I was teaching at a private school in Toronto at the time and during one of my breaks, I ran to the bank to get some cash. When the machine began to prompt me with directions, I was really taken aback when I was given the option of English or Cantonese during the transaction. It bothered me.
I’m not racist. Way back in my early years at High School, (and you have to understand that was close to forty years ago!) one of my first “crushes” was on a strong and handsome athlete in our school who happened to be black. I kissed him on New Years Eve and to my mom’s credit, the only reason I got into big trouble was because I was supposed to be concentrating on babysitting, not boyfriends that night. I don’t tell racist jokes, I’ve lived in foreign countries and gotten to know and respect many people from different countries. Most importantly, I’ve desired to live a life of love towards all people in a way that honors God, the Creator of all.
No..racism wasn’t the issue.
What bothered me is that I believe that when you live in Canada, you learn English and/or French and you follow the Canadian ways.
I was reminded of the bank machine incident this week as I read a few contentious articles about whether Monday’s ban of the niqab at citizenship ceremonies is considered discriminatory. As of Monday, new citizens must show their face to the citizenship judge when they take their oath to ensure they are actually reciting the oath.
Seems reasonable to me.
Yet, critics question the motive of this new rule. “Ihsaan Gardee of Canadian Council on American-Islamic relations said the government is confusing the public by adopting the new rule while planning to launch the Office of Religious Freedoms.”
History has it that in Canada, people don’t wear veils and niqabs when they are saying the oath. That’s our country’s way. If people want to become Canadian citizens and experience the freedoms in this country, that’s what they need to do. Why does it have to get so complicated?
As mentioned before, I have lived in two other countries for a long period of time – I lived in Germany for a year and Slovakia for three years. I chose to live in these countries for various reasons and I reveled in learning about the new culture and languages. I worked hard at understanding and accepting these countries’ “ways” and I was very aware of ethnocentric tendencies. During neither overseas experience did I expect people to speak to me in English, serve me Canadian food or do things the Canadian way – I wasn’t in Canada. I went through many difficult cultural adjustments, particularly in Slovakia but I did what I needed to do to respect the people and customs in that country because I chose to live there.
I love the diversity that we have in Canada but I hold on dearly to what is Canadian. The problem is that those Canadian distinctives are becoming less and less.