Fernando Garci-Crespo Santalo was trying to share a piece of his culture with the world when he was confronted with an ugly situation. The 20-year-old Victoria busker was singing in Spanish when a man claiming to be an immigration officer approached him and asked for documentation.
Santalo, A Mexican expat living in Victoria, described the encounter in an emotional Facebook post. He claimed the man told him he wanted to make sure Santalo wasn't an "illegal worker taking jobs away from Canadians." Santalo said the man reached into his bag which made him feel "unsafe," so he showed him a license. The man left after that, although Santalo noted that he said some "xenophobic things" before departing.
"I have been a canvasser for political campaigns, and people feel empowered in their homes," Santalo told Narcity. "They feel more empowered to do these kinds of things in their own houses."
In the post, Santalo said he was feeling more on edge about the situation after the shooting in El Paso, Texas. In that instance, the shooter admitted that he was targeting Mexicans.
"When I was in high school and Trump got elected, kids in my school created a group chat on Facebook talking about Trump and building a wall," Santalo said to Narcity. "They would harass me about things he said."
"I also felt sad because I wasn’t that surprised. It was surprising at first, but it was not something out of the ordinary or otherworldly. These things happen in Victoria, but they are not often spoken of."
Despite the bad situation, plenty of Canadians reached out on Facebook to let Santalo know that this wasn't indicative of Canada.
Someone pointed out that if the man wasn't who he claimed to be and didn't have any proper credentials to show to Santalo, then he was the one that was committing a crime in this situation.
According to the Criminal Code of Canada, the man would have committed a crime simply by claiming to be a public officer if he wasn't one. This is an indictable offence that can result in up to five years in prison.
One commenter noted that some of her students had experienced something similar in British Columbia.
The outpouring of support for Santalo was huge. One commenter even offered to stand with him while he sang, just in case anything like this were to happen again.
"The hour after the harasser left was the hour that I made the most money, so it was kind of like karma, or the universe paying me back in cash," Santalo recalled to Narcity.
"It turns out that being a busker is both more lucrative and fun than having a minimum wage job. I decided to do it and it has been extraordinarily fun and I really love it. It’s a lovely thing to do, the amount of special moments you can create for people is really lovely. It makes my heart go fuzzy."
The sad reality is that hate crimes do take place in Canada, with a massive surge in reported hate crimes occurring in 2017. The number jumped to 2073 from 1409 cases in 2016, according to a report from Statistics Canada.
Alan Dutton, the founder of Canadian Anti-Racism Education and Research Society (CAERS), told CTVNews that he believes the escalating problems stem from far-right politicians and their rhetoric. "When politicians talk about an invasion of immigrants or an invasion by certain groups of people from different countries, that creates fear and loathing," he said.
In a follow-up post, Santalo revealed that shortly after the man who confronted him left, he got to sing for some big crowds, and even went right back to singing in Spanish.
The idea that someone would harass someone else for simply singing in their native language is pretty disheartening. However, seeing not just the support Santalo received, but also his bravery and coolheadedness in overcoming a bad situation, shows that a positive attitude can outshine anything.
Narcity has also reached out to Alan Dutton for comment and we will update this story when we receive a response.