in april 2010, i learned from CBC radio that Nova Scotia is to house Canada’s immigration museum at Pier 21. apparently, the decision was made a couple months prior.

i moved away from there around the same time… with a very dirty taste in my mouth. as a visible minority and racialized, child of two immigrant parents, born, raised, and participant in its institutions, i am less than amused about the potential for the museum to promote the image of Nova Scotia as an accepting place to land.

sure, my parents lived the “american dream”. but they suffered horribly due to barriers that were explicit forms of racial discrimination. many social science undergraduate students in Canada will know of the injustices to black high school students in Cole Harbour, that, until recently,were purported by officials as merely teen antics.

in my own experience, i saw “white vs black” battles split student bodies, my multi-cultural group of friends separate into social cliques and physical ghettos, was called every slur-name in the book as a kid, and cat-called every exotic-name as a teen. as an adult, i witness others go through the same experiences as my parents, and as i have and did while living there most recently.

in my wildest dreams, the museum will ratify the injustices that occurred, and continue to occur to immigrants establishing themselves in NS. realistically, i know this highly unlikely. i’m sorry.

excuse me as i raise a weary eyebrow to the state’s “sorry” state. even for Nova Scotia’s most recent apology and pardon for the racist jailing of viola desmond for sitting in the whites’ section of a theatre over 60 years ago. i can’t help but think it’s all part of a multicultural public relations campaign to attract international students, new immigrants, and tourists from the rest of Canada, who may be inclined to go… say, anywhere else instead.

surely i understand the desire to attract “foreign investment” to this province, but i could not comfortably recommend NS as a good place for any visible minority that is new to Canada. Immigrant integration services are sparse and tools to succeed as an international student suck compared to many cities in Ontario, Quebec, and British Columbia. of course, maybe that’s the point? the province one “lands” in gets a huge lump sum, whether or not one stays. international students pay tuition fees that are nearly three times more than the price for domestic students. whereas both student groups have similar attrition rates, the internationals have often been fiercely hunted to bolster the domestics. one failed international student + one failed domestic student = tuition for one 4-year domestic undergraduate. better yet, if the international student makes it to year 2 on his/her own volition, marks for the student body go up and the university now gets the equivalent of 5-6 years of tuition.

at best, i perceive government messaging to “incorporate” immigrants as well-meaning but offensive; and partly to blame for reifying model minority stereotypes. this leaves individuals stuck on un-learning the spectrum of stereotypes from the media around them, (potentially, hopefully?, with the help of this “immigration museum”), rather than in a face-to-face dialogue.

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One of two ways potential students from China are recruited includes “…shapely models in tiny silver dresses who paraded back and forth along a lit catwalk, waving scarves covered in red maple leaves and the word “Canada””, as reported by Mark MacKinnon in his article in yesterday’s Globe and Mail article. While Recruiting Chinese Students: A Work In Progress, and readers’ comments take voice many concerns, there are two that have received little or no attention: a) globalization of ideas (e.g. race, citizenship, modernity, etc.) according to neoliberal market schemes for education, and b) accountability of actors like Jin Jielie Group, that is “specializes in matching Chinese students with foreign schools”. The former is far too lengthy and complicated for me to think through and present here. The latter does not preclude responsibility of schools, governments, communities that support services of recruiters, and do not follow-through with products that can be likened to those flashed to would-be buyers, by Jin Jielie Group.

Someone must be paying Jin Jielie Group. Someone is not paying or saving from the incredible international tuition fees that Chinese and other foreign students must pay to attend school in Canada.

And while we’re at it… How about the “multicultural” ads for universities that are just not much (of anything) more than a bunch of local residents’ “next step” after high school. If universities are in the game of business (and they are), where and with whom can customers (misled as they [likely] may be) able to seek counsel? Who is accountable?!

Generally speaking, private high schools and larger universities provide excellent “customer service”. Positive student/parent experiences provide long-term outcomes and branding… here and abroad. It is the quick and dirty practices of smaller, financially insecure, reputably weaker institutions that are disconcerting. They grant admission to just about any foreign student (e.g. required LSAT score is very low, encourage non-degree status with empty promises, discriminate against them for on-campus job opportunities). These smaller schools push the photo of token multiculturalism, but after first installments of international student tuition is banked, students are left to fail and go home in shame.

In consideration of school reputations worldwide, small & weak Canadian schools have sought low levels to compete. It’s a sexy sham.

My advice: small or large university, stick to those with better research reputations. They are less likely to cheaply sell themselves (unfortunately, it’s because they need good students in their puppy-mills to support research outputs, but hey! at least there’s something in it for students too).

why nova scotia infuriates me

February 16, 2010

there will always be a part of nova scotia that stays with me*, but this post is about my anger towards this province.

the extreme prices of food are one aspect. while locally sourced blueberries, milk, and seafood are quite abundant and delicious, the prices are exorbitant. i’ve met blueberry farmers that sell every single berry to U.S. companies, for various reasons, which are related to the ongoing struggle of food prices faced by farms and communities who purchase the berries back from their round-trip “vacation”.

something is also askew when working an hour for minimum wage barely makes the purchase milk accessible at the sale price of $7.50 for 4 litres of milk. that is, if one works.  as of January 2010, the unemployment rate is 9.8%.  according to a Statistics Canada release Nova Scotia was the only province to increase its unemployment rate since July 2009, by 0.2%, whereas the national average decreased by 0.1%. not that i want to get into the health implications here (or even claim milk is superior to other drinks at all), but you wonder why one might prefer soda, at 99cents for 2 litres compared to milk?

meanwhile,  NS seafood farmers champion the “locality” of their goods over foreign products, but export their goods around the world and source labour from offshore workers and temporary immigrant workers.

immigration awareness...to what effect of cost savings?

something doesn’t add up: high unemployment among naturalized citizens + immigrant workers + “local” food sold “globally”…

the common thread tying together this factors, in an inequitable equation for the unemployed, immigrants, and those who experience food insecurity is the Nova Scotia government. as well as “hire an immigrant” programs, government funding is provided for initiatives such as “select nova scotia” and many food security projects. partnerships including farming associations, government, academics, tourism industry partners, social/community agencies, consumer groups, and others appear to be a great start. but these problems are not new, and despite making new governmentally supported friendships, the same people are suffering exploitation and subordination by (now explicitly sanctioned) social, economic, and politically cemented projects.

i soon plan to write about what positively stands out about the social, politic, and economic aspects of nova scotia. in the meantime, peruse some of its natural beauty at: flandrum hill

sorry, i didn’t mean to startle you. please please!, don’t get mad and send someone out to get me, i know that in many places such utterances would signal troops for my arrest. continue reading please to see where i’m headed with this one…

the above statement was told to an audience of approximately 45 undergraduate students (including myself) during a lecture on the morning of 9/11. the professor rationalized, “if you really want to shake a country, you hit’em where it’ll hurt most – [in canada,] their kids, future leaders. and for greatest impact,” he continued, “it would be right here or x”. 

since x was only miles away, and in the same city, you can imagine the horror this professor incited upon students who were already awestruck by the morning’s news.

thereafter, academic institutions across canada and in the u.s. announced implementation of security measures. this was surely also affected by columbine shootings and other violence covered in the media.

nonetheless, i believe that in canada, we continued to believe nothing so sensational could happen. the shootings, injuries, and deaths at montreal’s dawson college changed that.

the flurry of media attention was, for the most part, deserved and well-communicated. in recent years, pre-cautions have been taken to avoid mongering unwarranted fear amongst the public, exploiting victims, and raising the status of criminals.

HOWEVER!

i have observed over the years many, MANY incidents and threats of violence to the university community that never hit major news outlets. of course, i am especially keen on university security since i have been involved as a student since 1999. during my attendance at various major universities in canada and the u.s., including living on campus or very near it, i have become aware of a significant divide between: a) mass media about university safety affairs; b) affliate-oriented security briefings, c) what really happened.

sure, this gloss of the news occurs in the coverage of many events (although, the press tends to be quite thorough when i comes reporting certain things like restaurant reviews). but how does one assert the ‘truth’, or more specifically, how do i know we’re getting told the whole story, if at all? the presence of “added” security measures is an instant indicator, since in my experience it’s always been “added” retroactively. but i have personally witnessed such unannounced occurences and threats of violence in the hall, gym locker room, dining hall, etc.

for instance, a few years ago, my friend was tearfully shocked after having been nearly pulled into a passing car as she returned from skating practice. i went with her to report the event to campus security but never saw any press about it at all. i’ve heard many stories about sexual assault that never hit the news either.  campus rape tends not to make news unless in multiple numbers. what about the first, or the second…

interestingly, of all campuses t which i have spent longer durations of time, they are all located in (or just on the cusp) of neighbourhoods considered to be very dangerous relative to the rest of the city. the populations are often black, which has, in my opinion played out in many ways. one of the most important is tendencies toward hostile othering based sheerly on first impressions of race. while i cannot be sure, (even my nosiness and sleuth-skills won’t allow me to), but i suspect the murder of graduate student Amadou Cisse was racially influenced. i suspect the thugs did not identify him as a student because of his darker skin tone. sadly, if he had been white, i think he would be alive today. the irony of a predominately white-populated school coming in to a black neighbourhood to “revitalize” it, makes its white students seem “untouchable”. very unfortunately, Cisse’s black appearance did not provide this university-affiliated glow and thus shield of protection.

i’ve said so much and yet there is much more. mid-terms are this week and i really must get on to wrapping up here…

in a roundabout way, i just started thinking about all of the above in relation to the tightlipped “news release” about the University of British Columbia’s lockdown. read the article if you wish, but basically the RCMP can’t and won’t say or deny what happened on campus at the Biological Sciences Building.

for now, i ask that you question the intent behind secrecy of these and other campus related events. who is really benefitting in campus-community partnerships? what root problems have been superficially covered with the pretty academic landscape? 

how many threats are necessary before the university puts it’s reputation on the line to admit it’s not just admission requirements and tuition rates that are scary?

oh, canada…

January 31, 2008

oh canada!

what’s been going on since i’ve left? yes, i’ve been being skimming the headlines. but i never thought that some of the outlandishly proposed or cautioned would actually materialize.

in the news today:

afrocentric (black-focus) schools have been approved in Toronto, starting 2009 – news articles HERE! and HERE TOO!

  • personally, i’m worried about the consequences. living in chicago now, i can only think of greater neighbour segregation, racism, and all that bad stuff down the road. admittedly, i haven’t read all of the literature, but for now: oh dear…

lockdown at UBC – cbc report HERE!

  • i haven’t been able to find an update, but i’ll prolly post it RIGHT HERE since i want to write a separate post about it anyhow.

…or perhaps that might be too conspiciuous for Canadians.  That is, we might mar our non-partisan image if we were to outwardly pronounce our affinity for, abilities in, and *allowance* of all things green

Nonetheless, I appreciate the comedic value of veiled maneuvers, such as the recent announcement that Victoria, BC is going to be the first place in North America to install pop-up urinals.  It’s not so much the the concept of these urinals that first drew me to this story.  Rather, I wanted to see how the journalist would write the story, which facts s/he would select to incorporate.  To see the article I am speaking of, click HERE.

My favorite chosen fact is that Victoria is described as being known for its “hanging baskets” – that all?

My favorite reluctant fact is that the unique stalls are said to be from a “Dutch company”. period. and nothing more.  – wow! holland and canada have a lot in common *cough*

My favorite obscure fact: “A report to city council said pub patrons, not homeless people, accounted for most of the instances of public urination. Staff made the determination after monitoring use of the urinals.” – ok, so what are they doing about the good homeless people who are not peeing in the street?

My favorite quote is “We are confident in the relationship between the bar crowd and public urination.”  – thanks for that.