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JOHN DeMONT: How the Raptors gave us a break in a looming summer of discontent


Fans fill the streets of downtown Toronto during the Raptors’ victory parade after defeating the Golden State Warriors in the 2019 NBA Finals on Monday. - Moe Doiron/Reuters
Fans fill the streets of downtown Toronto during the Raptors’ victory parade after defeating the Golden State Warriors in the 2019 NBA Finals on Monday. - Moe Doiron/Reuters

Four people were shot at the big Raptors love-in Monday. Yet the injuries were mercifully non-life-threatening, the crowd by-and-large cool under fire, the collective spirit so high that even bullets whizzing through the air may not dampen the memory for there to see Marc Gasol chug a litre of rose, and Kawhi Leonard’s stand-up debut.

The Raptors’ cosmopolitan team and fan-base are said to be emblematic of our tolerant, diversified country.

But maybe all of us—the estimated two million people who lined the Toronto streets to see the parade in person, and the millions of Canadians who tuned in to watch the festivities—needed a day where people stood side-by-side cheering as one.

Division, you see, is everywhere in the summer of 2019, with what stands to be a nasty federal election looming, and everyone everywhere seemingly grumbling about something.

Just look around.

Monday, as they danced in the streets in Toronto, the provincial government in Quebec City had finally pushed its controversial secularism legislation through the National Assembly.

You know, the law that makes it illegal for any government employee in a position of power—teachers, cops, judges, lawyers, prison guards—to wear religious symbols to work.

The legislation was barely a day old before Canadian Muslims and civil liberties advocates announced legal challenges designed to strike it down as unconstitutional.

That news broke just hours after Donald Trump, on the verge of launching his presidential re-election campaign, announced that he would start deporting “millions” of undocumented immigrants as early as next week.

That of course is another country.

But the outcry from our neighbour to the south was immediate. In other words, almost as fast as the howls of outrage were in Canada Tuesday when, less than 24-hours after declaring a national climate emergency, the federal cabinet approved an expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline, which the government bought for $4.5 billion last year after regulatory and political uncertainty caused the original developer to abandon the project.

The decision, you may recall, comes on the heels of the premiers of Ontario, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, New Brunswick and the Northwest Territories writing to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau warning him to amend or abandon bills restricting tanker traffic on part of British Columbia’s coast and overhauling the federal environmental-assessment system for major construction projects like Trans Mountain, or risk jeopardizing national unity.

Trudeau accused the conservative premiers of “playing games” with national unity, by threatening the country’s future if they didn’t get their way.

But both sides got down and dirty throughout the duration of the saga, which undoubtedly is not over yet.

And, let’s be honest: the animus at the moment goes from coast-to-coast in this country.

Just consider how a single word has the country in an uproar. Weeks ago, the national inquiry into Canada’s murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls came right out and called what this country has done to its aboriginal people “genocide”.

But critics decried the characterization. and the Prime Minister himself stopped short of using the word, stoking anger throughout an indigenous community still smarting over the Jody Wilson-Raybould affair.

See what I mean: rancour on all sides.

That’s certainly the case in Ontario where premier Doug Ford is at war with everyone: the feds over carbon taxes—despite the fact that even the Pope in Rome has declared carbon taxes the best way to avoid environmental Armageddon; municipalities over spending cuts, some of which they’ve managed to avoid for now, but perhaps not for much longer; ordinary Ontarians over too many out-rages to list here.

We’re not immune from this sense of discord either.

The other day in these pages you could have read howthe Royal Canadian Navy was looking to identify a sailor in full uniform glimpsed at a Halifax Tim Horton’s lineup with the word infidel tattooed in the shape of a rifle on his arm.

You would learn as well that the controversy over the statue of Halifax founder Edward Cornwallis continues to burn bright, even though the statue was removed in January 2018.

You could also read how a group of African Nova Scotians is boycotting the on-going meetings about street checks in Halifax.

No wonder it felt so good to watch the parade Monday, to see much of what Canada is about so obviously on display, to be able to take a joyous breath even as the dissent swirls around us.

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