Newcomers – Reconciliation Needs You Too – New Canadian Media

One of the 94 recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and one that will likely be implemented to some degree.

As Adrienne Clarkson notes in her book, Belonging: The Paradox of Citizenship, when immigrants become citizens they inherit both the good and bad parts of our history, and thus better knowledge of the history of Indigenous Peoples and their treatment is essential.

It is likely, should the Liberal government revise the citizenship study guide, Discover Canada, (almost a certainty), the overall diversity and inclusion theme will feature prominently, including with respect to Indigenous Peoples:

Canada’s Indigenous people are asking immigrants to join the nationwide process of reconciliation by learning about and celebrating Indigenous culture.

One of the many recommendations that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) published in their final report calls on the government to incorporate more information on the history of Canada’s diverse Indigenous communities in information kits for newcomers and in citizenship tests.

This includes information on residential schools and the Treaties through which settlers dispossessed the Indigenous peoples of their land.

The recommendation is just one 94 outlined in the report from the TRC, whose work on restoring the relationship between the Canadian government and Indigenous communities culminated with the report’s delivery on Dec. 15, 2015.

Learning the true history of Canada

“I really think it’s important to realize that this was not an empty land when people came here. There were thriving nations in this land,” says Jane Hubbard, acting director of operations of the Legacy of Hope Foundation.

Her organization works to raise awareness about the history of residential schools in Canada and to promote reconciliation among Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people in Canada.

“I think it’s very important that the true history be told, so that people understand that Canada did not start in 1867. There was a long history before contact as well,” she says.

Hubbard says Aboriginal peoples’ present-day contributions to society should also be included and celebrated.

“Often in a lot of government materials, Aboriginal peoples are referred to in such a way as to make someone think that perhaps they are a historical entity,” she says.

It is vital that newcomers do independent research to learn about Indigenous culture, instead of absorbing the misinterpretations of the general narrative.

“We would like to see more of the current-day representation. Thriving cultures, restoration of language. That people are here and walking amongst us and that they are lively contributors to society.”

Andrew Tataj is a second-generation Canadian whose parents came to Canada in the 1970s from Ireland and former Yugoslavia. “Learning about our history is important, because it can help newcomers assimilate into our culture, especially knowing about the country’s past – good and bad things,” says the computer engineer.

However, he is skeptical about the positive effect of providing more information. “I don’t think much can be changed when it comes to awareness. … It won’t get their land back,” he says.

Participating in reconciliation

Heather Igloliorte, an Inuit professor and chair in Indigenous art history and community engagement at Concordia University, outlines some ways in which newcomers can participate actively in the process of reconciliation.

“I think that one of the things that new Canadians could do is attend festivals and celebrations and Aboriginal peoples’ day and other events, so that they have an opportunity to meet and converse with Indigenous people. So that their understanding does not come only from literature, but also from first-person experience,” she says.

One of the primary focuses of the TRC was to expose the truths of the residential-school system.

Igloliorte says that it is vital that newcomers do independent research to learn about Indigenous culture, instead of absorbing the misinterpretations of the general narrative about them.

“It’s incredibly important for newcomers to Canada to understand the history of how we got to where we are today, so that they do not simply absorb the stereotypes and the racist perspectives towards Indigenous people that we still have in Canada right now,” says Igloliorte.

“I think Aboriginal people did not receive enough respect from the very beginning,” says Khaled Elrodesly, a biomedical engineer from Egypt who recently took his citizenship test. “They are supposed to be the first settlers of the Americas and everyone else that comes after them should respect their thoughts and ideas and try to connect with them.”

Source: Newcomers – Reconciliation Needs You Too – New Canadian Media

Adrienne Clarkson on why Canada’s multiculturalism works – And my review from Embassy Magazine

As she delivers her Massey Lectures, this interesting vignette from Montreal:

She rejects the notion, however, that belonging means excluding others.

Clarkson’s assertion was put to the test after she delivered her first Massey Lecture in Montreal, when an audience member pointed out that excluding others is precisely how many political leaders define the identity of the group they profess to represent.

The audience member pointed to some extreme opinions expressed during the Quebec Charter debate, and how right-wing leaders in Europe score political points by openly vilifying Muslims and immigrants.

“It’s basically racist,” was Clarkson’s answer. “And in France, I’m afraid, you still do hear things that I heard in Canada in the ‘40s as a child, about Jews and so on.“

I think that fear and ignorance and bigotry and so on should be always met head-on.”

Adrienne Clarkson on why Canadas multiculturalism works – Canada – CBC News.

And excerpt from my take:

Her praise for what the Aga Khan calls a “cosmopolitan ethic,” where we need to continuously engage in conversations with those of different backgrounds, loyalties, religions and ethnicities, further reinforces this need for ongoing dialogue and understanding in a complex multicultural society such as Canada.

Belonging: The Paradox of Citizenship provides a welcome antidote to so much of the excessive fretting that occurs around Canadian citizenship and multiculturalism.

But Clarkson’s reliance on behaving “as if” things are working well, wishing it were so, can be as risky as the alternate “as if,” that Canadian citizenship and multiculturalism are not working.

Certainly, compared to most countries, we have been remarkably successful. Political differences are at the margins, we have no political parties opposed to immigration and all political parties actively pursue ethnic community votes.

But we do have serious challenges from the perspective of equity, discrimination and representation.

By provoking discussion implicitly on what kind of “as if” we should employ to help shape the ongoing evolution of Canadian society, Clarkson has posed the fundamental question on what kind of Canada we want and how we should behave to help it come into being.

A relentlessly upbeat take on citizenship

Adrienne Clarkson: ‘I always felt I belonged’

More snippets from Adrienne Clarkson interviews on her book, Belonging: The Paradox of Citizenship:

We are often very centred on the Western ideal of citizenship. I wanted to be sure that we looked at the world, not just at the Western Greek ideal, but also that we deal with our own aboriginal gifts in this country, that we deal with an African concept … and that we deal with an Asian Buddhist concept about how you create something that you all belong to. These concepts are valuable to open people’s minds to the idea that in all of the world, people are thinking about these things and they come at it in their different ways.

Ubuntu says you exist because the other exists. You are part of other people. I exist because you exist. I think that’s a wonderful feeling to have because it means we are part of each other and we are part of a kind of understanding of each other, which we don’t feel rationally, but we feel it because we are all human beings. I am human because you are human.

Adrienne Clarkson: ‘I always felt I belonged’.

Former Governor-General Clarkson says Canada has redefined citizenship

Globe immigration/citizenship reporter Joe Friesen’s interview with Adrienne Clarkson on citizenship:

You say citizenship is an act of imagination. What does that mean?

It means we imagine ourselves as part of a democratic structure, as equal, as able to get on with our lives without having to worry about our rights. We behave “As if” people who come here will be able to take their place in society and by doing that they are able to do so. [Northrop] Frye said that our imagination gives us our vision of what our society is and what it could be. Rather than having a grid imposed on us, we have become part of each other’s wishes, part of each other’s dreams and in the process we’re creating a new kind of society.

Situates citizenship (and multiculturalism) within that context, unlike many critics who forget, intentionally or not, that the Canadian approach, while allowing considerable flexibility and accommodation, happens within that context.

Former Governor-General Clarkson says Canada has redefined citizenship – The Globe and Mail.