ActiveHistory.ca repost – From Tragic Little Boys to Unwanted Young Men

ActiveHistory.ca is on a two-week hiatus, but we’ll be back with new content in September. During the hiatus, we’re featuring some of our most popular and favourite posts from the past year.   Thanks as always to our writers and readers.

The following post was originally featured on October 9, 2015.

By Veronica Strong-Boag

Canadians are easily sentimental about babies and toddlers. Look at the ready adoption of global infants or September 2015’s outpouring of grief for the three-year-old Syrian Alan Kurdi. Once victims of poverty, exploitation, and conflict reach adolescence and beyond, however, sympathy frequently evaporates.

Refugees are a case in point and gender consorts with age to matter. Girls and women suffer recurring abuse and stigmatization (Dauvergne, Angeles & Huang) but boys and men have a special place in the hierarchy of the demonized. Males beyond childhood are only too readily branded rapists, drug-dealers and addicts, thieves, lay-abouts, and, increasingly, terrorists. It is hard to avoid the conclusion that male teenagers and twenty somethings are somehow less worthy. The image of one drowned little boy cannot redeem his elder brothers.

The racial or ethnic origins of asylum-seekers are not incidental to this reception. Much like the recurring stigmatization of the Catholic Irish in the mid- 19th century, the Indians from the subcontinent a few decades later and the Italians later again, negative labels readily affix to suspect communities. Special targets have been anyone other than Stephen Harper’s ‘old stock’ Canadians whose sons can expect extended dependence and second chances to smooth their path to survival and dominance. For others, childhood is likely to be far shorter and less protected.

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