March 18, 2013- Centre for Race and Culture launches 20th annual campaign to end racism
Edmontonians will gather this week to reaffirm their commitment to end racism as the Centre for Race and Culture hosts its 20th annual campaign for the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, March 21, 2013.
This year’s campaign marks the 20th year organizations and communities in Edmonton have formally gathered to observe this important day commemorating the 1960 Sharpeville Massacre in apartheid South Africa. While the Centre for Race and Culture works year-round to address racial discrimination, the March 21st campaign aim to educate the community at large on the impacts of racism while inspiring action and change through a variety of events during that week.
In partnership with the University of Alberta and Racism Free Edmonton, the Centre for Race and Culture will host a Gala event featuring an awards ceremony honouring significant contributions made towards inclusion as well as a panel discussion with local experts answering the question, “Is it Taboo to Talk About Race and Equity?”
“Since the Centre for Race and Culture was founded 20 years ago, we’ve worked with school boards, students, businesses, law enforcement, universities and other organizations to affect change and create a more inclusive spaces,” said Charlene Hay, Executive Director. “There is still much work to be done and this campaign provides an opportunity for everyone to learn more about why racism continues to be a pressing issue for all of us.”
Since 1993, the Centre for Race and Culture has worked within the community to promote and support individual, collective, and systemic change to address racism and encourage intercultural understanding. Our expertise spans workplace development, community building, research, and education.
To see the full schedule of events, please visit Centre for Race and Culture’s website: www.cfrac.com.
By Charlene Hay
Austerity measures abound. Government budgets are tightening up on investment in people. Alberta has eliminated the Safe Communities Innovation Fund (SCIF). The federal budget of 2012 seriously restricted investment in immigrant communities. Multiculturalism Canada funding has dropped to small amounts of dollars available for “events”. The focus on crime prevention with Public Safety Canada has shifted to working only with “high risk” groups.
Proud we are as Canadians of our respect of human rights. Quickly we criticize other nations for falling short. Recent austerity measures are defusing our strength in maintaining human rights as a priority in Canada and Alberta.
We must ask ourselves what the longer term cost may be of this short-term tightening of belts. Indigenous peoples are sending a clear message that the federal government has pushed too far into their human rights. Idle No More has so little faith in Canadian justice that choices have been made to pursue international forums rather than utilizing the Supreme Court of Canada.
We are the most multicultural nation in the world. The richness of the fabric of our society, with its many ways of thinking, knowing, and doing; is weakening through changes in the ways we invest in our people.
Consider whether cuts to programs are pushing those in the margins further away from the opportunity to contribute to our society in positive ways. When people have enormous barriers to education, employment, housing, and access to services, they bear the brunt of all of this belt-tightening. What will happen to their health? To their ability to work, pay taxes, and contribute to pensions?
Immigrants are so segregated in the banlieues of Paris that there is regular eruption of violence in these outlying areas of the city. Riots in parts of Britain have broken out when austerity measures limit the already restricted chances of the racialized poor.
If we don’t see our way clear to spend the dollars needed now, we will all pay the costs later.
The vision of the Centre for Race and Culture is an inclusive society free of racism. We believe that this will happen when we all work together to examine the causes of, manifestations of, and solutions to racism in our society.
At this time when Aboriginal people are sending our messages through peaceful protest, we need to be listening intently and learning all we can about what they are saying to non-Aboriginal people. Our first peoples welcomed newcomers to this land, helped them to survive those first winters, and entered into Treaties between nations, in good faith. There have been many violations of those treaties.
Are we aware that the tiny pieces of land allotted to Aboriginal peoples were mostly not useful for sustaining life? Do we remember how traditional means of subsistence were severely limited by restricting movement? Do we know that Aboriginal peoples needed a special permit to leave their “reserves”, and that Apartheid South Africa used this as a model to restrict movement of Black South Africans? Are we aware that traditional ceremonies were made illegal? Are we fully cognizant of the ways Aboriginal children were forcefully taken from their families to residential schools? “Schools” where students were punished for speaking their own language, often not seeing families for many years, where most experienced abuse of all kinds, including death. Do we know that these residential schools operated until very recently? Can we even imagine the cascading effects of all of this on individuals, families, and communities? Are we aware of the racism that Aboriginal people experience on a daily basis in Canada?
Are we aware that Aboriginal peoples are contributing to our communities and country in many significant ways – Are we aware that many First Nations, Métis and Inuit are at the forefront of art, culture, economics, business, education and environmental innovation? Do we realize that Aboriginal Canadians are one of the fastest growing, youngest and most urban communities in the country and will drive economic and cultural growth into the future? Do we understand how important the Idle no More movement is for all of Canada?
Yet stereotypes abound and are rising to the surface. Mainstream media and mainstream responses are tinged with subtle and unconscious discrimination. Many of us believe that Aboriginal people choose not to work and would rather collect welfare. We are told repeatedly that our First Peoples get everything for “free” and are not appropriately grateful. The motives of Chief Theresa Spence are questioned, with one headline wondering whether she had the “moral right to hunger strike”.
The discrimination we are witnessing is violent and shames all civilized societies: the recent rape of an Aboriginal women in Thunder Bay whose attackers made reference to the Idle No More movement is an abhorrent and unacceptable example.
The Centre for Race and Culture fully supports the Idle No More Movement and respects the words and peaceful methods being used. We urge all Canadians to speak out against racism and to unite in the voice that demands the racialized violence against Aboriginal communities and in particular Aboriginal women stops. Finally we ask everyone to take the time to listen and learn at this important time in history.
Centre for Race and Culture
Please direct all media responses to Ian Mathieson, Senior Consultant, Centre for Race and Culture: 780-425-4644, ext.2, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Before I came to Canada, I had a PhD and a prestigious job in the highest research institute in China with no intention of immigrating. Until some people convinced me that my country is a dictatorship and has no human rights. I did not feel deprived.
They told me, “If you live in the West, you will enjoy more rights than you have ever dreamed, only then will you understand that you have no freedom, no rights and no democracy in China.”
In East Asia humbleness is valued and boasting brings shame. I assumed that the West must be like heaven. So here I am in Canada as an immigrant.
When I was accepted by Citizenship & Immigration, I received a brochure with “Welcome to Canada, Welcome Home” on the cover. I read this with tears in my eyes, thinking I was indeed fortunate.
In the beginning, it seemed to be true. I was amazed that people with different colors of skin, speaking different languages and practicing different religions lived and worked together in peace.
As time went by, reality appeared. I noticed that many students did not graduate from university because they could not get along with their supervisors. When forced to transfer to another university and study under a different supervisor, they graduated. In the “dictatorship” of China, I have never heard such stories. In China, we were taught to respect people’s talents even if we did not appreciate them as individuals. I rationalized that these must be isolated cases.
Reality became even harsher when I realized that our foreign credentials were not recognized. I found it bizarre that this happened in a multicultural country.
Likewise, foreign working experience is not recognized. Experience with the United Nations back home is not recognized by employers but experience with Tim Horton’s carries more weight. Nobody explained – why?
I finally realized that requirements for Canadian education and working experience are a legal way to discriminate. Many immigrants with PhDs are driving taxis while they were professors and doctors back home.
Many say that in Communist China doctors make the same money as laborers. When I say this is not true, they often become defensive – as if they know China better than I do. When I had to do jobs like cleaning hotel rooms, I became extremely upset.
But why were education and work experience recognized when we applied for immigration? We were not told that they would mean little after coming to Canada. If they did, many people would not have come.
Yet, suffering often just continues after employment is found. In the beginning, I appreciated team work of Canadian working culture until I discovered that it often serves to get rid of people managers do not like – because “you do not fit in”. To fit in is getting along with Canadians when they make few efforts to get along with people who are different from them. Many immigrants believe that talents and the ability to perform the job should be more important. But here, I am stressed since I have to pretend to get along with my Canadian coworkers who make fun of my culture and me on a regular basis.
I can no longer ignore the painful truth: when I was in China, I never had to worry about survival. But in this “democracy,” survival itself is the predominant concern.
Many Canadians are indifferent to this suffering. When I share my painful experiences, I was labelled “overly sensitive”. I saw Africans, Japanese and Germans insulted by Canadians. Immigrants are not given the same right to criticize Canada. “Why do not you go back to where you are from?” is a common response.
I gave up everything I had in China, a successful career, family and friends. I came to Canada for happiness but was traumatized; I came for human rights but was mistreated; I came for democracy but was discriminated against.
I still have a dream and it is also Martin Luther King’s dream. In my dream employers will hire based on abilities alone. Canadians will view all cultures, customs and political systems objectively. In my dream old and new Canadians will work together to build a true democracy where everybody is equal and free. Then everybody will sing: Canada is the most beautiful country in the world.
Charlene Hay, Executive Director, responds to the recent article in the Globe and Mail titled, “Why So Many Somali-Canadians Who Go West End Up Dead“.
I wish to respond to the Globe and Mail article “Why so many Somali-Canadians who go west end up dead” of June 22, 2012 – a sensationalized headline if I have ever seen one.
We are led to believe that ‘others’ are the cause of violence and crime; and in this case, the Somali-Canadians. Recent research done by the Centre for Race and Culture indicates that immigrants and non-white people (racialized) do not commit more crime than mainstream Canadians with similar life circumstances. Crime IS higher for those who are unemployed, have low levels of education, come from single parent families, or live in poverty. These are all exacerbated by the discrimination that immigrant, refugee, and Aboriginal people experience.
Why do racialized people consistently receive a lower quality of education, have a more difficult time finding employment and income levels that are commensurate with their education and experience? And why does this topic so rarely see a headline in our newspapers? We need to stop blaming racialized people and look to mainstream Canada’s individual attitudes and institutional behaviours to get the complete explanation.
Headlines like “Why so many Somali-Canadians who go west end up dead” feed into the stereotype that immigrants tend to be criminal and therefore increase fears for safety. When a white person commits murder that person is represented as aberrant. When a non-white person commits murder, that person is seen to represent an entire community. I wonder at the significance of a “graveyard” being near the place where many Somalis live in Fort McMurray. Does this add important information to your story, or just add to the fearful tone? I also wonder if there are more immigrants and refugees selling drugs in Fort McMurray, in proportion to their population, than any other group?
Inequities persist in the Somali-Canadian community as in other immigrant, refugee, and other ‘racialized’ communities. This is, in fact, a highly diverse group of people that includes mostly ethical and non-criminal people. Let’s remember that our economy needs immigrants. White Canadians have a dangerously low birth rate. Without immigrants Canadians will face a shrinking economy where the work force is not contributing enough to pension plans and health care to support our aging population. It is in all of our interests to work toward a harmonious and equitable society that values the richness in diversity.
Executive Director, Centre for Race and Culture
Book review by Dr. Randolph Haluza-Delay, Associate Professor at Kings University College and Board Member of the Centre for Race and Culture
Rethinking the Great White North: Race, Nature and the Historical Geographies
of Whiteness in Canada, Andrew Baldwin, Laura Cameron and Audrey Kobayashi, eds., Vancouver: UBC Press, 2011, 356 pages.
Reviewed by Randolph Haluza-DeLay
Unlike most academic books, Rethinking the Great White North stirred enough irritation to be attacked by a Globe and Mail columnist. Repeating an old saw, Margaret Wente previously wrote that what makes someone Canadian is having sex in a canoe. Maybe new immigrants should be taught to canoe, Wente said, so they could be more patriotic.
The editors of this book took her to task in their introduction. They wrote that this perception, “Canada = Canoeing,” was just one of the ways a European colonial mentality permeates both our sense of nation and nature. Wente lashed back in the pages of the broadsheet. I hope environmentalists will listen better than she did.
When I came to Northern Saskatchewan as an immigrant, I quickly understood how much the North matters to the Canadian imagination. Nature and the boreal forest are huge parts of the country’s history and sense of identity. But I also learned that the “Canadian” way of thinking about the land was often split along ethnic lines. This book clearly shows how race and nature intermingle.
The view of the North as wilderness often neglects native peoples. The national narrative refers to, and then brushes over, the native present/presence. This is partially why the tar sands development proceeds as rapaciously as it does. They sort of say “there’s no one there,” so Canadians are willing to sacrifice the “empty” land.
For all our vaunted multiculturalism, Canada remains highly European in modes of thinking and acting, how our institutions operate and even what counts as legitimate knowledge about the land. In the hands of the authors of these 14 sections, the Great “White” North becomes an analogy for the dominance of “whiteness” and the racial privilege that accumulates with it. The chapter on Temagami in Northern Ontario shows how Anglophone tourist literature labelled it a “wild” place. But what was a recreation site for southern Canadian tourists was a workplace for their Aboriginal guides. The “wilderness” was domestic. Contemporary ecotourism similarly celebrates exotic nature and cultures. Two early chapters contrast the way “nature” was moralized around ethnicity. City planners in Toronto at the turn of the 20th century advocated the creation of parks to “civilize” and Canadianize new immigrants. Nature was “good.” The next chapter, an analysis of the rhetoric around Toronto’s SARS outbreak in 2005, demon- strates nature as “bad” or a threat. Media reports highlighted the virus’ origin in Asia, and as fear rose, nature – via SARS – became equated with the immigrants being a threat. Life-saving nurses were reframed as immigrant or ethnic nurses putting “us” at risk by possibly passing on the pathogen. There are two chapters about Samuel Hearne’s Arctic travelogues and the way this 18th century explorer represented inter- tribal conflicts and economic exchanges. Hearne racialized his “Chipewyan” guides and shaped the image of bloodthirsty, uncivilized aboriginals. Dominant social positions come with the power to narrate the land and shape its management, use, development and protection.
Rethinking the Great White North addresses injustices in other parts of Canada. Catriona Mortimer-Sandilands illustrates the erasure of Acadian ethnicity from Cape Breton Highlands National Park and its subsequent replacement by the more respected Scottish ethnic heritage.
Elsewhere, conservation was a management tool for ethnic groups and ecosystems. Stephen Bocking, well known to readers of this magazine, describes how purportedly objective science minimizes traditional knowledge. The two dramatically differ in their epistemologies and their way of understanding ecological processes, so it is difficult, if not impossible, to test against each other. Science has often been an implement of racializing domination, even to the present day.
Rethinking the Great White North contains some of the complicated academic language that makes people avoid reading such books. But that would be a mistake. Even more detrimental would be to ignore the entwining of race, nature, ethnicity and colonization that still permeates Canadian society. We need to disrupt the narratives of nature that are too often used in environmental action.
This book’s unravelling of race and nature in history and geography might help environmental protection by opening a broader vision of just sustainability and expanding the pool of people who might help formulate it. This is one of several recent scholarly books that challenges Canadian environmentalism to expand its social justice credibility. Will doing so help the environment? Yes, because it makes us more aware. Sustainability is an impossible goal if it does not include social equity. If others don’t see their issues and efforts in the movement, we unnecessarily narrow the audience for environmental messages.
Randolph Haluza-DeLay is a former wilderness guide. He is an associate professor of sociology at The King’s University College in Edmonton.
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