1. If People Wrote About Canada the Same Way they Write About Africa…
In a shocking blow to Canada’s beleaguered democracy, Justice Minister Peter Mackay resigned Friday from the scandal-plagued ruling party. Amid allegations of corruption, Mackay has been accused of suborning the court system and using his political office to prevent criminal prosecution of his cronies. Mackay, who seized power in a bloodless coup, is accused by the international human rights agencies of aiding in the silencing and cover up of a genocide. Western governments urged intervention into the strife-torn country, noting that since the current regime took power, wealth has been siphoned into the pockets of the ruling class and their collaborators, while democracy fails in other areas of this troubled country. Human rights watchdogs expressed concern for the stability of the democratic system in a country marred by election fraud, voter suppression, and the silencing of critics of government policy.
MacKay is apparently resigning to spend more time with his family. MacKay and his wife, Nazinin Afshin-Jam MacKay, are expecting a new daughter. Too bad the families of missing and murdered Indigenous mothers and daughters can’t spend time with their loved ones or even get answers or justice because MacKay refused them an inquiry.
Maybe MacKay just needed to spend some relaxing time with a platonic friend to refresh and regroup. Why didn’t you return the favour, Condi?
2. Can I Help You?
Are we sure Sobeys didn’t have Condoleezza Rice on tape shoplifting? After all, we all look so alike.
(Note: follow the links in the poem!)
Leon’s? Oh that was eons ago.
Shoppers? They were just taking proper precautions.
Plus, it’s just a fact Black people shoplift more often.
Alehouse? “When in doubt keep them out.”
It’s normal to send customers to the jailhouse!
The Palace or the Dome? Dress right or go home.
It’s just that people wearing tracksuits or tall Ts are well known
To be more violence prone.
Metro Transit? So what if you can’t sit.
Your hijab is just a safety issue for the general public.
Followed by store security guards?
Stop pulling the race card!
Multiple traffic stops?
What did you do to antagonize the cops?
It’s not racism, they’re just doing their jobs.
Can’t stay in a hotel?
That’s not racist, you can’t tell.
Can’t get hired in your own neighbourhood?
Maybe your resume just isn’t good.
And like it’s our fault you can’t afford the food.
Airport security? That affects everybody.
It has nothing to do with being a minority.
Body scanners are just smart technology.
A monkey dressed up as a rapper?
Some people are so sensitive. That’s just a toy. It doesn’t matter.
Belongings searched? Removed from store?
Refused service? Followed? Detained? Ignored?
Searched and questioned?
That’s not racism. It’s just your perception.
Racial profiling at Sobeys? Of course not, can’t be.
Stereotype or mistaken identity?
There’s just no history of this kind of thing.
Nope. No possibility.
It’s all in your imagination, totally.
Who can prove racism in Halifax? Nobody.
3. I give up
I have been at Dalhousie for a decade. In that time, I have heard stories like the time a professor in the law school compared pit bulls to Jamaicans and said, “too bad they don’t have a law against Jamaicans in Toronto.” Students who complained were told to consider the fact that this professor would mark their exams. There was the student in Nursing told her cornrows were unprofessional. There was the time a Sociology professor displayed the names of Black shooting victims in Halifax and joked, “this one was wearing a bulletproof vest, so he was obviously innocent” and the cousin of a student in the class was on the list. There was the time an African student worked on a group project and was given a lower mark than her group and told, “you did well for someone who doesn’t speak English” (she was from an English speaking country.) There was the time a student posted about Mike Brown on Facebook and a fellow student posted racist videos in response and administration refused to meet with her to discuss it until senior faculty demanded it. There was the talk on Africa advertised with a photo of a gorilla. This is only scratching the surface of the stories I have heard and what I have personally experienced.
The daily microaggressions faced by People of Colour on campus are endless and ongoing and have been advocated against and discussed and cried over and written about. And emails have been sent, and meetings have been held by these People of Colour and nothing substantive has been done, and no restoration has been offered, and administration rarely responds, and solutions are not implemented…and only now is it important to commission a report? Only now is harassment on campus an issue? And when Black faculty and students met with the investigators and shared their experiences of racism and how racism and sexism intersect for Black women, the investigators were sympathetic and promised to include those accounts, but pointed out that racism wasn’t the mandate of the task force. Guess the experiences of Black women, Indigenous women, Muslim women and women of colour aren’t an issue for Dalhousie and not worth reporting on or taking notice of or considering a problem. Why is our pain not worthy of notice? Why is our safety and dignity not worth restoring? Where is the crisis when we are attacked?
Why does it only matter or exist when white people give voice to it?
Photos by Ntombi Nkiwane.
4. Hey Tim, I Finally Have at Item for “In the Harbour!”
A Beluga whale sighting in the Halifax harbour.
Whales know what’s up.
The whale better stay out of Point Pleasant Park. It might get arrested. Oh, wait, it’s a white whale?Nevermind. (You knew that joke was coming.)
I wish this Wales was (thrown in) the harbour.
Facepalm imperialism and colonialism.
5. The Cars were ASKING FOR IT
Well, if the cars are going to be there looking all attractive, the thieves can’t really help it, right? It’s just how they’re built. Really, it’s the car’s fault for being unlocked.
1. But they assured us the process was successful!
Restoration for who, again?
2. Shhhh, it’s a library!
Colleen O’Neill, in a letter to the Chronicle Herald, says she wants the kids to read a book:
The other day, my six-year-old son and I spent a morning at the shiny, new Halifax Central Library. A gorgeous building full of light and air, it is, architecturally, just about everything one could wish for in a public library.
The children’s area (an entire floor!) also has wonderful elements — there’s a fun play area with a giant lite-brite wall, a puppet theatre, and an amazing Lego table. It has, of course, a terrific collection of children’s books and many comfy chairs for parents to sit in and read with and to their children.
Despite these aspects, it is also a potentially heartbreaking place for anyone whose own childhood included discovering the special “book magic” of libraries. The library, for many of us, was the doorway to a life-long love of stories, literature and learning. For some reason, the entrance to the Halifax Central Library’s children’s area is a wall of large video screens and game controllers. Rather than read, some of the children instead use their library time to play Minecraft.
A few steps later, in the centre of the room, there is a round table with eight iPad stations. Again, rather than experience “book magic,” four- and five-year-old children play video games with no apparent educational value (Colour the cat in purple stripes! Click on Farmer Brown’s cow and make him moooo!).
And they are loud. So loud, one can’t actually read when in the library. I watched a mom try to snuggle up in a comfy chair with her two toddlers to read them a book about a summer fairy. Though she was 15 feet from the iPad table, she had to speak in a louder-than-normal reading voice to be heard over the video game’s blinging and blonging. Then she had to compete for her children’s attention as they were distracted by the shiny, flashy, noisy games.
The children who were not there with parents were there as part of a school excursion. It is so much easier, I suppose, to manage children when they can be divided into groups and plonked in front of various video screens for 20 minutes at a time. But in the hour-and-a-half they were there, I did not see any of their teachers read to any of them.
One of the children stayed at the (amazing) Lego table with my son rather than taking his turn at the iPad station. Despite the teacher’s concerned attempt to coax him away for fear that he wouldn’t get a turn at an iPad, he hung out and finished a pretty terrific land-rover that had two steering wheels so that it could be driven in either direction without having to reverse.
In 1985, educator Neil Postman published the polemic, Amusing Ourselves to Death. It was essentially a dissertation on how, rather than being oppressed by an Orwellian “Big Brother,” our societies’ undoing would be more Huxleyan — our autonomy, culture and future would be co-opted by the people themselves who would come to love their oppression, and to embrace technologies that would ultimately erase the capacity for independent thought.
It has become second nature to give digital technology a large and primary place in so many aspects of our lives. I would like to see the children’s library as an oasis from this practice.
The library’s board members would do well to go stand in the beautiful space they have created and ask themselves a few simple questions: What is the intention? Does the children’s floor of the library exist to instil a love of literature, or are the books simply part of a themed decor? Does this beautiful library also need to be a video arcade?
On Wednesday evening, I was with friends from Toronto at the Halifax Central Library. We were sitting by the windows overlooking Spring Garden and my friend A. noticed the police approaching a Black woman. As the encounter continued, we (five Black people) went down to see if the woman was okay, and to observe the situation to ensure her safety. The woman was apparently cutting her wrists. EMS were called and bandaged her wrists: the police then handcuffed her. The police were not “violent” during the process, although they did force the handcuffs onto her and instructed her that if she struggled she was hurting herself. I’m sure they were following policy, but is it really the best policy to force handcuffs onto wrists that are injured enough to require medical attention? Is there no other way to restrain someone agitated and upset enough to be self-harming without using handcuffs? During the encounter, as she was being held by the male officers, the woman said she had been raped twice before and that she didn’t like men touching her. The male officer continued to hold her.
We filmed the encounter to ensure the safety of the woman, but obviously, I won’t post it here as it would violate her privacy. I am very troubled by this process for dealing with mentally ill people. At the very least, could female officers not have been called once she spoke of her discomfort with men touching her? I think about the treatment of Rehtaeh Parsons in the IWK. Is it not conceivable that whatever the intentions of the officers, a Black woman might have trauma around police encounters and may be further damaged by the use of police to subdue and restrain her? Is it not likely that a woman in that situation has suffered sexual assault and that men touching her is not the most calming or appropriate way to handle her? The officers clearly did what they are supposed to do, but surely we can develop better strategies and resources for handling these situations? Given the numbers of homeless people in Halifax, and the high percentage of people with mental illness in this population, surely developing policies that ensure the safety and protection of sufferers while making care available is of urgent necessity?
I also can’t help but think that the police response was due in part to the role of the new library in tourism and in Halifax’s self-image as a “world-class city.” The presence of homeless/mentally ill people “mars” the image of Halifax’s downtown, and I wonder if the concern with removing the visible “problem” from the streets plays into how these encounters are treated.
Afterwards, a white bystander chastised us for observing the encounter, assured us we “have it all wrong” because the woman had been seen before harming herself, and commented that “we’re lucky we don’t have the kind of problems in Halifax they have elsewhere.”
On the way home, we all talked to M.’s 10-year-old child about his feelings and distress witnessing this encounter, and how and why race and the relationship between racialized people and the police contextualized the situation. Sadly, Black kids don’t get to stay innocent of these issues. We would have liked the library to be an “oasis” for him too.
Perfect description of conservative Canada.
Thanks for the comments about the library.
Thank you, El Jones. Really enjoying these Saturday pieces. Maybe it’s a little masochistic, but having someone else tighten the focus on my privilege to the point of discomfort is bracing, and important, and appreciated.
As always – brilliant and righteous words El.