Sunday, April 5, 2015

Bigotry and Childhood

c2011 (S)

As I was growing up in southern Ontario in the 1960s and 1970s, there was plenty of hate and bigotry in the world.

For one thing, the Arab-Israeli wars, and of course northern Ireland was always in the news. For the most part we were pretty insulated here in Canada, but it wasn't like it couldn't touch us as oil embargoes and the theat of airline hijackings was still there. One day the paper was full of the Red Brigade, the next it was the Baader-Meinhoff gang, or Carlos, 'the Jackal.'

There was prejudice, and bigotry, and hatred. It was milder in tone, and rarely resulted in violence. Yet even now, a case can be made for the existence of colour prejudice, and every time a person of colour is killed by police in the course of their duties, a big stink will be raised in the media.

As a boy, I went to a Roman Catholic or 'separate' school. Right across the street was a 'public' school where anyone could go, whether Protestant, Catholic, native kids, the rare Asian child, where people were bussed in from farms and other kids attended from 'the projects.'

Back then, the province supported Catholic elementary and secondary schools up to Grade 10, and in fact homeowners could elect whether the education portion of their municipal property tax bill would go to support one system or the other.

When the province extended full funding to Grade 12 in the 'separate' system, there was a great deal of debate. People questioned whether taxpayers should be supporting religious instruction in the schools. How much of this is logical, and how much was bigotry, is a matter open to question.

One thing for sure about the 'public' school system was that every morning they played the national anthem, they put up the flag on the flag-pole, had pictures of Queen Elizabeth up in every classroom, and we prayed every day--I know that because I attended a public school for several years. Incidentally, that prayer was in the Church of England form, and not the Catholic! So there was a kind of 'religious instruction,' which has also generated controversy of its own since prayer was dropped in public schools.

In my new novel, 'Redemption: an Inspector Gilles Maintenon mystery,' I gently touch on issues of prejudice and bigotry insofar as it might relate to a homicide investigation in England, in or about 1927.

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