• Santosh Ninan


Desecrated Canadian flag used at a Quebec separatist rally.

I think a lot about my identity. I was born in India, but have lived most of my life in Canada (roughly 40 years). For the past 8 years, I have lived and worked in the United States.

Living away from Canada has in fact solidified my Canadian identity more. I no longer use the term "Indo-Canadian" as an identifier because I don't like the adjective hyphen.

I am a Canadian.

My kids were discussing what their identities are.

And here's where it gets even more complicated.

I am ethnically Indian. Felicia is ethnically Chinese, but her family is from Singapore. She is also a Canadian citizen, living most of her life in Canada. Therefore our kids are mixed race - Indian and Chinese. Our kids were all born in Canada, making them Canadian citizens. But, they have lived most of their formative years in America.

So, when they asked me what they were - I yelled back "You are all Canadians!!!"

And that is who the Ninan family are - proud, patriotic Canadians.

Proud of

universal health care



almost unlivable cold winters,

huge tracks of unpopulated land,

a perpetual inferiority complex due to our loud, brash over-achieving neighbor to the south

unfailing politeness

the religion of hockey

Tim Hortons

But, one of these traits has been severely tested lately. The trait of tolerance.

On May 27, the first report came that the remains of 215 Indigenous children were found on the site of a former residential school in Kamloops British Columbia. While the nation was reeling from the grisly discovery, only 10 days later another spasm of hatred: A man in London Ontario pointed his pick-up truck at a Muslim family of 5 waiting to cross the road. Using his truck as a weapon he sped directly toward them, killing 4 and leaving a 9-year-old boy a traumatized orphan. Police have determined that the attack was pre-meditated and was carried out because the family was Muslim.

Kamloops residential school in un-dated picture. Some of the children here may have ended up in the unmarked grave.

These 2 monstrous acts test the tolerance Canadians have been known for. Both are examples of gross intolerance.

Intolerance of an entire people group - a genocidal attempt to erase an entire culture.

Intolerance of a different faith tradition.

Both acts employed the same technique - murder. In the first instance, the murder was hidden, planned, and endorsed by both religious and governmental bodies. In the second instance, the murder was public, planned, and driven by one man's broken and twisted mind.

Victims of London Ontario attack.

Daughter - Yumna Salman - Grade 9 student, liked art, painted a large mural at the London Islamic school

Mother - Madiha Salman - working on Ph.D. in engineering at University of Western Ontario (at time of the attack had been organizing STEM projects for little kids)

Grandmother - Talat Afzaal - a devout member of the local mosque

Father - Salman Afzaal - physiotherapist - estimated that he had worked with thousands of clients during his career in London

Missing - 9-year-old Fayez Afaal- remains hospitalized with serious (but not life-threatening) injuries

In analyzing these events, it has become clear to me that no nation is exempt from the sin of racism. Living in America, I was catalyzed into activism after the trio of murders last year of Ahmaud Arberry, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd. I have (and continue) to engage extensively on this issue. My engagement is primarily educational - helping those in the majority culture to hear and see the lived experience of those in minority cultures.

Racism knows no national boundaries.

China is persecuting Uyghur Muslims.

India continues an implicit caste system.

Europe hates and persecutes the Roma people (gypsies)

Canada has carried out a cultural genocide against its indigenous populations.

Canada has taken steps to address this national sin. Some significant steps have been taken to right these wrongs, but now we know the journey is longer than we hoped to reach equity and justice.

Canada is also home to white supremacy as evidenced by the deranged murderer in London. Here is where we use the tool of intolerance and sharply state that hatred and racism will not be tolerated in the way we choose to order our society.

I am a proud Canadian. That pride has taken a significant brusing in recent days. But, I hope to be part of the tribe of Canadians that pushes back against this kind of hatred.

Canada is a great country. But, she is like every other country when it comes to the sin of racism. And she will need to take the steps to rectify and heal this deep brokenness and wounding.

I hope she starts that journey soon.

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