Canada is amongst the most advanced of countries of the Western world. A recent global poll of experts revealed that policies that promote gender equality, safeguards against violence and exploitation and access to healthcare make Canada the best place to be a woman among the world’s biggest economies, as represented by the G20 nations. India ranked the lowest in the poll, owing to practices such as Infanticide, child marriage and slavery.
One of the measures of a country’s justice quotient is how it treats its minority groups. In this regard, Canada is an interesting and important subject of study, home as it is to a range of minority groups, including immigrant communities, the first nations, as well as LGBT groups. Canada can take pride in the fact that it is the first nation in the Americas to perform same-sex marriages nationwide, following civil marriage rights being offered to such couples since 2005.
However, challenges remain and will need continuous and sincere work on the part of the governments at all levels, policy makers, NGOs and ordinary citizens alike. Compared to the Canadian population in general, First Nations people continue to experience the lowest rates of literacy and education, and the highest rates of infant mortality, unemployment, incarceration and suicide.
According to a March 2005 survey, about one in six Canadian adults – roughly 4 million people – claim to have been victims of racism. One in 10 respondents said they wouldn’t want people from another race as next-door neighbours. A greater number -13 per cent – told pollsters they would never marry or have a relationship with someone from another race.
According to Amnesty International’s 2007 Report, indigenous women continue to suffer discrimination and violence and no comprehensive national strategy exists to address the problem. The policies and practices of police forces in response to such violence were inconsistent.
In this week’s issue, we feature Mahesh Dattani, a noted South Asian playwright who has, through his plays, turned the spotlight on those living in the margins—whether it be India’s transgender community or by discussing issues of gender and sexuality, which often remain in the closet because of the taboo attached to them. Studying and celebrating plays such as the ones penned by Dattani, can not only help educate the wider public, but also sensitize them to the challenges faced by those in the minority.