Tag Archives: Canada

Culturelicious: Interview with Queer Latina Poet Janet Romero-Leiva

By Guest Contributor Jorge Antonio Vallejos, cross-posted from Black Coffee Poet

Janet Romero-Leiva is a queer feminist Latina visual artist and writer whose explores immigrant displacement, denied aboriginality, queer and of colour existence, living and loving in dos lenguas, and the continuous intersection of identities that shape who she is and how she moves in this world. Janet immigrated to canada at the age of 7 and has since been trying to find her footing between america of the north and america of the south. she loves smoothies, cartwheeling and can often be found reading children’s books at the Toronto Women’s Bookstore.

BCP: Why did you start writing poetry?

JR: It was by accident, I didn’t really know that is what I was doing…but I started writing because I felt a need to express and somehow release things  I was trying to make sense out of – like my queerness, my feminism, my latinidad, my indigeneity, my experience of being an immigrant child.

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Maclean’s Magazine revisits old fears with ‘Too Asian?’ article

By Arturo R. García

Thanks to the group of readers who tipped us off to this: apparently Maclean’s Magazine is saying Canada’s a nice place to visit for people from China – just as long as they don’t stick around and have kids who attend college there.

Wednesday, the magazine released an article originally titled“‘Too Asian,'” with the sub-headline, Some frosh don’t want to study at an ‘Asian’ university. The article opens by introducing us to a group of white students put off from even considering going to the University of Toronto in part because of its’ reputation for being “too Asian.” Of course, this is followed up by the explanation that the sentiment is “not about racism”:

Many white students simply believe that competing with Asians— both Asian Canadians and international students— requires a sacrifice of time and freedom they’re not willing to make. They complain that they can’t compete for spots in the best schools and can’t party as much as they’d like (too bad for them, most will say).

As one reader noted via e-mail, these fears are nothing new: In 1979, the CTV network aired a news piece called “Campus Giveaway,” that misrepresented Chinese Canadian students as foreigners, and inflated enrollment statistics. The story led to protests against both the network and W5, the program on which the story aired. The controversy was cited as the impetus for the formation of the Chinese Canadian National Council.

After being taken off the magazine’s website, a edited version of the story resurfaced Thursday: some paragraphs in the story were re-arranged; the headline had been changed to”‘Too Asian?'” – note the question mark – and the sub-headline was changed to a more sedate-sounding, Worries that efforts in the U.S. to limit enrollment of Asian students in top universities may migrate to Canada. The CCNC will reportedly meet today with Maclean’s management and Stephanie Findlay and Nicholas Koller, who wrote the article.

Review: Richard Van Camp’s The Moon Of Letting Go

By Guest Contributor Jorge Antonio Vallejos, cross-posted from Rabble.ca

A drug dealer with a conscience, straight boys who jog naked at night in a group, and a hit-man who finds himself in a life changing ceremony; yes, there’s everything under the sun (and moon) in Richard Van Camp’s new collection of short fiction The Moon of Letting Go.

A member of the Dogrib Nation of North West Territories, Van Camp is one of Turtle Island’s (Canada’s) premier writers. Published in The Walrus, Descant and Up Here Magazine, Van Camp brings stories from the North to the rest of Turtle Island.

Just as raw, funny and intelligent as the characters in his other works, Angel Wing Splash Pattern and The Lesser Blessed, it’s hard to put down The Moon of Letting Go. Twelve stories in all, some connected via characters, places and events, readers feel like they are hearing town gossip straight from Van Camp’s mouth and want to get involved. At times, I wanted to kill the father who molested his daughter; attend the hockey games the town looks forward to; be one half of the couple who has great makeup sex; and meet the mysterious medicine man who has a town in constant fear.

Throughout the collection Van Camp tackles tough issues including the differences between Aboriginal peoples, dealing with mixed-nation relationships and the pressure to have children. Van Camp shows readers how complex humans are, that there is no black and white, that we can walk the good road while practicing the opposite and vice versa. At times the issues Van Camp addresses seem autobiographical: “I’m quite fair and often invisible to other Indians when I’m out of NWT,” says the narrator in “I Count Myself Among Them.” Van Camp, fair skinned himself, shows how not all Aboriginal people look the same.

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Canada is multicultural, not antiracist

By Guest Contributor Restructure!, originally posted at Restructure!

Canada is an officially multicultural country, but multiculturalism does not address racism.

The Continuum on Becoming an Anti-Racist Multicultural Institution shows six stages from being a monocultural institution to becoming an anti-racist multicultural institution. Canada appears to be at Stage Three:

3. Symbolic Change: A Multicultural Institution

  • Makes official policy pronouncements regarding Multicultural diversity
  • Sees itself as “non-racist” institution with open doors to People of Color
  • Carries out intentional inclusiveness efforts, recruiting “someone of color” on committees or office staff
  • Expanding view of diversity includes other socially oppressed groups


  • “Not those who make waves”
  • Little or no contextual change in culture, policies, and decision making
  • Is still relatively unaware of continuing patterns of privilege, paternalism and control

Stage Four is “Identity Change: An Anti-Racist Institution”. As Canada has never thought of itself as an anti-racist country, it remains at Stage 3 of this model.

In Canada, there is the mistaken belief that racism is caused by cultural differences, and that if multiculturalism is embraced, then there would be no racism. However, when Canadians face discrimination when we travel while black, go fishing while East Asian, protest while brown, or seek medical care while indigenous, the problem is not “cultural differences” to be solved with “cultural sensitivity”. This “cultural” problem formulation still insists that people of colour must have done something differently from white people to provoke discrimination. It ignores the possibility that people of colour might do the same things as white people and still be treated differently due to our race.

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An Indigenous Olympics?

By Guest Contributor Toban Black, originally published at Contexts.org

The 2010 Olympics logo is an altered version of traditional Arctic Inuit sculptures. This quasi-indigenous logo has been displayed in a barrage of Olympics branding. You can see two examples of this marketing in photos — from the summer of 2009 – shown below.

With this Olympics logo, and other Olympics promotional messages, marketers have been portraying the 2010 Games as ‘indigenous’ Olympics. Indigenous references are foregrounded in mass produced Olympics marketing.  The online Olympics store even sells “Authentic Aboriginal Products” (such as t-shirts and silk ties).

Some people who encounter this Olympics branding are bound to come away with the impression that natives (that is, individuals with a significant enough amount of native ancestry or culture) are respected, empowered, and well-integrated here in Canada. In other words, some viewers will view this marketing as a sign of harmonious bonds between natives and mainstream Canadian society.

Chief Stewart Phillip, the president of Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, conveyed a much different view of Olympics marketing when he asserted that,

We’re deeply concerned about the concerted and aggressive marketing campaign advanced by Vanoc [the 2010 Olympics organization committee] which suggests the indigenous people of [British Columbia] and Canada enjoy a very comfortable and high standard of living. The Disneyesque promotional materials suggests a cosy relationship between aboriginal people of the province with all levels of government and it completely ignores the horrific levels of poverty our people endure on a daily basis.

(Arctic indigenous branding on a McDonald’s cup in a
Wal-Mart store, in a city in Ontario, Canada)

In British Columbia, and elsewhere in present-day Canada, natives have communicated conflicting views about how the 2010 Olympics relate to their lives, lands, and traditions. Indigenous Environmental Network campaigners have been among the more vocal critics who have opposed the 2010 Games.

Some have found the cartoonish Olympic marketing imagery to be a mockery of native traditions.  For example, critics have argued that the 2010 Olympics committee has edited and re-packaged native culture — which also has been ripped out of its traditional contexts. The Committee is highlighting Arctic indigenous imagery — yet Vancouver, the centre of the Games, is a temperate city.  Arctic indigenous peoples did not live there — or on the nearby Whistler and Cypress mountains, where some Olympic events will be held. Other indigenous populations who did live in that area of British Columbia also are not represented in the marketing iconography.

The Olympics branding denies noteworthy differences among native groups spread across these areas. Passing theatrical gestures to native peoples during the open ceremonies could be considered to be more respectful, but Olympics marketers otherwise have been mixing up North American native traditions into a soup-like caricature. Natives have been consistently oppressed, but the various peoples who are considered to be native (in some way, or to some degree) certainly are not ‘all the same.’ Tacking Arctic imagery on to Vancouver-area Games implies that there is only one native essence (in North America, if not beyond this continent).

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Canada’s misplaced tolerance? Or your misplaced fear?

by Guest Contributor Krista, originally published at Muslim Lookout

Be prepared for some major eye-rolling in this article from the Calgary Herald. In it, Mahfooz Kanwar praises Canadian Immigration Minister Jason Kenney (see here for why this is a bad idea), and berates Canadians that he perceives as not having “assimilated” enough. A Muslim originally from Pakistan, Kanwar spends the article extolling the perfection of Canada’s values and culture, and blaming all problems on those immigrants who bring foreign baggage with them into this happy utopia.

Kanwar’s definitions of “Canadian” identity and values are disturbingly narrow. It seems to apply only to those values already existing among people living in Canada, who have good values such as “equality.” People who move to Canada, according to Kanwar, need to adopt Canadian values, and lose (or at least hide) anything they brought from their home country. At no point does Kanwar allow for the possibility that there might be Canadian values that aren’t so great, or that our actual track record for “tolerance” and “equality” isn’t exactly as impressive as we’d like to think. He also never acknowledges that there might be some “foreign” values that could actually enrich or improve Canadian society. Immigrants are called to adopt “mainstream” Canadian ideas and behaviours, and the assumption is that these must be necessarily better than the ideas and behaviours that immigrants brought with them.

Kanwar also calls for all immigrants to be unquestioningly patriotic and undividedly loyal to Canada, which is not a standard that most Canadian-born (and white) Canadians are ever called to adhere to. He writes, for example, that “Those who come here of their own volition and stay here must be truly patriotic Canadians or go back.” As a white Canadian whose family has been here for several generations, I have never been told that I should “go back” anywhere, despite a history of acts that I am sure Kanwar would classify as deeply unpatriotic. I am disturbed at Kanwar’s argument that all immigrants should have to adopt an uncritical sense of national pride in order to belong here, and that there does not appear to be any room for immigrants to be at all critical of Canada (or of the overall concepts of patriotism and nationalism, which I would also argue are worth critiquing) if they want to be considered worthy of living here. Continue reading