Wednesday, 27 April 2016

How To (Not) Work in Solidarity With Black and Indigenous Peoples

By Dr. Toby Rollo
Twitter: @TobyRollo

So you want to work in solidarity with black and Indigenous peoples. Well, here are a few things you should know but probably haven’t considered.

First, black and Indigenous peoples aren’t homogeneous. They do not hold monolithic perspectives on any issue. There is, at times, deep disagreement within these communities. You cannot and should not adjudicate between them. However, you cannot and should not use disagreement as an excuse to avoid accountability. Like it or not, you’re going to have to make some tough choices.

If you thought you could get away with ducking disagreements and fetching coffee, you’re in for a big surprise. Working in solidarity means being accountable, and you are only accountable insofar as you do work – intellectual or physical – for which you can be held to account.

Monday, 18 April 2016

The White Fantasy of Being ‘Indian’: A Brief Reflection on the Daniels Decision

Dr. Darryl Leroux
Twitter: @DarrylLeroux  

It has been several days since the Daniels decision came down from the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC), and not surprisingly, it is being welcomed by an incredible range of organizations and individuals. To be clear, I'm cautiously favourable to some of the decision’s likely impacts, but I want to take a moment to focus on the section that is getting the most attention among those organizations and individuals that I am familiar with given my research.

Let me begin with the following statement, offered by Justice Rosalie Silberman Abella on behalf of the court, which is being repeated over and over again by nascent “métis” organizations a little bit all over: “'Metis’ can refer to the historic Metis community in Manitoba’s Red River Settlements or it can be used as a general term for anyone with mixed European and Aboriginal heritage,” Abella wrote. “There is no consensus on who is considered Metis or a non-status Indian, nor need there be. Culture and ethnic labels do not lend themselves to neat boundaries.”

“Now I am Metis: How White People Become Indigenous,” Native Studies Speakers' Series, University of Saskatchewan, March 12, 2015.

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Informal Women Workers Globally: Breaking Through the ‘Concrete Canopy’

By Dr. Gisèle Yasmeen
Twitter: @gyasmeen

We are at a turning point in the global economy including “jobless growth” partly due to technological change as well as changes in the system of production, distribution and trade. This is challenging assumptions about the relationship between the economy and work. Perhaps nowhere is this more evident than in the informal economy.

Informal work is on the rise in both the global North and global South, particularly as a livelihood for the urban working poor. “Although the informal economy is associated with low productivity and low-income countries, it does contribute to growth and is becoming more significant in high-income countries” explains WIEGO (Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing), a global research, policy and advocacy organization supporting informal worker organizations. Women in certain regions often engage in informal work, which, by definition, lacks basic social protection such as health insurance, occupational health and safety in addition to other decent work conditions. 

Thursday, 7 April 2016

New Opportunities and Challenges for Alberta’s LGBTQ Movement

Dr. Alexa DeGagne

Alberta has not been the most hospitable place for social justice movements such as the lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans(gender) and queer (LGBTQ), feminist, anti-racist, labour, environmental, or immigrant movements or insurgent Indigenous movements. In the case of Alberta’s LGBTQ movements, various Progressive Conservative (PC) governments (1971-2015) used a combination of targeted anti-gay and anti-trans(gender) legislation and policies. At the same time the province’s many PC governments systematically denied the needs of, and mostly refused to engage with, LGBTQ people, communities and movements.

Conservative governments and their allies deployed various strategies of diversion, scapegoating, and erasure. LGBTQ people were brought into public discussion only when attention needed to be diverted from other issues, favour needed to be won from the PC’s socially and religiously conservative base, or LGBTQ activists and the Supreme Court of Canada forced the PC government’s hand. Given this hostile environment, one might assume that robust social justice movements, and specifically a LGBTQ movement, do not exist in Alberta, or if they do exist they have not been able to affect substantive change in the province.

Yet it actually serves the purposes of some of those in formal power to deny the existence and effectiveness of social justice movements. In the Alberta case, the provincial PC government long argued that LGBTQ people were an abnormal minority of citizens and they should not be taken seriously, much less listened to by the government. But I hold that since such social movements have been largely shut out of the formal channels of politics, we need to look outside formal politics to understand how and why Alberta’s LGBTQ movement has developed, grown and changed over the decades.

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

On Suruç, Refugees, and Self-Fulfilling Prophesies

Dafna Rachok
Twitter: @DafnaRachok

In the winter of 2014-2015 I spent some time in the small town of Suruç on the border between Turkey and Syria. I was there as a reporter, covering the story of Kurdish refugees and the siege of Kobane. Except for a few nights spent in a refugee camp with people who became my friends, I lived with other reporters and volunteers in the Amara Cultural Centre, a site that would be damaged by an explosion in a suicide bomber attack a few months after I left.

While in Suruç I made friends with many people from all over the world. People were constantly coming to write stories on Kobane, and Suruç offered a more or less safe crossing into Syria. The problem, though, was that crossing the border was only possible if the local governor, a very moody man who liked to blame foreign journalists for writing “Kurdish propaganda”, issued you a permit. Journalists would wait, sometimes for days, for his mood to change and allow a few dozen reporters to cross the border.