Various articles of interest: urban Indigenous peoples, how Canada has changed, explaining Canadian immigration to Americans
2017/01/04 Leave a comment
A number of articles I found particularly interesting over the past few weeks.
Starting with Joe Friesen of the Globe’s overview of how increased numbers of urban Indigenous peoples are shaping our cities, particularly but not exclusively in the Prairies:
Look around Winnipeg’s downtown and it’s clear the city is in the midst of a demographic shift. In the elevated walkways that offer shelter from the legendary winds, it seems roughly half the people shopping, walking or stopping to chat, are indigenous. In fact, more than 70,000 residents identify as aboriginal. Like many the other cities with a growing indigenous population, Winnipeg has seen more than its share of racially charged conflict, but the signs of an increasingly prominent indigenous community are apparent.
Storefronts in Winnipeg’s downtown now bear messages of greeting in indigenous languages, ranging from Cree to Dakota, Michif and Inuktitut, distributed by the local business association. At the University of Winnipeg, students who began their studies this year are now required to take a course on indigenous peoples and culture. A community group is petitioning to rename a street in Ojibwe. The national aboriginal broadcaster, APTN, headquartered on Portage Avenue, plans to expand to the United States. On the main street of the predominantly aboriginal North End, Selkirk Avenue, once the heart of the city’s Eastern European communities, schools of social work and urban studies from the province’s two largest universities offer off-campus degree programs for indigenous students, producing a stream of graduates and nourishing a growing middle class.
Every home game for the NHL’s Winnipeg Jets now opens with an announcement recognizing that the MTS Centre is located on Treaty One land, and the homeland of the Métis Nation. It also pledges that the Jets ownership, True North Sports and Entertainment, is committed “to a spirit of reconciliation for the future.” Winnipeg’s mayor, Brian Bowman, is Métis. In the provincial legislature, speculation about who might lead the Official Opposition has swirled almost exclusively around several indigenous contenders.
Just 10 years earlier, in 2001, there were only 17 communities with indigenous populations of that size. The list will almost certainly grow once the results of the 2016 long-form census are available, and not just because indigenous people living off-reserve were among the groups considered at risk of being undercounted in 2011. First Nations and Inuit people tend to have higher fertility rates than the rest of the population: In 2006, it was 2.7 children per woman for Inuit women and 2.4 for First Nations women, compared to 1.8 for Métis women, and 1.6 for the population overall.
The city with the highest proportion of indigenous people in Canada is Prince Albert, Sask., a community of roughly 35,000 located 140 kilometres north of Saskatoon. It’s considered a hub for many Northern communities, including 12 nearby First Nations reserves in the Prince Albert Grand Council. Over the decade, the city’s indigenous population grew by 37 per cent, far faster than growth in the city overall.
On the city’s police force, a little less than 40 per cent of officers self-identify as indigenous, and the chief of police is Métis. One member of the eight-seat city council is Métis, and in the last election there was an indigenous candidate for mayor, though he did not win, the city manager, Jim Toye, said.
“The relationship with First Nations is very important to us,” Mr. Toye said. “This is their lands that we are operating on.”
He said the city acknowledges the Treaty relationship at public gatherings and, in its 2016 cultural plan, recognizes its history as a meeting place, known by its Cree name Kistahpinanihk, long before European arrival. The city officially defines itself as a multicultural community with indigenous roots.
As I start to think about my update to Multiculturalism in Canada: Evidence and Anecdote with 2016 Census data, I plan on using more economic, social and political data at the municipal level to help me incorporate this development.
Next, a good long read by Doug Saunders arguing that 1967 marked the emergence of the new Canada, driven largely by the changed and increased diversity by post-war immigration:
Yet to look back from Canada’s 150 th year is to realize that this feeling is not just solipsism: 1967 is the hinge upon which modern Canadian history turns and, in certain respects, the key to understanding the challenges of the next half-century.
Today, we live in the country shaped by the decisions and transformations of 1967, far more than by the events of 1867. Anniversaries are usually symbolic moments of reflection, but Canada’s hundredth was a very real bid to create an almost entirely new country, and, to a large extent, it succeeded. If you spend some time immersed in the Canada of a few years before 1967, and then in the Canada of a few years after, you feel like you’ve visited two countries – the former still colonial, closed, dependent, paternalistic and pretending to be homogeneous, a place whose sleepy streets you’d have to leave if you wanted to make something of yourself; the latter a country of self-invention and iconoclasm, a North American place whose several peoples began to build something much bigger, more complex, but also safer and more educated and urban, and something entirely their own.
Pierre Berton, the historian, famously referred to 1967 twenty years ago as “The Last Good Year” – a book title that appealed to a nostalgic belief in a placid antediluvian Canada that even he admitted had never existed. The centennial euphoria, he argued, gave way in later years to “the very real fear that the country we celebrated so joyously … is in the process of falling apart.”
There’s a better way to express that thought: After the centennial, we started to confront seriously the schisms and divisions and gross inequities that had been masked before beneath a patina of colonial gloss. We would have, over the next 50 years, two secession crises, a battle over our North American economic identity and a hard-fought political reawakening of our indigenous nations. Yet, these were the crucial struggles of becoming a real country, of finding a governing mechanism and a common culture to bring together those long-disparate peoples.
Let me make the case, then, that 1967 was Canada’s first good year. We should spend this year celebrating not the 150 th year of Confederation, but the 50th birthday of the new Canada.
But let me also make the case that our conventional story about the birth of second-century Canada is largely wrong. We like to believe that starting in the late 1960s, a series of political decisions, parliamentary votes, court rulings and royal commissions descended upon an innocent, paternalistic, resource-economy Canada and forced upon it an awkward jumble of novelties: non-white immigration, bilingualism, multiculturalism, refugees, indigenous nationhood, liberation of women and gays, the seeds of free trade, individual rights, religious diversity.
But the explosions of official novelty that were launched in and around 1967 weren’t a cause; they were an effect of profound changes that had taken place in Canadians themselves during the two decades after the war, in their thinking and their composition and their attitude toward their country, in Quebec and English Canada and in indigenous communities.
Canada was not remade by the decisions of 1967; it was reflected by them, for the first time. What began in 1967 was official Canada beginning to catch up with the real Canada. And that is also the lesson to be carried forward to 2017: Canadians tend to be ahead of their institutions, and every few decades it is time for a dramatic catching up, like the explosion of adjustment we saw in ‘67.
A War of Symbols
…Consider the ripples of change that took place on the day of my birth, as the centennial bash roared on.
Eight hours after I was born, the directors of the Canadian National Exhibition filed into a banquet hall for their annual luncheon. The exhibition’s president, W.H. Evans, asked them to remain standing to sing the national anthem – and then chaos ensued, as half the audience broke into God Save the Queen before the pianist had struck the first note of O Canada. A debate over Canada’s true national anthem, begun in 1964, had been winding its way through a special House of Commons-Senate joint committee all year and filling the media with debate. It wouldn’t fully be resolved until a law was passed in 1980, and many people (especially in Toronto) still considered the British national anthem “official.”
National symbols remained subjects of heated contention in 1967. The flag debate had officially been resolved two years earlier with the choice of the Maple Leaf, but defenders of the old colonial Red Ensign remained outspoken in Parliament, the press and even at Expo 67. Everything about the way Canada represented itself to the world was up for grabs.
But something deeper was taking place, involving not just the symbols but the realities they represented.
The postwar decades were defined by large-scale decolonization around the world: Across Africa, Asia and the Americas, scores of countries were freeing themselves from centuries of control by European masters, and struggling, sometimes violently, to find ways to represent and govern themselves as independent entities. People were learning to think of themselves not as colonial subjects but as autonomous individuals within self-created states.
In that light, 1967 can only be seen as the apex of Canada’s postcolonial moment. The wars over symbols were one small manifestation of a larger shift.
It’s worth remembering how new this all was. We still remained, in important ways, a colony. In 1967, Canadian citizenship had only existed for 20 years – before January 1, 1947, everyone in Canada was a British subject and had to travel with a United Kingdom passport. But it still didn’t quite exist: That 1947 law creating Canadian citizenship declared in its main clause that “a Canadian citizen is a British subject” (this would remain in place until 1977).
That idea was still hotly defended by many in the Ottawa of 1967: The Progressive Conservative leadership still opposed Canadian citizenship, and the flag, and the anthem. There was still a sizable political faction in Canada who supported the idea that all Canadians were simply a slightly different, less important flavour of British people.
But the great majority of Canadians had moved on – or moved in – and you could see the centennial struggling to catch up with them.
Two, Three, Many Canadas
The morning of my birth, opposition leader John Diefenbaker (still sitting, anachronistically, in the House four years after his prime ministership had ended) denounced prime minister Lester B. Pearson for having declared the previous week that “we are a nation of two founding peoples” (in French, the prime minister went further and called them “nations”).
Mr. Diefenbaker considered this a catastrophic blow to a country he had always insisted was purely British: “Adoption of the two-nation concept,” he explained to his fellow MPs that day, “would lead to the breakdown of confederation.” But he was swimming against his own party’s tide: a few days earlier, a Progressive Conservative policy conference had gone further than the Liberals by concluding that Canada should be seen as a federal state “composed of two founding peoples (deux nations), with historic rights, who have been joined by people from many lands.”
In other words: A hundred years into Confederation, the leader of the official opposition still did not seem to believe that French Canadians existed. The notion that Canada contained more than one language and people was still hotly contested in some circles.
But that era was ending fast. A day later, Ontario Premier John Robarts would announce that his province was to build a system of French-language secondary schools. This was not an act of expansive idealism: He was recognizing the reality of a population, including millions of Francophones outside of Quebec, who were no longer capable of seeing themselves, or their children, as subjects of a homogenizing foreign ruler.
These debates sprawled across Canada’s newspapers and TV screens all year. Everyone taking part in them knew there was a looming transformation about to take place. There was a name for it: “Bi and Bi,” the household name for the mammoth Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism, the largest and most powerful government inquiry Canada had seen. It had been established by Mr. Pearson in 1963 to find a way to address growing Quebecois disenchantment with a Canada that tended to ignore its French fact, and was widely expected to endorse some version of the “two nations” model so hotly discussed that week.
On Oct. 8, 1967, it released its first report – a national event almost rivalling Expo in its media and political attention. And to the great surprise of many, the idea of Canada as two peoples and nations was not its most dramatic proposal – though it certainly did call for a fully bilingual country. That was expected. What was not expected was the very large part of the report, and the subsequent reports over the next two years, devoted to what the commission’s original mandate had called “Other Cultural Groups.” People who were neither British nor French in identity or origin had become a significant share of the Canadian population during the 20 th century.
And while the commission was clear in calling for two official languages, it found a Canada that could no longer be described as having merely one or two or three founding “peoples,” “nations” or “races” (a term still used to describe English and French communities in 1967). Its implication, not quite spelled out, was that Canada was becoming a place that could no longer be defined by its colonial origins.
Over the next several years, that reality would become impossible to ignore. So that when, in 1971, prime minister Pierre Trudeau first used the word “multiculturalism” to define Canadian policy, it was not simply a political ploy to defuse French-English rivalries and rising separatist sentiment (though it was certainly that). It was an inevitable, and perhaps even somewhat late, recognition of what Canada had already been for a long time.
While I would argue that it was a mix of the underlying realities and conscious political decisions that resulted in these changes, not just these realities as other countries were less successful in managing this transition, the contrast is clear.
Lastly, a good primer for Americans trying to understand Canadian immigration and related policies, and their relative success in integrating newcomers by Paul May in the LA Times:
To a lot of commentators, Canada looks like a sanctuary for progressive thinking on immigration, an exception to the nativist wave sweeping the United States and Europe.
A recent cover of the Economist put a maple leaf crown on the Statue of Liberty and proclaimed Canada “an example to the world.” Famously, on election day, the Canadian immigration website crashed because of the number of Americans reportedly considering a move to their northern neighbor as Donald Trump won the presidency. Year after year, polls show that Canadians are, by far, more open and more optimistic about immigration than the citizens in any other Western country.
But such optimism is perhaps easier to achieve in Canada than in other nations: For historical and geopolitical reasons, Canada does not have to cope with the same immigration challenges as the U.S. and Europe.
To start, Canada has pursued a much more selective immigration policy than the United States or any western European country. It accepts far more immigrants legally than most Western nations, but under a policy designed primarily to dovetail with the economic interests of the nation.
In consequence, Canada accepts far fewer immigrants on the basis of family ties than in the U.S., for example, and the proportion of skilled immigrants is much higher. Further, the country sets a higher education standard for immigrants than the U.S. (which is in turn more demanding than Europe). This more-selective immigration policy is likely to lead to fewer integration problems and easier access to jobs.
Canada’s selectivity is helped by its geographical position. It does not share a border with a country where wages are much lower (as the U.S. does with Mexico), and it isn’t next door to unstable regions (as Europe is to North Africa and the Middle East). The result is that few undocumented migrants move across the country’s southern border, as is the case in the U.S.; and few migrants land on its shores by boat, as in Europe.
The points system and geography also have a noticeable effect on where Canada’s immigrants come from.
Official data show that the leading countries among foreign-born residents in Canada are the United Kingdom, China and India. In the U.S., 28% are Mexicans and 24% are from other Latin American countries. In Europe, foreign-born residents originate mainly from the Muslim world (in the Netherlands, for instance, Turkey, Suriname and Morocco; in France — Algeria and Morocco). Consequently, Canada does not have to deal (at least not on the same scale) with the complex problems associated with integrating newcomers from a rural and conservative Muslim background into a highly secular environment.
Not that Canada hasn’t welcomed Muslims. Between November 2015 and November 2016, it resettled more than 35,000 Syrian refugees; most European countries have been much more reluctant to extend permanent status to these immigrants. But again, Canada can and does exert a great deal of control over the process.