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Trump's victory should serve as a wakeup call for Canadians

Canada, we must do better — not just better than America, writes Shannon VanRaes.

President-elect Donald Trump and his wife Melania walk with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky. after a meeting on Capitol Hill on Nov. 10, 2016.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Alex Brandon

President-elect Donald Trump and his wife Melania walk with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky. after a meeting on Capitol Hill on Nov. 10, 2016.

Canada, we are not immune.

We are not special, we are not exceptional and we are not without hatred. Our freedoms are not inherent, they do not flow from our glacial waters, they do not roll forth from our great plains and they are not chiselled into the Canadian shield.

Our freedoms come from fragile and hard won social licence, they come from laws written on paper and they can be changed, amended or destroyed with the stroke of a pen, with the casting of a ballot, by the silence of the media or the indifference of the public. Our freedoms are cloaked in the shadow of colonialism, many are recent and none are irrevocable.

Canada, we are precarious, we are flawed and we are at risk.

While many Canadians spent the week following the U.S. election counting their lucky stars they live north of the 49th parallel, taking to social media to sooth themselves with pride-filled hashtags, others were celebrating Donald Trump's ascendancy.

A poll released by Mainstreet/Postmedia last week found that 20 per cent of Canadian men and 15 per cent of Canadian women would have voted for Donald Trump if they'd had the chance.

Regionally, Trump support is highest here in Manitoba, where 28 per cent of those surveyed indicated they would have voted for the overtly racist misogynist rather than Hillary Clinton. It's a shocking number because 28 per cent isn't a fringe element — it's people in your office, at your job site, in your neighbourhood and even in your home. 

Trump only needed the support of 27 per cent of eligible voters to become America's next president, which means that, as a percentage, Manitobans were almost on par with that minimum American voter base.

The same poll showed that 26 per cent of Albertans and 25 per cent of Saskatchewanians also supported the Klan-endorsed Republican leader.

So it's worth noting that in 2011 Stephen Harper won a majority government after receiving support from less than 25 per cent of eligible voters. Because unless our electoral system changes drastically, our governments can be elected by small fractions of the population. The same principle elected the late Rob Ford as mayor of Toronto — a man who routinely denigrated women, immigrants and minorities among others. Not to mention the Ontario riding of Simcoe-Grey, where our electoral system has twice elected a steaming pile of hate, otherwise know as Conservative leadership hopeful Kellie Leitch, who supported the "Barbaric Culture Practices Tip-line" and says she shares many of Trump's values.

Today, I am relieved that I live in Canada and I am proud of the things we have accomplished as a nation, but I'm also honest about our shortcomings and vulnerabilities. Complacency isn't an option going forward and that means being rigorous in examining ourselves and our country.

That so many Canadians either agree with Trump's xenophobia or feel so marginalized by society that they would overlook it in the hopes of a better life should be a wakeup call. America is not the yardstick by which to measure Canada's success. To say that we are doing better than our southern neighbours is like saying, "sure the car flew off the bridge and it's sinking, but hey, at least we're not on fire." 

Canada, we must do better — not just better than America.

We must be reflective, we must inclusive and we must ask hard questions about why Trump's message resonates with some of our friends and neighbours. What we cannot do is be smug or confident, because hate can cross any border and it can climb any wall.

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