In an article about Olivia Chow’s mayoral campaign, the Toronto Star—apparently trying to show that, while racism can be an issue for foreign-born political candidates, it’s not enough to cost them an election—dropped this gem:
Naheed Nenshi, a Muslim, is mayor of Calgary, of all cities.
Shocking, right?! Calgary elected a Muslim! That’s weird because Albertans are a bunch of racist rednecks!
I’d let out an audible sigh, but this is a blog so you wouldn’t hear it. Instead, I’ll just do this: *sigh*
The line about Nenshi, though probably not intended as such, is condescending in a way that only the Toronto media can manage—like the time they said Edmonton was cool, but it would never be Toronto cool.
The thing that a lot of people who aren’t from Alberta, and who haven’t spent a significant amount of time here, don’t understand is that we don’t care what your religion is. We don’t care what your race is. Most of the time, we don’t even care where you went to school. We care that you can work hard and contribute to the community.
This isn’t to say that racism, homophobia and other forms of bigotry don’t exist in Alberta. They do. But time and time again, both statistics and anecdotes show that Albertans are incredibly tolerant—possibly the most tolerant people in Canada.
We’re not perfect, and our rural communities do tend to be more conservative than our urban centres, but that’s true of the whole country.
At its best, Alberta is a meritocracy that doesn’t care about your pedigree or the fact that you have a degree from the “right” school. At its worst, it’s no different than the rest of Canada. I just wish people from outside the province would realize this.