NATIONAL HOLIDAYS, NATIONAL NARRATIVES: The Tales We Tell Around the Celebration of Nation States

On Canada Day & Independence Day what are we celebrating? 

I spent Canada Day around the landscape of Quebec just a short drive from Ottawa. It was in an effort to escape the masses that descend upon the Nation’s Capitol for the July 1st holiday.

Many Canadians, especially Torontonians, are fresh off the high of the successful celebration of #WorldPride14 in Toronto (complete with a rainbow that hugged the skyline after the parade). A massive crowd came out to show support for diversity around sexual orientation and gender. Businesses, banks, church groups and regular folk take a certain amount of ‘pride’ in Pride because it demonstrates that Toronto is a city that isn’t just about tolerating differences but rather it has created an entire bombastic celebration around those differences!

Ottawa is no different. Canada Day on Parliament Hill draws an exuberant multiculti crowd celebrating the fact that everyone can feel safe and thrive here in Canada no matter the cultural background of their parents and ancestors.

That’s the story Canadians love to share on July 1 and in America on July 4 it’s much the same. The legends of Manifest Destiny and the enterprising people who populated the Wild West occupy a lot of historical real estate. As the story goes, both nations were built by the hard work of immigrants so in the spirit of continuing that history most people would agree there is always room for more!

The trouble and the truth is that each wave of immigrants arrived to racism and discrimination – the Chinese, Vietnamese and even the Portuguese communities in Canada, the Japanese during World War II in both countries; the Irish and Jewish communities. The Ukrainians, Italians, and Mexicans; the Pakistanis, Somalis, and Arabs…the list goes on. Everyone at some time has been the outsider and placed into the unfortunate role of the societal scapegoat.

The cult of Multiculturalism, for all its talk of inclusivity, has created its own scapegoat – the First Peoples. In both America and Canada waves of migrants have washed over the detail that North America was not only built on the backs of slaves but on the bones of its Indigenous populations.

You can see it in the comment section of Facebook, the online sections of national newspapers and blogs – the hate speak when there is an article that calls out the fashion (mis)statements made by headdress hipsters or when there is a blockade on occupied land that inconveniences the occupier.

National stories are powerful but destructive if they are, in essence, tale tells.

On July 1 and July 4 when celebrating the creation of two colonizing nations it is important to think about how those stories exclude. Multiculturalism, with all its focus on providing a safe and welcoming space for newcomers, has created a blind spot obscuring how the focus on rights for immigrants can often be at the expense of the rights of the First Peoples of Turtle Island, the original word for the continent of North America.

The Civil Rights movement was about addressing the shame of White America and calling out how the Jim Crow laws and state supported segregation created a culture of scapegoating, one result being the most ugly of human expressions – public lynching.

Scapegoating is a mechanism that allows an individual or a society to deflect shame. There is shame in making another human being your chattel; there is shame in killing off a population of people to make room for your own kind. We are spiritual beings and on some level, even if it’s buried so deep our waking minds can make peace with our justifications, the soul sees the deception.

So on days of celebrating nationalism it’s also a good time to reflect on those stories mythologies about who we are as citizens.

Anishinaabe writer and Ryerson University professor Hayden King writes:

“…thinking about what Canada could become (or, “what is in us to be?”) I think about understanding. Not the same old discourse of peaceful acquisition, armchair policy expertise, or a Norval Morrisseau on the wall, but substantive understanding among Canadians of Anishinaabeg, Haudenosaunee and Mushkegowuk perspectives (as well as the other 50-odd nations)…Indigenous languages can have official status, but more importantly, be seen and heard on the land and in cities, known by everyone. We can be honest about the birth, life and times of Canada. If all of this is in us to be, we might have something to celebrate.”
Read more in his article for the Toronto Star…

Great reasons for national celebrations!

The year 2014 saw the formation of the Cowboys and Indians Alliance created to stop the Keystone XL Pipeline. The delegates rode onto the Mall in Washington, DC and called on President Obama to “Reject and Protect” – reject the project and protect the earth.

For more information on the Cowboys and Indians Alliance visit www.rejectandproject.org.


“This is the moral challenge of our age”

2014 also saw the formation of the Healing Walks initiative where people came together for the sake of the land, water, and air as well as the people and animals who depend on the area around the tar sands to be returned to health.

“The Healing Walk was organized by Keepers of the Athabasca, a network of First Nation, Métis, and settler communities along the Athabasca River.” Read more…

For more information on the Healing Walks visit www.healingwalk.org



Images by Leah Snyder for Mixed Bag Mag.

 

DIVERSITY? IT’S A BIT OF A MIXED BAG: When There is a Multiplicity of Voices How Do We Hear What’s Being Said?

Middle Eastern woman holding a book and laughing

Multiculturalism – one side of many multiple stories.

In a single day, as I cover events, I may spend time in one space that is about design thinking then another that is about curation. I may go from an event on government policy to one on social innovation. Sometimes these spaces may be more straight than queer or more queer than straight. They are religious, agnostic, humanist, and sometimes self-helpish.

They might be Arab or Anishinaabeg spaces and the rituals, protocols and ceremonies change.

It’s a rich way to exist. It’s also complicated.

Because no matter if it is about profession, spirituality or cultural / sexual identity wherever I go everyone is trying to figure out who the hell they are and what the heck does it all mean when you put it into the context of communities that mingle and merge but often overlook the deeper complexities of diversity – most importantly the distinction between Immigrant and Indigenous narratives in Canada.

The narrative of ‘Multiculturalism’ makes invisible the story of the First Peoples. I would argue that was part of the plan. By placing ‘Canada the Good’ on the marquee with a storyline ‘Celebration of a Cultural Mosaic’ the light required to illuminate the systematic oppression of First Nations, Inuit and Métis people in Canada instead casts a long shadow.

Initiatives like The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada have now turned the spotlight onto that darkness but as the hearings come to a close, with so much being said, how do we move forward and ensure all the voices speaking are getting heard?

We listen – actively, deeply and with a commitment to sit with the uncomfortableness that comes when you bear witness to someone else’s pain.

The legacy of colonization is a culture built on the instability of over-consumption and hyper-consumerism that thrives on distraction. If that isn’t addressed, living in a world with a multiplicity of voices is going to be problematic because the process of engaged listening is at odds with a society that functions by keeping people in a detached state of insecurity and need.

The government may change but most likely it won’t. In the meantime we can recognize that people aren’t pie charts. We can colour code demographics and cover souls with blanket statements but then we will lose the emotional prosperity that comes when human beings learn how sit and be still with each other despite the surrounding noise.

Middle Easter with short hiar and glasses smiles and talks

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The images in this post are from this past weekend’s events in Ottawa – The Book Launch of Min Fami at Octopus Books and Niigaan in Conversation at Carleton University. The quotes on the images of each woman demonstrate how many thoughtful people I encounter on any given day. It’s what makes me believe that a new space can be created regardless of systems in place that often seem beyond our control. To all the women I had the opportunity to listen to this weekend – Chi Miigwetch / شكرا.

Watch The Truth and Reconciliation Commission Event on the archived livestream.

Find out more about the Native Youth Sexual Health Network here.

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Middle Easter woman smiing as she talks into a microphone
Middle Easter woman smiing as she talks into a microphone
Middle Aged Aboriginal Women with young boy in the middle between them

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MIN FAMI: Arab Feminist Reflections on Identity, Space and Resistance

Cover of book that says Min Fami in English and Arabic“Min Fami: Arab Feminist Reflections on Identity, Space, and Resistance is an anthology that cradles the thoughts of Arab feminists, articulated through personal critical narratives, academic essays, poetry, short stories, and visual art. It is a meeting space where discussions on home(land), exile, feminism, borders, gender and sexual identity, solidarity, language, creative resistance, and (de)colonization are shared, confronted, and subverted. In a world that has increasingly found monolithic and one-dimensional ways of representing Arab womyn, this anthology comes as an alternate space in which we connect on the basis of our shared identities, despite physical, theoretical, and metaphorical distances, to celebrate our multiple voices, honour our ancestry, and build community on our own terms, and in our own voices.”

Purchase Min Fami at Octopus Books.

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IIGAAN’s Oshkadis Chineekaneech: The Youth Will Lead

Flower logo saying Niigaan in Conversation

Niigaan is an Anishinaabemowin word for leading into the future. Oshkadis Chineekaneech Is the Anishinaabemowin phrase that translates The Youth Will Lead.

“Niigaan: In conversation is an opportunity for settler Canadians to hear and respond to what Indigenous Peoples have been saying: Canada has not committed itself to addressing the colonial relationship it still has with indigenous peoples. Canada is in denial about that relationship. It is fair to say that most Canadians believe that kind of relationship no longer exists. We are trying to tell you that that is wrong.

The results of our work will be another step towards the continual positive development of the relationship between Indigenous Peoples and non-native Canadians. The main end result will be to provide an engaging and focused space to encourage discussion, learn our collective history and to move forward to the future.”

Learn more about Niigaan and their upcoming events on their website, Facebook page and on twitter @Niigaan_IC.

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OPENING: Migration Now by JustSeeds

Wood block print of older Muslim woman

FYI  – Opening of Migration Now by JustSeeds
NOTE: Due to weather conditions Friday’s opening is cancelled
Friday, February 8
OCADU Graduate Gallery
205 Richmond Street West
6 – 10 pm
Exhibit from February 8 – 14

www.justseeds.org
& www.migrationnow.com
Follow on twitter @JustSeeds & @CultureStrike
Like on Facebook JustSeeds & Culture Strike

“Indigenous Sovereignty Means Immigrant Rights”