Racist labour exploitation continues in multicultural Canada [Odd to showcase Chinese Canadians]

Bit surprising that one would choose Chinese Canadians as the example of contemporary exploitation compared to other visible minority groups and temporary residents. Issues of anti-Asian hate, of course, have increased during COVID-19:

The history of racialized labour exploitation that began with Chinese workers arriving in Canada in the 19th century to take up jobs employers had trouble filling with European settlers continues unabated in multicultural Canada.

Canada has been applauded for being the first country in the world to adopt multiculturalism as federal policy. Multiculturalism, which turns 50 years old on Oct. 8, successfully established a positive image of Canada as a diverse, inclusive and immigrant-friendly nation.

Multiculturalism has defined national identity, resulting in Canadians perceiving themselves as tolerant, benevolent and peace-loving. It has persuaded many people to immigrate to Canada and many refugees to look toward Canada for safety.

However, multiculturalism as state policy has also perpetuated the discriminatory immigration and labour policies of white Canada. During the COVID-19 pandemic, it has become evident that Canada’s job market simultaneously relies on Asian essential workers and scorns them.

Canada has witnessed a sharp increase in racial violence against Asian Canadians during the pandemic.

The most recent uptick in anti-Asian racism is not an aberrant response by anxious or fearful Canadians during a health crisis, but the continuation of old hierarchies of racial difference, a legacy of legalized and everyday racism that structures the lives of Asian Canadians and other racialized minorities.

It will be important to ensure that anti-Asian racism during COVID-19 is not obliterated from Canada’s collective memory of the pandemic.

Robust public education, through intentional changes in school curricula and public outreach, informed by the experiences of affected communities, can help Canadians unlearn biases and understand Canada’s history of racial violence. Remembering the past might provoke inquiry into the ways things are and how they should be.

According to the 2016 census, one in five Canadians are foreign-born, and half of these are from Asia. A little more than a quarter of all Canadian children have at least one foreign-born parent. Chinese presence in Canada can be traced back to the early 19th century and Asian Canadians are sometimes called the “model minority.

How then did Asian minorities of varying age, immigration status and national origin suddenly become objects of hatred during the pandemic?

A look back at 1960s and 70s immigration reforms is helpful in situating anti-Asian racism during the current pandemic.

British Columbia was the site of the first Asian settlement in Canada, when Chinese prospectors were lured by the gold rush. Soon after, the Canadian government actively recruited Chinese labourers to build the Canadian Pacific Railway.

After the completion of the CPR, Chinese workers began taking up employment in logging camps, fisheries and mines, before competition between white and Chinese workers culminated in calls for legislation to restrict Chinese immigration. The perceived threat fermented into a stereotype of the Chinese, and then eventually other Asians, as a menace or “yellow peril.”

The Royal Commission on Chinese Immigration of 1885 was established to assess the impact of Chinese immigration to Canada. The commission heard testimony linking infectious disease to Chinese sanitation, food habits, housing and cultural practices. While the commissioners found little evidence to support those claims, they recommended restricting Chinese immigration. This laid the grounds for exclusionary immigration policies, such as the Chinese Immigration Act of 1885, which levied a head tax on all Chinese immigrants, and the Chinese Immigration Act of 1923, which more or less stopped Chinese immigration entirely.

Reforms in immigration policy in the 1960s and 70s facilitated Canada’s rebranding of itself as a multicultural nation. The elimination of overt racial distinctions in immigration policy signalled a successful transition from a white settler colony to a multiracial society.

The selective entry of workers based upon Canada’s economic needs continued, however. The introduction of the point system in 1967, for example, favoured immigrants from particular professions and educational backgrounds. New immigrants selected to come from Asia were largely medical, industrial and other professionals, and this change in the immigrant profile fed the “model minority” stereotype.

The celebration of the “model” multicultural subject sets off racial groups against one another and shapes the public’s understanding of national well-being and threat. It masks the fears and anxieties that the increasing visibility of racialized minorities in Canada provokes in white settlers. By inscribing inclusivity and cultural diversity as core Canadian values, Canada’s policy of “multiculturalism within a bilingual framework” articulates a narrative of tolerant nationhood, erasing claims of Indigenous peoples to their land along with the history of African Canadian slavery.

Despite the point system that enabled the entry of skilled immigrants, data shows that racialized immigrants continue to experience higher levels of unemployment and earn less income than white Canadians. Our labour-market policies have resulted in the over-representation of Asian Canadians in so-called essential jobs which are typically low-paying, low-skilled and precarious, such as warehouse, personal support, and cleaning work.

Some of the largest outbreaks of COVID-19 in Canada have occurred in long-term care and meat-packing facilities, where racialized people, including Asians, are disproportionately employed. More than 1,500 COVID-19 cases were linked to the Cargill meat plant in Alberta, the largest COVID-19 outbreak linked to a single facility in North America, where 70 per cent of employees are of Filipino descent.

The current pandemic has also brought to light how early 19thcentury representations of the Chinese as “a serious public health risk” combined with legalized racism in immigration policy have effectively embedded in public consciousness the perception of Asian Canadians as disease carriers and foreigners within their own nation. Yet Canada’s successful marketing of official multiculturalism as an end to past racism and the framing of recent or emergent racism as aberrations deter acknowledgement of exclusionary and discriminatory policies contributing to anti-Asian racism during the COVID-19 pandemic.

For Asian Canadians, the pandemic has intensified the racial grief of exclusion from their own nation. In June 2020, a survey conducted by the Angus Reid Institute in partnership with the University of Alberta suggested a “shadow pandemic” of racism exists. Exactly half of surveyed Canadians of Chinese ethnicity reported being called names or insulted as a direct result of the COVID-19 outbreak, and 43 per cent said they had been threatened or intimidated.

Learning the history of anti-Chinese racism in Canada can equip us to intervene in structural racism, which must take a central place in the pandemic recovery process, so that living well together, which is the premise of multiculturalism, can be grounded in justice, rather than mere tolerance of difference or selective inclusion.

Improved public policy that moves past celebrating diversity and enhances cross-cultural, cross-racial learning can facilitate difficult and necessary conversations.

Source: Racist labour exploitation continues in multicultural Canada

Chandrima Chakraborty: National mourning of Tehran crash is a sign Canada has matured

One of the better commentaries:

We now know that the Ukrainian International Airlines plane PS752 that crashed last week was mistakenly shot down by Iran. It will take time for the investigations to provide us with more answers, but one thing is clear: what happened in Tehran is something that happened to Canada.

Now it is up to all of us to make sure we continue to see it that way.

Our country’s reaction to the loss of 57 Canadians on Flight PS752 is critically important to our evolving national culture and to the healing of those left to mourn their deaths, here at home and elsewhere.

In the immediate aftermath of this tragedy, it might seem certain that this event will be permanently inscribed in Canada’s ongoing history, but an all-too-painful episode proves we must remain mindful.

On June 23, 1985, a bomb detonated on Air India Flight 182, en route from Toronto to New Delhi via Montreal. The mid-air explosion in Irish airspace killed all 329 passengers and crew. The majority were Canadians of Indian heritage, including 82 children under 13.

The Canadian government treated the attack as a foreign tragedy, pushing the bombing to the margins of the national consciousness, and limiting the opportunity for public mourning and collective recognition. Canada’s failure to internalize the loss as a tragedy affecting Canadians complicated the grief of mourning families and deepened their isolation from the nation they called their own.

Will all Canadians take the Tehran tragedy into their hearts and memories and view it as something that belongs to them – something that has hurt us all? Early indications suggest we are heading in the right direction.

In public remarks shortly after the tragedy, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took care to address the families and friends of the victims. “While no words will erase your pain, I want you to know that an entire country is with you. We share your grief,” he said.

Those were powerful words, especially for those who needed to hear them most.

In another heartening sign that our country has matured since 1985, the Canadian news media have been covering the Tehran crash not just as an international news event, but as one with deep personal consequences. Bringing news of vigils and memorial services being held across Canada and gathering personal stories for readers, viewers and listeners makes a public record of the loss. These stories compel Canadians to see those who perished on Flight PS752 as breathing, living humans whose lives were unfairly cut short.

Many of the stories are reminding Canadians of the Air India crash. Seeing this will bring belated validation to the Air India families, who know this kind of pain all too well. They have been waiting 35 years to have their stories stitched into Canada’s family album.

The difference in government, media and public response to the Tehran crash makes me hopeful that we have learned from the Air India bombing. Innocent lives were cut short by an act of premeditated violence on June 23, 1985, but the victims were not only those who died in the plane crash, but also those who had to live with this loss and, in addition, struggle to claim their place as Canadians. Air India families worked tirelessly for years demanding a public inquiry into the bombing. A public inquiry was finally established in 2006, and in its final report in 2010 (25 years after the airplane crash), the inquiry named the Air India bombing as “a Canadian tragedy.”

The recognition that Canada and Canadians once failed to give Air India victims justice should make the current government more vigilant in seeking answers, accountability and responsibility. A long, drawn-out investigation, as was the case with the Air India crash, can exacerbate the pain experienced by loved ones. Even in 2015, the RCMP claimed that the criminal investigations into Air India were “active and ongoing.” Botched investigations and the failure of the justice system to charge those involved in perpetuating the act of terror has left Air India families still waiting for justice.

Trudeau has promised to make certain the Tehran crash is thoroughly investigated in the hope that a transparent investigation will provide answers and bring some sense of closure for the families. The rising tensions between United States and Iran and the absence of Canadian consular services in Iran might pose some complications as we look for answers.

Canada is a popular destination for international students, for refugees and for immigrants. Many Iranian students came to Canada because of the US travel ban imposed in the wake of Donald Trump’s election as president. Canada is also seeking to greatly increase its foreign-student enrollment by 2022 to bolster its competitiveness in the global economy and add billions to the domestic economy.

Dozens of students and faculty members from Canadian universities – including two PhD students from McMaster, where I am a professor – died in the crash. It was heartening to learn that more than 300 members of my school’s community attended a vigil to support one another.

As a nation of communities, it will be important to create permanent and official ways to commemorate the lives lost in Iran, through monuments, parks, scholarships and other forms of recognition that celebrate the valuable contributions the victims have made to Canadian life. As individuals, this is a time to reach out to grieving friends, neighbours, schoolmates and others in our circles to show we care, and to offer them the opportunity to share their memories and experiences.

With this fresh tragedy so cruelly visited upon another set of families, this is a time for all to embrace the mourners collectively and individually, and from the beginning to demonstrate in all ways that this is a Canadian tragedy – to do better than we did before.

Source: National mourning of Tehran crash is a sign Canada has matured

Shree Paradkar: Will the Iran crash prompt Canadians to at last acknowledge our shameful response to the Air India tragedy?

More Air India/Ukraine International plane crash characterization and reaction comparisons:

It was the end of the school year in June 1985. Montreal-based Vipin Bery dropped his wife, Neelam, and children — Priya, 8, and Aditya, 4 — at the Mirabel Airport and said goodbye. They were off to India on their summer holidays. He would never see them again.

Toronto-based Lata Pada had flown to India in advance, and was waiting for her husband, Vishnu, and teenage daughters, Brinda and Arti, to arrive. They were to fly onward to Bangalore.

“And then to hear the plane was not going to land,” she said over the phone this weekend.

Last week’s shattering deaths of 176 people aboard Ukraine Flight 752, including 57 Canadians, has brought memories flooding back to families of those who perished in the Air India 182 bombing that blew up the plane off the coast of Ireland, killing all 329 people on board.

“In a way you never get over it,” Bery, now based in Toronto, said. Bery eventually “found the strength to try again” and has a wife and children who are now in their 20s. “I’ve tried to move on the best I could.”

Last week, within hours of the Iran plane crash, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said, “While no words will erase your pain, I want you to know that an entire country is with you. We share your grief.” His words had the effect of gathering Canadians together in an act of national mourning.

In 1985, following the deaths of about 268 Canadians, then-prime minister Brian Mulroney called his Indian counterpart, the late Rajiv Gandhi, and offered his condolences. We should never let him live this down.

“Every family I speak to tells me this,” says Chandrima Chakraborty, an English and cultural studies professor at McMaster University. “This is something the Air India families have neither forgotten nor forgiven.”

“Their loss is irreparable. Here you had these families at their worst moment of crisis having to prove their Canadianness,” she says.

Cork, on the southwest coast of Ireland, became the site for bodies that were being recovered to be brought back for identification, and families rushed there from all over the world.

“I was grieving there in Cork,” Pada says. “Not a single Canadian official was there. Not a single representative from the Canadian government. Nobody from the Canadian embassy even came to even inquire and comfort us.

“It was such a contrast to the Irish who were so completely compassionate, taking us into their homes and to welcome us with love.”

Years after the bombing, she testified in a public inquiry, “They (the Irish) took this tragedy upon themselves as if they had suffered.”

Of how the Iranian-Canadians are being treated now, Pada says, “I’m truly glad that even though they may be hyphenated Canadians they are still considered Canadian. Thank goodness this time Trudeau has made a strong presence of his compassion and strong condemnation of what happened and strong commitment to investigate it.”

However, Canadians looking to turn this into a “look how far we’ve come” moment are missing the point if they’re converting the Air India tragedy into an occasion for self-congratulations. Even today, in the long aftermath of the 35-year-old terrorist atrocity, this is not a disaster that registers on the Canadian conscience. (I say this while acknowledging the local communities who have paid tributes.)

How many of us take a moment on June 23 to reflect on that tragedy? We (rightly) do so annually for the 1989 Montreal massacre of 14 women. When 16 people including 10 players of the Humboldt Broncos team died in a road accident in 2018, Canadians placed hockey sticks on our porches in solidarity, supported a quick investigation and trial so the families could find closure, and even crowdsourced $15 million.

Eighty-two children were killed in the Air India bombing. How have we mourned them?

Chakraborty, who has no personal connection to the tragedy, has made it her mission since 2010 to bring it into public consciousness. She began teaching about the bombing and its aftermath in 2010 and is now creating an Air India archive at the McMaster library. Last year, she along with two colleagues published an anthology, Remembering Air India: The Art of Public Mourning.

The bombs, as we now know, were made in Canada, planted in Canada and killed Canadians.

But, dear god, it took forever for even that to be clear.

It took years of the RCMP and CSIS pointing fingers at each other, years for the case to go to the country’s most expensive trial with botched evidence.

It took 20 years of advocacy by the families themselves for Canada to declare June 23 a national day of remembrance for victims of terrorism.

It took 22 years for the federal government to fund memorials in Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal and Ottawa.

How many of us have visited them?

One politician who shows up at the Humber Bay Park East memorial in Etobicoke unannounced and without fanfare is former Ontario premier Bob Rae, says Chakraborty. Rae wrote a public report on the disaster. It’s instructive that when Trudeau turned to Rae for advice on handling the Iran plane crash, Rae’s advice was staying in close touch with the families.

It took 23 years for a public inquiry into the investigation of the bombing to be published. “Almost to a witness, the family members told the Commission of feeling left out from the beginning of their painful experience,” it said.

Now, 35 years later, a similar unfathomable tragedy is urging us, the Canadian public, to come to a collective reckoning and connect with the Canadian tragedy.

Will we? June 23 this year will provide us with a mirror.

Source: Shree Paradkar: Will the Iran crash prompt Canadians to at last acknowledge our shameful response to the Air India tragedy?Even today, in the long aftermath of the 35-year-old terrorist atrocity, Air India is not a disaster that registers on the Canadian conscience, Shree Paradkar writes.