Sunday, September 12, 2004

Before I forget

Before I forget: I must plug a certain CBC show with a certain host I love (no, Ian, Jian or Rick, but Evan this time.)

Airing on CBC Newsworld this Tuesday at 11 p.m. is a Hot Type special probing Canadian identity, TRUE CANADIANS: THE NEXT GENERATION.

From the Hot Type site:

Episode Overview

The inspiration for this special was a multiculturalism lecture by independent filmmaker Mina Shum (Double Happiness; Long Life, Happiness and Prosperity) at the University of British Columbia in June. Shum sits down with Harewood to talk about growing up in Vancouver as a “hyphenated girl,” as well as her films, which are both Chinese-Canadian and universal in that their themes include coming of age with parents who have traditional values, leaving home and dealing with inner demons. Shum also talks about the irony of her dual identities. While she looks Chinese, she’s sometimes accused of not being “Chinese enough:” she’s too loud and demonstrative, dresses inappropriately, carries herself as if she owns the place and dates outside her race. “Chinese girls don’t drink beer,” she was once told by a Chinese man she was out on a date with. When she responded that not only does she drink beer, she actually likes it, she says: “I could see him cross me off his list.”

Harewood also interviews University of Toronto professor/historian Michael Bliss, who believes one of the reasons Canada embraced multiculturalism was in reaction to the horrors of World War II and the realization that cultural tolerance and human rights must be protected in advanced societies. Author/professor Sherene Razack responds by contending that newcomers to Canada are still very much excluded, particularly economically.

Archival footage of author Neil Bissoondath, who emigrated from Trinidad when he was 18, illuminates another side of the immigrant story. He checked his national identity at the border and argues against the policy of multiculturalism. Bissoondath feels multiculturalism has set English Canada adrift because there is no set of values around which citizens can rally, leading them to ask ‘who are Canadians?’

Rounding out the picture, Harewood talks to the musicians of Vancouver group Tandava, whose members are a mix of ethnic backgrounds encompassing Irish-Czechoslovakian, Bangladeshi, Taiwanese and Jewish. They sing the praises of multiculturalism and their Canadian upbringings.

This, I think, is going to be pretty timely. Just last night I was telling my mother how difficult--though necessary--it is for me to nurture a self-concept/identity as a citizen of the world who is foremost a Canadian. The difficulty is, of course, in identifying what exactly "Canadian" is. We cannot continue to define "Canadian" in terms of what it is not.

Canadian writers, politicians and intellectuals have tried for decades to eke out a suitable, though malleable, definition (of course, "Canadian" cannot be expressed in terms of ethnicity, religion, or genealogy). But how can something be malleable without being partial, simplifying, divisive or half-truth?

I look forward to Hot Type's take on this.

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