‘We need to treat racism as a virus’: Why the U.S. election could impact Canada’s issues

It was thought a big Joe Biden landslide would be America's repudiation of the politics of race favoured by Donald Trump. But whoever wins, the result of the American election will be narrow. Xiaoli Li reports.

By Xiaoli Li

OTTAWA (CityNews) – Many pundits expected a Joe Biden landslide, but Donald Trump has made the 2020 U.S. election far closer and narrower than expected.

Many Canadians also hoped that a Biden win would be a clear repudiation of the politics of race favoured by the American President. But nearly half of all voters say they want more of Donald Trump.

“I wasn’t surprised by the chaos. What I was surprised at, was the number of people who decided after four years of Donald Trump, they wanted four more years,” explained Fareed Khan, with Canadians United Against Hate.

“We thought Trump was an aberration in 2016 and now when we see 68-million Americans vote for him – you know, almost half of the population that came to vote, voted for him – we now have to accept that this isn’t an aberration, that this is a facet of the American character.”

Khan added Canadians can’t think of Trump as an outlier. The same President who said there were ‘very fine people on both sides’ of the Charlottesville Unite the Right Rally, and said a group of visible minority congresswomen should go back to their own countries – has won at least 68-million votes.

America’s seeming willingness to support a President who characterized Black Lives Matter protesters as thugs and looters, isn’t something Canadians can ignore.

While Canada hasn’t yet seen the same expression of right wing populism at the ballot box, Khan says Canada’s leaders must be ready to stamp it out before it happens.

“We need to treat racism as a virus, because that’s what it is. It’s a social virus. And we need to address it, similarly to how we addressed the COVID-19 virus. We need politicians to step up and first of all, call it out, call it what it is, to admit it’s there, and then take the necessary action, politically – through legislation and action to address this virus.”

“I think there is a very real risk in that smugness, ‘it can’t be as bad here, it won’t be as bad here’. The United States said the same thing right? ‘That would never happen here, we would never see somebody elected who would actually align himself with white supremacist groups’,” said Megan Boler.

Boler was born and raised in the U.S., but has lived in Canada for two decades. She says Canadians shouldn’t view America’s move to racist populism as isolated.

The two nations share more than just a border. American media that helped Trump win in 2016, have significant followings in Canada – and influence Canada’s own outsider media.

“It’s easy to be smug, right? Right now, America seems like a cartoon character of things we love to despite, but it’s very much right here, and those borders are porous,” said Boler. “Despite the fact we’re in COVID times, there’s been some barriers thrown up, that media moves back and forth. And we’ve seen how quickly media can shape an entire population.”

Now both Boler and Khan point to education as both a source of frustration, and possible answer. Multiculturalism is taught in schools as a Canadian value, but both say there’s not enough done to educate children about Canada’s own colonialist and racist past, and present.

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