Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Mortimer Bus Gang and The Murder

On Monday, I went to Toronto to get together with four people I hadn't seen in about five years. We originally met on the Mortimer 62 bus. We all lived in the same neighbourhood at the time and it turned out that we had, and still have, some things in common. Mostly, I think we share a belief in what I'll call the Canadian ideal.

We are a disparate group in some ways. We come from different parts of the world. Three of us chose to become Canadians, two of us were born here, and of those two, one is aboriginal. Our skin colours range from pale and somewhat pink after one beer, to very dark brown. Our religious beliefs and lack of belief, also vary. We all have children who were born in Canada.

When we reunited and shared some of our stories, there was much laughter and then some serious discussion of what should be expected from people who are Canadian. The discussion was prompted by the very recent murder of a young Muslim girl. Her father is said to have murdered her because she did not follow the rules of his culture and she would not wear the head covering. We were all appalled and saddened by the event, though some of us were less shocked than others.

It can be extremely difficult for first generation Canadians to accept the choices their children make, especially when the children break cultural or religious rules. Two of our gang told us of the ways their own children had rebelled and of their reactions as parents. They were angry, yes, but that anger was tempered by their belief that they needed to act in accordance with the Canadian ideal.

I don't think we defined what the Canadian ideal is, but perhaps we defined what it isn't. Tolerance of difference does not include accepting differences that are harmful or discriminatory to a person, whether the intolerance has it's origin in culture, in faith, or in race, it makes no difference. It is simply wrong.

If the Canadian ideal ever becomes a wide spread reality, and I'd like to think it can; it will happen slowly, over generations. I am an optimist, but as my friends have proved, I am not alone. If sixty years ago, a small and very disparate group like the Mortimer bus gang had met at a bus stop, would we all have immediately started chatting with one another? Probably not, because it would have seemed too strange, too threatening, both for the brown people (including a large very fit, dark brown man) and for the one pink person. I remain cautiously hopeful and "as Canadian as possible, under the circumstances."

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