diversity

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

Hannah Horvath, will you be my BFF?

girlsby Alicia Costa

The second season of the HBO hit show Girls is barely off the ground and writer/executive producer/director/actress Lena Dunham is already been raked over the coals for her creative decisions for this season.

Girls, the brainchild of Dunham and comedy-gem maker Judd Apatow, has been widely written about since its debut last year. The premise of the show revolves around four white and seemingly wealthy 20-something women living in New York City.

The first season of Girls was widely criticized for the lack of racial diversity in the casting. Dunham stated it was unintentional and agreed that the casting choices were not reflective of the racially and culturally diverse New York City. So, in the second season African American actor/comedian Donald Glover was cast as Hannah Horvath (Dunham)’s new beau and this was met with mixed reviews. Most critics claimed that by casting Glover in a main role she was using him as the “token” minority in an attempt to make the show appear more diverse.

“… I really wrote the show from a gut-level place, and each character was a piece of me or based on someone close to me. And only later did I realize that it was four white girls. As much as I can say it was an accident, it was only later as the criticism came out, I thought, ‘I hear this and I want to respond to it.’ And this is a hard issue to speak to because all I want to do is sound sensitive and not say anything that will horrify anyone or make them feel more isolated, but I did write something that was super-specific to my experience, and I always want to avoid rendering an experience I can’t speak to accurately.” (Shalomlife.com)

Dunham stated that the decision to cast Glover was made before critics lambasted the casting of the first season and was due more to the fact he’s a brilliant comedian than about him being black. In my opinion critics claiming that Glover’s whole role was written only to add colour to the cast greatly diminish how well written and smart the character of Sandy the hot Republican (Glover) was in the storyline of Girls.

However, Dunham has received the most amount of criticism over her body. She has the audacity to be naked and sexual AND not look how everyone expects actresses to look naked. She is not afraid to act out her own sex scenes and own her body. Read more

Posted on by Alicia Costa in Feminism, Pop Culture 1 Comment

I AM: Trans People Speak

Cool new PSA from the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition (MTPC) and sponsored by GLAAD to raise awareness about the diversity of transgender communities. People can submit their own stories and there will be longer interview videos online here.

-Jarrah

Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in LGBT 5 Comments