June 8, 2020 Most of you have likely paid some attention to the widespread demonstrations in the USA, Canada and around the world regarding the murder of Mr. George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA by a police officer. As the father of two boys that identify as Black Canadians and until some months ago were each working in Boston and Los Angeles, this murder touches me very close to home. Who could fathom the heartache to lose a son or a father or brother, a sister, niece or dear friend, in such a horrendous manner?
In these already challenging times as the covid-19 disease sweeps the globe, we should remind ourselves that racism is, too, a kind of disease, that can be every bit as fatal. Those who believe in their superiority have this kind of disease, but it is those who are identified as inferior who die from it. Racism is the cause of unspeakable crime, atrocity and loss of life. While this superiority is a mental and social construction, a made-up fiction, yet it is one that can end up being supported by laws, and by the power of a state, and by the practices of individuals in society, all of which have very real effects. In this way it becomes systemic – such a normal part of everyday life that most people don’t even stop to question why we think a certain way, let alone challenge it.
We must also be alive to the many other forms of mental and social constructions that lead to these same terrible consequences: forms of superiority based upon ethnicity, religion, gender identity, and social class names only those most widespread and common. There are many more forms. The necessary antidote requires all of us to honestly examine our belief systems in the context of the environments that produced them. There is no land in which one won’t find harm caused to others based on these constructions. In Canada, we continually struggle to challenge the mistreatment that people suffer because one is Black, or Indigenous belong to one of our many First Nations Peoples, or a member of the LGBTQ community, and there are many other bases some people use to exclude others, or indeed, to harm them.
For us at CUAC, the recent explosion of outrage is a powerful reminder of our mission. For over 20 years we have worked to bring people from around the world together, to enhance mutual understanding and experience, and ultimately, to tear down these walls that divide humanity and victimize some of us ruthlessly.
On university and college campuses across Canada, our work matters. We have sent many thousands of international students to Canada to the benefit of many, many more thousands of Canadians who have studied alongside them.
In Canadian work places and society our work matters – international students who stay and work or indeed who make Canada their home strengthen our country. They join the many millions before them who have come to Canada as workers, refugees, or by various ways of immigration.
The examples that CUAC staff set in how we deal respectfully and honourably with the countless students and families that we deal with every day also matter. CUAC is in the biggest of cities like Delhi, São Paulo, Beijing and Dhaka. We are, too, in many smaller ones that don’t get global attention like Banjul, Harare, Accra, Antananarivo, Colombo and Da Nang. Mistreatment of people anywhere, by virtue of these social constructions that divide us, is to the shame of all of us everywhere.
In any family we have diversity of personalities, attitudes, styles and viewpoints. In the CUAC family, all of us see our own diversity from personalities and styles, to our tastes in food and music, as a treasure. We strive every day in our actions to pursue unity of dignity and equality of treatment for all. We will continue our mission to reach out to students everywhere as equally welcome parts of the human family for Canada to embrace.