Growing up as a Sikh in Alberta in the 80’s and 90’s was… interesting. It seemed like we were always in the news, whether because of kirpans in schools or turbans in the RCMP, always because we were vying for our rights to honour both our faith and our country.
It's evident within the opening moments of director Ursula Liang's engrossing documentary, 9-Man, that the world it explores is knotted with issues of race and masculinity. "This was something uniquely ours," says a coach, reflecting on how pioneering Asian players didn't have to worry about their larger white or Black friends "muscling in."
How do you court the approval of white voters while trying to make everyone else feel included? In Ontario, you do it very carefully. Our province is home to a large percentage of Canada’s visible minority population, and has received the biggest share of immigrants to Canada for the last 10 years and beyond. But you wouldn’t know it by following our political campaigns.
I'm a former child bookworm who was hurt and confused by the racism in some of my favourites (I suppose Frances Hodgson Burnett was just "a product of her time"). I'm also a very new parent who wants my babe to love books, but avoid those icky feelings. So I was unhappy to see the stark stats in a recent New York Times piece about characters of colour in children's books--of thousands of books published in the U.S. last year, not even 500 have African-American or Latina protagonists--and pleased that it sparked some good convos on Twitter.
I figured that compiling all of the suggested books into a handy list would be handy. Thanks to everyone for their suggestions, most especially Amena Rajwani of the Toronto Public Library . If you've got more, add them in the comments!
After the jump: a WHOLE BUNCH of multicultural books for babies, kids and teens (in absolutely no particular order):
In grade 10, I transferred from a small French-language public school to Oakwood Collegiate Institute on St. Clair West. In the papers, Oakwood was described as “multicultural;” to me, it was where my dad and uncle passed through after moving to Canada from Jamaica during their adolescence.
My old school was comprised of students whose parents were from Quebec and the Francophonie at large, especially African countries colonized by France. There, I learned that Toronto’s construction of “diversity” was (to borrow from theorist Raymond Williams’ definitions of community) positive and warmly persuasive.
See that teeny, tiny story at the bottom of the second column from the left? From the April 29, 1954 edition of the Globe and Mail, a story on the union at Avro Canada Ltd. cancelling its annual golf tournament because the Lakeview Club wouldn't let a "negro" employee play. Way to go, Local 717.
Though a sensitive cultural issue in Quebec is a bit outside the purview of our Toronto-focused blog, given how it articulates so much about Canadian multiculturalism in general, I couldn't stay away from the topic. So here, in no particular order, are five points on the matter.
The nightmare that has been Toronto’s political news scene for the past three years seems to have finally reached its awful zenith. With allegations that Mayor Rob Ford may have smoked crack and made homophobic, racist remarks on video, there is no end to the ill effects of this latest head-shaking fiasco: the continued reduction of our municipal political sphere to a never-ending circus; the serious harm done to Toronto’s international image by a man who claims to be raising its business profile; and the simple fact that a city that was finally starting to hit its stride has been seriously set back by its woefully inadequate mayor.
This is a Toronto blog, and here's my Toronto take on Race: America is weird. After seeing last night's premiere of David Mamet's play (starring, yes, Jason Priestley), my main thought was that we really need to do a Canada vs. USA issue of the Ethnic Aisle, and examine how very differently the two countries experience race and ethnicity
Today on Twitter, the Ottawa Citizen’s Dan Gardner asked why sports teams named after aboriginal tribes/artifacts are problematic when the Minnesota Vikings et al. are not. I’ve been thinking about this ever since the Atlanta Braves announced the return of its “Screaming Savage” logo in December, so here's my answer.
The only team that I could think of that’s named after a symbol of privilege is the Ottawa Senators. So first off, why don’t we name teams after actual symbols of power, rather than just weird caricatures of power? The Toronto F.C. Derivatives! The Georgian Bay Docks! It's worth thinking about why some groups are allowed to be caricatured (like the Senate, am I right?) and some are not.
Roger Keil, the director of the City Institute at York, mentions the Ethnic Aisle (he calls us wonderful!) in his post about the NYT's latest take on gentrification (which, says Denise who is posting this, I found fairly annoying and definitely dismissive of ethnicity).
Kendrick Lamar's Good Kid, m.A.A.d. city is one of the most remarkable albums of our time for a number of reasons. The music is groundbreaking, the lyrics are complex, and it appeals to all facets of what falls under the umbrella of hip-hop
But, in my mind, the most unheralded unique aspect of GKMC is one that's most important to society as a whole. Through the voicemail skits that drive the narrative of the album, Kendrick introduces us to his parents. His real parents, not voice actors.
Perhaps this is the first truly intergenerational rap album.
Melody McKiver is a young Ojibwe multi-instrumentalist, improviser, and academic that splits her time between Ottawa and Toronto. As a solo performer, she explores the range of the viola’s possibilities, spanning from minimalist to danceable, sometimes incorporating laptop processing and looping. Melody’s musical practice spans across viola/violin, drums and percussion, and guitar, drawing upon a broad set of influences that includes hip-hop, electronic, global bass, contemporary classical, jazz, and blues. Melody also records and produces digital media under the pseudonym Gitochige, which is the Anishinaabemowin word for “s/he plays an instrument.
In recent weeks, as stories about Idle No More or rape in India have populated our news media, I’ve been reminded yet again that differences in culture can’t be boiled down to pat clichés about cuisine, but are instead about ways of understanding the world. The tension lingering around divisions between cultural groups seems more present than usual, and I half expect that at any moment the city’s ethnic groups might break out into 1950s-style street fight replete with switchblades and greased hair.
During my early childhood, my Ghanaian immigrant parents decided to move our family to the north Toronto neighbourhood of Jane and Finch. Jane and Finch hosts one of the largest Ghanaian communities in the city, so I became quite accustomed to seeing small parades of women (and occasionally their spouses and children) covered head to toe in African print fabrics.
The Toronto International Reel Asian Film Festival is back and running from November 6 to 11 in downtown Toronto, with a second round November 16 to 17 in Richmond Hill. This year's program includes a lot of worthy pictures, and for the first time includes a South Asian feature.
If you can't make it out to all of them (what's wrong with you?), check below for a handy guide of five films to catch at the 16th annual Toronto Reel Asian Film Festival.
Since 2006, it’s been City of Toronto policy that all advertised civic appointments—both paid jobs and hundreds of volunteer opportunities—make a direct appeal for applications from “women, youth, First Nations, people with disabilities and racialized communities.” In late September, a damning report by the city’s ombudsman, Fiona Crean, (who is, in fact, a woman) revealed that mayoral staff tried to delete the line calling for diverse applications during the appointment process for 120 citizen positions on city boards this past spring.
The revelation of mayor Rob Ford’s interference was another troubling window into his administration’s dismissive approach to inclusion and diversity. It also shed more light on Ford’s bizarre political posturing: even as he trumpets his private commitment to charity for marginalized people, the mayor reassures to his base that public, systemic change is out of the question.
Ford’s response to Crean's report was a standard denial and dismissal. “That’s a ridiculous question,” he said when asked if he was against diversity. In the face of such a serious accusation, it would have been easy to drag out Toronto’s well-worn “Diversity, Our Strength” motto to placate concerned residents. The mayor's refusal to even pay lip service to the idea was a silent statement that those who believe in the motto, and its accompanying policies, are not worth his attention.
Renee Sylvestre-Williams presents a timeline of Canada’s more egregious racist decisions. For example, remember that time our first Prime Minister didn’t believe Asian or First Nations folks should have the right to vote? No? Well read all about it here.
If you’re looking for a soft and fuzzy feel good play to ease you into a discussion of racism, then Korean-American playwright Young Jean Lee’s The Shipment isn't for you. While “dissect[ing] what it means to be [B]lack in America,” Lee pulls no punches, spares no feelings and handles no one with kid gloves.
Yesterday, CTV hosted a six-minute debate on the Ontario NDP's proposed tax increase for people making $500,000 or more a year. The guests were Jim Doak of Megantic Asset Management and Armine Yalnizyan of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.
During the discussion, Jim Doak twice referred to the proposed tax as a form of "ethnic cleansing." This bit of hyperbole rather distracted me from the issue at hand - how best to deal with the economic challenges facing Ontario in 2012. It's surprising that someone as accomplished as Jim Doak, a graduate of U of T and McGill, would confuse two things so inherently different. One is deciding what portion of one's salary is required for good governance. The other is terror, war and systematic murder.
And now in her mid-50s, it's doubtful she'll ever be one. My mom feels most comfortable in the traditional Pakistani shalwar-kameez, a loose-fitting tunic top and flowing pajama-like pants that billow in the wind every time I see her walk out of our Mississauga home.
Her outfits often have unimaginable bright hues, anywhere from magenta to parrot green, colours that seem to blind you on a cold, tombstone-grey Canadian winter day. They always grab my attention.
These aren’t my words but those of my mother. All my life, as I substituted salads for her cooking in an attempt to lose weight, she’d convince everyone at the table that I would never achieve my desired results until I started eating Indian food for every meal, every day. So, I rebelled, completely ditching my diet. I asked my dad, who was more open to a multicultural palette, if we could eat somewhere non-Indian.
I took my parents to eat some Thai, which has slightly similar flavours to Indian. My mum said she could make it at home. I took my parents to Chili’s to have some nachos. My mum said she could make it at home. I took my parents out for pasta at the best Italian restaurant in town. My mum said she could make it at home. I snapped. I challenged my mum to forego her regular schedule of cooking daal and rice to baking a batch of nachos. What happened next blew my mind.