BY Asha Nenshi Nathoo
Four Muslim family members killed in ‘targeted attack’. Canada surpasses 26,000 lives lost to deadly virus. Hundreds of unmarked graves found near former Residential Schools. The list goes on…
In regular times, any one of these headlines would have been the biggest story of the year, but sadly each of these tragic events have occurred within the last month right here in Canada. There’s no doubt that in the past sixteen months, our community, our city, and our country, has dealt great adversity and loss.
Yet through it all, I think each one of us has opened our eyes to new realities and experiences as we hopefully found some silver linings to keep us going. As we come to the end of this challenging school year, begin thinking about what our post-pandemic lives will look like, and I write my last high school article for the Youth Press, I thought it would be the perfect time to do some reflection.
I, like many of you, have spent the majority of the last sixteen months staring at small black boxes on screens, forgetting to unmute myself, and wearing pajamas bottoms twenty-four hours a day. While I am aware of my great privilege– having the option to do school online, having a safe place to work at home, and being able to protect my family – it hasn’t all been easy. I faced personal challenges losing out on the experiences of my final year of high school, being unable to hug my 80-year-old grandma, and having to mourn the loss of family members over Zoom. Through all of this, I have found comfort in knowing that I am surrounded by incredible family and friends, belong to many strong communities, and live in a country where I am valued for who I am.
Yet, it was every time I heard one of these headlines that my heart sank. It sank because as proud as I am of my identities, of being Canadian, of the values of community, respect, and human dignity that are core to this country, I realized that prejudice, divisiveness and injustice still exist in many corners of my life. I realized that a young Muslim who very well could have been me was stripped of his incredible family – just because of their skin colour and religion. I realized the disproportionate impact of Covid on marginalized and ethnic communities – how long-standing disparities had been exacerbated by the pandemic. And I realized, that this country has had a lot of imperfections – there has been great ignorance in recent history that requires immediate and tangible action.
Through my work in the Edgemont community, I’ve had the opportunity to meet board members and volunteers from all walks of like, collaborate with writers who have bravely shared their diverse perspectives on the Youth Press, and help connect immigrate families with resources while celebrating multiculturalism through One World. Edgemont, like many other communities in Canada is pretty great one, but it too, is not perfect. I have friends right here in the neighborhood who have experienced anti-Asian hate over the last year and others who have been scared to go for a walk because they wear the hijab.
If nothing else, I believe that the past sixteen months have taught us all that as residents of Edgemont, with our incredible privilege of living in such a wonderful community, comes great responsibility to continue fighting the long road ahead to true equity. It is my sincere hope that as we move to a post-pandemic world, we will not automatically resort back to ‘normal’, but instead, will leverage our collective challenges and experiences to build ‘an even better normal.’
As engaged citizens, there are many ways we can do so. We can express gratitude for the people and activities in our lives that we once took for granted. We can be even more deliberate in the choices we make, ensuring that our actions are contributing to a sustainable, inclusive, and just future. Finally, we can continue connecting with our neighbours and engaging in small acts of community building in our everyday lives.
Although each of us may seem tiny against the backdrop of this enormous world, by choosing kindness, compassion, and love, our abilities and possibilities are endless.
P.S. – We are continually looking for new writers for the Youth Press and are always open to new ideas! Please feel free to reach out or connect with us as [email protected]
Please stay well and take care of yourselves this summer!