Zack Gross
Zack Gross

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A Little Respect Goes A Long Way

Brandon Sun “Small World” Column,  Monday, December 2 / 19

Zack Gross

We live in a world of controversies and contention.  In the Age of Social Media, every news story is blown out of proportion and usually with a strong dose of negativity. Simultaneously, times and ways of thinking are changing, and for many people, it is difficult to listen to and adapt to new ideas.  Here are some examples.

Don Cherry.  Let’s start with him.  He famously lost his long-time job on Coach’s Corner on Hockey Night in Canada for saying that new immigrants to Canada like partaking of our wealth but don’t respect our veterans and their sacrifice, by purchasing poppies. 

Of course, he is wrong.  Just from my experience, as the grandfather of two air cadets, I have been struck by how many young people who are first-generation Canadians and their families are involved in this young military-attached movement.  Most of the youth in our cadet corps based in Winnipeg are people of colour and are very proud of their involvement. 

At the Remembrance Day Service I attended with my grandchildren, Winnipeg’s largest November 11th gathering, poppy-wearing so-called “immigrants” were very much in evidence.  What Mr. Cherry should have said, and he has himself stated this, is that more people in general should respect Remembrance Day by buying a poppy.  Ironically, he lives in a province that does not give people the day off to mark our veterans and military…!  I’m proud that Manitoba still does and hope it continues.

Then, there is the very recently come-to-light issue of hockey coaches disrespecting their players by using the “n” word (and I’m sure “other” words), physically confronting them, manipulating them in front of teammates and more.  A bygone era, says Winnipeg’s NHL coach.  Today’s players expect respect and he’s been schooled by them to be “nicer.” There will more to come on this and it will be hard for some coaches to adjust to a less hierarchical and abusive model.

Around the world, political instability and the battle between populations and their governments seems to abound.  If you are watching the news, you will see that the streets of France, Hong Kong, Chile, Bolivia, Iran and many other countries are the scenes of stone-throwing, tire burning, window-smashing but also peaceful demonstrations of people’s desire for respect, democracy and greater economic equality.

In our “Western World,” with the Canadian election just over and elections looming in the United Kingdom and the United States, polls show that strong majorities, no matter how they vote, want better economic outcomes, greater access to government policy, and less daily drama.  A disappointment for many Canadians was the government’s failure to act on a promise of electoral reform during its first mandate.

Cost-cutting is another area where governments have run afoul of popular thinking.  While recent provincial elections in Canada have returned these types of government to power, it doesn’t take long before public concern arises in opposition to the impact of cuts to health care and education.  In some cases, these governments back down and reinstate programs.
Everyone wants personal security (food, healthcare, housing, safety), a decent living, and the opportunity to better themselves and their children through education.  Everyone wants respect – for their own life experience, their culture, and their region of the country.

It is true that “new immigrants” don’t always know or appreciate the “Canadian experience,” as they are just becoming a part of it, and as it is changing from year to year as our country evolves.  In my own work, I found it interesting that many new Canadians didn’t understand the nuances of our history, for example the special relationship between English and French Canada. 

As well, on an occasion when I accompanied some folks to the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg, they confessed to knowing little of the issues highlighted there, not only in Canada, but those arising from our European heritage.

But this is understandable.  It will be absorbed by them and their children just as they absorb a love of hockey and winter!  What do we know of their past situation?  How much do we know of Eastern Europe, the Horn of Africa or the Caribbean, aside from where the nice beaches and cheap holidays are?  It is a two-way street.

A little respect goes a long way.  Knowing your neighbour, knowing the facts, opening up our society to everyone’s participation and prosperity will help bring peace and stability to our communities.  Where some hockey heroes have failed us is that they haven’t been at the forefront of change, smoothing the way, and have been the problem instead of the solution.

Zack Gross is Board Chair of
The Marquis Project, a Brandon-based international development organization.

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