An Essay on the 2019 election, the Trudeau brownface/blackface, making difficult decisions, and fighting racism.

I have been trying to listen to what my heart is feeling and make sense of this election, Trudeau’s brownface/blackface, and what all of this means for our futures. Get ready - this is a long post and I ramble. Having discussions and writing down my thoughts are my way of understanding my feelings. If you read through to the end, thanks for your time.

TL;DR - We all have difficult decisions to make, and all of the choices we have are problematic. We are burdened by our electoral system that might push us to make strategic choices and vote for the lesser of evils. But now is the time to reaffirm our commitment to and double down on challenging racism in every part of our lives. Racism doesn’t begin or end with Trudeau. There are racist policies to fight. But we still have to support candidates that are People of Colour, because representation still matters.

For me, the individual candidates - not just parties or Prime Minister - are an important factor to my decisions. That’s why I’m supporting and campaigning for Omar Alghabra in Mississauga-Centre. But I haven’t made my decision yet on who I will be voting for in my riding of Mississauga-Erin Mills. That’s why I’m trying to record special episodes of the Stories Podcast interviewing my candidates.

Let’s continue to commit to fighting racism, everyday and everywhere.

In short, no one wins. I’m cynical and pessimistic. No matter what happens in a few weeks, Canada will have lost as we struggle with our values and our principles. If either of the two leading parties win the election, we will have chosen either a Conservative government who is racist, misogynistic, xenophobic, homophobic, transphobic, dangerous to climate change, and who refuses to accept the basic human rights of Indigenous peoples; or we will have held our nose and implicitly accepted the incumbent Prime Minister, who had always been part of the rich, white, male dominant establishment, born and raised in these colonial institutions, who played dress-up in India, and as it has now been revealed, dressed up in brownface/blackface multiple times, making a mockery of People of Colour.

Our other choices have little chance of forming government, each with their own controversies - and we may vote for them, at the risk of splitting the vote and allowing another worse option winning the election (or worse, voting for the white supremacist People’s Party of Canada). This the dilemma with our current electoral system, that we have might have to think strategically and vote for the lesser of evils. (Let’s just get rid of First Past the Post altogether)

I’ve been thinking about it a lot over the past few weeks - about how People of Colour feel and about how I feel. I’ve listened to many different perspectives from many friends, friends of friends, from people in my network, from leaders in our community like Frishta, Dr. Joseph Smith, Naheed Nenshi, Maha, my friend MP for Mississauga-Centre Omar Alghabra, and many others. People are truly deeply hurt by our Prime Minister making a mockery of People of Colour. Many of us have felt the explicit or implicit acts of racism in our daily lives, who were made to feel “less.” To those who have felt this strongly and deeply, you should know that you are loved and I recognize your hurt.

What we should also acknowledge, a perspective I heard from many People of Colour, as well as a podcast that I listened to: People of Colour are angry that White People are angry FOR THEM, when it’s not that big of a deal to them and it won’t change their vote. According to analysis done by the pollster that was on the podcast, in some ways white people are angrier about this than People of Colour. We recognize that you are upset and that allyship is important. But you should also recognize that this ultimately affects People of Colour - make the space for them to voice their concerns and LISTEN to them genuinely. Don’t berate People of Colour for not being as upset as YOU THINK THEY SHOULD BE. AND DON’T YOU DARE IMPLY THERE IS AN UNCLE TOM MINDSET.

Another thing that I’ve discussed: do people change? I think people can learn to be better and unlearn some racist and colonial mindsets. I think we all have to do that, at all times, and we must continue to change. That being said, IT DOESN’T EXCUSE THE PAST. What I’ve also heard is that what matters is judging their track record. I leave it to you to judge the previous government. Granted, there’s been progress. Has it been enough? Is it just halfway? Is it all just for “show”? What I see is that there is still more work to be done fighting racist policies.

The consensus I’ve heard from more thoughtful minds than mine is that this is a pivotal moment that we need to learn from, and that it should reaffirm our commitment to and double down on challenging racism in every part of our lives. Racism does not begin or end with Justin Trudeau. We need to first recognize that Canada was built on a racist premise, has been since before Confederation, that racist policies have and continue to affect People of Colour, and that a racist mindset and framework guides our everyday lives. We also can’t forget the colonial mindset that we have always had and continue to live that has oppressed Indigenous, Metis, and Inuit people’s and deny them basic human rights.

Now is the time to act. Everyone - community leaders, advocates, elected officials (from electoral candidates, municipal councillors, MPPs, MPs, Cabinet Ministers, and the Prime Minister), but most importantly, everybody who lives in Canada - must double our commitment to challenging racist policies and fighting our racist and colonial mindsets. Just a few examples: let’s start with abolishing the Indian Act and making amends for its racist legacy. Implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Implementing the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Inquiry. Or disregarding the Safe Third Country Agreement. Abolishing immigration detention.

I’ll also add that now is the time to support candidates that are People of Colour that will fight the good fight, represent us well in Parliament, and can hold leaders accountable. Representation in Parliament still matters, and their voices must still be heard - now more than ever.

Justin Trudeau must be held accountable. But we are in an election and we have choices to make. We can choose to campaign for a candidate, we will have the choice to support a candidate on social media or in person if you wish, and ultimately, we will have the choice to vote. We are left with terrible choices that will affect our daily lives for years to come. Again, I look to more thoughtful minds to help me make my choices, and it has to be more nuanced than ever.

We live in a Parliamentary democracy. We don’t vote for Prime Ministers like the Americans vote for their President. We don’t vote for parties - in fact, maybe we should get rid of parties altogether or at least dramatically reform them. We vote for candidates for MP. They each have their own stories, their own beliefs, and their own ideals. We vote for them to represent us and our best interests in Parliament. They offer us services at their constituency offices and help represent us to government departments.

I shouldn’t have to justify my choices to anyone, and I won’t get into any fights in the comments defending my choices. You make your own choices. That’s your democratic right. But I want to open up a conversation.

I am choosing to support and campaign for Omar Alghabra, Liberal MP for Mississauga-Centre. We have been friends for years and I know him. I trust him. I value his perspective and his values and principles. I will be defending the Liberal government’s record, which I have said should be commended for making progress. But I can still be critical and nuanced and know there is much more to do. Re-electing Omar to Parliament means that he can continue to fight the good fight. If you live in Mississauga-Centre, I ask you to vote for Omar.

But I haven’t decided who I will vote for in my riding of Mississauga-Erin Mills. I am taking the time to carefully consider who I will vote for - and the individual candidates are important. Has Iqra Khalid done the best job in representing my community in Parliament? Is there another candidate who supports better policies who is running? Do I have to vote strategically to make sure that a Conservative or PPC candidate doesn’t win in my riding? Or should I vote by my conscience? This is the dilemma that our electoral system has burdened us with. And unfortunately, there is a difficult choice to make in a few weeks.

I haven’t decided. Which is why, every election, I try and talk to the candidates for a short one-on-one with them where I can question them on their policies. I think every person should get the time to meet with the candidates in their riding if you ask for it. That’s what they do anyway when they go door-knocking. In previous elections, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting candidates in person, and some might give a few minutes by phone - which isn’t ideal, but what can you do. However, there are candidates that have never given me the time to meet or talk. That says something about that candidate, what they believe in, and how they will represent me in Parliament. I’ll also add that no Conservative candidate has given me that opportunity.

This year, I have my Stories Podcast and I have decided to try and ask the candidates in my riding for a short recorded interview - maybe 15-20 minutes, if they can give me that. I’ll try and publish them as special episodes for the podcast. These interviews will likely not help you in your individual choices in your ridings. But I hope you’ll listen in and find them interesting. I have already recorded an episode with the NDP candidate Salman Tariq and I am thankful of his time to talk to me. That episode will be up soon. Iqra’s campaign is thinking it over. I haven’t heard from the Conservative or Green Party campaigns. Let’s see if they’ll agree to being interviewed.

If you’ve made it this far, thank you for reading. I wanted to open up a conversation about the important choices we have to make. I hope it will help you in your own journey to understanding your feelings about the Trudeau incident and about racism in our politics. All I know is that we have to commit to working harder to fighting racism, racist and colonial mindsets, and racist policies. It doesn’t end with this election. We must continue to fight.