After six years of living in Canada, Montreal, Tonight I got hit by Racism

Although I’ve had this blog for my technical matters, but tonight something happened to me that was different, something hurtful, something racist.

I came to Canada on July.11.2007 as an international student, I had started my Master’s degree at Concordia University which I finished two years after. I really liked Montreal and its people and I decided to stay, so applied for immigration and got it shortly after. I liked Montreal because of its diverse culture, cosmopolitan atmosphere and friendly people. And despite the fact that I’m not fully fluent in French and still has to switch to English mostly to get my stuff done, I decided to stay here and start a family.

Tonight I went out for a walk with my mother-in-law (who is visiting us along my father-n-law for few days from our homeland, Iran). There is a park very close by to the place we live in. It’s a beautiful park with different facilities: Baseball field, Off-Leash dog-run, a hockey field in winters, etc. So we decided to go in to the park. The baseball field was so beautiful with having all the lights on, that we decided to go there and walk and jog around it. There was a lady in the field, with her dog running around off-leash.

The moment we entered the field, the dog sprinted toward us. When the dog took off, she yelled “Don’t worry. She is friendly”. My mother-in-law got scared a little bit and hide behind me, and me myself, I’m not comfortable around the dogs that I don’t know either the dog or the owner. So I stayed steady and did nothing. The dog was trying to go toward my mother-in-law, and I was trying to block the dog’s way. No matter how much the owner called the dog, it didn’t react at all. After a minute or so, the dog left and we continued our walk around the field. This happened one more time. Same reaction form us, the owner and the dog.

The fact that there is a off-leash dog-run, literally less than 40 steps from the field, bothered me.

While we kept walking around the field, I realized that the dog’s owner, who happened to be an English-Speaking lady, yelling at us :
Lady: “Were you born in Canada?”
We were very far and I hardly heard the lady, and to me it’s not polite to yell back at someone, just to reply. So I stayed silent till we got closer to her while she was leaning on the field’s entrance door.

Lady repeated: “Were you born in Canada?”
Me: “No.”
Lady: “Are you a Canadian citizen?”
Me: “Yes.”
(I started to feel something strange)
Lady: “So where were you born?”
Me: “Why are you asking this?”
Lady: “So you were not born in Canada, that’s why you don’t know how to treat my dog. You scared my dog. She was very friendly.”
Me: “That has nothing to do with where I was born.”
Lady: “You were scared of the dog and that scares my dog” (Implying: If you were Canadian, you knew how to treat my dog)
Me: “Your dog could go freely in the off-leash dog-run, but here it should be on-leash.”
Lady: “oh! So you want to tell me about the off-leash section… ok … but where were you born?”
Me: “That has nothing to do with this conversation.”
Lady: “This dog didn’t bother you”
Me: “We didn’t bother the dog either”
Lady: “Ok, I will continue then”
Me: “Ok, go ahead”

Then she left the field. The moment she left, I saw the “No-Dog” signs all over the field, indicating “$300” fine for having dogs in the field.

I got really upset that this lady is blaming me of not knowing how to treat her dog, because I’m not Canadian, but she is obviously breaking the rules, by bringing her dog in a “Dog prohibited” section. And considering herself superior to me because of being born in Canada.

We continued walking in the field till a few minutes later the lady yelled at us again:
Lady: “Could you just get out of the field and walk?”
Again I waited till we get closer, then:
Me: “When we are done here, we would.”
Lady: “So I will wait here till you get out.”
Me: “Have you seen the signs that your dog is not allowed here, either on or off-leash?”
Lady: “Now you are playing cops for me!!!”
Me: “I’m not. You started it in a racist manner. ”
Lady (Which freaks out now, but replies in an aggressive approach): “No, I’m not racist. I’m always friendly, I don’t confront with anyone, …. ”
Me: “The fact that I’m not comfortable with dogs has nothing to do with the country I was born in.”
Lady (Which is now very nervous): “So, you wanna call the cops?”
Me: “No, I don’t want to make any troubles for anyone”.
Lady ( Now relieved, and started to be miserably friendly): “I rescued this dog 6 months a go. It is very friendly dog, and after all the suffer it had experienced, it never harms anyone…”
Me (As we started walking): “You could have approached in a more friendly way”.
Lady (As we are getting far from her, so she yelled again): “Yeah you are right. You are absolutely right…”

We walked for a few more times around the baseball field, and she was staying around it. By the time we were leaving the field, I saw that she had brought her dog to the dog-run.
It may not be a big deal for people who have experienced much worse racial profiling situations, but it was something unexpected  for me which I never had experienced anything similar before.

It was very interesting for me that a lot of English-Speaking people in Montreal (Anglophones) had told me that here (in Montreal) French-Speaking (Québécois) people are racist to the ones who don’t speak French. Well … I have been working at @UbisoftMontreal where more than 80% are French. I not only have ever experienced a situation close to this but even on the contrary, they are very friendly and supportive.

I only hope that racism, will stop one day, and for everyone all around the world. It could only happen through education, I believe.

Update:

I thought it’s better to explain some stuff a little bit more. I realized some people are generalization about Iranians or Middle-Easterns just by seeing one or two.

There are a lot of families in Iran whose kids grow up with dogs (either as pets or guards), including my mother-in-law. She has always had dogs around her in the house she grew up. But when she felt a fairly big dog, which she didn’t know neither the dog nor the owner, sprinted toward her, she felt scared. This is natural I believe, if one has had bad experiences.

Also there was a tone in the lady’s voice, which I couldn’t explain in words. That’s why I felt, she was considering herself superior, and I think she really did.

P.S: If you are interested you can view the comments in “Hacker News” as well.

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Culture and Ethos

In the IT industry although the culture and ethos make the perfect team and along with technical skills would eventually make the best products, but former is less considered, specially in documents written by technical people.

Today I found a very interesting github repository[1] (Thanks to @katemats) about the culture and ethos of people you should invest in.

Here are some of my favorites:

  • Automate all the things!
  • Happiness is productivity is happiness — at least for people who care about what they do
  • Leadership is not appointed/given, it is earned

And my favorite of the all is:

Pay them as much as you would pay them to keep them from leaving for a higher-paying job

[1]: https://github.com/bjeanes/culture/blob/master/culture_and_ethos.md