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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9 thoughts on “After six years of living in Canada, Montreal, Tonight I got hit by Racism

  1. It’s pretty clear to me that she was embarrassed by her dog and this would never have come up if her dog did not misbehave. If we start with that premise….she only dug up nationalism if the dog wasn’t threatening to you and your mom . I found this statement the most offensive “o you were not born in Canada, that’s why you don’t know how to treat my dog”.

    In the end, this woman had racist inclinations that are not easily exposed but they reared their head here. And you handled it quite well I think on every line you said.

    Norm

  2. 4th gen Canadian here, I don’t know how to treat dogs either. Stand still or jump fences. I’ve been bitten. Off leash owners suffer from a unique type of obliviousness. Also domesticated animals in general are freaky, in the bush meeting a wild animal you give each other space whereas dogs will sprint at you and then decide to be friendly or not.
    Also it could be nativism vs racism. just saying she could have a mixed race family, who gets annoyed at social interactions with fresh immigrants, just saying.

  3. Well, that’s one very victimized side of the story. Would be interesting to hear the other. I especially like the last sentence – “I only hope that racism, will stop one day.” Yeah-yeah, I, for example, only hope that one day Ubisoft won’t be such a b*tch of a company. It could only happen by firing all the employees, I believe.

  4. 1. Children are afraid of dogs. You are not a child, presumably. Please rectify this immediately.

    2. I have met several folks of Middle Eastern origin who are afraid of dogs. I am not sure why this is, but I think it’s fair to say this lady has had similar experiences. She is rude, not racist. Also, in no way did she imply that being Canadian was superior to being Iranian. She meant Canadians were more comfortable around dogs, which is clearly correct, since you are Iranian and scared of dogs.

    I fear that you will lead a troubled life if this incident hurt you so.

  5. I grew up in the States pretty much scared of dogs until I became an adult, and still scared of some breeds. A lot of that was due to some assholes down the block who let their dogs run loose, and bark at people, and then, like this bitch did, blame the humans for their lousy dog handling abilities.

    I am sorry this happened to you.

    You should have called the damn cops on her.

    (And yes, my language reflects my continuing anger towards people that cannot handle their dogs and bully people over it.)

  6. Canada is a land of migrants [as is Australia, where I live], which can be justifiably proud of its multicultural, multilingual, above all *tolerant* society. It is unacceptable to be publicly racist, but nevertheless the colour card or the religion card, is always there to be brought out. But have you noticed how embarrassed Canadians are by overt racism? People in BC laugh uneasily about the Francophone east, and the Quebecois hold grimly to their right to be different. Yet, strangely, most Canadians are proud of that ability to tolerate and assimilate difference, and Canada has an estimable record of welcoming migrants and refugees from all over the world. You had a brush with potential racism, but I would say six years without noticeably encountering it speaks volumes for the country which you now choose to call your own. I wish mine were as good.

  7. This reminded of an incident that happened a couple of weeks ago. I was leaving home in my car when I came across a car in the middle of my street (I live in Pittsburgh) so that I couldn’t pass. I rolled down my window and asked whether the car could be pulled over to the side. A young man who was helping a young woman and older woman move something screamed at me, “Her cat is f-ing dying!” Meanwhile, the others had gotten the cat into the car, remained silent, and in seconds, the older woman had pulled over the car to the side of the street. While I drove past, the man looked at me and muttered, “You f-ing foreigner!” That came out of nowhere. I just continued on my way, since he was distraught and it wasn’t going to help anything whatsoever if I held up their transport of the cat. Still, I was shocked. It’s been over a decade since the last time I dealt with this kind of behavior. Funny thing is, my first thought when he said that was “I’ve lived in the US probably twenty years longer than you.”

  8. Good article, I also enjoy Montreal. I’m really certain this situation can not be defined as ‘racism’:
    1. a belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human races determine cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that one’s own race is superior and has the right to rule others.

    2. a policy, system of government, etc., based upon or fostering such a doctrine; discrimination.

    3. hatred or intolerance of another race or other races.

    I’ll tell you about a pervasive behavior I noticed often while on visits to Montreal:
    There are laws that get ‘ignored’ and people en-mass will act like the laws don’t exist. Which laws get ignored is based on (what seemed like to me) a societal hinting system.

    The most astonishing example for me was on our way into a museum, right outside next to a police-man were several people smoking marijuana. The other is how pedestrians will cross the road at any point without a crosswalk and all the traffic would stop for them with no signal light. The drivers didn’t even seem upset by it.

    I hope you continue to enjoy Montreal, and can forgive that woman and her dog for their rude behavior 🙂

  9. I am not quite sure I’d call this racism, but I do think you were a victim of stupidity though. In our building many people from Indian, Iran, and Pakistan who are afraid of dogs. Most are fine, they are careful, or avoid you when with your dog, there are some who glare or yell if surprised by a dog in the elevator, and considering that my building is pet friendly it can be frustrating, so I can understand the lady asking where you were born, it can help put some context in your reaction to dogs.

    In saying that, you are absolutely right, she shouldn’t have had her dog off leash, especially when it does not recall on command, and when there is a dog park so close.

    The unfortunate thing about people who are afraid of dogs is that they tend to do the worst possible things on instinct. Yelling, moving quickly, generally showing fear, all things dogs can react to in a negative way.

    I live in Toronto BTW

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