A video recently surfaced on Facebook showing a visibly upset customer shouting at store clerks at a Shopper’s Drug Mart in Burnaby, British Columbia. The video went viral after Allen Tseng, the person who filmed and posted it, accused the unidentified customer of being “racist.”

The customer, a woman who was in the store with a boy who appeared to be her son, was telling the store clerks to “shut up” and called them “rude” for speaking a foreign language in front of her.

“Speak English in Canada,” she says forcefully in the video, and points at a female clerk, “you’re rude, go somewhere else.”

She says several times that she’s upset because the employees were “speaking Chinese” right in front of her. “Go speak Chinese and s— talk me somewhere else.”

The video doesn’t show the whole interaction, so we don’t know what set off this customer or whether the clerks were in fact talking about her in a different language. Regardless, the woman’s actions were over-the-top, aggressive and rude.

As has sadly become common in these scenarios though, the video led to a virtual mobbing of this unidentified woman. People began demanding that she be doxxed – publicly identified – and called her every name in the book.

Media outlets picked up the story and stated as fact that the woman was being “racist,” while others encouraged the online mob for supposedly celebrating our diversity, or something along these lines.

While we should condemn this woman’s bad behaviour, the scenario does bring up a broader issue.

There are large enclaves in Vancouver where English is hardly spoken and English speakers do not feel welcome. As wealthy foreign buyers continue to snatch up prime real estate in Vancouver – many from mainland China, many suspected to be connected to the Communist regime and money-laundering schemes – Vancouver’s English-speaking population continues to get pushed further and further from the city. To add insult to injury, many newcomers no longer try to learn the local language or communicate with their neighbours in English.

A common language is what unites us as Canadians, and, on the West Coast, English is a common factor that holds our society together.

Countless studies on successful integration of newcomers point to language as the most important factor. Canada’s intense focus on our two official languages and in ensuring that all Canadians, new and old, can converse in at least one of them is what has led to Canada having one of the most successful immigration programs in the world.

So to hear liberals and progressives suddenly sneering not just at this rude woman but at the whole idea that newcomers should speak English is disappointing. A common language is what makes our society more inclusive and cohesive.

If we no longer ask newcomers to learn English (in English Canada, and French in French Canada), they won’t be able to connect with the broader community. They won’t be able to participate meaningfully in public life, make cross-cultural friendships and, most importantly, they will struggle to get help or communicate in an emergency.

We should be able to agree that a customer losing her cool and shouting at store clerks is not acceptable, but also, that store clerks should refrain from speaking another language about a customer right in front of that customer – especially during a dispute.

We can celebrate our differences while also having a shared community and a shared language. There isn’t anything racist about insisting Canadians speak English in English Canada.

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