“FINDING MR. WONG: A TALE FROM CANADA’S EXCLUSION ERA” IN NEW CANADIAN MEDIA

Chinese Canadian History: Mr Wong

In New Canadian Media, June 1, 2019

The story of Chinese immigration to Canada is best known for two things. First, the arrival of Chinese labourers in large numbers in the late 1800s to build the crucial last link of the Canadian Pacific Railway—the most difficult and dangerous section which required crossing the Rocky Mountains. And second, for the institution of a head tax meant to dissuade those very men from remaining in the country once the work was completed…

Read the full article Finding Mr. Wong: A Tale From Canada’s Exclusion Era here.

“WRITING MR. WONG” IN THIS MAGAZINE

In This Magazine, Nov-Dec, 2012.

This is the backstory to Finding Mr. Wong, the book on the life of Mr. Wong and why it has been possible for me to write it.  In the first instance, this is because of the help and openness of Chinese Canadians who made the search not just doable but successful beyond any expectation. The changes in Canadian society since Mr. Wong’s death in 1970 has meant that the close, familial association across race we had is no longer so unusual; it’s become a commonplace experience. Canadians have taken to practicing diversity at home and work, and slowly it’s become part of our identity. We’ve pride in our multicultural cities, and see multiculturalism as an ideal, a standard of tolerance and non-discrimination.

Read the article "Writing Mr. Wong" online here.

“N’TOW’WIK’HEGAT (SHE WHO KNOWS HOW TO MAKE IMAGES)”

In Net wikuhpon ehit — Once there lived a woman, The Painting, Poetry and Politics of Shirley Bear, Curator, Terry Graff. Fredericton: Beaverbrook Art Gallery, 2009.

"To know Shirley Bear is to experience her language, the Wabanaki language spoken by the First Peoples living in the valley of Wulustook (the Saint John River) and the community known as Negootkook (Tobique First Nation) where Bear was born and raised."

In 2009 the Beaverbrook Gallery in Fredericton honoured visual artist and writer Shirley Bear with a retrospective exhibition called Net wikuhpon ehit — Once there lived a woman, The Painting, Poetry and Politics of Shirley Bear. It was curated by Terry Graff who asked me to write this essay. I met Shirley when the PEN International Congress was held at Harbourfront in Toronto in 1989 and I was chair of the Writers in Prison of PEN Canada.  As we had access to the York Quay Gallery at Harbourfont along with other rooms, the WIP Committee invited Shirley to open Changers: A Spiritual Renaissance there. Changers was a touring exhibition of contemporary Indigenous women’s art organized by the National Indian Arts and Crafts Corporation and curated by Shurley. The artists were Rebecca Baird, Shirley Bear, Rebecca Belmore, Ruth Cuthand, Freda Diesing, Faye HeavyShield, Glenna Matoush, Shelley Niro, Alanis Obomsawin, Jane Ash Poitras, Joane Cardinal-Schubert.

Download a PDF version (897Kb) of “N’tow’wik’hegat (She who knows how to make images).”

“BOTH SIDES NOW: DESIGNING WHITE MEN AND THE OTHER SIDE OF HISTORY”

In Response, Responsibility, and Renewal — Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Journey. Eds., Gregory Young-Ing, et al. Ottawa, Aboriginal Healing Foundation, 2009.

"Along with the narrative about the founding of Canada by both the French and the English came the notion—preached by the likes of Emily Carr and Marius Barbeau, as well as D.C. Scott—of Aboriginal culture constituting Canada’s ancient past, the prehistory upon which the modern nation could be built and with which an authentic Canadian culture could be fashioned.... The story of Canada I was raised on, thus, denied the connection between assimilation and appropriation, between the past and the present."

For several years I worked on the issue of Traditional Knowledge with Greg Young-Ing who was a founding co-chair of the Creator’s Right’s Alliance in 2002 along with Michel Beauchemin and me (representing respectively Indigenous Peoples, Quebec and Canada). Greg was an editor of the second volume of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s anthology called Response, Responsibility, and Renewal — Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Journey, and following a conversation we had in Toronto about the non-involvement of Canadians who are not directly implicated in the residential school tragedy (ie. the State, the churches, the victims, and the individual perpetrators of abuse who happened to get caught) he suggested I write something. The third volume looks at “Cultivating Canada — Reconciliation through the lens of Cultural Diversity" and also makes the point that reconciliation is everyone’s business.

Download a PDF version of the essay "Both Sides Now: Designing White Men and the Other Side of History."

“WRITING ALONG GENDER LINES” IN LANGUAGE IN HER EYE

In Language in Her Eye: Views on Writing and Gender by Canadian Women Writing in English (Coach House Press), 1990.

This collection of original essays, articles, and commentaries by 44 distinguished authors, poets, fiction writers, essayists, biographers, and journalists includes contributions from Margaret Atwood, Dionne Brand, June Callwood, Barbara Godard, Janette Turner Hospital, Linda Hutcheon, Paulette Jiles, Dorothy Livesay, Daphne Marlatt, Erin Moure, Erika Ritter, Jane Rule, Gail Scott, Carol Shields, and Susan Swan. Topics include the existence--or lack thereof--of a specifically female or feminist point of view; appropriation of voice; the influence of various currents in feminist literary theory; the particular versus the universal, and the ambiguities inherent in such issue. Articulate, revelatory, and humorous, these essays are essential reading for those interested in the most transformative and influential social and cultural movement of this century.

BOOK REVIEW: “POLITICAL WIVES: THE LIVES OF THE SAINTS” IN BROADSIDE

"PACKAGING POLITICAL PARTNERS"

Book Review of  Political Wives: The Lives of the Saints, by Susan Riley. Toronto: Deneau, 1987

"If the world were evolving according to a feminist agenda, political wives would be on the endangered species list next to the Eskimo Curlew which once flourished on this continent in hearty numbers but is now so rarely sighted that it is presumed extinct. Instead, in this fin de siècle era of post-feminism and primetime electioneering, she has made a startling return, a comeback which has been completely scripted and staged."

"Packaging Political Partners" can be read online via the Broadside: A Feminist Review digital archives.

“D’UNE COLONIE À L’AUTRE,” IN SOCIOLOGIE ET SOCIÉTÉS

In Sociologie et sociétés, Critique sociale et création culturelle, Volume 11, Number 1,  Les Presses de l'Université de Montréal, avril 1979.

Article abstract:

Despite the pessimism which emerges from her survey of Canadian culture, the author sees clear signs of a renewal and a burst of creativity among Canadian artists and intellectuals who contribute in this way to the strengthening of Canadian society and culture in the face of the dangers of Americanization. "Canadian nationalists who look favourably on the strengthening of Quebec nationalism hope that these national movements will evolve to the mutual advantage of both societies."

Résumé:

Malgré le pessimisme qui se dégage de son tour d'horizon de la culture canadienne, l'auteur voit des signes certains d'un renouveau et d'un sursaut de créativité chez les artistes et les intellectuels canadiens qui contribuent ainsi à l'affermissement d'un projet canadien de société et de culture, face aux dangers de l'américanisation. « Les nationalistes canadiens qui observent d'un bon œil le renforcement du nationalisme québécois espèrent que ces mouvements nationaux évolueront à l'avantage mutuel des deux sociétés. »

You can read "D’une colonie à l’autre (from Colony to Colony)" online here.

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