Another brief thought on Canada Reads 2015, Barriers, and Alberta

This my second post about Canada Reads 2015. The first is here.

In my reading of things, (some of) the Barriers to be broken down in Canada Reads 2015 are, in a few little nutshells:

Native Canadian/Settler Canadian

Immigrant experience/”native” Canadian Experience

“Muslim World”/everybody else

(L)Gay(BT) youth/everybody else

Elders approaching end of life/the young

I don’t think anyone can legitimately deny these barriers exist and need to be breached. What I couldn’t help fell as I read the five books was how much Albertans – those wacky, pickup driving, dilbit swilling, trucknut swinging, two-fisted cowboys with the sunburnt necks – how much Albertans had already done to  chip at those barriers.

Native Canadian/Settler Canadian

Edmonton has the second largest urban-Aboriginal population in the country. Big civic events now routinely open with Elders praying and smudging followed by an apparently grateful acknowledgement that we are on Treaty 6 Land. I could go on about Alex Decoteau, Douglas Cardinal, Alex Janvier, and the young vibrant generation of First Nations and Métis artists, chefs, business people, office workers, politicians . . .
And I will also shout loudly that the racism is still rampant, and ugly, and lethal.

But I have stood in a crowd, in the heart of Alberta’s Capital City, and I, an Old White Guy, was in the minority. And there has been nothing in my life better than again seeing Aboriginal people confident (they’ve always been confident, but not always seen), again the majority, if only for a day, for a round dance, for a moment that can’t ever be ended.

That wall is coming down.

Immigrant experience/”native” Canadian Experience

If the immigrant experience has ever been forgotten in a Province in which few people have an Albertan-born – or even Canadian-born – grandparent, the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, with its rampant abuses and even tragic deaths has undoubtedly put a jack hammer to that barrier.

“Muslim World”/everybody else

I live in an Edmonton riding which elected the first Muslim MP in Canadian History. And Rahim Jaffer showed with great panache that stereotypes of Muslims have little basis in fact. And, Calgary’s Naheed Nenshi, the first Muslim to be elected Mayor of a major city in Canada, is a Super Hero, not a jihadi at all.

The cracks are speading in that wall.

(L)Gay(BT) youth/everybody else

Premier Prentice’s  absurd Bill 10 fiasco in response to Liberal MLA Laurie Blakeman’s uncontroversial private member’s bill mandating Gay-Straight Alliances in schools where students requested them, and the “consultation” following, has shown clearly that Albertans, in general, are more homophiles than homophobes, and that they love their children, all their children, no matter what and unconditionally.

Again, there are ugly homophobes out there – many in government – but, still, the wall crumbles.

Elders approaching end of life/the young

I confess, I hesitated on the Elder/youngster barrier. But then I remembered the ongoing outrage about the treatment of Seniors in care, the physical abuse that has come to light, the deaths through negligence, understaffing, poor training, budget cuts. . . and I realize: we all have aged family members, and soon most of us will be facing the assisted living institution. This barrier is aleady being assaulted by a grey horde with raging siege engines of experience and their children and grandchildren – all of us – are at the charge.

Cautious Optimism

Please don’t mistake my hopeful tone for naive complacency. I see a long and difficult struggle ahead in the breaking of each of these barriers. But the very fact that Alberta, a jurisdiction with such a reputation for conservatism, reactionism, cowboy insensitivity, that such a place is actually ahead of the curve on so many fronts, truly makes me feel that we will, together, soon, see a much better, mutually supportive tomorrow.

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5 comments on “Another brief thought on Canada Reads 2015, Barriers, and Alberta

  1. Deb says:

    Hi John,

    I am still thinking about your last post and now you have given me more to think about. You seem to be following these barriers more than I am so I had one quick question. Do you know why they tried to put the the Gay-Straight Alliances in schools? Why didn’t they try something outside the school environment first, perhaps as a healthy communities initiative and start it in recreation centers, community centers, etc.. That way they wouldn’t have to deal with the politics and non-action of our Alberta schools. Something could have been created quickly, grown, and then they could have moved successful and tried programs into the schools. Nothing was ever going to happen with the schools, we have to fight for our kids to be educated in the basics anymore let alone anything beyond that. So I was just wondering if you knew more about the back story.

    Deb

    • GSAs have been in some schools for a number of years. Ms. Blakeman’s bill would have simply protected students’ right to form them. If the bill had passed, schools and school boards would be required to allow GSAs to be formed if the students requested them.
      Again, GSAs are not something new in Alberta Schools. Ms. Blakeman’s bill was an attempt to level the playing field to protect all students.

    • GSAs have been in some schools for a number of years. Ms. Blakeman’s bill would have simply protected students’ right to form them. If the bill had passed, schools and school boards would be required to allow GSAs to be formed if the students requested them.
      Again, GSAs are not something new in Alberta Schools. Ms. Blakeman’s bill was an attempt to level the playing field to protect all students.
      You ask why “They tried to put GSAs into schools”. Only students have tried to put GSAs into schools. School administrators and boards have sometimes tried to keep GSAs out. I don’t understand their fear of GSAs.

      • Deb says:

        Thanks for filling in the gaps on what the situation is/was. Nice and concise.

        School administrators are a “challenge” and school boards are an absolute joke (people who sit on school boards to promote their own business interests but have zero interest in the student’s best interests)….we’ve been at war with ours for a year and a half. …….a story (with many chapters) for another day.

  2. […] I have a few more thoughts about Canada Reads 2015 here. […]

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