Donald Trump is known for his volcanic personality, but over the course of the election I considered him a joke. His xenophobic rumblings were frightening indeed, but his ideas were too far-fetched to be take seriously—after all, it wasn’t like he would actually be elected.
Boy was I wrong. Election night was like a disaster unfolding before my eyes, and I realized the threat he posed was very real. But as a Canadian, I still felt like I was watching from a safe distance.
Then Trump took office, and his rumblings quickly erupted into executive orders, instantly burying years of progress. And then he really blew his stack, introducing a blatantly racist travel ban to bar Syrian refugees from entering the US and keep out immigrants from seven Muslim-majority nations. The impacts were felt far and wide, causing chaos and despair. But I still felt thankful to live in Canada, where we value diversity and tolerance.
I soon realized that disasters—natural or otherwise—are not confined to borders. Only two days after the travel ban, a Trump-supporting white supremacist (I refuse to invoke his name), walked into a Quebec City mosque and opened fire on innocent Muslims as they prayed. Six killed, nineteen injured, and seventeen children left fatherless. The travel ban has been lifted, but those lives were lost forever.
These events cast a devastating shadow, but I was inspired by the outpouring of love and support for the Muslim community. People around the world have protested the travel ban, rallying against Islamophobia. Thousands of Canadians attended vigils to mourn the victims of the mosque attack.
We need to continue the show of support for Muslims—and any minority group that is discriminated against. With hate crimes on the rise, we cannot settle back into a state of complacency or denial. We have to stand up against discrimination and religious persecution whenever and wherever we encounter it. Canada is not immune to racism and religious intolerance.
Just look at two of the Conservative leadership hopefuls and how they’ve behaved in the face of the mosque shooting. On one hand there’s Kellie Leitch, who continues to campaign on immigration screening. On the other hand, there’s Kevin O’Leary (another bullyish reality-TV star with no experience in politics), who posted a video of himself firing automatic weapons on same day as the funeral for the victims. These characters are almost as unbelievable as Trump, and equally as dangerous.
The next federal election is only a couple of years away, and we need to continue fighting to keep Canada the peaceful, diverse, tolerant nation we’re proud to call home. Let’s not make the same mistake that was made in the US. After all, natural disasters can’t be averted, but political and human disasters can.