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The Hindu community in Montreal, Canada, celebrating the deity Jagannath. (Photo by Giordanno Brumas/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Rupa Subramanya: I’m Stuck Between the Woke Left and the Nativist Right

In the last twenty years, I’ve seen North America become less welcoming. It is now mainstream to be intolerant of immigrants.

During the last few months of 2023, a Hindu temple in the Toronto suburb of Brampton, Ontario, erected a statue of the Hindu demigod Hanuman. The 55-foot statue, which looms over its neighborhood, was built on grounds owned by the temple, paid for with private funds, and violated no building codes.

I’m a Hindu myself—an immigrant from India who came to Canada in 1998 to attend college. I became a journalist and later a Canadian citizen, eventually gaining a reputation as a reporter and conservative-leaning commenter. Like many of my fellow conservatives, I decried government overreach on Covid-19 policy responses, criticized the government of Justin Trudeau, and covered the excesses of the progressive left. I believe passionately in property rights, the rule of law, and the importance of free expression.

So I was shocked when I saw the torrent of outrage the Hanuman statue ignited among many Canadian conservatives, some of whom I had long viewed as friends. 

The gist of their anger was that as the Black Lives Matter movement spread across North America, “anti-racism” protests in Canada led to the removal of statues of prominent historical figures on the grounds that they were racist. It infuriated them that after seeing a statue of Sir John A. Macdonald, the country’s first prime minister, taken down, they were now supposed to accept a statue of some Hindu demigod worshipped by people in India.

As Ben Bankas, a Toronto-based comedian, put it on X, “Explain to me how this statue is okay in Canada but Sir John A. Macdonald is not.”

I had publicly opposed the removal of public statues—not just of Macdonald but American founding fathers like Thomas Jefferson, whose statue had been taken down in New York. When a Macdonald statue was toppled by activists in Hamilton, Ontario, in August 2021, I wrote, “If you’re ok with the illegal toppling of these statues it means two things: a) you don’t believe in the rule of law, b) you don’t believe in Canada.”

And I defended Canada against the ridiculous progressive accusation that it was an irredeemably racist nation. “Canada,” I wrote in the National Post in June 2021, “is one of the most tolerant countries on the planet, and one which I am proud to call home.” 

All of which was why seeing my fellow conservatives attack a statue put up on private property that honored my religion was devastating. I had met some of these people while reporting on the 2022 truckers’ protest in Canada. Back then, I had proudly defended their right to oppose vaccine mandates. Was I no longer acceptably “Canadian” to them because I was a Hindu who had immigrated 30 years ago? Another critic of the Hanuman statue wrote, “If you’re not fighting to defend Canadian culture & Canadian people then you’re honestly not helping.”

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