On Saturday, August 18, the PeaceGeeks team joined nearly 4000 Vancouverites at City Hall to participate in anti-racism protests in response to a rally planned by the World Coalition Against Islam (WCAI) and the newly registered Cultural Action Party (CAP) of BC. Counter-protesters vastly outnumbered the attendees of the original rally, who never really got a chance to convene.
Bob Chamberlin, vice-president of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs called on those in attendance to pursue love, acceptance and understanding. Mayor Gregor Robertson likewise stated that “there’s more to do, we’re not done. There are some among us here today who have not learned the message of peace and respect and understanding, of loving one another regardless of what we believe in or who we love or what we look like or where we came from.” He urged those assembled to approach difficult conversations peacefully. “Reach out with a hand, reach out with respect and love and understanding. Don’t reach out with a fist. Don’t lower ourselves to that,” he said.
Although most rallies and counter-protests in other parts of Canada were largely peaceful, the notable exception was Quebec City, where counter-protesters clashed with the police who were monitoring an rally organized by the far-right group, La Meurte. Increasingly, our communities are recognizing that we are not immune to events taking place in the US political context. Our next test may not be far off as refugees and economic migrants cross our borders in numbers not seen in almost 10 years.
"Reach out with a hand, reach out with respect and love and understanding. Don't reach out with a fist. Don't lower ourselves to that,"
The discourse that is taking place today is also disheartening. Yet both at home and in the US, there are many signs that should give us hope. There is increased awareness on just how far we have to go in getting closer to equality. The number of people standing up to racism is another important indicator. There are more calls for constructive conversations taking place that aim at understanding the perspectives of others.
Yet we have a very long way to go both in moving our country and world towards the embrace of diversity. Although the uproar of Charlottesville has begun to die down as time has passed, we cannot afford to be complacent. At a time when social media platforms provide us bigger and better megaphones, what we really need is better hearing aid. On this International Peace Day, we call on the members of our community to truly listen to one another, with love and compassion - especially to those we disagree with. Only by listening and understanding can move forward together towards a more peaceful and equitable future for all. In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, "Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that." (Martin Luther King Jr.)
Written by Renee Black