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Rethinking Canada this new decade

One of my preoccupations as a creative worker: what does it mean to be Canadian?

What layers of being make identity complex: citizen-settler-immigrant—Canada was/is a promised land, a paradise, but it is jagged.

I was born in a city the British named Poona, now Pune, in the state of Maharashtra, India. My parents brought me to Newfoundland and then to Labrador, and then to Northern Quebec and Ontario and then we moved across this country.

For several years of my earliest growing up, I didn’t know I wasn’t Indian like the Cree children I played with while my parents taught in schools in places like Fort George and Deer Lake. I still remember the day my mother explained to me that we were “not that type of Indian,” when I came home crying because I couldn’t attend a birthday potlatch for my friend.

Years later, my father enrolled as a divinity student at McGill. He would be ordained into the Quebec conference of the United Church. He was one of only a few South Asians to minister to “white” congregations. We were at that time sent to Saskatchewan.

All those hymns I learned. I was a Sunbeam in choir and when older, I wore a CGIT midi uniform. (Canadian Christian Girls in Training).

Christian Girl in Training Pin from the 1930's.
Christian Girl in Training Pin from the 1930’s.


We can know things in our minds.

We can study, nod our heads. We can watch the news on TV, scroll our phones for what’s trending.

We can hear the word, Truth.

And then there are moments that become epiphanies.

Meeting Chief Robert Joseph as a guest of Dr. Mark Winston.

Nodding my head. Earnest and smiling. Listening and crying.

Hosting a UBC Book Club meeting: around the table we sit and read and study the words of Chief Bev Sellars (They Called Me Number One): all these moments resonate. Or, they resonate and then life intervenes. All our busyness.

And maybe then the moments return because they are not yet done with us.

Nov. 6, 2019, at the Residential School History and Dialogue Centre:


“He refuses to this day to step inside a church.”
(As told to me by my friend JW about Bill Wilson).


“…I’m curious, was there not one instructor who was helpful to you?”
No, no one in that whole school.”

(Geoffrey Carr, July 25, 2013: Interview with Chief Robert Joseph, in Witnesses: Art and Canada’s Indian Residential Schools, September 6 – December 1, 2013), Morris and Helen Belgian Art Gallery, UBC.

Maybe this is how deeper change happens—for some time now, as I read and listen to Indigenous writers such as Jordan Abel, Joanne Arnott, Billy Ray Belcourt (A Country is How Men Hunt), Therese Mailhout (Heartberries) and many more; as I observe the pain and discomfort this word and concept, “Canada” carries for many—as I read and reread documents about Indian Residential Schools, I’m becoming more and more uneasy with my own implication in structures, and systems.

And this comes to me: Language is a structural system.

So, this new decade: thecanadaproject, my lifelong poem chronicle, will now be thecanada?project

Moment to epiphany to reflection to memory, hold the door, a threshold, and we take first steps, howsoever small and imperfect—one punctuation mark at a time——

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PS Flight 752: Two Articles on Violence and Public Mourning

The missile strike against a civilian plane, PS Flight 752 on January 8, 2020 triggered grief and memories of a much earlier bombing on June 23, 1985.

Here are two articles that contemplate violence within the context of history and solidarity, as we both grieve for the families who lost loved ones and offer a few thoughts:

My Aunt Died in the Air India Bombing. The Iran Plane Crash Brought Back My Grief

I grew up reading Chatelaine, an iconic Canadian magazine geared to a female readership. This week they contacted me to write about grief and here’s a little of what I said:

Iran plane crash flight 752 memorial
People gather to remember victims of the plane crash in Iran in Vancouver, B.C. on January 11, 2020. (Photo, Mert Alper Dervis/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

I hate flying and will do anything to avoid air travel. Well-meaning friends often tease me, offering self-help tips: take melatonin, or a red-eye flight so that you can sleep.
I nod and smile, but inside, there’s a familiar sinking feeling, the same pit-of-the-stomach contraction that happens whenever images of plane crashes pop up on social media. Like they did on January 8, as the terrible news of the missile strike on Flight 752 began to saturate the media…”

Read the Full Article at Chateleine

Canada’s collective grief over the Ukrainian plane crash brings to mind the 1985 Air India tragedy

Dr. Angela Failler at the University of Winnipeg, recently published this very thoughtful piece at The Conversation about public mourning and the linkages between the two tragedies:

Flight PS752 Remembrance
A member of the Iranian community in Calgary lights a candle during a memorial for the victims of Flight PS752 crash. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Todd Korol.

And so, as further details of the tragedy in Tehran unfold and political players in and beyond Canada negotiate their stakes, I expect that public memory will shift along with it, including how the incident and its casualties are remembered and understood.

This is how public memory works: When new information and investments become present, we tend to revise how we make sense of the past.”

Read the Full Article at The Conversation

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Nov 11: Surrey Remembers

Image by the City of Surrey.

Take in the Remembrance Day service at the Cloverdale Cenotaph in Veterans Square at 10:25am. After the ceremony, warm up with activities at both the Museum of Surrey and the Surrey Archives.

At Museum of Surrey

The museum foyer will open at 9:30am with free coffee and hot chocolate. Given the ceremony outside, the full museum will only be open from 12-1pm. A temporary exhibit by Steven Purewal will be set up in the foyer, highlighting the pivotal role that Sikh soldiers played in WW1.

10:25 – The ceremony begins in Veterans Square.

11:45 – ‘Canadian Nurses in War Time’ by Renée Saklikar and Ishbel Newstead. The poem-play, written by Surrey’s former poet laurete, is an artistic response to an exhibit about Canadian nurses in war time. Research for the poem-play was by Ishbel Newstead, a dedicated volunteer with Museum of Surrey and Historic Stewart Farm.

12:30 – ‘Who Am I?’ by Adhel Arop. The film tells the story of Canadian model Adhel’s quest for identity as she reconciles with her mother’s past as a child soldier in South Sudan.

Click Here for More Details

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TWOC Press Release: Canadian Lawmakers Recommend Sweeping Progressive Improvements to Copyright Law

May 16, 2019

For Immediate Release

Canadian Lawmakers Recommend Sweeping Progressive Improvements to Copyright Law

The Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage yesterday released its long-awaited report on artist remuneration, as part of Parliament’s Statutory Review of the Copyright Act. Titled Shifting Paradigms (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site., the report makes twenty-two key recommendations focused on strengthening the rights of artists to control and earn from their work in the digital age.

The Writers’ Union of Canada (TWUC) applauds the report and its recommendations, which include several changes suggested by the Union in its own 2018 testimony before Parliament. Since 2012, Canada’s authors have suffered a disastrous income collapse resulting from uncompensated copying of published work by the educational sector. With its industry partners, TWUC asked for better definition of the educational market. The Heritage report delivers on that request, with a series of recommendations aimed directly at the problem:

18. That the Government of Canada amend the Act to clarify that fair dealing should not apply to educational institutions when the work is commercially available.

19. That the Government of Canada promote a return to licensing through collective societies.

21. That the Government of Canada harmonize remedies for collective societies under the Copyright Act.

“The Heritage Committee really heard Canada’s professional creators,” said author and TWUC Chair Eric Enno Tamm. Tamm’s own Heritage Committee testimony ended with strong words that clearly informed the Committee recommendations:

“Fair dealing needs to be fair, not free, for educators, and we need a Copyright Board that’s more than a paper tiger. Significant statutory damages will give the Copyright Board some teeth in dealing with those who don’t pay their tariffs. If we value culture, then we must value the work of those who produce it.”

“It’s less than a day old, and this report is already making waves in the global creative community,” said John Degen, TWUC’s Executive Director and Chair of the International Authors Forum. “I’ve heard from colleagues as far away as New Zealand and South Africa, who will now be approaching their own lawmakers with this Canadian report in hand. It’s authoritative because it comes from a balanced, all-party committee that took its time, and responsibly tested the questions put to it. They took testimony from all players in the copyright debate, and asked a lot of hard questions of everyone.”

“Many TWUC members sent in submissions and provided testimony, as did our publishing colleagues and Access Copyright,” continued Tamm. “We want to thank everyone who helped to advance this conversation. And, especially, we would like to thank the Heritage Committee Chair, MP Julie Dabrusin (L), and Vice-Chair MPs Pierre Nantel (NDP) and the Honourable Steven Blaney (C) for their meticulous work on this study. That a multi-party study concludes so strongly in favour of artists and professional creators is extremely encouraging.”

The Heritage Committee report is one of two expected in Parliament during the Statutory Review of the Copyright Act. The Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology is expected to deliver its own recommendations soon, informed by the Heritage report and by broad sectoral testimony.

The Writers’ Union of Canada is our country’s national organization representing professional authors of books. Founded in 1973, the Union is dedicated to fostering writing in Canada and promoting the rights, freedoms, and economic well-being of all writers.”


For more details:

John Degen, Executive Director
The Writers’ Union of Canada
416.703.8982 ext. 221

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Access Copyright welcomes Shifting Paradigms recommendations

The Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage tabled its report, Shifting Paradigms, in the House of Commons yesterday (May 15, 2019). The report focused on Remuneration Models for Artists and Creative Industries as part of the Parliamentary Review of the Copyright Act.

The full report may be found HERE.

Over the course of the Copyright Act review, many Access Copyright members and affiliates lent their support for copyright reform and better protections for Canadian creators and publishers by sending a letter to INDU and Heritage committee members through the I Value Canadian Stories coalition’s website. It’s true: When creators speak, politicians listen. Your efforts have made a difference.

The Shifting Paradigms report includes recommendations that – if adopted – will benefit Canadian writers, visual artists and publishers. Access Copyright commends the Committee for its recommendations, that the Government of Canada:

  • Amend the Act to clarify that fair dealing should not apply to educational institutions when the work is commercially available;
  • Promote a return to collective licensing through collective societies;
  • Review, harmonize and improve the enforcement of the statutory damages for infringement for non-commercial use in section 38.1(1) of the Copyright Act;
  • Harmonize remedies for collective societies under the Copyright Act;
  • Establish an artist’s resale right.

This is important validation for Canada’s creative and publishing industries and the concerns we’ve voiced since education was added as a fair-dealing purpose in 2012. Thank you to everyone who took the time to send a letter, file a submission or appear before the Committee; your efforts have helped MPs and policymakers arrive at these positive recommendations.”

The full Access Copyright statement is available HERE