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The other side of policy

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Photo by: Ron Dyar

Policies are used to govern a society, a people, an organization etc. Policies are never set in stone. Or rather, they should never be made with the intention of being permanent. As time passes and as natural and unexpected changes occur, policies in turn need to be refined.

Systemic racism exists in large part, due to lack of governments and other institutions, re-evaluating the limitations of old policies. Path dependency is easy. It probably even saves money, since no change is made. However, certain kinds of path dependencies can have long-term destructive impacts.

Path dependency can be fatal. Kalief Browder (an African-American) was imprisoned as a teenager, based on allegation of crime. At some point, he was transferred to solitary confinement. There was never a trial before his imprisonment. Not too long after his release from prison, Browder committed suicide. Imprisonment of a teenager, without trial. If you may, let that sink in. The prison industrial complex in the United States (US), as well as in Canada has enabled the over-representation of certain minority groups.

Alarms are currently being raised about the significantly high rates of mortality for Black women during childbirth, regardless of socio-economic status. What kinds of past or maybe, recent policies are causing this anomaly? What are the new policies that need to be adopted in the US healthcare sector, to curb the mortality of Black women during childbirth? These are only a few of the questions that the government, doctors and other health care workers need to be brainstorming seriously.

On the note of health care, Nigeria continues to experience a serious brain drain of doctors because the latter, want and deserve fairer treatment. The catastrophe of this loss will boomerang on the welfare of the masses, as well as on the purse of the Nigerian state. Why not the state, negotiate better pay policies with doctors and save several lives? Why not the state, negotiate better working condition policies with doctors, so that Nigerians who do not have money to go abroad for healthcare can stand a chance at survival?

Policies are made to be changed.

The Uighurs of China are a religious and ethnic minority group who are currently experiencing surveillance and incarceration by the Chinese government. They are not quite free to practise their faith in a secular nation. China’s human rights stance is an aspect of the nation that has been quite unchanged, even amidst its huge economic accomplishments. Systems, policies, standards should constantly be up for debate by those in power.

Failure to consider who and what are constantly being marginalized by policies (whether written or unspoken/convention) will boomerang. Whether through protests, increased government/institutional spending on a preventable issue, high mortality rates, violence, shortage of labour etc.

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Forming in the present, shaping the future

History is of the past but not necessarily something that should be forgotten, unspoken of or left to wither away. History is the fabric of cultures and societies. It is accessible via story-telling, libraries, movies etc. History shapes the present and the future.

A week ago, together with some other social justice advocates, I was reflecting on the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. I was thinking of ways that Canada could create a more respectful, just and inclusive society for the nation’s Aboriginal population who have long faced marginalization. In accordance with the theme of the conversation, I was asked what I thought reconciliation means with respect to Canada and Aboriginal peoples. So, I said: Reconciliation starts by recognizing the contributions that Aboriginal people have made to Canada and how there has also been a “cultural genocide” on Aboriginal peoples. In Canada, we do not talk about the issues. We talk about Canada being a multicultural and peaceful society but we do not talk about the issues. So, for reconciliation to happen – we must acknowledge the past, learn from it and develop ways to build a better present and future.

That is the summary of my contribution to the question asked. I also did allude to the fact that no matter how filthy the past has been, it has to be acknowledged and learned from not hidden. From articles I have read, conversations I have been engaged in, Aboriginal people in Canada want the racism that they and their ancestors have faced in the past to be recognized and they want a reconciliation. They want a better Canada that will not deny Aboriginal people of their human rights. To reconcile, Canadians have to see the issues in many treatments that were forcefully put upon Aboriginal people. Canadians have to see the issues with the past and realize that some actions of the present are merely but a less severe rendition of that past because Aboriginal people still live in disappointing economic and social conditions here in Canada.

I was born and raised in Nigeria but not until I left the country (for school) and certainly became more mature, did it begin to dawn on me that I did not know a lot about my history. Colonization swept away cultures and I ever since I realized that, I have made a conscious attempt to keep educating myself, to keep seeing value in what the colonizers may have deemed crude, to never cover up my identity, to never let anyone make me feel that my culture does not matter based on his/her ethnocentrism. History is shaping my strength, shaping my resistance and shaping my ability to encourage people from different cultures and nations, that they are good enough and their identity, accent and culture matters. If we dwell on imitation, we lose our identities and it becomes a loss to future generations.

History also gives people the ability to celebrate those who have shaped our present in a positive way – whether they are still living or no longer with us.

History forms from the present and is a vital reference for the future. Make a commitment to never let a part of your history (community, family history etc) die.

Love,

Chiamaka

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Nadya Kwandibens; Touring Canada To Shatter Stereotypes Through Photography

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Pictured above: Nadya Kwandibens

The negative portrayal of Aboriginals by the Canadian media and sometimes, by members of the Canadian public is something that has been of great concern to me. So also have been other forms of mistreatment of Canada’s Indigenous peoples. Yesterday, I had a Skype interview with popular Aboriginal-Canadian photographer, Nadya Kwandibens. What got me interested in interviewing her was the nature of her job – Nadya tours Canada capturing happy, beautiful and very impressive images of Indigenous communities. Ms. Kwandibens’s images are in great contrast from the sad representations of Aboriginals that are promoted by the Canadian public. Aboriginals are usually portrayed as people who are not peace-seeking, constant irrational complainers, and as people who possess a culture that hinders them from progressing. I am so glad that I got to interview Nadya. I love that she has moved out of her comfort zone to deconstruct very harmful stereotypes. Here are the excerpts of my interview with Nadya: – Tell us a little about yourself I am 35 years old. I am Ojibwa. Originally from Northwestern Ontario – a small reserve called Northwest Angle thirty-seven. About an hour South of Kenora. However, I moved to British Columbia(BC). Right now, I am on tours. I will be on the road for a month and a half or so, not as long as the tours that I have done in the past. I run a photography company called Redworks Photography. It is a dynamic touring photography company. I am on the road for pretty much most of the year. – When did you establish Redworks Photography? I founded it in 2008. – Before then, did you use to tour or it was after you started the company that you began to tour? Really, how it all began was I started doing portrait photography. Up until then, it had only been a hobby. It was about a year or so after I started doing portraits that I began professionally shooting in 2006. So after about a year and a half or so, that’s when I started touring. I thought, you know, the only way to get more exposure and get my work out there is to travel. So I have been pretty much travelling ever since. – I have seen your website – http://www.redworks.ca . You take a lot of positive images of First Nations communities in Canada. You capture a lot of happy moments and really lovely images that will just give one positive energy by mere looking at them. You capture the kinds of moments that the media fails to show the public. You tour around Canada too. I want to know what inspired you to take on this kind of job? All the imagery that we were subject to while we were growing up, the native history – and that is not very positive and in the news and all that, seeing our stories and they are not portrayed in a positive light. It’ s all very negative – focusing on protesting and all that sort of trials and tribulations coverage that our people are always getting. Just looking at that overall and then thinking to myself, there is something that my art can do to help shed a more positive light on who we are as so many diverse Nations across Canada and even in the States too. I always come back to my artist statement. It’s on my website. – Have you experienced any challenges with your job? Yeah. Pretty much wherever I shoot. I don’t shoot in studio. One of the reasons Redworks was called Redworks studio at a time was because the intention I had was to actually open a studio in Toronto. I just travel so much and I love travelling and pretty much all of my shoots that I do are improvised, so there is the challenge in that and I really love shooting with natural available light. I don’t travel with big lighting kits. It’s just me and my camera. Another challenge I guess with being on the road is just, I guess, finding time for yourself. That would be the main challenge. Although, it’s become easier over the years. This is my seventh year of touring.  – You are really experienced at travelling. From all your experiences, what are some exceptional things that you have noticed about Canada? Like, is there a particular city that has an awesome landscape or maybe there is the best city to get waffles at? Hmmm … Well, BC is beautiful. It would be one of the most beautiful provinces I have ever been to. As far as different must-dos or must-haves in each city, I am not sure. – I have your vision statement here and I am actually going to read the part of it that I really like (and I saw a part of it in your recent CBC interview). It’s: “If our history is a shadow, let this moment serve as light. We are musicians, lawyers, doctors, mothers and sons. We are activists, scholars, dreamers, fathers and daughters. Let us claim ourselves now and see that we are, and will always be great, thriving, balanced civilizations capable of carrying ourselves into that bright new day.” That’s just beautiful. How did you come up with that? I am not sure where it came from. I was just really moved by how thriving and vibrant our Nations are and how much you don’t see that and for it to be partly poetic, I guess, is just how I write and how my personality or spirit expresses itself . A lot of people really connect with the statement. – What encouragement can you give to fellow Aboriginal-Canadians who are also interested in correcting the stereotype? I always say, “just go for it”. You have this life here, it’s important to go for it. Put away your fear. Once you think something and you put an idea out there, there is always people or situations that will come together to make it happen for you.

How To Contact Nadya Website: http://www.redworks.ca Twitter: @_RedWorks

Love,

Chiamaka.

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The Mistreatment of Aboriginals and The Footprints of The Colonizers, In Canada

Oh Colonization. You had both benefits and problems. The latter cannot be exempted. Being an African in Canada and an African who aims to break down the stereotypes that non-Africans have of my people, I very often fill-in the footprints of colonization. I hardly hesitate to say “Our (Nigeria’s) official language is English”, when a surprised acquaintance or friend tells me that my English is so good. I very often feel the need to have no non-North-American accent in the land of the Westerners. I very often feel the need to speak like the white man. Oh, colonization. I am not the only descendant of a former colony who tends to stick closely to the culture of the colonizers. If you have ever visited Canada, you will know that the culture of its colonizers – the British, still lives on here. It is purposely preserved by the federal government. I do admire it in some cases. I love the historical buildings, I enjoy the designs in-and-out of the pubs. However, there are some negative and worrisome colonial traits that still pervade in my dear Canada. These are with regard to the treatment of First Nations people in Canada.

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Their decision to stick with the culture and practices of their ancestors without compromise has long caused them to be treated with less value than non-Aboriginals, in Canada. During colonization, Aboriginals were mandated to totally adjust to the societal systems of the colonizers. Also, Aboriginals were not allowed to pass on their culture under colonial rule. Even now, long after colonization, these individuals earn less than the minimum wage; the rate of employment for Canada’s Indigenous peoples is “about two-thirds of the national level.” Lack of jobs sometimes leads idle hands to get dirty. Aboriginals in Canada have higher rates of alcohol abuse than the national level. Also, the death rate among Aboriginals is “about three times” higher than the national rate. While I have heard that the federal government has issued apologies and offered funds to Aboriginals for the dark history of discriminatory treatments that they have had whilst living on Canadian soil, there is still more work to be done. The cases of missing and murdered Aboriginal women are yet to cease. Early this month of May, there was a report that according to the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN), over 1000 cases of missing and murdered Aboriginal females have been discovered by Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Just when one would have thought that those horrible stories of Aboriginal women being more vulnerable to murder than non-Aboriginals in Canada, had become things of the past. I have mentioned during conversations with friends, my disgust at how Aboriginals are marginalized in a country like Canada that is known and celebrated for having a very diverse population. On some occasions I was replied with: The problem is with their culture. Now that’s the echo of colonization. That’s the trail of the colonizers being followed. No human being should be vulnerable to violence, segregation or discrimination because of his/her race, culture, gender or religion. The federal government of Canada needs to enact strict regulations that protect Aboriginal persons from being victims of violent attack and discrimination. Also, as the government has it’s huge role to play, so do members of the Canadian public. We need to change our mindset. There is no one best way of living. Not the European, African or Asian ways of life. No. Every individual has the right to stick to the culture that best suits him/her without being queried. The mosaic of a multicultural society like Canada is that the different cultures that exist will make the state beautifully unique and more understanding of difference as opposed to homogeneous societies. Rather than believe that Aboriginals should push their cultural heritage aside and dissolve in Canada’s ‘melting-pot’, we should all agree that measures should be put in place to support Aboriginals’ culture in such a way that it is beneficial to them in an all-round way. I look forward to a day when Aboriginals will be treated without discrimination and given equal opportunities to succeed, just like every other Canadian. Last week, I received the petition below via Change.org. Please take a moment to read it and consider signing. Thank you! https://www.change.org/en-CA/petitions/hon-kellie-leitch-minister-for-the-status-of-women-call-a-public-inquiry-into-hundreds-of-missing-and-murdered-aboriginal-women-like-my-cousin-loretta-saunders?utm_source=action_alert&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=57261&alert_id=wQkThaSAET_LHEtVv70qA1TFdHQ5KvFUZ%2FUTDyEyoxEtpyB7vEaSBY%3D  

My Questions For You – How do you think prejudice in society can be curbed? – Do you have other examples of negative effects of colonization that still exist in former colonies? 

Love & Peace,

Chiamaka.

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