Canadian Culture: The Nation and Others within the Nation

 

Immigration and Integration: Former Yugoslavian

Othering in the Street:

MultiCulturalism in Canada

Of Cultural Differences: "Oh, but you're so white!"

The Repercussions of Pearl Harbour Bombardments on Japanese Canadians

Book Review of Many Tender Ties: Women in Fur-Trade Society in Western Canada, 1670-1870

Racism

 

 

 

Immigration and Integration: Former Yugoslavian


Anne-Marie Ferland

Famines, war, poverty are among reasons for immigration. People quit their countries and go live elsewhere in the hope of a better life. In the heads of many of those immigrants, North America, for instance Canada, is a place of opportunity to live. A peaceful place where life seems relatively easy, with more chances and more access to wealth. Xenophobia and racism are reasons why some immigrants have difficulty integrating. Former Yugoslavians are the latest group of immigrants and refugees across the world. This paper will focus its interest on those newcomers. It will first look at their reason for leaving their own country, by explaining the conflict, before giving details about their arrival in Canada. Finally, it will focus on their integration.
At the end of the 1980's, the economy of the Yugoslavia was declining due to lots of unemployment and inflation, caused by a debt of 15 billion. Mixed with the incapacity of the government, this was the ideal situation for the movement of separation to grow bigger and stronger. The main cause for this separation was a territorial one, tainted with a lot of religious implications. Three main religious groups populated Bosnia: The Serbs, mainly Orthodox, the Croats, mainly Catholic, and the Bosnians, who were a mix of Muslim and the others. However, Muslims were present in the three categories. In 1990, the Serbs elected Slobodan Milocevic to the presidency. He took away the autonomy in provinces, such as Kosovo, which had accomplished separatism in 1968. In 1991, the conflict broke out when the Serbs tried to stop a Croatian man from governing Yugoslavia. When the Croatians, following the separatist movement, achieved independence, a war followed between the government and the Serb militia. It ended in 1992 with a cease-fire, but Croatia had lost over 1/3 of its territory.

The Serbians living in Bosnia wanted to be annexed with the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, formed of Montenegro and Serbia presided by Slobodan Milocevic (a Serb). The war switched into Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1992, when the latter also declared independence. It was first declared in Sarajevo because of the election of a Muslim to the presidency: Alija Izetbegoviae. As the world guide related: "The Serbian communities of Bosnia wanted to remain within Yugoslav federation, while the Croat and Muslim communities clamoured for independence." (1999, p.6) The Serbs and Croats did not like the idea of being governed by a Muslim, even though more than 50% of the province was Muslim. Consequently, they chased Muslim and Croats away from the part of Bosnia which was mostly populated by Serbs. The Croats reacted similarly and created a Croatian Union. Bosnia-Herzegovina was therefore divided in three territories, each under the control of one or another religion, or nationality, creating many conflicts between the diverse groups in different regions within Bosnia-Herzegovina.

The former Yugoslavians who fled to Canada are now all considered as immigrants, not refugees. Yugoslavian immigrant arrived in Canada around 1995. More than 21 000 persons from the former Yugoslavia have been resettled all over Canada under refugee and humanitarian programs. In the township only, they constituted 75 percent of newcomers in 1995.

People emigrating from former Yugoslavia have a some kind of luck in their misfortune. They are not a visible minority; therefore, they do not face problems of racism at the same level as people with darker skin. The main problem they experience is in regard to cultural, but mostly linguistic, background. Learning a new language is not an easy task. Those newcomers do not know any of the two official languages, and do not know anything about our way of living. Therefore, they are faced with a big cultural shock at their arrival. This will prevent them from really integrating. The creation of some kind of ghettos is often the result. The immigrants will remain together, preventing them from blending with the Canadians and have bounds that would have them fully appreciate their new country of adoption. This can be perceived negatively by the Canadians who would develop some prejudices, caused by ´'othering''. Native Canadians sometimes see the refugees as other profiteers of the war, that have used this opportunity to come here to get richer before going back home. When they decide to integrate more, they face a loss of social network with their culture. Michèle Vatz-Laaroussi presents the view of a former Yugoslavian who resumes the two main problems greatly by saying " there are phases, which are total loss. We go down, and feel lost, then we have to start climbing the mountain again. Start over the career from zero, make new friends, new acquaintances, recreate a social life." (1997,p.12). The Socio-economic situation presented is, even more than any other problems, important for the former Yugoslavians, like many others. Most of these people are people with relatively high education level. Why is it that " Despite the generally high educational attainment of these refugees, the result shows that they experienced much higher rates of unemployment, part-time employment, and temporary employment than do Canadian-born individuals" (Bloemraad, 2000)? Problems of scholarly equivalence emerge. Their diplomas are not recognized anymore. Therefore, they have to pay for equivalence and they are declassed. The schooling system of former Yugoslavia does not work like ours, so they have to go back to school if they want to have a job equivalent to the ones they had back home. Many of them, who are older, just don't have the will, or money, to go back to school. They therefore resolve to accept lower jobs available, such as factory worker, even if they have qualification for a much higher post. " A variety of structural factors operating in a segmented Canadian labour market help to explain the downward mobility of these highly qualified refugees." (Harvey, 2000).

The former Yugoslavians have not been in Canada long enough to know whether or not they are fully integrated, or if most of them will soon leave because of lack of affiliation. But, thanks to special programs by government and organizations, former Yugoslavian immigrants were successful until now in integrating into the Canadian culture. In all it is clear that the decision of a long-term residency is the result of a greater bond with the community and a feeling of fulfillment. Thankfully, the language training strategy and diverse welcome group, formed with the partnership of government and citizens become important parts of this integration process.


Encyclopedia Encarta 2000
Bloemraad, I (2000) Journal of international migration and integration : Educated and Underemployed : Refugee Integration into the Canadian Labour Market. [Online]. Available at: http://jimi.metropolis.net/ab11t.html
CIA: The world Factbook: Bosnia and Herzegovina. (2003) [Online] Available at: http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/geos/bk.html
Krahn, H & al. (2000) Journal of international migration and integration : Educated and Underemployed : Refugee Integration into the Canadian Labour Market. [Online]. Available at: http://jimi.metropolis.net/ab11t.html
Unknown (1999). The World Guide 1999/2000 Hong Kong: C&C Offset Printing
Vezina, L.M. (1997 Autumn) Sommet. L'intégration des immigrantes et Immigrants en Estrie: question de culture ou question d'emploi? 12-13

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Othering in the Street

Rebecca Dustin

Mordecai Richler's The Street is a collection of stories and memoirs that follow the author as a Jewish boy living on St. Urbain Street in Montréal during the 1940s. This street plays a significant part in four of his other works (St. Urbain's Horseman, Joshua Then and Now, Solomon Gursky Was Here and Barney's Version), so it is fitting that the book bears this name.

The author invites us into the world of the Montréal Jewish community. We follow his family as they deal with the death of a grandmother, with conflict between cultures and with the war going on in Europe. The concept of othering comes back a number of times in the book.

It is clear to him that he is different from other Canadians. For him, there is "us" and there is "them". He has preconceived notions about non-Jewish people; however, they come from his imagination rather than from true experiences. "Outside, where they ate wormy pork, beat the wives for openers, didn't care a little finger if the children grew up to be doctors, we seldom ventured, and then only fearfully." (Richler 28)

The Jewish children fight with the French-Canadian children and call them "pea-soups". Historically, this term has been used because pea soup is a popular meal among French-Canadians. Regardless of the many boyhood fights taking place between the Jewish and the francophones, these two groups have a lot in common. Both are poor, have large families and speak English with noticeable accents.

On the other hand, the English-Canadians are unequivocally disliked by the Jewish community. The Jews know that the English represent the powerful class in Canada. They refer to English-Canadians as "WASPs" (White Anglo-Saxon Protestants) throughout the book.

At school, Jewish children learn about history and heroes. When they come back home, their parents teach them about their history and their heroes. It is clear that English-Canadians and Jews do not share the same views of history. The Jews understand they are better off in Canada than in Europe, but they constantly feel as though they are in someone else's country.

By comparing himself with the others, Richler demonstrates how he interprets the self, in this case, the Montréal Jews. Similarly, he demonstrates how an imagined other is created, before having had a genuine chance to experience the other. This type of othering occurs across and within all cultures.

Works Cited

RICHLER, Mordecai. The Street, Toronto, McClelland and Stewart Limited, 1969, 128 p.
More about the term WASP


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WASP
http://www.tiscali.co.uk/reference/encyclopaedia/hutchinson/m0033926.html

 

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MultiCulturalism in Canada

Nicolas Jalbert-Perron

The first multicultural policy was set up in Canada. Many factors influenced the introduction of the policy. The mid 1960s were marked by increasing troubled English-French relations in Canada, and the government appointed a Royal Commission to study this problem and recommend appropriate solutions. The Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism held hearings across Canada. In 1969 the Bicultural and Bilingual act became a law. However the commissioners heard about more than just the English and French relations; ethnic spokespersons everywhere argued that the old policy of assimilation was both unjust and unfair and a failure overall. These representatives told the commissioners that immigrants and their children had helped during the great depression side-by-side with other Canadians, and they too had sacrificed their sons and daughters to the national war efforts, and they were now being denied the benefits of Canada's economic revival and their own hard work. They argued that although they were not of English or French heritage they were still every bit as Canadian as the two prime cultural groups and they would not tolerate exclusion.

They urged that a new model of citizen participation should be adopted; one that addressed all the ethnic groups that were part of Canada. They even offered a blueprint for a Canadian identity based on the public acceptance of difference and support of cultural pluralism. Unlike the melting pot model of the United States, they preferred the idea of a "cultural mosaic": unique parts fitting together into a unified whole. They argued that ethnicity did not determine Canadian identity but rather the identity of the people did.

To the surprise of many the commission agreed. The royal commission presented the government with the idea and recommendations which would acknowledge the value of cultural pluralism to Canadian identity and encourage Canadian institutions to reflect this pluralism in their policies and programs. The policy was accepted in 1971 while Pierre Elliot Trudeau was Prime Minister. When the policy was first announced, it was one of multiculturalism within a bilingual framework. Multiculturalism affirmed English and French as the two official languages of Canada. But ethnic pluralism was declared to be a positive feature of Canadian society worthy of preservation and development. Many other provinces followed the federal lead by introducing multiculturalism policies in their areas. In 1982 it became a law and later in 1988 Bill-C-93 was passed as the Multicultural Act. This supposedly broke the final barriers of any racial laws and any ethnic problems.

The multicultural Policy states that under Canadian law, these equalities are the rights and privileges of any person, and ensure that they may participate as a member of the society, regardless of racial, ethnic, cultural, or religious background. Multiculturalism promotes gaining an understanding of people from all cultures, despite language, religious beliefs, political and social views, or national origins. It does not require people to shed their own values and beliefs, in order to accept one another. Instead, multiculturalism acknowledges there are many ways in which the world can be viewed and lived in. Multiculturalism essentially promotes respect for people's distant cultural identity, while ensuring that common Canadian values are upheld. As stated by Pierre Trudeau, " The government will support and encourage the various cultures and ethnic groups that give structure and vitality to our society. They will be encouraged to share their cultural expressions and values with other Canadians and so contribute to a richer life for us all.'

There are advantages to multiculturalism, because in spirit, it allows better understanding between cultures. The sharing of knowledge not only helps us communicate with people all around the world, but helps Canadians to get along, and without the act many different ethnic groups would still be arguing over rights and freedom. However, by handing out the special rights to other minorities, and through the "cultural mosaic" that is created in Canadian society, it can make us drift further apart, despite our attempts to further our relations with others in Canadian society. Case in point: the native peoples are granted special rights, and have granted them the right to live in reservations and so forth to maintain their way of life, but at the same time, it keeps them separate from others. And while the policy acknowledges their culture and languages and promises to promote them, the charter clearly states that French and English are the two official languages of the country, establishing two dominant cultures over a minority one.

So in essence, we are together and we are not at the same time, even through our recognition of others.

Work Cited

GARDNER, R.C, ESSES, Victoria, " Multiculturalism in Canada: Context and Current Status ", http://www.cpa.ca/cjbsnew/1996/ful_edito.html, 1996

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Of Cultural Differences: "Oh, but you're so white!"

Camilo Pelaez


During the two and a half years I have lived in Québec, I have got that comment every time I tell someone that I come from Colombia. I would like to say that I have grown used to it, but the fact is that I have not. It's rather tiring that every time I meet some one and I tell him what my origins are I get the same comment over and over again.

But when it gets really "enjoyable" is when they immediately make a joke, as if wanting to start the nicest of conversations, asking me if I have some cocaine or marihuana with me. Because….in their own words "Oooh, you do make real good stuff down there!".

Now, I understand that no one has to know the reason of my coming to Canada, or why I had to leave my country, which is a hard story with a large amount of pain that I will not render here. But I would like to say a few words about how the cultural values of people in Quebec and my own collide, and sometimes clash. As a matter of fact, I would like to explore with you the culture shock that I am currently experiencing. I would like, first, to share with you a some experiences that I've had regarding Quebecers and their impressions of the use of drugs in Colombia and how I perceived those moments.

My first experience, in Quebec, related to drugs, came about three months after my arrival in Sherbrooke, when a local friend invited my sister and me to a party. It was in a bar, we had a beer and we had a chat. Everything went smooth. Then, they all invited us to go outside of the bar to smoke a joint, like it was the most normal of things. We declined the offer, and they went out. They all came back in the bar a few minutes later really relaxed and smiling. And the party went on.

Later, when I started at university, it was normal to see people go out in the break, have a smoke of pot, and return to class. They even said aloud that they loved marihuana.

Then, one afternoon when I had a meeting with some classmates to do some homework for the university, we did do some work, for the first half hour. Then my fellow workers decided to have some pot.

As for what I have seen, in Quebec drugs are a natural topic of conversation. Drugs are shared, drugs are part of life, and drugs are fun. What's not very fun for me, is that, as I have come to experience, people immediately reason that Colombia means drugs, that being Colombian I'm used to drugs, and used to using them. The strangest thing is that when I tell them that I don't use drugs, or that in Colombia I didn't, they think it's a joke.

And all of that sickens me.

My first reaction to that sickening sensation was to explain my point of view to the people I spoke to, as I explained about why I am white. But when all I got as a reaction was "Oh, yeah?" and laughs, as if no one believed what I said, or as it was not important, I desisted.

For what it's worth, I will explain now what my point of view of drugs is and why I have had difficulty in assimilating to that part of Quebec culture.

Drugs mean pain for me. People in my family have died because of drug dealers and the life of death that surrounds them. I had to flee my country because my country became a nightmare in which it was no longer possible, literally speaking, to live. My country is having a very hard time standing in one piece, and one of the basic reasons for this is drug dealing. The corruptions it has spawned, the decay, and the loss of values are threatening to dissolve the rest. As for me, those elements made me put an end to a project of life that I had been building for 23 years. For others, they have destroyed dreams and projects that have taken three or more generations to become a reality. A lifetime becomes nothing. And many people, like my family and me, have to start from zero.

So no, thanks very much. Drugs are not fun for me. They are not a topic for social events, or a hip way to pass time. But how could I explain this to everyone? How could I say this when all that I see on the faces of the people I speak to is an unbelieving smile? It is beyond my reach to make those people feel what I feel, or live through what I have lived.

Thus, when they ask me, all laughs and fun, why I am white, I tell them that Colombia is full of surprises, as I was a surprise to them being white. And when they make a comment about drugs and how good they are, and that I should know as the Colombian that I am, I swallow my anger, my sadness and my frustration, and I smile.

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The Repercussions of Pearl Harbour Bombardments on Japanese Canadians

Yves Lecuyer

Pearl Harbour, Hawaii, December 7, 1941, the Japanese planes fly over, attack and cripple the United States navy. This episode of History is well imprinted in our minds; rare are those who are not familiar with it. However, not as many know what the repercussions were for about 23 000 Canadian lives. Their only fault was that they had the same gene which made them the same race as the aggressor. They were from Japanese descent. Life was never easy for the emigrants from Japan, living among the intolerant white men of British Columbia. Anyway their lives were rather peaceful and untroubled. However, after the Pearl Harbour incident many Japanese-Canadian lives, changed forever. The Japanese-Canadians were alienated because of their racial differences and not really because of the threat they created with the war going on with Japan.

First, The Japanese were perceived as a menace for the dominant culture. The "white man" did not want to lose his supremacy, as written in the Vancouver Daily Province: " We are all of the opinion that this province is a white man's country…. We do not look forward to a day our descendants will be dominated by Japanese, Chinese, or any color but their own."(Adachi, p.63) Many laws and restrictions were used to keep the Japanese away from whites and, if possible, in their own country. Consequently, the Japanese-Canadians formed their own community separated from the "white man's."

After the incident of Pearl Harbour, the leaders of British Columbia more than ninety five percent of the Japanese population in Canada lived in British Columbia (Adachi, p.234) decided to verify the loyalty of the Japanese for their adopted country. Thirty-eight Japanese-Canadians were arrested and certain restrictions were imposed, which the they thought only normal in time of war, but the situation did not remain the same (Ward, p.148-49). Japanese-Canadians never thought that they would be treated in a worse manner than the Germans and the Italians would be, but yes they were. Only 25 percent of the Germans and Italians were interned whereas a hundred percent of the Japanese were ( Roy, p.53). The population and politicians saw them more as descendants of the enemy than citizens of Canada possibly because of visible minority racial features. Moreover, white population started to boycott Japanese workers and commit act of vandalism on Japanese businesses. As a result, the rate of unemployment increased rapidly (Adachi, p.200). For instance, fishermen were not allowed to fish off the Pacific Coast anymore, and their boats were confiscated (fig 1). Furthermore, many wanted them out of British Columbia: " 'They should do something', Vancouver alderman said in advocating removal of the Japanese east of the Rockies and 'shipping them back to Japan when the war is over'" (Adachi p.202). The population was asking a evacuation of all the Japanese from the protected areas (strategic areas). Therefore, the British Columbian leaders with PM King tried to calm the population in offering them a partial evacuation, which consisted in the evacuation of all able-bodied men "between the age of 16 and 50" (Roy p.83). The proposition calmed the population for only a few days, but when the white population saw that nobody was moving, they lost patience and soon the agitation was back again.(Roy p.84) Later on, the Japanese-Canadians were part of a mass evacuation, "nothing short of total evacuation could quiet the peoples outcry" (Ward, p.148) Even the Nisei ( second generation born in Canada) were evacuated; citizenship did not mean anything at all. As the Victorian MP R.W. Mayhew said "blood is thicker than water"(Adachi p.206).

The mass evacuation from the West Coast of British Columbia and internment of the Japanese-Canadians was said to be carried out for national security. The people had to "be protected from treachery, from a stab in the back" (Adachi, p.199). However, there were statements by the army and the RCMP which declared that the Japan Immigrants did not "constitute the slightest menace to national security" (Adachi, p.203). Almost nothing happened on the Pacific Coast, except some sporadic and isolated events that did not lead the government to believe that there would be more aggression from Japan: "There was no invasion of Canadian soil, no landings from the sea or bombings from aircrafts, nor was there any evidence that Japan ever seriously considered such enterprises" (Adachi p.208). Nevertheless, the evacuation of the Nisei and Issei continued without stopping. Under the War Measure Act, the government had all the power over the Japanese. The Security Commission could take Japanese belongings such as radios, cameras, automobiles. They had to leave, or stay. They had to do what they were told. They even had a curfew from dusk till dawn to be respected (Adachi, p.218). At this point in the war, the Japanese were losing ground and there was an impossibility, or almost, that they could reach the shores of British Columbia. Even though the evacuation was executed under the reason of national security, there was another reason that kept the evacuation going: racial prejudice. The war was only a justification to throw the Japanese-Canadians out of their property, which the white man had for so many years wanted. "The dominant element in the development of the evacuation programme was racial prejudice, not a military estimate of a military problem" (Adachi, p.224).

Finally, the Japanese-Canadian were released from their internment. Through all their suffering, they should have been angry with the dominant group but they complied and did what was demanded by the white man. They thought that if they conformed to the rules their loyalty to Canada would be proven. The Japanese-Canadians were "easy victims," really docile. The majority would think that they would become an angry group filled with hatred and caught in problems of poor health and education. But no, they made their way up in society and live in a good situation now in Canada.

Works Cited

Adachi, Ken. The Enemy That Never Was. Toronto: McClelland and Stewart Limited, 1976.
Roy, Patricia E., J.L. Granatstein, Masako Iino, Hiroko Takamura. Mutual Hostages: Canadians and Japanese During the Second World War. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1990.
Ward, W. Peter. White Canada Forever. Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 1978.

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Book Review of Many Tender Ties: Women in Fur-Trade Society in Western Canada, 1670-1870

Bambi Broxton

Though the traditional image of the fur trade and the wild west is masculine, women were present and played a key role in fur trade society. In "Many Tender Ties" Women in Fur-Trade Society in Western Canada, 1670-1870, Sylvia Van Kirk examines the role played by Indian, mixed-blood and white women in the development of fur-trade society in what is now Western Canada. Originally written as a doctoral thesis, Van Kirk, a professor of history and women's studies at the University of Toronto, has adapted and revised the book to its current form. The title of the book comes from James Douglas who noted, "…without the many tender ties of family, the life of a fur trader would be unbearable" (5). Using this as a starting point, Van Kirk explains the history of women's involvement in the fur trade as well as the importance of their role.

Because there were few white women in the western country before the early nineteenth century, intermarriage between fur traders and natives was common. Before their fusion in 1821, there were two fur trading companies in the west and each had different views regarding marrying native women. The first, the Hudson Bay Company, forbade such marriages because of the extra cost the company would incur having to support more people. Since the decisions came down from London, far removed from the western Canadian setting of the traders, the employees disobeyed the orders and took wives anyway. The second, the North West Company, recognized the importance of "tender ties" and allowed the men to take wives. The company figured that men would be more productive and more willing to stay with the company if they were allowed to enjoy the comforts of a family.

Marrying native women proved to be a great advantage for the fur traders. First, it was regarded by Indians as a good will measure. Strengthening the ties between the two groups, such marriages were beneficial to trade. Second, Indian women had special skills that were of great benefit to their husbands. They could speak native languages and could make such things as clothing and snowshoes. Without their wives, it is unlikely that men could have handled these tasks themselves, and Van Kirk notes, "In the fur-trade world, the Indian wife, because of her unique work skills, also proved to be a much more valuable mate than a white woman would have been" (52).

Because of the cultural differences between the women and the men, the marriage process did not take place the same way it would have in Europe. Instead, marriages occurred according to the native custom, or à la façon du pays. In this type of marriage no vows were exchanged, but the man would ask permission of the woman's parents, followed by such rituals as the smoking of the calumet. The couple would then stay together for as long as they desired. Widely accepted in fur trade society, the majority of the traders viewed this sort of marriage as a long-term commitment. Even so, polygamy, an Indian practice, was not uncommon among the traders of the Hudson Bay Company. Van Kirk writes, "The Indians…sought to impress upon the traders that 'all great men should have a plurality of wives.' The officers…were prepared to adopt this custom which enhanced their prestige in Indian eyes" (38).

As a product of these unions, the next generation consisted of many mixed-blood daughters. Marrying these women would be the reality of the next generation of fur traders. In fact, "…the 1806 ruling against marriage with pure-blooded Indian women can be seen as an attempt to ensure that the large number of marriageable mixed-blood girls now available would find husbands within the fur trade to support them" (108). The companies encouraged these unions because of their commitment to financially support the wives and children. Since they were already paying for the mixed-blood daughters, a fur trader marrying a mixed-blood woman would not cost the company anymore, whereas marrying a pure-blooded Indian woman would.

As white women began settling in the west in the early nineteenth century, intermarriage between native and mixed-blood women declined. White culture and its prejudices became the norm, and racism became an unfortunate reality. Thus, "the early world of the fur trade became 'a world we have lost'" (242). However, native and mixed-blood women played a crucial role in early Canadian history. In explaining their contributions, this book celebrates the lives and culture of these women.

"Many Tender Ties" is one of the most authoritative and most cited accounts of women in fur-trade society. Though this review has just discussed the most pertinent topics, this book contains a wealth of detailed information about these women. Van Kirk explains how they dressed, what they made, and many other subjects of interest which gives a thorough account of their life and their role. Van Kirk also provides extensive documentation throughout the book including first hand narratives and many photos. An interesting and informative read, "Many Tender Ties" is suggested for anyone seeking to learn more about women in fur trade society.


Van Kirk, Sylvia. "Many Tender Ties" Women in Fur-Trade Society in Western Canada, 1670-1870. Winnipeg: Watson & Dwyer Publishing Ltd., 1980.

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RACISM

Solange Bureau

Throughout recently published newspaper articles (Sept. and Oct. 2003), we will have a closer look at different points of view concerning racism in our society.

As you may know, Le Journal de Montréal (Oct. 4 and 5) published an amazing story that made the front page news: a white journalist taking the skin of a black man to experience first hand how it was being black. Sadly enough, he found out that everything we often take for granted - like hithicking, having a drink in a bar, finding an appartment, and looking for a job - represented an enormous task and sometime was simply impossible for a black person.

Actress Sandra Oh, a Korean born and raised in Canada (La Presse, Sept. 30, 2003) said that ¨visible minorities¨ in cinema often face difficulties related to strong stereotypes based on physical appearance. For example, a big black woman will be cast as being a funny character. She said, ¨It is like if the roles and the images were preconceived and we can not imagine people doing otherwise.¨

Another interesting story (La Tribune, Oct. 11, 2003) concerning France, and many European countries as well, is similar to Neil Bissoondath's story, Dansing and the inverse racism. Many families from the Maghreb watching arab television via satellite and cutting themselves from the society in which they should be trying to integrate. This may have an insidious effect: Muslim all over the world is seen as a ¨brother¨, whereas your neighbor is perceived as a stranger if not your adversary!

However, in a recently published study on ethnic diversity (Sept 29, 2003), Statistic Canada stated that 93% of the twenty million canadians (15 and older) never or rarely suffered from discrimination and that 80% of the three million canadians being consider as ¨visible minorities¨ were not or rarely victims of discrimination. According to those statisctics, cultural diversity in Canada did not translate by a outbreak of racism even if one out of four canadians was born outside Canada.

Intercultural Studies' course it certainly one chance we have to raise our level of consciousness about all the aspects of racism. By educating ourselves and keeping an open mind, we may change attitudes around us. Having a more enlightened perspective on the subject will surely help us being more tolerant towards the other, improve communication and hopefully avoid conflicts in our day-to-day exchanges.

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