Heart Beats Hate at Maxwell’s

Heart Beats Hate will help our whole community

In this file photo, Alan Quarryin St. Jacobs. Quarry has organized a community rally against hate. Heart Beats Hate is at Maxwell’s Concerts & Events on Tuesday, Sept. 19, 7:30 p.m. – Robert Wilson,Record file photo

“Somebody should do something about this,” Alan Quarry thought when he was watching neo-Nazis and white nationalists marching in Charlottesville, Virginia, last month.

Then he thought, “Wait a minute. I’m somebody.”

That was the beginning of Heart Beats Hate, a pro-diversity, anti-bigotry rally that will take place in Waterloo next week.

Quarry, who runs the St. Jacobs-based marketing and communications company that bears his name, is experienced in these kinds of events. For the past three years he has organized Stone Soup, a local fundraising evening that has raised a total of $40,000 for various charities.

This evening is different. The point, Quarry says, is to “stand up, speak up, and push back” against a rising tide of hate that — believe it or not — even has Canada caught in its swell.

It’s an all-ages event and admission is free. There will be speakers, food (but no alcohol) and music, all donated. As for the guests, they’ll be encouraged to make a contribution to the Kitchener-Waterloo Multicultural Centre, but the real point of the evening is to make a statement.

Quarry said he has been distressed for a long time about the “dramatic” polarization of opposing political views on both sides of the Canada-U.S. border.

“We in Canada are facing our own challenges,” he said. “It’s bad here as well.”

It’s true. Canadians enjoy a reputation for themselves of quiet politeness and celebrating diversity. But although we’re a paradise compared to many other places in the world, we are not quite as benign as we see ourselves, either.

Anti-Semitism is on the rise in Canada, according to the human rights advocacy group B’nai Brith, which said there were 1,728 anti-Semitic incidents reported to it in 2016. That’s a 26 per cent increase from 2015 and also the highest number ever recorded.

It’s coming not only from the extreme right, but also from Islamic extremists who are increasingly engaging in Holocaust denial in Arab-language media in Canada, the agency said in May.

While the highest number of reported hate crimes in this country are those that express anti-Semitism, there was a sharp increase in hate crimes against Muslims, which rose by 59 per cent in 2015, Statistics Canada says.

This area has a particular reason to be concerned. The number of hate crimes reported in Waterloo Region more than doubled, with 51 in 2015, up from 23 in 2014, according to Statistics Canada.

Per capita, that rate is more than twice the national average, and the highest in Canada, after Thunder Bay.

Waterloo Regional police have said it’s encouraging that more people are coming forward to report violent acts, vandalism and threats that have historically been under-reported.

Either way, whether reported or not, the acts are happening and it’s important to speak out.

Meanwhile, the level of discrimination against Indigenous people in this country, both historically and right now, is breathtaking. Here’s one fact from Statistics Canada that speaks volumes: Indigenous people make up three per cent of the general population but 26 per cent of jail inmates.

The summer has been filled with emergencies for us to respond to: from forest fires to floods to hurricanes. But if we don’t have love in our hearts, responding to the distress of others will become more and more difficult.

Heart Beats Hate starts at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 19, at Maxwell’s Concerts & Events, 35 University Ave. E., Waterloo. For more information, the event has a Facebook page, or you can find details at maxwellswaterloo.com

ldamato@therecord.com Twitter: @DamatoRecord