My Grandmother was born in 1916 on the shores of Georgian Bay. She is very open minded for a woman of her time, but nonetheless sometimes she says things about people that remind me that things have changed. Its not that she’s a bigot, but it’s that she assumes you are.
At this point I think it is more of a reflex than anything, but once in a while she will be talking about an old friend and if he happens to be Italian she will make sure to mention that he knew how to keep his temper. To her it is necessary to instill that Blacks can be polite, Spaniards intelligent, or Irish sober. She, through her unconscious attempts to combat prejudice, provides me with a glimpse into the history of Canadian racism.
Her Canada is not multicultural. Within her English and Anglican understanding of our country there are no circular debates about unity through diversity. To her minorities are Scots, Frenchmen are a different race, and the word Catholic is an insult.
We may not think much of Protestant-Catholic relations in Canada today, but those tensions have dominated a great deal of our history. French Canadians used to form an economic underclass that supplied the sweatshop labour for Eatons’ Montreal textile mills and Toronto’s whorehouses. The Orangemen, an anti-Catholic hate group and gentlemen’s club, dominated Toronto politics into the 1950s. It was only in 1985 that Ontario Premier Bill Davis granted equal funding to Catholic School Boards.
But who now even knows any derogatory terms for Catholics? I asked my grandma, she says ‘Taig’.
This is all good news. Nobody cares about Catholics anymore because we have new immigrants, new underclasses. So if you ever feel discriminated against, don’t fret, all you have to do is wait for the next diaspora or the next enemy. Maybe in time all of our racist tendencies will go the way of the Taigs.