Paradkar: Voluntourism by charities like WE is based on faulty ideals of feel-good white saviourism

Good commentary:

“People have gotten used to looking at Africans as objects.”

Education advocate Chizoba Imoka had just finished delivering the Hancock Lecture at the University of Toronto two years ago when she crystallized a certain rage that anyone who seeks to decolonize structures will identify with. “What gives people the confidence to think, you know, you have four weeks off and you’re just going to travel to Africa to save Africa?”

The “saving Africa” kind of volunteering occupies a hefty presence on the Canadian imagination. “Raised funds for Africa” wins praise and opens opportunities for students. “Volunteered in Africa” is a resumé builder for professionals. “But they went to Africa!” is evidence of progressiveness, a stalwart defence against accusations of racism.

“Voluntourism” is a topic that deserves scrutiny during a time when the WE Charity and its tentacular affiliates are in the news for all the wrong reasons including allegations of: messy internal finances; complex relationships among its many arms that even confuse its own staff; a non-transparent speaker system; aggressive run-ins with media; and a relationship with the prime minister that has embroiled him in another ethics scandal.

All of this comes under the umbrella of feel-good white saviourism.

This is not to say charities in general are useless; those that support grassroots organizations can make a difference. But jumping up to save others is pointless if it is primarily self-serving.

Me to We’s volunteer travel site is startlingly honest in that it does not couch the western self-centredness of its mission. “Experience a new culture.” “Get ready for a world-changing adventure.” “An unforgettable team-building experience.” “A truly one-of-a-kind family vacation.”

“It’s never really been about us,” Imoka, who keeps one foot in Nigeria and the other in Canada, told me Wednesday from Edmonton. “It’s always been about the people in the West and what their desires are and what their resumés need to look like and the pictures they need to put up on Instagram.”

The idea of westerners flying in for a couple of weeks to fix another country (while taking a once-in-a-lifetime holiday!) is breathtakingly colonial. Would we welcome planeloads of African kids coming to ogle at our lifestyles and save Canadians? White saviourism means only other people need saving, whether they be on their own lands in other continents or forced on to reserves here. It reproduces relationships premised on white supremacy.

“Getting young people to think about the world beyond themselves, that’s a noble idea,” Imoka said, but “the young white people willing to save us still think we’re the way we are because … there is something deficit about us. So we take the surpluses in the West to go fix the deficits in the Global South.”

This shouldn’t require saying but the world doesn’t actually exist in a western vision of it. People in once-rich nations don’t become poor because they suddenly got lazy or just forgot to educate themselves and keep pace with the times.

“It would be much different if you teach them about the history of the world from an anti-colonial perspective,” Imoka said. “They don’t have wells, let’s go build wells — but why don’t they have wells? What has made it impossible for kids in that community not to do so? That critical thinking that takes a lot of work.”

That critical thinking would make clear that what needs to change is not necessarily in Africa — often perceived as a monolith rather than a varied continent — but global policies here, in the West, in Canada.

Got four weeks off and want to help? Go read up on history. As Imoka had said two years ago, “Take the Canadian foreign policy as your case study to understand how the Canadian foreign policy continues to enable colonization.” Maybe write to your member of Parliament. Fight where the Africans cannot — here, in the West.

Imoka was a teenager, too, when she started Unveiling Africa Foundation, which earlier this month launched a seven-weekend African-centred history program to develop young leaders. “It takes a lot of work to be able to ask foundational questions and takes much, much more work to bring it down to teenagers’ level. It’s difficult to get Instagram pictures for that. It’s not pretty work. It’s thankless work.”

Meanwhile people are still dying, and perhaps charities need to supplement policy work with donations. Unless people are emotionally moved, they don’t part with their money. Charities push the direst situations under our noses to snap us out of our daily pillar-to-post rush. To make us feel good about giving.

But saving Africa, on whose pillaging we’ve based our comfort, isn’t about feeling good. It’s about getting to real solutions. It’s about sacrifice. It’s about supporting those doing the hard work of decolonizing in their areas of specialty.

“It takes a lot of talking and learning and planning,” Imoka said. “You need to know the people on the ground that are getting their hands dirty, working to challenge structures, working to hold their political leaders accountable.”

Solidarity could also mean holding our own leaders accountable.

Source: https://www.thestar.com/opinion/star-columnists/2020/07/30/voluntourism-by-charities-like-we-is-based-on-faulty-ideals-of-feel-good-white-saviourism.html

‘Why don’t they just work harder?’ This kind of anti-Blackness is prevalent in Chinese-Canadian communities. It’s time to address it

A good reminder that racism, discrimination and prejudice exist among all communities.

One of the positive changes under former Minister Jason Kenney was to broaden the discussion from a white/visible minority quasi-dichotomy to an understanding and appreciation of tensions and issues between visible minority groups, not just with the white majority. Shree Paradkar’s makes comparable points (Star ColumnistsDear brown people: I’m about to wash some dirty linen in public. Consider this an overdue act of tough loveJun. 28, 2020):

The idea that we live in a happy multicultural mosaic is one of Canada’s boldest lies.

Vote-thirsty politicians constantly dog-whistle at emboldened white supremacists on the Canadian fringe. Institutions across the board are being exposed for mistreatment and neglect of racialized voices. Not even Parliament escapes scrutiny as Canadians saw footage of Jagmeet Singh, the NDP’s brown and turbaned leader, getting kicked out of the House for calling out racism.

But the problem doesn’t lie exclusively with white people. Rather, it has long metastasized into communities of colour that internalize discrimination in order to spew it at groups they see as inferior — usually Black Canadians.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in parts of the Chinese Canadian community, of which I’m a proud member. While covering the election last fall, I ventured into neighbourhoods in Toronto filled with individuals of Chinese descent who, aside from the usual headaches over money, health care, or employment, were worried about “illegal border crossers” making their way onto their streets. They were clearly being fed that language by right-wing campaigners, but the pervasive fear showed how easy it is to capture people of colour with narratives that, though often rooted in racist untruths, galvanize a sense of superiority vis-à-vis those who “don’t belong.”

Which brings us to the question of anti-Blackness in communities of colour. I think it’d be hard to find a young person of Chinese descent in Canada who can’t recount at least one instance of hearing an older member of their family repeat a well-worn anti-Black trope. It might not be routine dinner conversation, but it happens all the time. Slogans of underclass ideology are robotically repeated: “Why don’t they just work harder?” “Black parents have a problem raising their kids the right way.” Or the popular, “I came to this country with [insert small dollar amount]; don’t talk to me about discrimination!” And so on.

Part of the problem is internalizing an implicit hierarchy based on race that only gets reinforced by “model minority” ideals in a country that operates on white normality.

This leads to envious worship of those above you in the arbitrary ethnoracial hierarchy, along with contempt or fearful hatred of those who you think can’t get to your level. The latter have always tended to have darker skin.

More optimistic activists may suggest that common experiences of discrimination should lead to people of different races (and from all walks of life) to automatically form political and social solidarity. Or that they naturally amount to a tangible political constituency because they all faced racism at some point. This is a naive assumption, even for people within the same race, which makes the current Black Lives Matter moment — spurred by the death of George Floyd — a valuable wake-up call.

Now more than ever is an opportunity for communities of colour, including the Chinese community, to question how their racist bias affects the world around them and why there’s such widespread anger among the Black community. It’s an uphill battle for progressive community organizations like the Chinese Canadian National Council (CCNC), which have a history of advocacy against racism that extends into the COVID-19 era of anti-East Asian discrimination.

Their battle today will have to be led by youth, who have an opportunity to extend the broader conversation of racial and social justice into their neighbourhoods and, perhaps more importantly, into their homes.

Much of this comes down to genuine progressive engagement with newcomers — a task that, in contrast to years-long forays by Canada’s conservative right, the political left is only beginning. The current opening to speak candidly about race and racism can help fill that vacuum, but only if civil society steps in on the ground level. Young people will, again, likely have to do the work of communicating, and even translating, to those who are unfamiliar with progressive narratives or vocabulary in an intelligible fashion.

In any case, the current hold of right-wing tropes and politics on significant swathes of the Chinese Canadian community (some of which have bled into alt-right territory) is not inevitable. The stereotype of wealthy, apolitical Chinese buying up land and condos can be challenged by engagement on universal issues of racial justice, among other progressive concerns.

It is necessary work for any era, but our time is one of fascist revanchism compounded by a pandemic and economic stagnation. More understanding between communities can be one of the few antidotes if collective solidarity leads to tangible successes in creating more equity in our institutions and accountability in our centres of power toward racialized people.

@Shree Paradkar Dear brown people: I’m about to wash some dirty linen in public. Consider this an overdue act of tough love

A good reminder that racism occurs among visible minorities too:

A South Asian man wrote me an email recently about my columns on the Peel District School Board. “I have not seen you focus as much on the South Asian students in that board as you have been on the Black students,” he wrote. He grew up in Peel, where he said South Asians faced “bigotry at the hands of white teachers and students and hostility at the hands of Black students.”

Most of the South Asian students he grew up with worked hard, persevered and are very successful, despite their working-class roots, he wrote.

“However, as was the case when we were growing up, the Black community and students are basically monopolizing the public’s and school board’s attention and resources.” He dived into predictable comments about Black family structures being to blame, “though external obstacles no doubt continue to exist as they do for all minority communities.”

The letter, sent in late April, expressed commonly held views among South Asians: the myth of the “model minority” — or the false perception of universal success among brown people; an ahistorical view of anti-Black racism; and racist ideas about Black “family structures.”

And we’re surprised Black people don’t trust us?

Dear brown people: a warning. I’m about to wash some dirty linen in public. Consider this an overdue act of tough love.

Two years ago when I called out various forms of discrimination within South Asian communities in a keynote for the Council of Agencies Serving South Asians (CASSA), I was a minority voice within a minority; while many in the audience were supportive, we all knew there simply wasn’t a widespread movement to hold the anti-Blackness within to account.

That is changing.

In the wake of Minneapolis cop Derek Chauvin’s callous disregard for George Floyd’s life and several botched — racist — police interventions against Black and Indigenous people in Canada, the reckoning of anti-Blackness steeped in the very pores of our existence has become urgent.

In recent days, Hasan Minhaj called out fellow brown people in a 12-minute special on his Netflix show “Patriot Act.” CASSA hosted a series of panels on anti-hate conversations including one on racism within racialized communities. (Full disclosure: I was on that panel.) The U.K.’s Burnt Roti magazine hosted a discussion named Dismantling Anti-Blackness in South Asian communities.

On June 19, three education experts — York University assistant professor Vidya Shah, former Toronto school board education superintendent Jeewan Chanicka and Herveen Singh, an assistant professor at Dubai’s Zayed University — spoke in a brutally frank session titled “Brown Complicity in White Supremacy.”

While anti-Blackness is also rampant among Hispanics, East Asians, Middle Eastern people and any people who are neither white nor Black, “brown” here refers to people of South Asian ancestry and their diasporic communities.

In the artificial racial hierarchy created by Europeans who placed themselves at the top and enslaved Africans at the bottom, brown folks reside in the uneasy middle.

“We shift towards Blackness when it’s cool, when it demonstrates some sort of street cred or street smarts and then we shift right back to whiteness when we need to maintain access or mobility within the system,” Shah told the panel. “We’re chameleons.”

At least a couple of factors make us ripe for this role in the grey zone. One, as architects/participants of a caste system that in practice transcends religion, we inherently understand hierarchies. Two, our own vitriolic colourism — further cemented by waves of colonization — means we’d rather kiss the ring of whiteness than be associated with Blackness.

This has turned us into white supremacists in brown skin, useful tools in the project of whiteness. Our presence enables white people to look like multicultural progressives — some of us are the checkbox diversity hires that help them avoid addressing anti-Blackness. Our success is then used to absolve whiteness: look, Black people are told, if these people can succeed, why can’t you?

In constantly aspiring to whiteness we make ourselves more palatable to a system that does not wish to dismantle the status quo, Singh told the panel. This makes us easier to hire and be promoted through the ranks than a Black person. “In this way we become honorary whites, meaning that we are accepted in white spaces by white people upon the condition that we continue to be passive, compliant and constantly striving for whiteness.”

That compliance requires us to not talk too loudly, especially on matters of racial equity.

Brown people, we love to pat ourselves on the back for our “success” — look at our high household incomes, look at our high-achieving kids, look how far we’ve come and how quickly. So hardworking.

But we forget to see whose activism even made it possible for us to arrive here. Whom we’re stampeding on in our rush for success. Whose activism has the effect of making us appear compliant — and therefore palatable. And whose scholarship, despite it all, saves us.

“I want brown folks to remember we’re not just ascending on the backs of Black people, we have our feet on their necks as well,” Chanicka told the panel.

The fight for civil rights opened up North America to non-white immigrants in the 1960s. But immigrants were required to be highly educated people and in perfect health. These requirements a) filtered out those marginalized in their home countries and b) set those early migrants up for success even if they faced racism in the job market upon entry.

Some were able to fall back on their education and prior experience to became entrepreneurs while others sacrificed professional fulfilment for their children’s prospects. Fit in, they told their kids. Behave, study, fit in. Why would we not? Disrupt and we could end up at the bottom of the heap.

This, however, is a deal with the devil. Many of us gave up language, cultural practices, even names — anglicizing them or reducing them to monosyllabic ones.

“In this process of emptying ourselves of our core brown assets we’re filled with tremendous anxiety and insecurity,” said Singh. “And it is due to this insecurity that we lack the integrity to dismantle anti-Blackness within ourselves.”

However, no matter how much we strive for whiteness, we never can be white. It doesn’t matter how we sound, how we dress, how light-skinned we think we are, how much class privilege we enjoy to buffer racism, how many personal relationships we have that transcend race. Collectively, we are marked The Other.

When we’re rushing up the ladder we may not care that we’re crushing Black fingers on every rung. It’s when we or our children invariably hit glass ceilings — because racism against brown people is very real — that we begin to search for answers.

The shallowest of those questions is, “Why is everything just about anti-Black racism? What about us?” Chanicka calls this a way to silence the conversation. “It keeps dividing us as opposed to the understanding that racism is built on anti-Blackness. You cannot solve racism without addressing anti-Blackness.”

An awakening of our critical consciousness comes from the deep well of Black knowledge and activism — there is no equivalent South Asian activism to turn to here although there is growing Dalit (formerly called “untouchables”) scholarship; Anti-Black racism has centuries of intergenerational roots in Canada, running parallel and at times intersecting with anti-Indigeneity.

There is yet another steep cost for brown folks in the white man’s game. When we look down upon dark skin, view it as inferior, we implicitly accept our inferiority to whiteness. That’s the most cruel cut we could inflict on ourselves.

It makes anti-Blackness among brown folks the ultimate act of self-hate, one that all the Fair & Lovely cream in the world cannot erase.

Paradkar: (Mostly) white covidiots at Trinity Bellwoods think the rules don’t apply to them. They’re right

Not only white folks can be covidiots. Ottawa has its share of visible minorities and whites who don’t respect social distancing visiting Dow’s Lake to look at the tulips.

André Picard notes the more fundamental issue at play, the inability of Toronto to free up more space for people (Don’t blame those who gather in parks – blame the city):

One look at images of Trinity Bellwoods Park on Saturday and it was instantly clear that idiocy is not just an affliction of the American middle class.

As a person with the luxury of living with greenery around me, I appreciate how difficult it must be to be trapped in a condo, sometimes even without balconies. I don’t blame people for wanting to break out of their confines when the sunny outside beckons so cheerily.

I get that there aren’t a lot of open spaces in the core of Toronto — although, for perspective, compared to many parts of the world, the city is positively lush.

What is bothersome is that while people around the world and even in our own city have been weathering the pandemic in far tougher conditions, in crappy apartments and crowded homes and in poverty, it was in Trinity Bellwoods that people somehow collectively felt entitled to say to hell with social distancing.

Their pleasure trumped our collective safety.

Trinity Bellwoods is considered a “gentrifying” neighbourhood with a higher concentration of white folks compared to the city. Like in all of the city, nearly half the resident are renters, and the same proportion have a bachelor’s degree or higher, according to the 2016 census.

Based on social-media comments and real-estate agents’ descriptions, the 32-acre Trinity Bellwoods Park is a place to be seen. That’s a concept beyond my comprehension but on Saturday it meant that people could have gone to other parks (Stanley Park, Alexandra Park) but didn’t.

I wonder if the news about who is most at risk from COVID-19 — the racialized have-nots — has created a sense of inoculation among the haves. It’s affecting those people, not us, unless we’re old. Pandemics have always killed the poorest — mainly because those are the bodies the virus comes across. People who can’t afford to hunker down necessarily place themselves at risk to keep the rest of us in comfort. Gathering in large numbers simply offers the virus more bodies to feast on.

Photographs doing the rounds on social media showed thousands of what looked like white people milling around in crowds in the west-end park, as if millions of other Torontonians were not holding back from precisely that because common sense. And courtesy. And safety.

No doubt there were racialized folks among those gathered — fools come from all races — but they were protected by the overwhelming whiteness of those around them. Had that been a sea of Black and brown folks, we’d be having a very different conversation today.

While we may call Saturday’s hordes at Trinity Bellwoods covidiots or victims of squashed housing or poor communications by the province, to me they serve as a quick snapshot as to who feels entitled to the public space in this city, who gets scrutinized and who gets penalized for existing in it.

Of course, race matters, class matters.

A couple of weeks ago, a Tamil friend in our suburban neighbourhood was taking his children for a walk, observing all social-distancing protocols. A white man working on his front lawn chided him for being outside and told him to get off the sidewalk and walk on the road.

Last month, the father of a Black teen in Ottawa accused a trustee of harassing and photo-shaming his teenage son on Facebook for shooting hoops by himself. This was before there was clarity around the use of public parks.

In Brampton, Peel Police broke up groups of people who broke social-distancing rules by playing cricket and fined them $880 each.

It was also Eid this weekend when Muslims ended the month-long fasting of Ramadan. It’s a time of celebration, but Muslim Canadians shared stories on Twitter of a visible police presence in their communities to ensure they didn’t break social-distancing rules.

In Toronto, several homeless people have also been given $880 tickets for sitting on public benches, according to Policing the Pandemic, a map that tracks criminal charges across the country. The vast majority of police enforcement thus far has been about failing to comply with distancing rules, the researchers found.

So where was the weight of all that enforcement on Saturday? How many people were fined? Mayor John Tory said the people need to “do better” and sent in bylaw officers Sunday. Is that their only accountability? To be mocked en masse and face expressions of disappointment from our leaders but bear no individual responsibility?

What about community spread? Given that Ontario’s testing and contact tracing efforts are flailing — that we don’t actually know how community transmission is spreading — will we ever be able to track how many people were endangered by the indifference of the folks at Trinity Bellwoods Park?

Has the province sought the might of the police to keep all of us safe or only some of us safe? Why does the amount of melanin in the wrongdoer dictate who gets off, and whom we choose to perceive as wrongdoer in the first place?

Guess there’s no one quite like covidiots to expose the toxic hierarchies that operate under pretty ideals of egalitarianism.

Source: Shree Paradkar(Mostly) white covidiots at Trinity Bellwoods think the rules don’t apply to them. They’re right

Desmond Cole’s book sparked deep conversations among teachers about racism. Where is the introspection in media?

I expect part of the reason has to do with the shrinking newsrooms and employment insecurity compared to the stable number of teachers and job security that provide more time for these discussions:

If there’s one thing The Skin We’re In by Desmond Cole makes clear, it is how integral racism is to Canadian life. It winds its way through the justice system, military decisions, child welfare, the education system and of course, the media, and leaves in its wake a trail of destruction for many, but particularly cruelly for Black, First Nations, Inuit and Métis people.

The burden of educating society always falls on those with the least — not just the least amount of wealth but the least social capital, too. The people society is accustomed to ignoring have to make themselves heard, be taken seriously and then force a change in behaviour. This is gargantuan cross-generational work, and Cole’s national bestseller, much like Robyn Maynard’s Policing Black Lives, is also an ode to that resistance.

One example of that resistance, the work of influencing change, that The Skin We’re In inspired, was a series of conversations among Ontario teachers.

Colinda Clyne, an Anishinaabe woman and curriculum lead at the Upper Grand District School Board, had read the book and appreciated how Cole wove together colonial history and anti-Indigenous racism with anti-Black racism. “There are many great resources to support one or the other, but not often together, and rarely with the Canadian context,” she said. Late in March, she sent out feelers to see if fellow teachers would be interested in a discussion based on this book, expecting a discussion involving about 10 people.

Instead, she ended up hosting a weekly panel titled “Anti-Racist Educator Reads” on VoicEd Radio, an educational broadcast/podcast site, with more than 500 listeners on the fifth and final week, May 13, that featured Cole himself. (For those who missed the discussions, the episodes are online.)

The people tuning in, Clyne said, were “mostly white educators with thoughtful reflections on the learning and unlearning they were doing with the book and our conversations, and the actions they were willing to commit to. It gave me a boost of hope for this anti-racism work in a way that I have not felt in a long time.”

The discussions ran deep, including the impact of police presence in schools, how Canada’s “humble colonialism” plays out in society and schools, what ignorance on racism looks like and the easily dismissed but vital role of anger to bring about change.

A sketch note by educator Debbie Donksy of a panel discussion of Anti-Racist Educator Reads that aired April 22 on VoicEd Radio in which curriculum lead Colinda Clyne hosted Camille Logan, a superintendent of education, and Kevin Rambally, a social worker and former chair of Pride Toronto.

I listened with envy to these conversations between Clyne and other leaders in anti-racism education from various Ontario school boards such as Debbie Donsky, Pamala Agawa, Melissa Wilson, Tisha Nelson and Camille Logan.

The education system is nowhere near where it should be in terms of nurturing all students with care. But teachers are at least engaging in these critical and uncomfortable reflections. Clyne also seeks an action that teachers can commit to. While I’m not one to pat people for being at the “at least it’s a start!” stage, I raise it to make the point that other sectors are not even there.

A case in point is my own industry. Journalists are duty bound to demand accountability — but this is rarely focused inward. Race and attendant issues are an extra or an “inclusion” issue, maybe even as a new-fangled lens of discussion that could bring in new audiences. It’s why solutions look like hiring a journalist of colour or two, using images of racialized people to suggest representation or speaking to a few sources of colour.

As a journalist, Cole makes extensive references to media in his book. Of course, he mentions his fallout with the Toronto Star. His blunt reporting on CBC and CTV reporters’ rude — and chiefly arrogant — questioning of Indigenous elders and activists at a 2017 press conference on the inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls in Canada (MMIWG), should at least make every journalist squirm.

But I don’t hear of critical inquiry-based collective reflections in newsrooms based on that or on Cole’s highly contextualized reporting of Black Lives Matter shutting down the Pride Parade in 2016. For instance, “What role did white supremacy play in guiding our coverage on it?”

Or, “Did media, with our overwhelming whiteness, have the authority or even a balanced perspective in declaring the MMIWG inquiry’s conclusion of genocide as wrong?” Or, “Whose voices did we privilege in the Wet’suwet’en pipeline protests?”

No, journalists are supposed to be a bunch of eye-rolling cynics, the know-it-alls above self-reflection. There are, after all, “real” crises to be dealt with every day. Discussions on racism are usually held among journalists of colour, on the sidelines to the main business of journalism. In newsroom after newsroom, these journalists tell me, they struggle to be heard.

That explains why it’s taken weeks after Canada was hit by the global pandemic for media to start waking up to who was most badly hit — Indigenous and racialized people — and that too after relentless advocacy by rights groups and by the bravery of those risking everything to tell their stories.

In education, too, one of the issues raised through the VoicEd Radio episodes, “are the barriers constantly put in place in our systems, a big one being denial of white supremacy and that folks ‘aren’t ready’ to have the conversations and do the work of anti-racism,” Clyne said.

It’s worth reflecting, across sectors, on who these folks who aren’t ready are, and why, when lives are at stake, we feel compelled to wait for them at all.

Source: Shree ParadkarDesmond Cole’s book sparked deep conversations among teachers about racism. Where is the introspection in media?

Paradkar: Unlike Canadians, Americans at least know how Black people are faring with COVID-19 (very badly)

Agreed but not only a Black issue.

Need better health data on all visible minority groups (and Indigenous) given that poorer health outcomes generally go hand-in-hand with more vulnerable socioeconomic outcomes:

“Let me rant,” said Angela Robertson, “because you’ve sparked me.”

As executive director of the Parkdale Queen West Community Health Centre, Robertson has long been a front-line witness to the lives of the most marginalized in the city — the homeless, the undocumented, the working poor — all of whom are also disproportionately racialized.

We are discussing the horrendous data streaming from the U.S. on the rates at which COVID-19 is infecting and killing Black people. In Chicago, African-Americans account for 70 per cent of the 86 recorded deaths, but make up 29 per cent of the city’s population. Louisiana saw the same 70 per cent of deaths among African-Americans who constitute just 32 per cent of the population.

What about Black people in Canada, I ask her. Are they better off here compared to the U.S because of universal health care and because — here I wave the red flag — Canada is not as bad as the U.S.?

“As much as we have critiques of the health-care system in America, they have done data collection, they can disaggregate by race within health care,” she said.

“We in Canada have been glacial in our movement in the collection of race-based data in our health-care system. As a result we will not be able to identify the disproportional access challenges, deaths, illnesses that Black communities will experience as a result of COVID-19.

“My fear is that the real health impact on Black community will be hidden.”

COVID-19’s impact on Black people is highlighting the similarities and differences between the U.S. and Canada. They collect data. We don’t. We have universal health care. They don’t. But underlying structures in both nations are deeply racist, which means Black people on both sides of the border live in circumstances that leave them more vulnerable to illnesses at the best of times — and now make them susceptible to the ravages of the pandemic.

These structures are unleashing what the American author and anti-racism scholar Ibram X. Kendi called “a racial pandemic with the viral pandemic.”

Last Friday, Black health leaders in Toronto released a statement that identified the underlying risk factors that COVID-19 would amplify. “Ontario is home to the largest proportion of Black people in Canada. Here too, as in the rest of Canada, race is a determinant of health,” they said.

Who are the people who still need to use public transport to get to work? Who hold precarious jobs? Who don’t have the luxury to shelter at home and buy healthy provisions for a week or two? Who need rent relief? Who are most at risk from higher policing on the streets? Who are at risk in the prison system?

While race-based data exists around these social factors, hospitals and clinics don’t collect detailed demographic data including race as a matter of routine. Advocates have long railed against this lack of data, calling it harmful to Black women after research found they may be underscreened for breast and cervical cancer.

Andrew Pinto is a doctor at St. Michael’s Hospital. He is also the director of the hospital’s Upstream Lab — a research group that looks at interventions or remedies to the socio-economic factors that affect health.

The St. Michael’s Hospital Family Health Team, and other groups in Toronto including Toronto Public Health, was part of a pilot program to ask patients questions on income, race, gender, housing, religion, etc., and then use this data to identify health inequities, Pinto said. Researchers found doing such a survey was “feasible and acceptable.”

“Social factors are definitely associated with health outcomes,” he said. Many studies show income and race play a big role. “We lack the data that we need in Canada to really be able to pinpoint inequity by race. That’s what our work is trying to move toward.”

Why do we need the data if we know discrimination already exists? “Data helps with accountability. It’s not just to document inequity. We need to anticipate the inequity and think about how do we hold our systems to account.”

On the plus side of the ledger against the U.S, Canada has universal health care. Even then there are gaps.

While Ontario advocates who campaigned under OHIP For All managed to open health care for people regardless of their immigration status, “what we are concerned about while policy has changed, practices on the ground have not changed,” Robertson said.

Even during the pandemic, Robertson heard reports of people turning up in emergency departments and being asked to pay $500 for treatment.

What about the people who don’t turn to agencies for support? “For folks who because of fear walk away, they walk away ill,” she said.

Pinto points out that the “danger of data collection is it can convey that something is being done. Data alone is not sufficient. There has to be commitment that it should come with change.”

In a crisis like this, governments at all levels have to look at their response policies through the eyes of the most vulnerable and account for bias. This is particularly important for Black people who are among the most discriminated people here.

If this is not done, as the Black leaders’ statement said, “Black people will be exposed to greater harm.”

Paradkar: Migrant worker groups slam new Canadian border restrictions

Not as bizarre as it sounds. Normal triage and expect some further actions by the government to address some of the issues raised. Given the pace of developments and the extent of the pandemic, unrealistic to expect any government to address all aspects, and all those affected, at one time. To say this is “simply racism” is simply silly and simplistic:

The federal government announced drastic border restrictions on Monday, with the prime minister saying only non-sick Canadians, permanent residents and — bizarrely — American citizens would be permitted to enter the country.

That means our doors are closed to residents with work permits and student permits, refugee claimants and anyone in need of humanitarian assistance.

Many migrant workers — farm workers and care workers, who are usually racialized — are on these permits. They cannot enter. Some are separated from their families, others are losing their livelihoods.

“There is no public health reason to shut out non-permanent residents,” the Migrant Rights Network said in a statement on the heels of the announcement. “This is simply racism.”

In these moments of determined calm amid chaos and confusion, it’s worth reflecting that when the comfortable feel vulnerable, the already vulnerable get pushed further into the margins.

Migrant workers are being penalized if they left the country. They’re being excluded from policies to protect Canadians if they did not. And if moral imperatives to do the right thing are insufficient, there’s this: not paying attention to their plight puts us all at risk.

About 37 migrant organizations from across Canada came together Monday demanding that the government support more than 1.5 million non-permanent residents in Canada, who they say “face a potential human rights disaster” when the loss of their livelihoods here leaves their families without food.

They’re asking the government to offer access to health care for all, including undocumented residents; to strengthen labour laws so migrants workers can also get paid sick leave and protection from reprisals for taking that leave; an end to all detentions and deportations; and funds to expand emergency shelters and food banks that are bursting at the seams.

Syed Hussan, executive director of Migrant Workers Alliance for Change, said migrant organizations were flooded with hundreds of calls within an hour of Ottawa’s announcement, “from students abroad not being able to come back and from workers who’ve already bought plane tickets and paid tens of thousands of dollars” in recruitment fees. “There is no clarity if they will be protected.”

This is the start of the agricultural season and Hussan said farm workers who did manage to get in are finding employers refusing to take them to grocery stores.

“They live in rural communities and can’t get to the grocery stores,” Hussan said. “And when they do get to the grocery stores, there are no supplies there. So, we’re literally doing food drops across the country to farms.”

What about the workers who didn’t travel?

They can’t afford to fall sick. There is no Employment Insurance available for those who are paid in cash, Hussan said.

Most migrant workers don’t have access to paid sick leave and risk losing their jobs even if they take unpaid sick days.

Earlier Monday, Premier Doug Ford promised legislation that would remove the requirement for employees to obtain sick notes before taking time off work. But it’s not clear if that protection extends to migrant workers.

Add to that, existing immigration laws allows for workers to be deported if they fall sick, even if their home countries are unsafe.

That threat is a huge barrier to farm workers and care workers from reporting to the health authorities if they do fall sick or are asked to do unsafe work.

“We wanted to hear about labour laws needing to work with federal immigration laws. But we heard nothing from federal government except the closure of borders,” Hussan said. “And that’s creating more shock waves than anything else. People feel excluded rather than protected.”

Social distancing for the usually comfortable means figuring out workarounds: FaceTime! Skype meetings! Pick up the phone (as the prime minister said)! Take walks! Don’t go to the gym! But the usually vulnerable are finding themselves in a deeper, more ominous mess.

“We’re hearing from a lot of people that care workers are not being allowed to leave home because employers are too nervous (that) it’s going to impact them.”

In other words they’re trapped in their workplace without a break. Imagine the uproar if Bay Street did that to its employees.

Also, how would migrant workers who live in bunk houses, sometimes “18 to a house” self-isolate? Or wash their hands? “We know there’s no running water on the fields. People don’t have the ability to wash their hands,” Hussan said.

Labour laws, immigration laws and health and safety laws need to be adapted to ensure that migrant and undocumented workers are protected, Hussan said.

“Instead of dealing with this as a public health crisis, the government is responding to it by dealing with it as a securitization crisis by shutting down the border to racialized migrants and low-wage people.”

Source: OpinionShree Paradkar: Migrant worker groups slam new Canadian border restrictions

Why celebrating women’s rights without an intersectional lens is meaningless

I wouldn’t go as far as meaningless, and I find intersectionality is too jargony to my taste but of course, one should not celebrate or discuss any group, whether men, women, specific religious or ethnic groups, without consideration and acknowledgement of that diversity.

Ironically, when I analyse economic outcomes of visible minorities compared to not visible minorities, the gaps are larger between visible minority men and not visible minority men than is the case for women as the example looking at second generation 25-34 year olds below illustrates (similar pattern for first generation):

Not that many years ago, four to be precise, a senior journalist was sincerely trying to explain how his newsroom was attempting to diversify its staff.

Job applicants could check one of four boxes, he said. Gender, race, disability and sexual orientation. What box would I check, I wondered out loud.

“Race,” he said. And just like that, he erased major parts of my identity, rendering everything beyond my brown skin invisible.

This was about 25 years after civil rights advocate and scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw coined the term intersectionality to describe how people’s identities interact with power to create new forms of discrimination (specifically around Black women) when they overlap, and a few years after it had become a mainstream buzzword.

March 8 was International Women’s Day, a day that sprung from the women’s labour movement and began to be celebrated in many countries since the United Nations’ adoption of it in 1975. It gained a higher profile in recent years following important movements such as #MeToo.

But every day is every woman’s day. Celebrating the fierceness of the suffragettes who helped women win the right to vote doesn’t mean we forget that it was white women who won that right for themselves in Canada, Asians came decades later and that First Nations men and women didn’t have the right to vote until 1960.

If second-wave feminism looked at expanding rights beyond voting, I don’t know how we can celebrate representation in boardrooms and courtrooms without acknowledging that “diversity” initiatives have allowed white patriarchy to bend just enough to accommodate white women.

I don’t know how we can celebrate a narrowing gender wage gap without acknowledging that jobs traditionally done by women, often racialized women — health-care workers, daycare workers, nannies — are undervalued and underpaid. If full-time working women earned on average 75 cents to every dollar earned by a man, racialized and Indigenous full-time working women earned approximately 65 cents.

Women can use their own bodies however they choose, but I don’t know how we can celebrate Femen-type feminists and their topless protests without acknowledging that feminism is often reduced to sexual liberation or that sexual liberation is often reduced to the acreage of skin women expose.

For that matter, I don’t know how we think we’ve got anything close to liberation when women in the richest corporations are most valued when they show up to work looking thin, wearing tight clothes, tall heels and warpaint on their faces. And yeah, not in overly bright colours (too loud), not in overly short skirts (too slutty) or overly long ones (too daggy). Hair is ideally straight with a few waves permitted to flounce up at the bottom. While we’re at it, slow down those promotions if you must keep your hair grey, keep a ’fro or dreadlock or twist it, and heaven forbid you go home every time your kids are sick.

In other words, I don’t know how any reflection on the fight for women’s rights can be authentic unless it is intersectional. By that I don’t mean that we just include the voices of women who continue to be oppressed by identities of race, culture, caste, sexuality and disability.

To hell with “inclusion” and the paternalism inherent in it.

Inclusion is inviting a Black woman at a rally to speak about her experiences in a let’s-expand-our-minds sort of way. In this scenario, her experience — seen as a deviation from the norm rather than central to it — is still in service of non-Black women.

This kind of “inclusion” then allows organizations like the Toronto Public Library to claim diversity of thought and platform voices of those who reject trans women from the fold of womanhood.

On the other hand, true intersectional feminism means radically changing societal structures to put the most marginalized at the centre, making their concerns the first priority.

In this scenario, a discussion around sexual safety would yield not to more policing but less. In her book Invisible No More, Andrea Ritchie outlines how for white women, the concern around sexual assault and domestic violence is around police non-response. For women of colour, that police response is the problem, with too many experiences of officers responding to domestic violence calls sexually assaulting or otherwise violating the person who called for help.

The cases of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girlsare not a sideshow from “mainstream” women’s issues, but central to it.

Prioritize those voices and support structures around sexual assault might start to look more like transformative education for all genders at schools and highly trained, legally empowered social workers might be brought to the front line.

On reproductive rights, if issues such as the forced sterilization of Indigenous women or the dignity of the poorest women were at the centre, the discussion would go beyond condoms and abortion rights. It would lead to a revolutionary battle to keep governments away from our bodies, a fight for free services including legal and medical support, among other solutions.

New StatCan data shows how Canada is failing new generations of Black youth

Looking forward to seeing future StatsCan work to see if this pattern is common to both recent and long-term immigrants and region of origin, given that recent Black economic immigrants tend to be more highly skilled/educated than earlier waves. As there are few third generation immigrants for recent immigrants, will take some time to see but second generation outcomes will likely be illustrative:

If statistical data tell us stories in numerical form, new information from StatCan depicts Canada as a nation that’s continuing to fail its Black youth. It also shows that the commonly accepted narrative that immigrants fare better with successive generations simply may not hold true for all immigrant groups.

While these outcomes will not come as a surprise to those who have long observed and studied Black experiences, they make the implications of Statistics Canada’s conclusions inescapable.

“The persistent gaps between the Black population and the rest of the population suggest that other factors not measured by the data used, including discrimination, could have an effect,” concludes Martin Turcotte in the study, titled “Education and Labour Market Integration of Black Youth in Canada.” It was published this week in the journal Insights on Canadian Society and is based on information from the 2006 and 2016 censuses.

The study compares Black Canadian youth with non-Black youth as they transition from childhood or adolescence to adulthood.

StatCan also released what it called a booklet, “Canada’s Black Population: Education, Labour and Resilience.”

Two key data sets show why this latest snapshot has significant implications for the Black community, said York University professor Carl James, who, as a member of the Working Group on Black Communities, offered advice and guidance for this project.

First, the Black population is young and growing. Canada’s Black population doubled between 1996 and 2016, from 600,000 to 1.2 million. In 2016, more than a quarter of the Black population was less than 15 years of age, compared with 16.9 per cent of the total population. Its median age is about 30, while it is 40 years for the total population.

“This means you can understand how the concerns of the Black community are weighted around ‘What’s happening to our young population,’” James said.

Second, about nine per cent of Black people in Canada are at least the third generation to be born in this country — a rate that is higher, he said, than for other racialized minorities.

“There needs to be a serious concern about this generation,” James said. “We’re responsible for their welfare in the Canadian state.”

Because the modern wave of Black immigration to Canada dates back to the 1960s, the outcomes for Black people could serve as a bellwether for minorities who arrived later.

“This is what we see for Black youth now. It is possible as other groups become third-generation you’re going to see more similar patterns,” he said.

The unique experiences of Black people also mean they should be disaggregated from the more general “visible minority” category, he said.

Some of the key StatCan findings include:

  • Most Black youth aspire to a university degree but are less likely to think they will obtain it. In 2016, although 94 per cent of Black youth aged 15 to 25 said that they would like to get a bachelor’s degree or higher, only 60 per cent thought that they could.
  • There persists a gap in post-secondary graduation rates between Black youth and their counterparts who are not Black. About half (51 per cent) of Black men aged 23 to 27 in 2016 had a post-secondary qualification, compared with 62 per cent of other men.
  • There persists a gap in employment rates between Black and non-Black youth. Young Black males were nearly twice as likely as other young males not to have a job in 2016.

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.