Who is this Canada?

by | July 19, 2009
filed under Politics, Racism

Ok, time to back up and explain the other stuff that’s been happening in my career planning class.

So on day one we all get a binder with 2 pages in it: one to record the careers you’ll choose to consider and an essay called “An Australian Definition of a Canadian – Written by an Australian Dentist.”

I’ll spare you reading the entire thing but here are some excerpts so you get the gist of it:

“A Canadian can be English, or French, or Italian, Irish, German, Spanish…Pakistani or Afghan…A Canadian may also be a Cree, Metis, Mohawk…or one of the many other tribes known as native Canadians. A Canadian’s religious beliefs range from Christian, Jewish, Buddhist…[but] in Canada they are free to worship as each of them chooses.”

“The root of [a Canadian’s] prosperity can be found in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms which recognize the right of each person to the pursuit of happiness.”

“A Canadian is generous and Canadians have helped out just about every other nation in the world in their time of need, never asking a thing in return…They also welcome the least – the oppressed, the outcast and the rejected.”

So basically this guy is saying that Canada looks like this:


Now in case you don’t know many anti-racist feminists, being asked to read this type of propaganda is kind of like waving a red flag in front of a bull.

First, let’s consider the history of racism in Canada. How well have we “welcomed the rejected?”  Well there was the head tax on Chinese immigrants and the Chinese Exclusion Act, and the continuous journey regulation that resulted in the Komagata Maru incident . In World War II, Canada had one of the worst records of accepting Jewish refugees fleeing Europe and we interned Japanese-Canadians in camps. And those eurocentric attitudes persist in the way we continue to treat migrant farm workers and live-in-caregivers today, as sources of labour with limited workers’ and human rights.

In addition to totally ignoring the history of racism in Canada and current statistics that show job discrimination based on race/ethnicity, it was obvious just by looking around the class how unequal opportunities are for visible minorities. By the time we had finished introducing ourselves, we had met two recent citizens who had taken menial jobs because of lack of foreign credential recognition and a Vietnamese-Canadian woman who felt she had a hard time getting called for interviews because of the difficulty people had with pronouncing her name.

Yes, the almighty Charter of Rights and Freedoms may give us theoretical rights to equal pursuit of happiness, but systemic racism (more on sexism later) persists and should not be ignored.

On the surface Canada sort of does look like the picture above, but when you think about who holds the power it looks more like this:


Let’s stop pretending that race isn’t an issue in career planning, and in our society in general.

UPDATE 5:00 PM July 19:

This story was on the Globe and Mail website today, reporting on a study that shows that “North American customers are more likely to be satisfied with their level of service if it comes from a white male instead of a woman or minority, says a new study.” Just thought I’d throw that in there.

UPDATE 1:40 PM July 22:

Thanks to Chris, who found this Snopes article that shows the essay wasn’t written by an Australian, or a dentist, and was originally written about Americans: http://www.snopes.com/rumors/america2.asp

This possibly makes it even less true :)

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