How the Liberals’ alleged support of Sikh separatists is fuelling Canada-India tensions

More diaspora politics and the impact on foreign policies.

All political parties court the Sikh Canadian vote given their concentration in a number of ridings (Surrey, Brampton) and their political activism:

When Prime Minister Trudeau headed to the stage at the Sikh-Canadian community’s annual Khalsa Day celebration last month, he was thronged by a cheering, photo-seeking crowd.

It was little surprise, given the Liberal leader is not only a staunch supporter of multiculturalism but also has four MPs of Sikh origin in his cabinet.

Thousands of kilometres away in New Delhi, however, Trudeau’s appearance struck a decidedly more sour note.

The appearance was the latest irritation for an Indian government reportedly worried that the Liberals are too cozy with a peaceful but “growing” Sikh-separatist movement in Canada.

It came three weeks after the Ontario legislature passed a private-member’s motion — introduced by a Liberal MPP — that called the 1984 Sikh massacre in India an act of genocide, a politically explosive label.

India’s Foreign Ministry has issued separate protests to the Trudeau government about each episode, as the Liberals’ traditional politicking among a vote-rich community, combined with the sub-continent’s fraught history, throws a wrench into the two countries’ burgeoning friendship.

“All of those things add up (and) present a picture that isn’t particularly pretty when India is looking at it,” said Anirudh Bhattacharya, Canadian correspondent for the Hindustan Times newspaper. “There was always a concern (in New Delhi) that this particular government would be somewhat beholden to the gatekeepers to the Sikh community, to some of the more radical groups.”

Tossed into the mix have been unsubstantiated allegations by Amarinder Singh, Punjab state’s newly elected “chief minister,” that Trudeau’s Sikh ministers are themselves separatists; and a thwarted terrorist cell in Punjab with alleged Canadian links.

Indian media reports suggest New Delhi was livid about Trudeau’s appearance at the Khalsa Day event April 30, though the public language was more circumspect. “We have taken it up with Canada in the past and the practice has not been discontinued,” said Vishwa Nath Goel of India’s high commission in Ottawa.

Balraj Deol

Balraj DeolFloat in Khalsa Day parade touting Ontario legislative motion on 1984 Sikh “genocide”

Quoting a Foreign Ministry statement, he was more blunt about the Ontario legislature’s Sikh genocide resolution on April 6.

“We reject this misguided motion which is based on a limited understanding of India, its constitution, society, ethos, rule of law and the judicial process,” said Goel.

But a spokesman for the group that organized the event Trudeau attended — and which backs the Ontario motion — said it’s only natural for the prime minister to appear at such functions, regardless of the religion.

Source: How the Liberals’ alleged support of Sikh separatists is fuelling Canada-India tensions | National Post

Immigrants in Canada, and the secrets some of us keep [servants]: Gelek Badheytsang

Interesting reflections if a bit over wrought:

“My Family’s Slave” came to me at a time when I was already thinking about immigrants and the intimate, complicated relationships many of us have with this notion of worthiness in our new homes—the entrapping idea of the “model immigrant”. The narratives that colour and contour our identities in Canada—of being resilient, enterprising, marginalized, inspiring, vilified, grateful, and so on—are underpinned by the subtle and not-so-subtle understanding that we have to constantly prove why we belong here. Our Canadian passports may feel solid to the touch, but they can also feel conditional and notional—even if you were born here.

And so, of course, it makes sense then that we are always trying to scrub clean the parts of us that we deem unsightly, and buff up our exceptionalism as much as we can. This is reflected early on in Tizon’s essay:

“To our American neighbours, we were model immigrants, a poster family. They told us so. My father had a law degree, my mother was on her way to becoming a doctor, and my siblings and I got good grades and always said ‘please’ and ‘thank you.’ We never talked about Lola. Our secret went to the core of who we were and, at least for us kids, who we wanted to be.”

That sheen only goes so far though. And as Tizon’s essay and the reactions it provoked have shown, there is an important, necessary conversation to be had about the lives of those who work for us, whose names we barely remember now even if we only called them by their nicknames, who raised us, and who continue to raise us. By confronting these secrets we think we’ve left behind—or in Tizon’s case, actually living with him and serving his family in various parts of the United States—we can participate even more firmly in discussions around poverty, class, racism, justice, and dignity. These are issues that arise and intersect as we talk about immigrants in Canada. Many of us, whether a skilled immigrant or a refugee, can come from privileged perches. But once here in Canada, we usually situate ourselves on the oppressed end.

We, after all, are the ones who made it. We process the traumas of displacement and cope with survivor’s guilt by various means, and one them may be to pretend that we don’t have demons of our own to reckon with when it comes to our connections with those who worked beneath us.

To a Canadian born here, the ethical dilemma about being a part of inhumane labour practices may start with fussing (momentarily) over buying a pair of sneakers made by sweatshop workers. For some us though, those sweatshop kids were a stark, pulsating presence in our lives back home. Some of them even lived with us.

Ultimately, the act of speaking honestly and compassionately about people like Eudocia Tomas Pulido humanizes the immigrant experience and narrative. We are complex. We have secrets. Just like anyone else.

The uncomfortable realities of domestic servants don’t just operate within the purview of recent immigrants, nor is it only subsumed by the distant hum of cities in faraway home countries. Pulido’s compatriots, from the Philippines and beyond, continue to be abused here in Canada, by Canadians, under the legal sanction of the federal government’s temporary foreign worker program. It was only eight years ago that Ruby Dhalla, then a Liberal MP from Brampton and herself a child of immigrants from India, was embroiled in a national scandal after the nannies that she hired to take care of her mother accused her family of mistreatment. The caregivers were hired under the temporary foreign worker program. They were from the Philippines.

In writing this piece, I’m aware of the fact that most of the voices that I came across, critical or not, were from those who were a class above or removed from the servants. It is important, then, to acknowledge the privileges I represent and exercise, and the ways in which I am complicit in perpetuating this imbalance of power—even if only written in this case, even if only temporarily when I visit my family back home or when I travel to places where it’s normal to see underage boys serving you tea.

I hear the voices that try to normalize these realities—of the dirt-poor conditions that the servants come from, and the indignities they have to accept as a consequence of colonialism, capitalism, traditional hierarchies, and the arbitrary distribution of dumb luck that allows some of us to hire drivers to drop our kids off to their tennis lessons and some of us to drive a car so that we can feed our kids.

In spite of that yawning chasm, the lives of the servants and their masters become enmeshed with each others’, no matter how hard we try to ignore or dismiss these tenuous threads that hold whole houses and communities together.

I am reminded, above all, of the poem by Waharu Sonawane, a Bhil Adivasi activist and poet from India:

We didn’t go to the stage,
nor were we called.
With a wave of the hand
we were shown our place.
There we sat
and were congratulated,
and “they”, standing on the stage,
kept on telling us of our sorrows.
Our sorrows remained ours,
they never became theirs. […]

With “My Family’s Slave”, Tizon has attempted to own this part of his immigrant story, and share his relationship with a woman who raised him and who he ultimately considered enslaved for much of her life. In doing so, the two of them have invited confessions, revelations, and reflections from those who are connected to worlds spanning diasporas, continents, and generations.

Stories like Pulido’s show us that dignity is a delicate matter. But its reserve is surprisingly deep.

Source: Immigrants in Canada, and the secrets some of us keep –

India: BJP’s Arunachal ‘test case’ for citizenship to non-Muslims runs into rough weather | Hindustan Times

Some of the challenges of India’s diversity and pluralism:

The BJP’s “test case” for granting citizenship to non-Muslims who fled or are fleeing persecution in Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan has run into rough weather in Arunachal Pradesh.

Much before the issue of illegal immigrants from Bangladesh hit turbulence in Assam in 1979, Arunachal Pradesh grappled with Chakma and Hajong refugees displaced from erstwhile East Pakistan in the 1960s.

The Narendra Modi government’s decision to grant the Chakmas and Hajongs citizenship to honour a 2015 Supreme Court directive has stoked anger in the frontier state. Several NGOs have threatened to oppose the move.

Last Saturday, the All Arunachal Pradesh Students’ Union (AAPSU), the apex students’ body of the state, organised a consultative meeting of NGOs representing indigenous communities who fear being affected by Delhi’s decision.

“The Union home ministry took this decision despite assuring us otherwise. We vehemently oppose the move to grant citizenship to Chakma and Hajong refugees,” said AAPSU president Hawa Bagang. “We called an all-party meeting, where the presence of all 60 Arunachal MLAs and the state’s three MPs is mandatory.” The meeting is scheduled within a week, he said.

The students’ body, which launched the movement against the refugees in 1990, fears citizenship would reduce indigenous tribes such as Tai-Khampti, Singpho and Mishmi to a minority, besides robbing them of beneficiary schemes.

“Unlike the Tibetan refugees, who stay in designated camps, the Chakmas and Hajongs have spread out and established settlements by encroaching upon forest areas,” Bagang said.

The population of Chakmas and Hajongs was about 5,000 when Delhi had them moved to southern Arunachal Pradesh between 1964 and 1969. Their population is now about 100,000.

The AAPSU said the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) could be using the Chakma and Hajong refugees as a “test case for its Hindutva-centric plan to embrace non-Muslims from India’s neighbourhood, specifically Hindus from Bangladesh”.

Displaced by dam, religious persecution

Members of the Singpho tribe. Singphos and Tangsas are indigenous tribes of southern Arunachal Pradesh in whose area the Chakma and Hajong refugees were settled. (Pronib Das/HT Photo)

The Buddhist Chakma and Hindu Hajong refugees began trickling into India in the early 1960s via present-day Mizoram — then the Lushai Hills district of Assam — after the Kaptai dam project submerged their land in Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT).

Source: BJP’s Arunachal ‘test case’ for citizenship to non-Muslims runs into rough weather | india-news | Hindustan Times

The real housing boom: The suburbs are where we want to be – Yakabuski

Not just want: affordability. Yakabuski on the demographic trends towards the suburbs, particularly the 905 and BC’s Lower Mainland:

The raw numbers are even more revealing. More than two-thirds of Canadians already live in some form of suburb, according to research by Queen’s University’s David Gordon, who divides Canada’s urban population between those who live in the “active core” of cities, in “transit suburbs” with ready access to public transport, and in the “auto suburbs” where the car rules.

Between 2006 and 2011, the active cores added 89,000 souls; the transit suburbs grew by 70,000. The auto suburbs added 1.3 million people, with 380,000 more in suburban Toronto alone. “We’re a suburban nation,” says Prof. Gordon. “That trend is not soon going to change.”

Luckily, Canada has not seen the kind of “sorting” of its population that has made the political divide between U.S. suburbs (largely white, middle-class and Republican) and inner cities (ethnically and socio-economically diverse and overwhelmingly Democratic) so unbridgeable. In Canada, it’s in the suburbs where elections are the most competitive.

The reason, Prof. Gordon notes, is that our suburbs are far more diverse.

Though we have “ethnic enclaves” such as Brampton, Ont., and Surrey, B.C., they are neither exclusive nor cut off from the surrounding community or society. This helps explains why suburban politics is so fluid here.

“There’s hope in Canada; we’re not as dug in as the Americans on the blue-red thing,” Prof. Gordon says. “It’s possible for any centrist politician to craft a platform to win in the suburbs.”

Source: The real housing boom: The suburbs are where we want to be – The Globe and Mail

Taliban Target: Scholars of Islam – The New York Times

Taliban mentality and reminder of one of the battles within Islam:

A lone grave, its dirt mound shaded under the drooping branches of a mulberry tree and kept adorned with flowers, has become a daily stop for seminary students and staff members near Togh-Bairdi, in northern Afghanistan.

It is the burial site of Mawlawi Shah Agha Hanafi, a revered religious scholar who founded the seminary about two decades ago and helped it grow into a thriving school for 1,300 students, including 160 girls. This month, the Taliban planted a bomb that killed him as he conducted a discussion about the Prophet Muhammad’s traditions, and his grave, at a corner of the seminary grounds, has become a gathering place for prayer and grief.

“When I come to work, the first thing I do is recite a verse of the Quran at his grave,” said Jan Agha, the headmaster of the seminary, in Parwan Province. “Then I weep, and then I go to my office.”

Mawlawi Hanafi joined a rapidly growing list of Islamic religious scholars who have become casualties of the Afghan war.

The scholars have long been targets, of one kind or another, in Afghanistan. Their words carry weight across many parts of society, and they are assiduously courted for their support — and frequently killed for their criticism.

Hundreds are believed to have been killed over the past 16 years of war, and not always by the Taliban. But there has been a definite uptick in the targeted killing of scholars — widely known as ulema — as the Taliban have intensified their offensives in the past two years, officials say.

It is being taken as a clear reminder of the weight the insurgents give not just to military victories but also to religious influence in their campaign to disrupt the government and seize territory.

“The reason the Taliban resort to such acts is that they want to make sure their legitimacy is not questioned by the sermons of these ulema,” said Mohammad Moheq, a noted Afghan scholar of religion who also serves as an adviser to President Ashraf Ghani.

Almost 7 in 10 Metro residents will be non-white in two decades: Todd

From the Statistics Canada 2036 projections:

Canada is experiencing the fastest rate of ethnic change of any country in the Western world, say international demographers.

Almost seven of 10 Metro Vancouver residents will be visible minorities, or non-whites, in less than two decades, says Eric Kaufmann, a professor at University of London, Birkbeck, citing Statistics Canada projections.

In addition, Kaufmann said, University of Laval professor Patrice Dion has worked with Statistics Canada officials to develop projections that suggest Canada as a whole, at the current rate of immigration, will be almost 80 per cent non-white in less than a century.

While the rapid pace of change likely will not  hurt Canada’s economy, Kaufmann said, it will continue to have great effect on the ethnic make-up of cities such as Greater Toronto and Metro Vancouver.

These two Canadian cities and others will, in just a few years, become “majority minority,” a term describing places in which one or more ethnic minority (relative to the country’s population) make up a majority of the local population.

 A 2017 Statistics Canada report, titled Immigration and Diversity: Population Projections, forecasts the number of Canadians with visible minority status will “increase more rapidly than the rest of the population” and “could more than double by 2036 to between 12.8 million and 16.3 million.”

The cities that will have the highest levels of visible minorities by 2036 will be Greater Toronto, Metro Vancouver, Calgary, Abbotsford-Mission, Edmonton and Winnipeg.

Non-whites already make up almost half the residents of Greater Toronto and Metro Vancouver.

…Meanwhile, Canada is undergoing “the fastest rate of ethnic change of any country in the Western world,” Kaufmann said, describing how 300,000 immigrants are arriving each year in a country of 35 million people, with four in five of those immigrants being visible minorities.

“The United States’ per capita immigration rate is only one-third to one-half as fast as Canada’s. … At the same time (U.S. President Donald) Trump has promised to reduce America’s inflows by half,” Kaufmann said.

“Europe is also generally tightening inflows and only 300,000 non-Europeans enter the European Union, population 510 million, each year. Most immigrant-receiving Western European states will be at least three-quarters European origin in 2050.”

In Canada, whites currently make up about 80 per cent of the population.

Kaufmann, however, drew attention to a study led by the University of Laval’s Patrice Dion and Statistics Canada official Eric Caron-Malenfant that projects that by 2106, the vast majority of Canada’s population will be descendants of immigrants who arrived after 2006.

Assuming that four in five immigrants during that time period will continue to be non-white, Kaufmann projected that by 2106 whites will account for between 12 to 38 per cent of the population.

“I think a reasonable middle conclusion is that Canada will be 20 per cent white, 65 per cent non-white and 15 per cent mixed race by 2106,” he said.

“Canada will probably become a ‘majority-minority’ country around 2060.”

Source: Almost 7 in 10 Metro residents will be non-white in two decades | Vancouver Sun

StatCan report: Immigration and Diversity: Population Projections for Canada and its Regions, 2011 to 2036 (91-551-X2017001)

Trump, Trudeau and the patriarchy: Adams

Another interesting piece by Michael Adams on the contrast between the US and Canada:

As icons of masculinity, it would be hard to find a more vivid contrast than that between U.S. President Donald Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. One is a macho bully who demands deference, the other a people-pleasing metrosexual. These men are not one-of-a-kind phenomena but very much expressions of the societies that produced them.

This is the obvious conclusion from an analysis of the evolving social values in each country Environics has been conducting every four years since 1992.

In order to understand the orientation to the structure of authority in the family in each country, we periodically ask representative samples of people 15 and older if they agree or disagree with the statement: “The father of the family must be master in his own house.”

In 2016, 50 per cent of the 8,000-plus Americans surveyed agreed with the statement. In Canada, the equivalent proportion (with a sample of 4,000-plus) was 23 per cent.

When we first asked this question in 1992, the proportion in the United States agreeing was 42 per cent. It rose to 44 per cent in 1996, and to 48 per cent in 2000. It remained at that level throughout the post-9/11 George W. Bush years and then declined somewhat during the Barack Obama era, to 41 per cent in 2012.

However, as U.S. Republicans and Democrats were in the process of selecting Mr. Trump and Hillary Clinton as their respective presidential candidates, the proportion returned to its historic high.

It will surprise no one that support for Mr. Trump is highly correlated with support for patriarchy and, conversely, support for gender equality is highly correlated with support for Ms. Clinton.

Meanwhile in Canada, the proportion of patriarchy supporters has been hovering in the low 20s throughout the past two decades. This is in spite of the inflows of migrants from more male-dominated countries (35 per cent of foreign-born Canadians believe dad should be on top), as well as a mild backlash against feminism among Generation X men at the ages of 25 to 44 (foreign-born and Canadian-born alike). In the United States, 56 per cent of immigrants opt for patriarchy in the home.

There was a time when informed Canadians felt the values of the two countries were converging, or that any observed differences in average opinion in the two societies were simply the result of the South pulling the U.S. number in a conservative direction and Quebec pulling Canada the other way. When it comes to this measure of patriarchy, neither generalization stands up to the evidence. Yes, in the United States, there is substantial regional variation. In the Deep South (Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi), 69 per cent believe the father must be master chez lui, whereas in New England, the figure is only 42 per cent; other regions fall in-between. In Canada, the range is from a high of 26 per cent in Alberta (birthplace of former Republican contender Ted Cruz) to a low of 18 per cent in Atlantic Canada. Canada’s most patriarchal province is significantly less patriarchal than the least patriarchal region of the United States. So much for the theory that nations don’t have national values.

Digging deeper into the demographics, we see some telling patterns: 60 per cent of American men think father should be master at home compared with 41 per cent of American women. In Canada, only 31 per cent of men think dad should be boss, compared with 16 per cent of women. Presumably some of these people live in the same house; must be interesting.

There is little variation by age in either country, or by income, occupational status or community size (rural to urban). In Canada, there is not much difference by education either – but in the United States education matters a lot: 56 per cent of people with a high-school education or less think father should be boss; among those with postsecondary degrees, it is 39 per cent.

Consensus in Canada; some substantial variations in the United States. Patriarchy is only one of more than 50 values we track, but it is clearly among the most meaningful. It is also a value that is highly correlated with other values such as religiosity, parochialism and xenophobia, and views on issues such as abortion, guns and the death penalty.

In 2002, EKOS asked Canadians if Canada was becoming more like the United States or less like it. At that time, 58 per cent said we were becoming more like the United States and only 9 per cent thought we were becoming less like our American cousins. A few weeks ago, we repeated this question in a national survey and found a change of opinion: Only 27 per cent think Canada is becoming more like the United States and a nearly equal proportion (26 per cent) say we are in fact becoming less like our southern neighbour. Perhaps the latter group read The Globe and Mail.

Source: Trump, Trudeau and the patriarchy – The Globe and Mail

You’re Not Going to Change Your Mind – The New York Times

As someone who is always interested in how we think and process information, and a great fan of Kahneman, Thaler and Sunstein’s work on behavioural economics and nudges, found this article on the desirability bias of interest:

But what if confirmation bias isn’t the only culprit? It recently struck us that confirmation bias is often conflated with “telling people what they want to hear,” which is actually a distinct phenomenon known as desirability bias, or the tendency to credit information you want to believe. Though there is a clear difference between what you believe and what you want to believe — a pessimist may expect the worst but hope for the best — when it comes to political beliefs, they are frequently aligned.

For example, gun-control advocates who believe stricter firearms laws will reduce gun-related homicides usually also want to believe that such laws will reduce gun-related homicides. If those advocates decline to revise their beliefs in the face of evidence to the contrary, it can be hard to tell which bias is at work.

So we decided to conduct an experiment that would isolate these biases. This way, we could see whether a reluctance to revise political beliefs was a result of confirmation bias or desirability bias (or both). Our experiment capitalized on the fact that one month before the 2016 presidential election there was a profusion of close polling results concerning Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

We asked 900 United States residents which candidate they wanted to win the election, and which candidate they believed was most likely to win. Respondents fell into two groups. In one group were those who believed the candidate they wanted to win was also most likely to win (for example, the Clinton supporter who believed Mrs. Clinton would win). In the other group were those who believed the candidate they wanted to win was not the candidate most likely to win (for example, the Trump supporter who believed Mrs. Clinton would win). Each person in the study then read about recent polling results emphasizing either that Mrs. Clinton or Mr. Trump was more likely to win.

Roughly half of our participants believed their preferred candidate was the one less likely to win the election. For those people, the desirability of the polling evidence was decoupled from its value in confirming their beliefs.

After reading about the recent polling numbers, all the participants once again indicated which candidate they believed was most likely to win. The results, which we report in a forthcoming paper in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, were clear and robust. Those people who received desirable evidence — polls suggesting that their preferred candidate was going to win — took note and incorporated the information into their subsequent belief about which candidate was most likely to win the election. In contrast, those people who received undesirable evidence barely changed their belief about which candidate was most likely to win.

Importantly, this bias in favor of the desirable evidence emerged irrespective of whether the polls confirmed or disconfirmed peoples’ prior belief about which candidate would win. In other words, we observed a general bias toward the desirable evidence.

What about confirmation bias? To our surprise, those people who received confirming evidence — polls supporting their prior belief about which candidate was most likely to win — showed no bias in favor of this information. They tended to incorporate this evidence into their subsequent belief to the same extent as those people who had their prior belief disconfirmed. In other words, we observed little to no bias toward the confirming evidence.

We also explored which supporters showed the greatest bias in favor of the desirable evidence. The results were bipartisan: Supporters of Mr. Trump and supporters of Mrs. Clinton showed a similar-size bias in favor of the desirable evidence.

Our study suggests that political belief polarization may emerge because of peoples’ conflicting desires, not their conflicting beliefs per se. This is rather troubling, as it implies that even if we were to escape from our political echo chambers, it wouldn’t help much. Short of changing what people want to believe, we must find other ways to unify our perceptions of reality.

Colby Cosh: Thought Canada solved its census problems by booting Harper out of office? Think again

I found this piece by Cosh of interest as it indicates some of the less known challenges to the Census (and I am never bored by Alberta stories…):

Wow, this interim report on Alberta electoral boundaries is fascinat—

All right, I can already hear some of you saying “It’s called the NATIONAL Post, you hayseed; don’t bore us with trivia from your crummy Alberta backyard.” Well, everything happens in someone or other’s backyard. And this boundary reshuffle is an unusually consequential one—not just for the next Alberta election, but for the New Democrat cause across the country, and for the chess game of “right-wing unity” that continues to be a subplot of Canadian history.

But it really is interesting in its own right, if only for one reason. Much of the city of Fort McMurray, as you know, was destroyed by fire on May 3, 2016. The date of our country’s quinquennial census fell on May 10, 2016. This has presented an unprecedented problem for the five-person Alberta boundaries commission. And its interim report, designed to be discussed more before being finalized in October, admits that the commission does not yet have a good solution.

Door-to-door enumeration of Fort Mac on the May 10 date was impossible. A census is supposed to be a near-perfect snapshot of the country, taken at the same moment across the land. But such a snapshot of Ft. McMurray on May 10 would have returned a population of near zero, which would have obviously been useless for any policy purposes. Census respondents in the scorched city were therefore asked to report personal data pertaining to May 1, and so the figure in the census (66,573 persons) is not very realistic either—it may be little more than an accountant’s tribute to Fort Mac at a peak that it may never quite regain.

So how many Fort McMurrayites are there now? The boundaries commission asked the Alberta treasury for its own estimate—but that one is implausible too: it’s just the census figure minus about 9,000—an inference that “arises solely from the fact that 2,000 homes were destroyed in the fire.” This figure assumes that everybody who lost a home is gone from the city for good—an assumption that is patently untrue, and not much use for a commission that has to make reasonable election maps to last a decade.

So the present population of Ft. McMurray turns out to be irritatingly uncertain, and even if we knew it, no one can guess how much the city will rebound within the next year, or two, or five. The commission, trapped in a dead end of data, begs the public for “specific, reliable information upon which it could act.”

Fortunately, this problem mostly effects how two particular northern ridings will be split up, so the commission was able to devise provisional election boundaries for most of the province without worry. The rest of the report tells the typical story of a decade of Alberta population evolution. The cities of Edmonton and Calgary gain one extra seat apiece: Calgary was eligible for almost exactly one and a half, but is getting just one. The strongly Edmonton-centric NDP government will like that, but the fast-growing commuter zone between Calgary and the Rockies—a picturesque land of cowboy hipsters that is not quite “suburbia”—is also getting an extra seat.

One of the commissioners, the Carstairs businesswoman and artist Gwen Day, has filed a minority report arguing against this small (but possibly important) shift of voting power to the cities. Normally any sign of dissent within a boundaries commission is taken as a bad sign, but in this case one detects a simple determination to ignore the making of an embarrassing scene. Rural ridings everywhere in Canada often have a little extra power because of travel considerations, which ought to be weaker in abundantly-paved Alberta than they are almost anywhere else. But Day offers an entertaining novelty: “The concept of ‘one person, one vote’ is not a Canadian construct,” she argues.

She comes awfully close to saying that the votes of rural residents should count for more because rural people are more important humans. Day declares that Alberta has three kinds of economic activity: “primary industries” mostly in the countryside, “service industries” allegedly “driven by” the primary ones, and industries funded by tax dollars. I am not quite sure how department stores or Chinese restaurants fit in to this scheme, but it leads her to proclaim that “Rural Albertans control the land, access to the land and provide a significant portion of the labor force that most of our primary industries depend on.”

It is a wonder, one is left thinking, that city folk are allowed to vote at all; fortunately, the other commissioners chose not to embrace petro-agrarian fascism. I also appreciated that the majority is calling a halt to the odious practice of naming election constituencies after well-liked dead politicians, which is how we have ended up with a “Calgary-Klein” and a “Dunvegan-Central Peace-Notley” commemorating the father of the current premier.

Some Calgarians wanted to create a “Calgary-Bhullar” to commemorate Manmeet Bhullar, the young MLA killed in a road accident in 2015 while helping victims of an earlier collision. The commission said an apologetic no, noting that a school named for Bhullar is under construction, and states that electoral ridings should be given party-neutral, geographically descriptive names from now on. Manmeet Bhullar was a gem, but the commission’s suggested rule is the proper one, and its members’ resistance to sentiment should be applauded.

‘We’re asking for change’: Emerging indigenous generation flexes muscle over cultural appropriation

Thoughtful exploration of cultural appropriation issues with respect to Indigenous peoples.

The graphic is particularly helpful in that it provides greater clarity to what can be considered cultural appropriation and what not, particularly the left and right columns. The middle column is where much of the current debate occurs:

George Nicholas, an archeology professor at Simon Fraser University and director of the Intellectual Property Issues in Cultural Heritage research project, argues that borrowing between cultures has shaped societies around the world, and there is nothing wrong with that.


HandoutOjibwa broadcaster Jesse Wente: “We’re asking now for change, and we’re not going to stop asking.”

But just as trademarks, patents and copyrights protect intellectual property, he said, there should be protection for elements of indigenous heritage. The historical power imbalance between mainstream society and indigenous peoples has meant that little thought was given to the impact of appropriation, whether it is mass-produced gift-shop totem poles or high-end fashion copied from an Inuit parka.

“If I am taking something that is important to someone’s heritage, whether it’s a particular design or a particular set of stories or songs, my using those, my sharing those, my including those in some sort of commercial product, can result in cultural, or spiritual, or economic harm to the people whose heritage it is,” he said.

Kulchyski’s idea of “loving Indians to death” reflects the fact that often appropriation stems from good intentions. But he said it turns heritage into a commodity.

“By simply saying, ‘Oh we love your culture. We’ll have you dance during our Olympic ceremony. We’ll have you say a prayer before our meetings, but we haven’t actually substantively changed the fact that the economy is based on extraction from your lands, and we’re going to continue doing that,’ basically it becomes, at best, a hollow gesture and, at worst … your culture becomes something for sale.”

Keeshig-Tobias has watched the resurgence of the cultural appropriation debate with interest. The abuse she took for her stand in 1990 still stings.

“I was vilified, by just about everybody … big names in the Canadian writing community,” she said in an interview. “The complaint was that I was shackling the imagination.”

Her response then and today: “Your imagination comes right up to my nose, and if it goes any further, then I push back.”

She said it is discouraging to hear the “same old arguments” resurfacing but heartening to see a new generation pushing back.

“Hopefully they’ll listen now. Like I said, we’re in a new era,” she said. “So many things have happened between then and now, and there are so many more wonderfully articulate indigenous people.”

Source: ‘We’re asking for change’: Emerging indigenous generation flexes muscle over cultural appropriation | National Post