The circus that is Don Cherry stole the spotlight from Canadian veterans on Remembrance Day weekend.
For those that missed it, Cherry expressed frustration about how few people wear poppies these days. That point is a good one, more Canadians should wear poppies and be respectful of the sacrifices veterans made for this country. However, that’s not actually what he said. Here is Cherry’s quote:
“I was talking to a veteran I said, ‘I’m not going to run the poppy thing anymore, because what’s the sense? I live in Mississauga, nobody wears — very few people wear a poppy. Downtown Toronto, forget it. Downtown Toronto, nobody wears a poppy’. He says ‘wait a minute, how about running it for the people that buy them?’ Now, you go to the small cities, and you know — the rows on rows — you people love — you, that come here, whatever it is — you love our way of life, you love our milk and honey. At least you could pay a couple of bucks for a poppy or something like that.”
It’s obvious that the trouble starts with his section about “you people”, effectively saying that immigrants who come here are the focus of his rant. What is less obvious, is that the communities he mentions by name: Mississauga and Downtown Toronto, are home to a large population of immigrants and visible minorities.
According to a 2016 Census Bulletin on Immigration and Ethnic Diversity done by the Region of Peel, In 2016, Peel had the highest percentage of visible minorities within the GTA (62.3%). This majority was further reflected in Brampton and Mississauga, with 73.3% and 57.2% of their populations respectively identifying as a visible minority. A majority of those immigrants are from India.
As for Toronto, immigrants make up 47 percent of the population, with 51.5 percent identifying as a visible minority. In the ‘smaller cities’ that Cherry mentions, the immigrant populations are much smaller.
His comments are coloured by a racist and colonial point of view. They also completely overlook the sacrifices made by Indian veterans who fought in British wars while they were a colony of Britain. This topic has been covered by other writers, and is one that all Canadians should study. His comments also lack nuance around racialized veterans who served, yet were not afforded the same rights as white Canadians.
Cherry did not outright say that immigrants are the ones he’s targeting. He also did not specifically target racialized Canadians, but we all know that’s exactly who he meant. Anyone pretending otherwise is engaging in willful ignorance of the facts.
Good riddance, Mr. Cherry. If only this had come 10 years sooner.