I want to talk to you about a picture (the one posted below) that was sent around the country on Remembrance Day. I’m am grateful to Kevin Chief for giving me the opportunity to be a part of this great Canadian moment. Chief happens to be a cabinet minister in the Manitoba provincial government. But with all due respect to the government and his political membership, that to me is not even close to the most important part of the story.
I want to tell you about the picture. It was a selfie of Chief surrounded by young people he admired, Royal Canadian Air Cadets from Winnipeg, smiling young Canadian patriots gathered to commemorate Remembrance Day. Because of the world that you and I share, I now have to go beyond just saying they are Canadians. I have to tell you their gender and ethnicity. If I don’t do that this story is incomplete. Three of the Cadets in the picture were female and one was male. Two of the females were wearing Hijabs, Muslim head scarves - not covering their faces, just the ones that cover the head. These young patriots were not hiding from Canada, they were inspired by Canada. And the young male cadet in the picture, he’s aboriginal, as is Kevin Chief.
The picture touched my Canadian heart and I re-tweeted it. My bud Joe Warmington at the Toronto Sun is one of my Twitter followers that I am fortunate to have. Joe was prepping a piece covering Remembrance Day and he was looking at hundreds of pictures. But the picture I re-tweeted touched his Canadian heart too, and so part of his column read like this:
"One picture, of the thousands moving around social media Tuesday, was retweeted by radio legend Charles Adler in Winnipeg. The picture was originally tweeted by Kevin Chief, 39, a cabinet minister in Manitoba’s NDP government. Taken on his cellphone, it shows four Canadian youth from the Royal Canadian Air Cadets No. 6 Jim Whitecross Squadron in Winnipeg proudly displaying their poppies and smiles.They honour the past and represent the future. 'I was inspired,' Chief told me in an interview. 'To me, it showed Canada is one.' He said he just had to get a selfie. 'I grew up as an aboriginal kid in this neighbourhood where so many immigrant families came and succeeded,' he said. 'We are all Canadians and when I saw these kids from all different ethnic backgrounds wearing that uniform and proudly representing the country, it felt great.' It is, he said, a country with opportunity thanks to those who have made sacrifices before us. I thought this picture showed the country very well,” - from Joe Warmington's column.
Now I wish this story ended right here. But unfortunately it doesn’t. Beneath Joe Warmington’s “This Country is United” column, there are remarks posted by people who read it on line. Not all the comments are ignorant, ugly, and I’ll say it, racist. Not all. Not all push the disgust button of my Canadian heart. But too many of them do. And I am not going to do the polite Canadian thing by saying it’s just a handful. It’s not a handful. It’s a barrel full. It’s a barn full. It’s acres and acres full. Now I don’t take a backseat to anyone in this country, who says "if you come to my country and you want to trash our values; if you don’t believe in hard work, respecting your family, neighbours, and the law; if you’re here to diss my fellow Canadians and spit on my Maple Leaf; if you’re here to abuse your wife and daughter until they obey your tyrannical ideology, then I don’t want you here". I’ve said these things because I believe these things. But as much as I feel anger toward those people who do those things on our soil, I feel just as angry with people born on our soil who look at young Canadians wearing Canadian uniforms and disrespect them - not because they represent some kind of hateful ideology, but because of their gynecology, or religion, or heritage.
Well Mike Adler the tailor, and Rose Adler the department store clerk, with their foreign accents, didn’t raise a bigot. They didn’t raise me to trash people from other countries who want to come here and love and respect Canada just as they did, and they didn't raise me to kiss ass to anyone born here who feels it gives them the right to throw rocks at people who are not like them. You want to call someone names, PICK ME. Pick any name you like. I’ve heard ‘em all and my skin is thicker than the walls of the Manitoba legislature. I’ve spoken on the steps of the people’s house. And I’ve spoken to small and large groups of Canadians in uniform, and I never cared whether they were Christians or Jews or Sikhs or Muslims or atheists. I never cared about the colour of their skin. I cared about one thing and one thing only - were they committed to serving our country. And if they were, the only colour I saw was Canada.
Thank you Kevin Chief for having that picture taken with four young Canadians who are our future. Thank you Joe Warmington for noticing the pic and using that pic for your Remembrance Day column. And thank you my fellow Canadians for your loyalty and support for this proud Canadian who is listening to the thump of your Canadian Heart. It sounds like love and respect for our people. There is no finer sound.
I’m Charles Adler.