–Maryna Ell, Sooke Youth
First things first – I don’t care about hockey.
I don’t care for sports at all, actually, but I know that hockey, and Hockey Night in Canada, and Don Cherry’s role in that, are all important to many Canadians.
But you know what else should be important to Canadians? Respect.
This is something that I thought we all shared. After Cherry’s comments and subsequent firing (which, it is important to note, was specifically because he refused to apologize), I am ashamed and shocked to realize that we are not as united as I once thought we were.
“You people…who come from away.” Take that as you will, but I heard that as a direct pointing of the finger at immigrants. But it’s never about white immigrants, is it? It’s always the people who you can see are different. It quickly becomes a racist rhetoric rather than an anti-immigration one.
(It is also important to note that unless you are Indigenous, you are from away. This was not your home to begin with. Everyone was an immigrant once.)
(Also of note – Cherry has noted that he should had said “everybody”. That changes things, and if he had said that, maybe we wouldn’t be having this discussion. As it is, it’s too little, too late.)
Second thing – I believe Remembrance Day is important, but I don’t care who wears a poppy. That is part of my personal values – I believe the act of remembering is important so that we do not repeat our history, but it does not matter to me how you show it, or whether you show it at all.
Cherry clearly does care. He is allowed to care, just as we are all allowed to have our own opinions, and traditions, and maintain what is important to us. We all have freedom of expression, and that includes what we do or say and whether we choose to wear a poppy. It does not include hate speech and hurting others with our words. Cherry’s comments, as well as being hurtful, demanded uniformity based on his own beliefs. That is not freedom of expression, it is demanding assimilation.
His comments were unfounded as far as I am concerned. You cannot know someone’s story by looking at their face. You cannot know where they are from, why they are where they are, and what values they hold. For that matter, you cannot know that they have never bought a poppy to show support. We cannot keep making snap judgements based on what we see and choose to believe of people.
We were taught in school about the Canadian mosaic and how much of a privilege it is to live in a country where everyone has their own unique culture, values, and beliefs. They told us that people from near and far could come to Canada and find a home here. I was thrilled to be a part of such a generous country, where I could have friends who were all free to be different, and that uniqueness was a special part of what made us all the same – Canadian.
I ache for those hurt by Cherry’s comments, and I ache to see that so many people in my own community feel the same way.