A recent poll conducted by Ipsos for Global News has found that nearly half of Canadians think racist thoughts are normal and that they are more comfortable expressing those thoughts now than in the past.
This is a trend that’s been noticed by minority groups in Halifax as well.
Isaac Saney, a professor at Dalhousie University, says he has experienced racism first-hand in Halifax on multiple occasions. He says the most concerning incident happened in the fall when he was boarding a bus with his infant.
“When I was boarding the bus, these people jumped ahead of me and said: ‘Don’t you know that in Canada there are priorities of who can board the bus?'” said Saney.
“What they’re saying is that myself, as a non-white person, should know his or her place in the pecking order.”
According to the national poll, First Nations people and African-Canadians are among those likely to be targets of racism, but 59 per cent of respondents viewed Muslims as the most likely targets.
Afua Cooper, a sociology professor at Dalhousie University and a Muslim woman, says this is concerning.
“My alert level is quite high with regards to safety,” she said.
Cooper says she noticed a real shift towards the treatment of Muslims after 9-11.
“The former prime minister actually once stated that the largest threat to Canada’s internal security was ‘Islamism,'” she said.
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“I’m not sure what ‘Islamism’ is, but of course, the point is made and so what that did was to tell Canadians as a whole that Muslims don’t belong in Canada.”
Practising Muslim Will King says it’s something that those in his faith face every day.
“One time, I was driving down the street, and someone cut me off and got out and started swearing at me and said: ‘Go home, you Arab,'” said King.
Meanwhile, Cooper says things hit especially close to home after the Quebec mosque shooting.
“Since the Quebec Mosque (shooting), there’s been this sense of insecurity and vulnerability so you go to the mosque, and you’re looking around and you’re not sure if a shooter is going to burst on the scene,” she said.
Saney says the political climate is partly to blame as politicians are not doing enough to stop hate speech and address a rise in white supremacy groups. He says that while many consider this to be mainly an issue south of the border, he says Canada is not immune.
“We have people like Doug Ford and (Jason) Kenney who have been elected, who basically have, in a sense, not spoken out against white supremacy. We have the People’s Party — Maxime Bernier’s party — which is incredibly anti-immigrant,” he said.
Cooper agrees with the sentiment.
“No politician should be linking one particular community with certain crimes or certain stereotypes,” she said. “We need to smash those stereotypes and see the humanity in each and every one of us.”