Editorial: Welcome to a brave new world

Trent Ernst, Editor


And that, as they say, is that. Election over, politicking done for the next four years (unless you pay attention to the American elections then it. Never. Ends. Ever.)

It’s been a harrowing few months, and I for one am glad it’s over.

The trouble with elections is that parties will often find a wedge to hammer between people to divide their supporters from the people who are not. And, unfortunately, this election, one of the big wedges that all parties were hammering on was the issue of the Niqab, and immigration in general. Even more unfortunate, most people offering opinions were just talking out their butts.

Your opinion is well informed? Really? Have you ever talked to someone who wears a niqab? I haven’t. All I’m hearing is people complaining about immigrants having a sense of entitlement, coming to Canada and trying to turn it into where they just left.

And it becomes an echo chamber, where we believe this to be the case because everyone around us believes this to be the case because everyone around them believes it.

I was raised in a Mennonite town in Saskatchewan, and the reason why the Mennonites came to Canada is because they are pacifists.

They moved from what is now the Netherlands to what is now Germany because they were being forced to fight in the war, and the Germans said “sure, come here, you won’t be conscripted.”

But when Frederick William II became King of Prussia, he basically went all mafioso on the Mennonites: “You enjoying your religious freedom? Don’t wanna fight? That’s alright. All you have to do is pay me a small sum of money, and nobody will bother you.” Later, the Prussians just said, screw it, no exemptions from military service, period.

Over in Russia, Catherine the Great saw what was happening and said, “hey, come to Russia, and you won’t be conscripted, and you won’t have to pay this protection money to not be conscripted.”

Of course, a hundred years later, the Russian government announced that there were no more special privileges for anyone, including the Mennonites. So, they left.

That was in the late 1800s. Growing up in a small, Mennonite town in the 1970s, everyone still spoke Plautdietsch (basically pidgin German). Why? Because after what happened to them in Germany, the Mennonites were reluctant to adopt the culture of the Russians, because they were just going to break their promise anyway. And they did.

When they came to Canada, they had the same fears. It took them nearly a hundred years and two World Wars to accept the fact that Canada was actually going to honour their religious beliefs and not force them to go to war before they finally started speaking English amongst themselves.
So I can understand people from other cultures, from other faith groups or language groups being reluctant to give up their language, their traditions and their cultures when they move to a new place, because they’re used to getting screwed over.

It’s not always about the newcomers trying to impose their beliefs and cultures on others. Sometimes it is just trying to hold on to something stable in the upheaval that is happening in their lives.

Of course, some Muslim people are jerks, just like some Mennonites are jerks, as are most people from the States. (Just joking, Joe!) It’s what happens in any population. You have ten percent who are the most wonderful people in the world, ten percent who are jerks, and the vast majority falling somewhere in the middle.

But these are the principals that Canada was founded on. We are not the cultural melting pot of the states, where everybody becomes one homogeneous thing, we are a mosaic, made of up different coloured stones all contributing to one grand overall image, each new stone and new colour making that image richer, more complex, more vibrant.