The Little Things III

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

 

 I often think about the role of reconciliation in the Idle No More movement, how both non-Aboriginal and Aboriginal peoples play important roles in the quest to achieve equality.  With images of protests, railway blockades, and highway slowdowns that run through my mind when I hear the words "Idle No More", I force myself to shift my thinking beyond the large scale exhibitions and consider the actions that occur at the most fundamental level.  Much less obvious, and not widely displayed to the average Canadian, simple acts of respect and inclusion are occurring across this country and their effects are of a quiet strength.

 
Let’s look to the party of 25 who decided to take Mr. Dressup’s tickle trunk to a whole new level in late January.  I am referring to the “Cowboys and Indians” party that started at a private Toronto residence and moved to The Rhino, a hipster hangout in Toronto’s Parkdale neighbourhood.  Perhaps you’ve heard about it?  The event was a small blip on the media’s radar. 

 A party of approximately 25 people proudly sporting feathers, tomahawks, headdresses, braids, and plaid shirts, cowboy hats and leather vests arrived at the Parkdale hotspot to celebrate two birthdays.  They grew comfortable in the bar scene, dancing, ordering drinks, making war calls and mimicking face scalpings.  They were having a great ol’ time.

They were having so much fun, in fact, that they didn’t notice the looks of utter disgust on the faces of the other patrons in the bar.  Frankie, a Rhino regular, was also trying to enjoy his evening with his group of friends but this proved to be challenging.  He couldn’t relax while being surrounded by a large group of non-Aboriginal people inappropriately dressed in traditional Aboriginal attire who were acting out in such a disrespectful way.  Frankie and his friends were also non-Aboriginal, but that didn’t matter.  They knew inherently that what they were seeing was just not right.  They took action. 

Frankie and his pals took to Twitter.  One tweet read, “There are people actually dressed as cowboys and Indians.  Face paint and feathers.”  Their tweets were pushed forward by several Tweeters, and soon thereafter The Rhino twitter and Facebook accounts were soon inundated with pressing messages accusing The Rhino of promoting and supporting racist behaviours. 

 Julie, a female friend of Frankie’s, approached Rhino management and was told, “It’s just a costume.  Get over it.”

Another individual from the group approached another Rhino staffer and was told not to worry, that the group seemed to be on a pub crawl and would surely be moving on to another destination shortly.

 Clearly, the Rhino staff members were none too concerned.

Meanwhile in “TwitterWorld,” activists, Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal alike, from various areas of the City of Toronto, began to flock to the Rhino to express their concerns and show solidarity. 

One small group arrived at the bar with flyers for distribution entitled, “Our Culture Is Not A Costume”. 

 Another small group took to conversing peacefully with members of the offending group in attempts to educate the ignorance. 

 Mister G, who tweeted an update, provided that he was successful in convincing the male offenders to remove their headdresses.  “Here at the @TheRhinoBar got the guys to remove their headdress.  There are people from the First Nations here, calm I don’t know how!!”

 Following the incident, The Rhino was quiet. Comments on the bar’s Facebook and Twitter accounts, whereby writers were calling out the staff for lack of action on the matter, were promptly deleted.  On January 29, approximately one week following the incident, The Rhino issued a statement on their website acknowledging the incident and clarifying that they had no part in organizing the costume party.  They also issued an apology stating, “Please accept our deepest apologies to anyone who has been offended by this incident and our assurances that we will not permit it to happen again.”

 We can thank the small yet significant actions of Frankie and his pals who so admirably spoke up that night of the “Big White ‘Rhino’ that was in the room.”

 It’s the little things…

 
Karen Restoule is Ojibway and a member of Dokis First Nation. She is a recent graduate of the French Common Law Program at the University of Ottawa. Currently, Karen is completing her articles in the area of social justice. Prior to attending law school, she worked in provincial corrections and legal fields. She graduated from the University of Toronto in 2005, in Aboriginal Studies and Linguistics. In her free time, Karen enjoys visiting with family and friends, cooking, film, and working towards the advancement of the rights of First Nations communities and peoples.

 

One Billion Rising

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Check out One Billion Rising's Valentine's Day action to end violence against women.

Maybe it is time uOttawa had a little rising of our own?

What about International Women's Day?

It’s the little things...II

Monday, February 11, 2013


It’s the little things...


 



by Karen R. Restoule*

I often think about the role of reconciliation in the Idle No More movement, how both non-Aboriginal and Aboriginal peoples play important roles in the quest to achieve equality. With images of protests, railway blockades, and highway slowdowns that run through my mind when I hear the words "Idle No More", I force myself to shift my thinking beyond the large scale exhibitions and consider the actions that occur at the most fundamental level. Much less obvious, and not widely displayed to the average Canadian, simple acts of respect and inclusion are occurring across this country and their effects are of a quiet strength. Read on...

 

Thomas, a popular hairstylist in northeastern Ontario, loves his job and can’t imagine doing anything else.  What other job would allow him to meet and chat with such a wide diversity of people while expressing his creative artistic side in the styling of hair. He was enjoying a pleasant Tuesday evening styling primping Connie and Suzette, who had been clients of his for over a decade. The three of them were enjoying a conversation about their travels, when Connie and Suzette began to share their opinions on the more recent Idle No More movement and its effects on their daily lives.

 
At one point, the exchange went something like this:

 

Connie: “I really wish them Indians would stop whining and crying about their rights. The government gives them enough money as it is, they should just shut up and be happy with it.”

Suzette: “Oh yes, I know. I was trying to get into town for some shopping at Costco the other day and some of them had blocked the road! They were only letting a few cars by at a time, and were handing out flyers to each car that drove by. I was curious to see what it was they were complaining about this time, so I took one and it was just another complaint about their “rights”. I just don’t understand what more they want – the government gives them so much already!”
 

And so the conversation continued.

 
Thomas grew quiet. He is not Aboriginal, but he has grown tired of hearing the complaints about Aboriginal peoples and their rights. He found himself wondering how it was that two non-Aboriginal privileged women could have such strong opinions on a group of peoples that they clearly knew nothing about. Thomas admits to having a limited understanding of the issues himself, but before forming opinions he had reached out to few Aboriginal friends and clients to whom he would ask questions from time to time. He was slowly learning, and the more he learned, the more he was able to recognize the injustice and inequality that is a reality for Aboriginal peoples in Canada and across the world.

 
He felt that what he was hearing was wrong, so he decided to speak up.

 
Thomas: “You know ladies, I don’t understand why you’re so upset and speak so poorly of Aboriginal peoples.  Just last year, you were outraged because one of our local mining companies had been bought out and your husband’s jobs and workers’ rights were affected. You both spoke so passionately about how important it was to strike and advocate about the labour rights that your fathers, grandfathers and great grandfathers had fought so hard to have recognized and protected. Why is it that you believe it to be okay for the mining workers to advocate to have their rights protected and respected, but it’s not okay for Aboriginal peoples to advocate to have theirs protected and respected?”
 

Connie and Suzette sat in silence as their perms set. 

 
It’s the little things.

*Karen is Ojibway and a member of Dokis First Nation. She is a recent graduate of the French Common Law Program at the University of Ottawa. Currently, Karen is completing her articles in the area of social justice. Prior to attending law school, she worked in provincial corrections and legal fields. She graduated from the University of Toronto in 2005, in Aboriginal Studies and Linguistics. In her free time, Karen enjoys visiting with family and friends, cooking, film, and working towards the advancement of the rights of First Nations communities and peoples.


Missing Sisters: A Crowdsourced Map of Violence Against Aboriginal Women in Canada

Friday, February 8, 2013


 
Missing Sisters: A Crowdsourced Map of Violence Against Aboriginal Women in Canada
 Last week I wrote a post about Harassmap, a web site established by activists to document and record women’s experiences of sexual harassment in Egypt. Part of the goal of the map is to make visible the invisible and to create a powerful visual and textual record with a view to social change.
On Tuesday, February 4 2013, the group Anonymous released a crowd-sourced map that aims to document crimes of violence against aboriginal women in Canada. Information on the map appears to be collected from a combination of newspaper reports, online municipal crime report information and reports by individuals. The map includes a function that allows individuals to report incidents. The map records solved and unsolved murders, missing women, unidentified remains, and verbal and sexual assaults. While in some cases there is little information available, some individual posts link to news stories, or contain the written descriptions provided by contributors.
Maps of this kind have enormous potential. They can create a verbal and visual record of incidents that might otherwise go unreported. They also represent information in a way that can be much more powerful than a series of isolated reports, and that can be more compelling than a lengthy written document. Geographic representation of this kind of information, combined with crowd-sourced reporting of incidents that might not appear in official records also may reveal new and significant patterns in the information.      
The new Missing Sisters map is thus an interesting and potentially important initiative. It gives a taste of what might be achieved using crowd sourcing to document the extent of violence and harassment of aboriginal women in Canada. The site is linked to Operation Thunderbird, a coalition of activists concerned about violence against aboriginal women in Canada. The press release that was issued to launch the map speaks of the goals and objectives of the map and gives more information about the steps taken to collect and verify information. Unfortunately, very little of this information about the site, its creators, and its methodology appears on the Missing Sisters map site itself. Those who visit the site to upload their own stories of harassment and violence should easily be able to find out something about the map-makers, their objectives in creating the map and perhaps their longer term goals for it. The site would also benefit from some clear and explicit text (and/or video) explaining it goals and methods.
The Ushahidi platform that is the basis both for this map and for HarassMap is free and user-friendly. Let’s hope that Missing Sisters sparks interest and enthusiasm for this powerful vehicle for communication.

Trinity Western University Proposed Faculty of Law

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Click here to find commentary in the Globe and Mail on Trinity Western University's proposed law school.

Click here to find Blogging For Equality on the proposed law school at Trinity Western University.

An Idle No More Documentary


 

Click here to see a documentary on the Idle No More movement by uOttawa law student Michael Anderson featuring faculty, students and activists from our Faculty of Law. More evidence of the AMAZING students we have here.
Designed by Rachel Gold.