On Wednesday, Canada Lost Two Sons

Michael Zehaf-Bibeau. Photo from his school's yearbook (CBC).

Michael Zehaf-Bibeau. Photo from his school’s yearbook (CBC).

 

 

 

 

 

 

This week, thousands of Canadians lined the Highway of Heros in honour of Nathan Cirillo, Canada’s son, and victim of Wednesday’s shooting. With attention focused on Nathan’s life and sacrifice, we might forget that Canada lost a second son this week – Michael Zahef-Bibeau.

Michael, the shooter, was a child of our own.

As a victim of addiction and isolation, Michael experienced a long, slow mental breakdown. He became reliant on drugs and turned to extremist thoughts. In his greatest time of need he lacked support from his family, friends, community, and government. As a last resort, Michael turned to violence.

Like Michael, there are hundreds of people in Canada that are emotionally distressed and mentally cornered. We may be tempted to pass extraordinary measures to ‘secure’ ourselves from future events like this, but we should be wary. If history can provide any insight, it is that ‘safeguards’ such as these never achieve lasting peace. They placate with a false, temporary sense of security.

Instead, let us reach out to our marginalized and isolated. Let us remind them that they are loved, and let’s give them the tools they need to succeed.

At the end of the day, we Canadians judge ourselves in two ways:

  1. How we treat our marginalized and our voiceless minorities
  2. How we overcome our struggles

Let’s show ourselves and the world that positivity and humanity can, and will  prevail.

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Diversity our Strength

Why have I decided to blog about Toronto? Well, Toronto is the most exciting city in the world right now. Okay, I may have a slight bias- I was born and raised here. But seriously, Toronto’s social and ethnic diversity is unmatched the world over- I think that is something worth celebrating. Take a look at the table below; it shows the ethnic identities claimed by the residents of Toronto. The data was compiled by Statistics Canada in the 2006 census.

Rank

Ethnic Identity

Share of Pop.

Rank

Ethnic Identity

Share of Pop.

1

English

12.9%

15

Ukrainian

2.5%

2

Chinese

12%

16

Russian

2.4%

3

Canadian

11.3%

17

Sri Lankan

2.3%

4

Irish

9.7%

18

Spanish

2.2%

5

Scottish

9.5%

19

Greek

2.2%

6

Indian

7.6%

20

British Isles (general)

2.0%

7

Italian

6.9%

21

Korean

1.5%

8

Filipino

5.5%

22

Dutch

1.5%

9

German

4.6%

23

Iranian

1.4%

10

French

4.5%

24

Vietnamese

1.4%

11

Polish

3.8%

25

Pakistani

1.2%

12

Portuguese

3.6%

26

Hungarian

1.2%

13

Jamaican

3.2%

27

Guyanese

1.1%

14

Jewish

3.1%

28

Welsh

1%

In addition to this table, there are dozens of ethnic groups with significant communities, yet they represent less than 1% of Toronto’s population. This list includes Afghans, Arabs, Barbadians, Bengalis, Brazilians, Bulgarians, Colombians, Croats, Ecuadorians, Ethiopians, Eritreans, Grenadians, Haitians, Macedonians, Mexicans, Romanians, Salvadorans, Serbs, Somalis, Tibetans, Trinidadians, Vincentians and Venezuelans. The data testifies to Toronto’s true diversity.

As amazing as these findings are, I wasn’t entirely surprised. Statistics Canada probably would have found their results to be similar if they surveyed my high school. This is the Toronto that I grew up with. A Toronto whose identity is intertwined with multiculturalism and diversity.

I’ve largely used ethnicity to prove the point of the city’s diversity simply because it’s the easiest to perceive. I must point out that, peoples of all ages, languages, religions genders and orientations are welcome here. Toronto has the largest Pride and Caribana (Caribbean Carnival) celebration in North America. The city also has some of the finest mosques, hindu and buddhist temples, synagogues and churches in the country. As a result of not being dominated by a single ethnic or social group- the Toronto experience is a shared experience where everyone is an equal player- where cultural differences are not just respected, but also celebrated. Still don’t believe me? Check this out…

Toronto’s social and ethnic diversity leaves its impressions on every aspect of city life- so much so that it has become enshrined in the city’s motto, ‘Diversity our Strength’. As Toronto grows, diversity is playing a defining role in transforming the city’s identity and its built environment. I will use this blog as a journey through Toronto’s social and built environments, highlighting areas where we live up to our virtues of diversity and equality, and underscoring areas where we must improve. Toronto may be the most socially and ethnically diverse city on the planet, but we’re not perfect- there is room to do better.

Feel free to join the conversations, and visit again soon!

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