canadian history

New Passport Design Leaves out Canada’s Diversity

Image from 2013 Canadian passport redesign of "The Fathers of Confederation"

Image from 2013 Canadian passport redesign of “The Fathers of Confederation”

by Librarian Karen

In July 2013, Passport Canada introduced a re-designed passport containing new security features and watermarks, which Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird claims “tells the world who we are: a nation built on freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law.”

While I also have some concerns about the security features, I’d like to share some of my observations about the watermarks, which certainly offer a fair depiction of Canada’s history, geography and industrial growth. But they depict a historical Canada, not a modern, diverse country rich in culture. There are no pictures of modern cities (was Toronto, Canada’s largest city, intentionally omitted?).

Even more concerning, there is a lack of representation of the people of Canada. Specifically, the new passport lacks images containing indigenous people, visible minorities and women. Out of the twenty-five individual images (on sixteen pages), only one clearly contains a woman, (which is not even a photograph of a person, it’s a photograph of a statue.)

Passport Canada paid $53,290 on a focus group to collect feedback on the images and the conclusion was: “Participants routinely suggested that the set of images should be more representative of Canada, with emphasis on including more women and better reflecting Canada’s multicultural character and heritage.”

If any changes were made to the line-up of images after the focus group, I wonder what the original selection was, because the final set of images is not reflective of the Canada I know.

For example:

Pier 21, Halifax, historic gateway to Canada, “was one of the most significant ports of entry for newly arrived immigrants,” and yet there are no images anywhere in the passport representing these immigrants, many of which worked on building the Canadian Pacific Railway. The Last Spike 1885, is a photograph depicting a group of men on the train tracks, most of which appear to be Caucasian; why not include some of the workers? (To note, the contributions of Chinese workers is mentioned in the description of this image on Passport Canada’s website.)

Another image I find questionable is the Canadian National Vimy Memorial, France, a Canadian war memorial which is in a different country. I understand the significance of this particular memorial, but why not use a picture of a war memorial in Canada, of which there are plenty to choose from? (Veterans Affairs has a list of Canadian war memorials located in Canada).

Nellie McClung page in new passport

Nellie McClung page in new passport

Most disappointingly however, is that there is only one image containing a woman: Nellie McClung, from the statue of the Famous Five is a photograph of the statue of Nellie McClung, in front of a print of the Famous Five (Henrietta Muir Edwards, Emily Murphy, Louise McKinney and Irene Parlby). Where’s Laura Secord? Emily Carr? Pauline Johnson? And why use a picture of a statue rather than an actual photograph?

Considering Canada has more women than men, there is no reason not to have better representation in the passport. The omission suggests that females are not valued, haven’t contributed to the growth of Canada, and have no place in Canadian society. It’s a missed opportunity to promote gender equality.

Overall, I’m disappointed in the choice of images. I’ve done a bit of travelling, and some of the people I’ve met I’ve kept in touch with, so I asked them for their feedback on the new passport. I also asked for feedback from some of my Canadian ex-pat friends who are now living elsewhere. The consensus seems to be that it doesn’t accurately reflect their image of Canada, there is a lack of connection with the images, a lack of relevancy.

When comparing passports with other travelers, there is an opportunity for us to share the story of our country. If John Baird is suggesting that the images in the new passport are a way to tell the world who we are, how do we explain the lack of diversity in the people represented?

Posted on by Librarian Karen in Can-Con, Feminism Leave a comment

My Reality: Racism in Academia, Then and Now

Emily and her Great-Uncle Roy

Emily and her Great-Uncle Roy

by Emily Yakashiro

One year ago I had the privilege of graduating from the University of British Columbia with my Bachelor of Arts. More importantly, I had the honor of graduating with my great-uncle, Roy Oshiro. I was 22, he was 90. My family picked me up and we drove to the Chan Centre; Uncle Roy jumped a plane from Okinawa. The journey we both experienced graduating from this particular institution was certainly a momentous one for my family, and has had me reflect a lot over the past year about what our graduations and education have meant to me.

I spent my entire undergrad degree at UBC. I was accepted easily, I got into all the courses I wanted to, I met a bunch of cool people and got my degree. My Uncle Roy, on the other hand, was kicked out in 1942 after his first year, and sent to work on a sugar beet farm in Lethbridge with the rest of my grandpa’s family. No UBC degree for him, on account of him being of Japanese descent in World War Two.

He eventually did return to post-secondary education, but not UBC. Seventy years later, my great-uncle did receive a degree from UBC, in an honorary ceremony recognizing the many Japanese-Canadian students the university dismissed during World War Two. Mind you, it is important to note that he received this honorary degree not because of initiative on behalf on the university to right this historical wrong, but because of the persistence of an amazing local woman named Mary Kitagawa.

What is especially remarkable about Kitigawa, is that prior to her campaign to grant the degrees, she had had no connection to UBC; her efforts were those of a conscientious activist from the community-at-large. I personally had no idea that my Uncle Roy had experienced this particular encounter with my alma mater, nor anything about Kitigawa’s lobbying until I was informed by my family that we would be in the same graduating class.

It really is amazing that both Uncle Roy and I could share this experience. Nevertheless, this experience has really had me thinking a lot about access, inclusivity, and institutionalized racism.

A quick view of the special honorary degree ceremony itself was certainly revealing. I attended the whole thing along with much of my family, and it was indeed a beautiful ceremony. I was surprised, therefore, that it wasn’t entirely sold out. From what I could see, the Chan Centre actually had quite a few seats available to an interested public. I also noticed that there weren’t as many people who appeared to be faculty members present as I would have thought. Note, of course, that during the time when the Japanese-Canadian students were banned from attending school at UBC, only a handful of professors spoke out against this injustice. In fact, from what I could see before, during, and after the ceremony, the majority of attendees (aside from the graduates themselves) appeared to be of Asian descent. Interesting.

My graduation ceremony was pretty standard, and thankfully reflected the diversity of students and faculty that UBC is known for. I did remind the Dean of Arts and Chancellor, however, as I crossed the stage and shook their hands that, “education is a right, and to please protect that right.” Though surprised, the Dean of Arts agreed with me heartily, which was a relief, and so did the Chancellor, though she had lost her voice from all the speaking she had had to do during all the ceremonies.

During the actual process of getting my degree (Major in Religion, Literature, and the Arts, and a minor in Political Science), a few things happened that made me think that maybe, just maybe, I wasn’t quite as welcome as I thought I was, being a third-generation, mixed-race Canadian. Read more

Posted on by Emily Yakashiro in Can-Con, My Reality, Racism 2 Comments

Transforming Heritage Minutes

Heritage Minute Same Sex Marriage Canadaby Jarrah Hodge

This is the third part in my anti-racist feminist analysis of Canada’s Heritage Minutes ads. Click here for Part I or Part II.

While not all Canadian kids of the 80s and 90s can tell remember the name of the guy who screened new designs for Canada’s flag, or the one who made the woman smell burnt toast when he poked her brain, most of us remember at least something from the Heritage Minutes, as indicated by this video:

Heritage Minutes have become the subject of acting impressions, high school history classes, and even drinking games. And they’ve provided great source material for political satirists and other artists looking to comment on Canadian culture and identity. Here are a few of my favourite take-offs that define “A Part of Our Heritage” in creative new ways:

Read more

Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in Can-Con, Politics, Pop Culture 1 Comment

Heritage Minutes II: Part of Whose Heritage?

Heritage Minute Canada Screencap

by Jarrah Hodge

In my last post I wrote about how Canadian Heritage Minutes talked about (white) women’s history. I did a quick calculation based on Wikipedia’s list of the ads and estimate that the number of ads featuring women was about 22%. So not amazing but not insignificant.

Where we get into more problematic areas are the Heritage Minutes that feature people of colour, particularly those dealing with First Nations history.

Heritage Minutes on Race

But let’s start with some more positive examples. In this first one, a man tells a First Nations legend to his (I’m guessing) granddaughter. While the production values are about at the level of an original series Star Trek episode, it nevertheless is one of the few Heritage Minutes that is actually told in the voice of a First Nations person:

Read more

Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in Can-Con, Feminism, Racism 3 Comments

A Part of Our Heritage?

Part of Our Heritage Screen Capby Jarrah Hodge

Most Canadian kids of the 80s and early 90s will remember the “Part of Our Heritage” ads produced by Charles Bronfman’s CRB Foundation that seemed to run almost non-stop. As much as we enjoy mocking them, we learned from them. We learned why the Bluenose is on the dime (it beat the US in a race), that Winnie the Pooh was named after Winnipeg, and that a Canadian invented basketball by suggesting cutting a hole in the bottom of a basket to save going up the ladder to fetch the ball.

I can’t remember exactly what exactly triggered it but the other day I was prompted to re-watch the ads on YouTube. I noticed a lot of things I hadn’t thought about when I was 7 or 8 and thought I’d take a post or two to do a little bit of retrospective analysis. I realized Heritage Minutes didn’t just teach us Canadian history factoids: they presented certain views of race and gender that occasionally challenged but more often reinforced popular stereotypes.

Heritage Minutes on Women

I’ll start with the Heritage Minutes that looked at white women’s history, because they’re actually fairly good. My favourite of all of them is the story about how women attending medical school faced harassment: Read more

Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in Can-Con, Pop Culture 4 Comments