A federal election is still months away but already the newly announced candidate for Dartmouth Cole-Harbour is being told she’s not right for the job because of her religion and ethnicity.
Rana Zaman says she has received comments online telling her she’s not wanted.
“How terrible Muslims are, you’re terrible people, you don’t belong here, we don’t want your kind,” she said, describing some of the comments.
She says she’s even faced similar comments while door knocking, but at those times she’s been able to address them head on.
“These are misinformed people,” she said, adding that sharing her story with them can help them to be more understanding of other immigrants and minorities.
But while Zaman works to bridge the gap, others are looking to divide.
Alex Khasnabish, a professor of anthropology at Mount Saint Vincent University, says these comments will likely become more common as the election draws nearer and campaigning gets underway.
“It’s something that we have been warned about, not only because of what we saw going on in the States a couple of years ago, but also because of the nature of the campaigns being run by the Conservatives and parties closer to the right,” said Khasnabish.
He points to history showing us that in times of crisis, some politicians look for groups on whom they can place blame and use to sow division.
Zaman says that she has chosen to speak out about what she’s experiencing to shed light on what she considers a bigger issue.
“Bullying is becoming very prevalent here in our little community,” she said.
She says she’s especially considered about hateful comments towards immigrants trickling down to school-age children. Already, she’s had immigrant families speak to her about how their children are being targeted on the playground.
“The things they’re saying is that ‘you don’t belong here,’ ‘your kind is not like us,’ — they use derogatory comments,” she said, adding that she worries about the effect the comments are having on young children.
“When you have the mother of a child tell you that their child is being bullied so severely they’re saying I just want to throw myself off a building or in front of a bus, that I don’t want to live anymore, it’s so bad. Something has to be done.”
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Khasnabish says one of the most important things people can do is to talk about the problem, not ignore it, and if you see or hear hateful comments, to speak up and let people know that it is not acceptable.
“I think one of the weaknesses of Canadian society is our myth around being a good, multicultural, tolerant place where this stuff would never happen.”
Zaman says she understands that it may be impossible to truly eliminate hate, but agrees that ignoring it and allowing it to continue is no solution.
“What we can do is not allow it to be the norm.”