Today was a pretty good day with my grandmother. For most of the visit she had some idea who I am, although at some point she told a PSW that I was her mother who had come to visit. We sat for a while and she told me about her paintings again. She’s losing her grasp on some of them, but for others she can still tell the anecdotes I remember from when I was a kid.
On the topic of paintings…The long term care home she’s in is participating in Toronto’s Nuit Blanche art festival. Art by residents is going to be shown in a gallery downtown. I haven’t gone to Nuit Blanche the last few years, but this is something I cannot miss. Kevin wants to come with me which is really wonderful; the support will be needed, I’m sure.
On Thursday, I vote to rectify hundreds of years of colonialism. Canadian media is quick to inform that Scotland’s referendum is a matter of great importance to us and our Scottish “cousins,” eager to tell us this process is eerily similar to Quebec’s aspirations of sovereignty.
Less attention, however, has been paid to the concrete relationship between Canada’s indigenous peoples and Scottish self-determination. As a Métis woman — with fur-trade roots that stretch back to 19th- and 20th-century Scotland, England and Ireland — working and studying in Scotland today, I am intensely, viscerally interested in what Scottish independence may mean for decolonization of indigenous peoples’ lives in both Canada and abroad.
It is no secret that Canada is, in many ways, one of the first iterations of Scottish independence. A recent museum exhibit at Aberdeen University explored the Scottish Diaspora to Canada, and the organizers went so far as to mount a Pioneer Day to celebrate the exciting lives that Scots migrants lived once they crossed the Atlantic and settled the Empty West. A conference to be held at the City Chambers in Glasgow in January 2015 plans to explore Sir John A. Macdonald’s role as “Son of Glasgow, Father of Canada.” There is a palpable, proud relationship that many Scots share over the links between Canada and Caledonia in the past and present. Some could even argue the Scots have more than proven their ability to run a country by the very founding of Canada in 1867 by Glasgow’s lost son.
However, the impact of Scottish migration and politics on indigenous people in Canada is quietly left out of these enthusiastic discourses. Nowhere is the genocidal role of Macdonald’s Indian residential schools, designed to kill the Indian in the child, brought up in the heroic tales of Scottish creation of the Canadian state. Nor is Macdonald’s racist Indian Act discussed broadly in contemporary Scottish discourses of Scots-Canada kinship. At a Trudeau Foundation Summer Institute in May 2013, Métis author Maria Campbell reminded us that everything that was practised on indigenous peoples in Canada by the English was first practised on the Scots and the Irish. Hierarchies of dispossession rarely end well. Margaret Atwood explores the unending recycling of colonial violence that spans the North Atlantic in her evocative 1978 poem Four Small Elegies: Beauharnois 1838, 1977. The English sacking of Québécois homes by Scots volunteers (themselves victims of displacement through the Highland Clearances) in Beauharnois in 1838 prompts Atwood to ask: “Those whose houses were burned/burned houses/Whatever else happens once you start?”
Yes, Scots suffered, but they migrated that suffering to Canada and re-enacted it upon other peoples. The omissions of the recirculations of Scottish dispossession upon populations in Canada are all the more glaring as some pundits in Scotland discuss the independence referendum as a means to a) “decolonize” an indigenous Scotland or b) compare Scottish independence with Quebec sovereignty.
I’m all for independence. I plan to vote “yes” with great enthusiasm Thursday, to stymie the impacts of the failing politics of London Rule and Etonian-led austerity on other parts of the United Kingdom. But I also hope to use this fervent local discourse of Scottish decolonization and anti-oppression as a means to insert a conversation about Scottish complicity in the colonization of Canada’s indigenous people into the Scottish zeitgeist.
What is often forgotten in diasporic narratives is that indigenous knowledge, stories, goods and resources flowed back to the U.K. and other colonial centres. Scottish museums are chock-a-block with pelts, furs, sacred items and other material culture brought back to the Isles by Hudson’s Bay men and their families. Scotland, though suffering from the Highland Clearances and other policies which disadvantaged some Scottish peoples, still benefited materially, economically and intellectually from its engagement with indigenous peoples and nations in Canada.
When I mark that “yes” on my ballot, it won’t be for some benevolent or fuzzy feeling of Scottish-Canadian kinship. It will be for my ancestors who bore the brunt of Scottish and English colonialism and survived all these generations to provide me with the means to return to the heart of the colonial empire to heal the pain of what was wrought upon the nations Britain enthusiastically oppressed.
For me, it will be a loving and audacious act of decolonization within and across nations.
Zoe Todd of Edmonton is a PhD candidate in social anthropology at the University of Aberdeen and is also a 2011 Trudeau Scholar.
One of the big problems with the Québec independence movement has always been its unwillingness to deal with issues of colonialism and decolonisation, even as it took inspiration from anti-colonial movements to cast white, French-speaking Québécois as a colonised people.
It may not have been an entirely false interpretation (an interesting alternative is that they’re neither quite the colonisers nor the colonised, but colonists stuck under a foreign imperial power, being largely complicit in British colonisation efforts while still having a status not entirely unlike that of a colonised people), but it completely obscures the issues of First Nations people while making the white majority of the province the main subjects of decolonisation. Whereas the Québec independence movement was in a situation that should have been one of Canada’s best opportunities for talk and action regarding decolonisation, the mainstream remained completely silent on that issue.
Bit of a digression, but it’s always struck me as the most glaring fault re: the Québec independence movement. Colonialism should be one of the main historical reasons to dislike Canada and to move away from it and its history. It’s the most odious part of its history. And Hell, it is the main historical reason cited for wanting to leave Canada. But it’s always the colonisation of white, French-speaking people, the attempts at cultural assimilation of those people. Which was odious, and which largely succeeded in the rest of Canada (the deliberate and successful repression of the French language in Ontario and Manitoba in the early 20th century is something that many people even here don’t know about, but which motivated early Québec nationalism), but it’s still not, you know, forced relocation, massive theft of land and fucking genocide.
But go figure, our elite doesn’t much want to talk about that.
Here’s a familiar trope: immigrants are industrious and hard-working. Here’s another, opposite trope: First Nations are idle and lazy. And here’s a graph that beautifully calls into question this neat pair of stereotypes.
It turns out that off-reserve First Nations workers and recent immigrants face the same unemployment rate – one that is much higher than that faced by workers born in Canada. As Angella MacEwen, who posted this graph, points out it highlights that “there are systemic barriers that need to be addressed” in the labour market.
On the one hand, there is a gaping disconnect between right-wing rhetoric that extolls immigrants and the actual struggles faced by new immigrants. Indeed, the irony is that the right’s discourse when confronted with reality brings out the systemic barriers rooted in racism better than the facts by themselves.
This systemic racism is at the source of the seeming confirmation of the myth of Indigenous as idle. Idle No More continues to challenge this myth in action. Here is blogger âpihtawikosisân challenging it with deserved exasperation:
I’m not even going to try to find a source that can refute this blatantly racist belief. There’s just too much packed into it. Stop. Stop using anecdotes about some guy you knew once. Stop saying you lived by a reserve and you know it all. Stop saying that our concerns are not legitimate. Stop denying the colonial relationship that has never ended in this country. Stop pretending that colonialism is our fault.
The cynical, lazy response of the purveyors of the industrious/idle tropes is to say, “you can’t win”: lazy or hard-working, any description is bound to be accused of racism. Yet uncovering the similarity of the racism beneath the rhetoric that comes from the confrontation with fact (see chart) is but the first step. The challenge is figuring out the differences, getting to the roots of the structures – their histories and present material roles.
The same structural racism can be parsed through different social and economic functions. First Nations hold claims to the land and resources that undergird Canada’s historically vital resource sectors. They are best-ignored reminders of past appropriation. Immigrants are a future that needs to be tamed, a source of hopeful energy that has to be incorporated into existing economic relations. Indeed, the children of immigrants on average do much better; as this National Post editorial inadvertently states, the treatment of first-generation immigration has an enormous socializing function. First Nations, on the other hand, have suffered generations of treatment as disposable – at the same time, proving time and again that they will actively defy such a fate.
In a different light, jobless recent immigrants and First Nations serve as different types of caution for all workers: there’s always someone waiting to take your place (the industrious) so that you’ll end up in a bad place (the idle). Both are caricatures, but that both of these threats stem from historically oppressed groups only reinforces them.
Of course, neither Indigenous workers nor recent immigrants are a homogenous group and any further analysis has to delve much deeper. Current trends need historical perspective. Generalities need unpacking. For example, as this detailed study points out, First Nations youth (15-24) experienced a smaller growth in unemployment than non-Aboriginal youth in the first four years after the last recession. At the same time, we should be careful even here, not falling into a trap that divides the acceptable “dynamism” of work (that can be low-wage, low-everything) from the dynamism of activation via movement like Idle No More.
In short, general facts can set the stage, debunking the easy answers and stereotypes so often paraded out. The eerily-similar unemployment rates faced by First Nations and recent immigrants put a fine point on how it is that some are called idle and others industrious, how social and economic roles are dispensed and how bigger structures create barriers. Any of these is a topic that goes far beyond one little chart and all require attention.
Gonna cold brew some coffee for K, and we’ll have it before dinner with my parents tomorrow. Not sure if I’m more nervous about the impression they’ll make on him, or the one he’ll make on them. Probably the first one.
I think I found the remedy to most of my health problems. Too bad I can’t see my family doctor until NOVEMBER (wtf?!?). If I’m right, the fix is relatively easy and might even deal with the incredibly poor short term memory I’ve had for the last little while.
“I was twenty-one at the time, about to turn twenty-two. No prospect of graduating soon, and yet no reason to quit school. Caught in the most curiously depressing circumstances. For months I’d been stuck, unable to take one step in any new direction. The world kept moving on; I alone was at a standstill. In the autumn, everything took a desolate cast, the colors swiftly fading before my eyes. The sunlight, the smell of the grass, the faintest patter of rain, everything got on my nerves. How many times did I dream of catching a train at night?”—Haruki Murakami || A Wild Sheep Chase (via socratic-thinker)
My friend’s little sister (21?) is getting married this weekend. It’s a little mindblowing. But more importantly, my gal is coming back to Ontario from Calgary for a little less than a week and on Tuesday we’re gonna do a whirlwind trip to London to visit the other member of our trio. I miss them both so much. It’s going to be worth the gallons of coffee I will have to drink at 5 am on Wednesday morning for work.
Heart burn makes me feel old. We made the absolute best spicy hashbrowns with bacon to go with a massive feta/tomato/spinach omelette yesterday. I finished the leftovers for lunch, followed by coffee, and now I’m distinctly uncomfortable :/
Had suchhhh a wonderful day. After we parted ways this afternoon, le boy finally got his paws on Lumberjanes 2 for me so I can actually read the rest of the ones I have! He also picked up Bodies, which sounds like a wicked time travelling murder mystery that I’m very excited for. Definitely makes up for having to schlep two loads of laundry on the bus to a laundromat.
I kinda want to bleach the ends of my hair and dye them navy blue, since they’re already damaged and I plan to get a haircut just before september anyway. But of course it costs money to do that stuff. -_-“
I’m thinking caregiver stress in light of a new poll by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the Harvard School of Public Health that finds one in four Americans are stressed in a major way. (And that’s called a “massive underestimate,” by one observer in the trenches.)
United Nations officials are pushing for many of the Central Americans fleeing to the U.S. to be treated as refugees displaced by armed conflict, a designation meant to increase pressure on the United States and Mexico to accept tens of thousands of people currently ineligible for asylum.
Most of the people widely considered to be refugees by the international community are fleeing more traditional political or ethnic conflicts like those in Syria or the Sudan. Central Americans would be among the first modern migrants considered refugees because they are fleeing violence and extortion at the hands of criminal gangs.
The United States has seen a dramatic increase in the number of Central American migrants crossing into its territory, particularly children traveling without any adult guardian. More than 52,000 unaccompanied children have been apprehended since October. Three-fourths of them are from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador and most say they are fleeing pervasive gang violence and crushing poverty.
Immigration experts in the U.S. and Central America say the flow of migrants from Honduras and El Salvador is likely to rise as the two countries experience gang-related violence. Honduras, a primary transit point for U.S.-bound cocaine, has the world’s highest homicide rate for a nation that is not at war. In El Salvador, the end of a truce between street gangs has led to a steep rise in homicides this year.
Violence by criminal organizations spread in recent decades after members of California street gangs were deported to Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, where they overwhelmed weak and corrupt police forces and seized control of large sections of the countries.
I have a breakfast date at 8:15, work 10-6, and dinner for my friend’s birthday at 7:30. I’ve been up since four am and have to be up in six hours. What in the hell am I still doing awake and why didn’t I make tomorrow’s lunch yet!?
1. The meaning behind my URL 2. A picture of me 3. Why I love my bestfriend 4. Last time I cried and why 5. Piercings I have 6. Favorite Band 7. Biggest turn off(s) 8. Top 5 (insert subject) 9. Tattoos I want 10. Biggest turn on(s) 11. Age 12. Ideas of a perfect date 13. Life goal(s) 14. Piercings I want 15. Relationship status 16. Favorite movie 17. A fact about my life 18. Phobia 19. Middle name 20. Anything you want to ask
“Fantasy is silver and scarlet, indigo and azure, obsidian veined with gold and lapis lazuli. Reality is plywood and plastic, done up in mud brown and olive drab. Fantasy tastes of habaneros and honey, cinnamon and cloves, rare red meat and wines as sweet as summer. Reality is beans and tofu, and ashes at the end. Reality is the strip malls of Burbank, the smokestacks of Cleveland, a parking garage in Newark. Fantasy is the towers of Minas Tirith, the ancient stones of Gormenghast, the halls of Camelot. Fantasy flies on the wings of Icarus, reality on Southwest Airlines. Why do our dreams become so much smaller when they finally come true?
We read fantasy to find the colors again, I think. To taste strong spices and hear the songs the sirens sang. There is something old and true in fantasy that speaks to something deep within us, to the child who dreamt that one day he would hunt the forests of the night, and feast beneath the hollow hills, and find a love to last forever somewhere south of Oz and north of Shangri-La.
They can keep their heaven. When I die, I’d sooner go to Middle-Earth.”—- George R.R. Martin (via indisposablehero)