Flat White

What’s woke this week?

19 September 2021

9:29 AM

19 September 2021

9:29 AM

Over the last couple of years What’s woke this week has brought you stirring stories from around the world but somewhat surprisingly we haven’t seen too much action from Canada. That all changes this week with a trio of tragic tales from the world’s second-largest country and woke exemplar. O Canada! 

Capital crimes 

Does anyone have any idea what the following headline from a Mount Royal University (it’s in Calgary) media release means? 

lower case as Indigenous ‘eventing’ support resistance

No? Me, either. And I doubt you’ll be any further enlightened by this: 

we support and expand the goal of equality and inclusion to all forms of life and all people. we join leaders like e. e. cummings, bell hooks, and peter kulchyski, who reject the symbols of hierarchy wherever they are found and do not use capital letters except to acknowledge the Indigenous struggle for recognition.

Don’t worry about the performative patois, though. It doesn’t have to mean anything. The important thing is that there are no capital letters to enforce a white supremacist hierarchy on the language. You know, the English language. 

This is the work of ‘dr. linda manyguns, associate vice-president of Indigenization and decolonization at mru’ [sic], which sounds an awful lot like a position held near the top of the, dare I say it, university hierarchy. And one for which I’m sure she’s paid a lot more than junior staff. Something to do with a hierarchy, methinks.  

The announcement of ManyGuns’ appointment earlier this year placed great emphasis on her academic achievements, which sadly seem to not stretch quite as far as a bit of basic research. Her contention that authors Cummings and hook ‘reject the symbols of hierarchy wherever they are found’ is pure fiction.  

Cummings, although he had an outrageous approach to the use of grammar, — he was considered ‘avant-garde’ by the emperor’s new clothes crowd — never eschewed capitals and was an avowed anti-communist and Republican. Probably not quite the fit she thought it was. Feminist author hook adopted her great-grandmother’s name but put hers in lower case to distinguish herself from her relative. Her writing always uses capitals.  

And kulchyski is known, only within obscure Canadian indigenous studies circles, as the white guy academic championing indigenous anti-capitalism. Dear me, I hope that isn’t cultural appropriation. You can try to follow some of his ‘academic’ sludge here, but you’d probably rather place bamboo under your fingernails.   

persnly i downt think enny ov this gows far enuff down with awl gramur punkchuashn and spelng ov klowneul upressas free thu langwdg 

Book burn about turn 

While the following event happened in 2019 it only came to light in press reports last week. 

Mass public book burnings have gone so well in the past that you’d think anyone with half a brain would steer clear of those torch-lit, brown-shirted, jodhpur-clad optics. Not so in National socialist Canada, where a school board in Ontario went all in on a program of burning problematic books in their district. 

Nothing to see here, though, because it was all about reconciliation: 

The project, entitled Redonnons à la terre — “give back to the earth,” in English — was intended “to make a gesture of openness and reconciliation by replacing books in our libraries that had outdated content and carried negative stereotypes about First Nations, Métis and Inuit people.”

That’s alright then. 

The offensive books included usual suspects like Tintin in America and Asterix and the Indians, as well as biographies of explorers Jacques Cartier and Étienne Brûlé. But the cull even caught some surprising bycatch in its net with investigative journalist André Noël’s 2000 children’s historical novel Trafic chez les Hurons added to the pyre. 

In a first-rate display of cakeism the board’s spokesperson on the one hand trumpeted the inclusionary nature of the committee that made the original decisions: 

[M]any Aboriginal knowledge keepers and elders participated and were consulted at various stages, from the conceptualization to the evaluation of the books, to the tree planting initiative…

While at the same time regretting that: 

[W]e did not intervene to ensure a more appropriate plan for the commemorative ceremony and that it was offensive to some members of the community. We sincerely regret the negative impact of this initiative intended as a gesture of reconciliation…   

The last word goes to esteemed Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau (who has famously had his own issues with brownshirts brownface and blackshirts blackface) who said that it’s not up to non-indigenous people to “tell Indigenous people how they should feel or act to advance reconciliation”.  

See, I told you it was okay. 

Glottal stop strop 

The Toronto Star last week brought us the heart-wrenching tale of Vancouver ‘decolonial facilitator and strategist’ Ta7talíya (pronounced Ta-ta-li-ya) Nahanee (she/her). It is the horror story of Nahanee’s brave struggle against the injustice of not being able to have her recently acquired ancestral name on her passport.  

Who are the racist Canadian colonial oppressors inflicting this intolerable pain on a proud indigenous woman? , I hear you ask. Well, no one, actually. 

Canadian Immigration department systems: 

[M]ust abide by the current International Civil Aviation Organization standards to ensure all passports and travel documents are machine-readable since they are used in computer systems by domestic and foreign border-control agencies, airlines and airports…

 In other words, it’s an important international system that all countries adhere to for very good reasons. It just can’t accommodate numbers in a name, even though the number in this case is actually a glottal stop 

Nahanee’s problem arose because of a Canadian government initiative to allow indigenous people to ‘reclaim their indigenous names’ on official documents. Which may be all well and good for those who were forced to take ‘English colonial names’ but Nahanee isn’t one of those. She was christened Michelle by her grandparents and father, and only received her ancestral name in 2019. Doesn’t sound much like ‘reclaiming’ to me, but no matter.  

The main thing is that despite its good intentions the government should be blamed for something outside its control: 

“It’s just another one of these announcements of the government patting itself on the back for acts of reconciliation and yet without the actual fulfilment of that reconciliation,’” Nahanee said.  

And has there been an avalanche of applications since the announcement?: 

According to the immigration department, as of July 30, it has received fewer than five requests for replacement passports issued in reclaimed Indigenous names. There has been no such request for replacement permanent resident cards or citizenship certificates.

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