Jinnah Park in Winnipeg | Twitter
Jinnah Park in Winnipeg | Twitter
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Maxime Brenier had lashed out because a park was renamed after Jinnah, while in another city, inaugural PM John Macdonald’s bust was pulled down.

Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, divides opinion in the subcontinent — he is a hero to millions of Pakistanis, and a villain to millions of Indians. But now, Jinnah is at the heart of another controversy in faraway Canada.

On 14 August (incidentally Pakistan’s Independence Day), Maxime Brenier, a Canadian member of parliament, put out a surly tweet saying Canada was now under threat from an “extreme liberal multiculturalism”, following the naming of a park in Winnipeg to ‘Jinnah Park’.

Also read: The week hasn’t been kind to Jinnah’s legacy – neither in India nor in Pakistan

The tweet also referred to the removal of a bust depicting Canada’s first prime minister John A. Macdonald from the steps of the city hall in Victoria, British Columbia. Brenier conflated the two issues, insinuating that Canadian culture was under attack.

Macdonald played a pioneering role in laying down “residential schools” for Canada’s indigenous population, forcibly assimilating them into Euro-Canadian culture. His statue was removed to respect and honour the history of Canada’s indigenous peoples, whose lives were greatly disrupted because of Macdonald’s schools.

But, according to Brenier, Jinnah’s reputation is no better — one million people were killed due to “Pakistan independence from India”.

Days after Brenier’s tweet, Jinnah Park was vandalised, and the Pakistani-Canadian community doesn’t think it’s a coincidence. According to reports, the signboard bearing the park’s name was ripped off, leaving behind wooden stumps.

Also read: A Chinese diplomat in Pakistan is setting Twitter on fire with his brashness

An ‘extreme’ response

Canadians are afraid the incident will deepen ethnic divides. But the Pakistani- community is fighting back with ‘extremism’ of its own: Extreme tolerance.

CBC News quoted a Pakistani-origin university professor from Winnipeg saying that if “being loved by each other is ‘extreme’, that’s fine”, and “I’m happy with that word as extremism (sic)”.

The Sunday following Brenier’s comments, the Pakistani community celebrated Independence Day at Jinnah Park. What ensued were celebrations of diversity, unity, harmony, and peace.

Masroor Khan, organiser of the celebrations, said: “It’s a perfect opportunity to create new relationships strengthened on the basis of trust and respect.”

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