Winnipeg rises to a challenge – Macleans – Wells

Aboriginal - Black comparisonPaul Wells on the impressive open response to the Macleans story on racism in Winnipeg. All too rare in Canadian politics:

“Ignorance, hatred, intolerance, racism exists everywhere,” Bowman said. “Winnipeg has a responsibility right now to turn this ship around and change the way we all relate: Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal, Canadians alike, from coast to coast to coast.”

Already this was surprising. Bowman was not demanding Maclean’s apologize, or indeed anyone. “We are here together to face this head-on as one community,” he said.  He was careful to note what nobody would deny: that racism exists everywhere, not only in Winnipeg, and that the city is full of people who work hard to combat racism and its effects. But neither he nor the other speakers sought any bogus refuge in the fact that Maclean’s isn’t published locally or that it used nasty words in its article.

Mercredi also emphasized that racism is a big problem that ignores municipal borders, but added: “I want to thank Maclean’s magazine for the story that they did. And to challenge them to follow up with other stories of where individuals and groups have combatted racism in their particular communities and cities and have made a difference in race relations in their communities.”

I suspect we’ll be taking up Mercredi’s challenge over the next few weeks. It was, on the whole, an inspiring and morally serious response from officials who know very well that slogans won’t begin to heal the wounds Nancy Macdonald and Scott Gilmore document this week.

It’s so common to find public officials shifting blame instead of lifting burdens. That’s not the path Brian Bowman and his colleagues chose today. It was heartening.

Winnipeg rises to a challenge –

And the report of the press conference:

Winnipeg leaders vow to face racism head-on In response to this week’s Maclean’s cover, Brian Bowman, backed by indigenous leaders, promised to change Winnipeg’s reputation

Glavin: Canadians have no reason to be smug about race | Ottawa Citizen

Interesting piece by Terry Glavin comparing the situation of African-Americans to Canadian Aboriginal people:

Things are going downhill, too. Over the past decade, the Aboriginal population in federal prisons has grown by more than 50 per cent. In Western Canada, two-thirds of the inmates in federal and provincial institutions are Aboriginal people.

About 28 per cent of African-Americans are stuck with something less than a high school education – half again higher than the rate among white people. In Canada, about 29 per cent of Aboriginal people have less than a high-school education, compared to 12 per cent of non-Aboriginal people.

While a third of African-American children entering high school will drop out – twice the rate of white kids – current drop-out rates indicate that more than half of Canada’s Aboriginal kids probably won’t finish high school. That’s a drop-out rate roughly six times higher than among non-Aboriginal kids.

On reserves, 74 per cent of schools are so dilapidated they lack such basic amenities as drinking water. More than half the schools function without a library, a gymnasium, a science laboratory, or a kitchen. Of Canada’s nearly 1.5 million Aboriginal people, about half are under 15 years of age.

“How long? Not long, because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice,” Martin Luther King proclaimed all those years ago.

African-Americans might be forgiven for every once in a while losing patience with how long it’s taking that arc to fully bend towards them. For Canada’s young Aboriginal people, it’s not clear that the arc of the moral universe is even bending in their direction at all.

Glavin: Canadians have no reason to be smug about race | Ottawa Citizen.

Statistical black hole opens door to foreign workers

While more of a “footnote” in relation to some of the broader concerns regarding the Temporary Foreign Workers, an important one given the need to increase employment opportunities for aboriginal peoples. Paras below indicate the difference that including reserves make in the calculations:

In the Prince Albert and northern Saskatchewan economic region, for example, the unemployment rate for 2013 was 5.7 per cent. That’s just low enough to meet the government’s cutoff. As a result, employers in Prince Albert are still able to hire TFWs for low-skill jobs. A government list obtained by The Globe under access to information laws shows several businesses in Prince Albert, which has a large aboriginal population, employ a high proportion of TFWs. Two restaurant owners in the area who spoke to The Globe recently said they prefer to hire TFWs because they consider them more reliable than Canadian workers.

But if reserves were included in the calculations, it’s clear the unemployment rate for the region would be much higher than 6 per cent. The 2006 long-form census data, which offers some of the only reliable data on joblessness on reserves, shows nearly 2,600 people living on 35 area First Nations declared themselves unemployed. The average unemployment rate on those reserves was nearly 30 per cent. In a region where roughly 100,000 people are employed, adding on-reserve First Nations to the equation would increase the jobless rate by at least two percentage points, well into high unemployment territory.

Statistical black hole opens door to foreign workers – The Globe and Mail.

Jonathan Kay: The one place in Canada where racism is still tolerated: native reserves

Jon Kay tackles the thorny integration vs accommodation issue with respect to First Nation reserves:

On the other hand, let’s give the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake their due, shall we? In the modern context, what is the point of the reserve system except to give natives a space that provides them with a measure of autonomy and cultural “authenticity”? Having embraced the notion that one’s bloodline dictates ones rights a notion dismissed as racist in every other context of public discussion and policy formation, Canadian liberals have been forced to accept its noxious corollary — which is that the presence of white people in the midst of reserves comprises a sort of cultural pollutant.

This is the reason politicians and public figures are so loathe to take a strong stand against the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake and other native groups that strike militant postures on behalf of native identity: Such criticisms implicitly strike at the very heart of the utopian liberal notion that natives flourish best among their own, in protected, demographically homogenous enclaves that are geographically rooted in their traditional lands.

In every other context, Canadian liberals zealously embrace the idea of diversity and multiculturalism. In liberal cities such as Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal, the sight of people of every skin colour living side by side, including as husband and wife, is taken as a neighbourhood’s badge of enlightenment. But if the neighbourhood happens to be a native reserve, the exact opposite premise holds sway: Run whitey out of town.

Eventually, Canadians are going to have to make up their mind on the diversity-versus-segregation question. It’s simply untenable to say that while the United Colors of Benetton are ideal for whites, natives should be free to construct miniature societies based on racist principles that were decisively rejected by Abolitionists two centuries ago. It’s an embarrassment to Canadian values and a cruelty upon those natives who have committed no crime except to fall in love with someone of a different skin colour.

Lawrence Hill in his Massey Lectures in Blood picks up a similar theme from an identity perspective (see Blood by Lawrence Hill):

Jonathan Kay: The one place in Canada where racism is still tolerated: native reserves

Allan Gregg » Tecumseh’s Ghost

For your Sunday reading.

A long piece by Allan Gregg on the history of the War of 1812, Tecumseh, and the taking of Indian land in North America. Long but engaging, and one of the uncomfortable truths of Canadian history.

Allan Gregg » Tecumseh’s Ghost.