When a bronze statue of Sir John A. MacDonald was pulled down by anti-racism protestors on August 29, it wasn’t the first time Canada’s first Prime Minister lost his head. Erected in downtown Montreal in 1895, the statue has long been a target of vandalism. In 1992 it was decapitated on the anniversary of the hanging of Louis Riel. Since then it has been defaced with paint and graffiti many times.
In this sweet, gentle children’s picture book, Inuit writer and educator Nadia Sammurtok has realized her passion to preserve “the traditional Inuit lifestyle and Inuktitut language so that they may be enjoyed by future generations.”
As I write this article, all the headlines on Canada’s news websites are dominated by COVID-19, rapidly dropping oil prices and the possibility of the economy opening up again. You could be forgiven for assuming that everything to do with the dispute a few kilometres down the Morice West Forest Service Road in northern B.C. must be done and settled. After all, if media coverage has moved on, everything must be okay now, right?
My name is Sarah Beaubien, I am Wet’suwet’en from the Likhts’amisyu Clan. The last few weeks have had their ups and downs; in 2020 you wouldn’t think that we would still be living in the past of ripping Aboriginal people from their lands, but that is exactly what we are seeing. I also have to stay positive because I know God is a God of Justice and that is exactly what we are fighting for.
Someone at church once asked me, “Just what do you people want anyway?” Well, first, maybe don’t call us “you people.” We Indigenous people actually expect a lot from Canada, because a lot was taken from us, and a burden was placed on us that we have carried for centuries. We expect Canada will negotiate government to government, ours to theirs. We expect healing of our identity that has been so shattered, mostly by the residential schools and the Sixties Scoop. We also expect an end to the persistent cycles of racism in Canadian society.
There were no winners in the 2019 federal election. Members of parliament are reconvening on Parliament Hill like a classroom of chastened schoolboys after an embarrassing noon-hour brawl, not as respected political leaders. The country, however, might benefit from a more somber, careful approach to public policy and decision-making. All parties have a social license to discard petty promises they made to court certain groups of voters and to focus instead on the big challenges facing Canada. Many commentators predict small steps, but there is reason to suggest that bold actions in a number of areas is what it will take for a clear political win in the next election.
Is Zwarte Piet an example of blackface and racism or a fun-loving Dutch Christmas tradition? That was dinner conversation in our house last month as my children reflected on the controversy surrounding photos of Canada’s prime minister in brown and blackface. Zwarte Piet is the black servant of the Dutch Sinterklaas who brings gifts to children on December 5. Discomfort or support for continuing this tradition in Canada seems more influenced by attitudes toward one’s Dutch heritage than understanding white privilege and the negative impacts of such portrayals for neighbours of African descent.
There is a 10-minute YouTube video with excerpts of Michelle Thrush’s one-woman play, Find Your Own Inner Elder. It has almost 1,800 views and 11 likes. Not the most viral video. There are also two comments, posted a year apart. Both comments say the same thing: She performed this show in my community.
“It’s personal; there are names and faces. It’s not just textbook information now.” That’s how Timothy Khoo, 16, describes what it was like to meet residential school survivors while volunteering with Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS) at the former Mohawk Institute Residential School in Brantford, Ont. in July.
Years ago, after watching a play about Anne Frank, I reflected on the visceral pull of that story and others like it from the Second World War for me and others who share my Dutch-Canadian heritage. These stories are part of us – we are characters in them, through our grandparents and relatives.
Unless you are sleeping, distracted by wildlife or on your phone, it is impossible to miss the sign along one stretch of Highway 16 that reads: “Girls don’t hitchhike along the Highway of Tears.” It is bright yellow and bears the faces of three women, beside what used to read “Killer on the Loose.”
On June 18 the federal government will announce a final decision on the future of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion (TMX), a project which will triple the flow of oil travelling 1,150 kilometres by pipe from Alberta’s oil patch to tankers on B.C.’s coast.