“Why’s your skin so dark?”
— an eight-year-old boy from small town Ontario at the Canadian National Comic Book Exposition, 2003.
When a little White boy asked me why my skin was so dark at my comic con table, I wasn’t ready for it at all. As a Mississauga kid, I knew diversity. I knew a public aware of all the races, never dreaming of a situation where people wouldn’t know about people who didn’t look like them.
But that also meant that I grew up in a bubble, thinking the Greater Toronto Area a reflection of how things worked across the country instead of seeing it for what it is—one big Canadian anomaly.
Many Torontonians make the same mistake (after all, being steps away from an international airport makes cheap trips to the Caribbean far more alluring than costly domestic travel), but I wanted to show my kids more of the country than I’d ever seen myself. In those journeys, I realised something:
This country is white as hell.
And, Toronto? This might come as a shock to you.
Yes, we have Black people in Canada. No, they’re not LOST.
For a long time, people were surprised we have Black people in Canada, sure it was a country full of White people living in igloos and travelling by dogsled through a wintry tundra.
And they weren’t entirely wrong.
But before Drake came along and showed the world a different side of what a Canadian looked like, there were always Canadians who’d run online to our country’s defence, telling everyone that they’d be stunned if they knew how diverse our country was. We have representation from every corner of the world. Canada embraces people and weaves them into a cultural mosaic instead of having them assimilate as the United States does.
And their hearts were in the right place—if you look at our urban centres like Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver, this is indeed the case, as vast proportions of our BIPOC population calls urban Canada home. But it doesn’t take much travelling outside of those metropolitan hubs to understand just how homogeneous the rest of our country is.