Community Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan and Canada’s Recipe for Civil Unrest

    Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan and Canada’s Recipe for Civil Unrest

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    Whether you came here ten years ago or 100 years ago, we’re all immigrants. Unless you’re Indigenous. Ever since I came to this portfolio, racism has been personal: how do we get everyone in our beautiful country to feel represented?  

    We all have the same story. We came to Canada for the opportunity to work hard and make the best life possible for our families. 

    We have made a lot of mistakes and we still, as a country, have a lot of work to do. But it starts with an honest conversation about racism, without becoming defensive. I know that when we talk about racism it gets very personal. That’s a good thing. I wear a turban. But when I listen to movements like Black Lives Matter I have to put myself in their position and that helps me understand. By doing that, I get a different perspective—I become educated—and I think, as a country, that’s what we have to do.

    It’s also called ‘empathy,’ and it allows all Canadians to understand what I go through, or what women go through. From there, we can have thorough discussions to find honest solutions. This is the way we can make change, together. 

    Education is the key to empathy, and it’s critically important not to alienate people who want to help. There are Canadians who didn’t realize these situations existed. That’s a hard conversation. But I’ve been having them my entire career, and it’s essential. I’ll give you an example. Say someone wants me to take my turban off. I never say I’m the Minister of Defence. I challenge them on their rule. It’s about educating them so the next time someone comes through your airport or courthouse, you won’t stereotype them. People can learn. People can change.  

    This is Canada. And we need to do better. We have a lot of work to do in this country regarding racism. But in Canada, everyone is welcome. When you come to Canada, we don’t want you to melt into our culture. We want you to celebrate your own culture, and do it with us. Together, if we genuinely want to learn about each other, we can break down our barriers. We must celebrate our differences. 

    Canada isn’t perfect. But you can still work hard in this country and break through barriers. Be proud of where you come from. Educate your neighbours. Every Canadian should feel there’s a pathway forward for them becoming Prime Minister of this country. That’s the country I want for our children. That’s what diversity means for me. 

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