Thursday, October 27, 2016

#WS3330F Blog Post #10: Frankie Banks - Fugitive Slave Narratives

Fugitive Slave Narratives by Benjamin Drew.
Blog Post.
Frankie Banks.

“In justice … to the heroic female who was willing to endure the most extreme suffering and hardship for freedom, double honors were due.” William Still.

This quote from Still perfectly describes how heroic Black women were during the slave trade and how they should be celebrated for their acts. However, when looking at Canadian history you will struggle to find much work on Black women in the slave trade, for several reasons. One of these reasons is because Canadian history has seemingly written them out because to feature them would mean Canada having to acknowledge that slavery happened and was fully legal here. Also, Black women specifically are written out potentially because of the negative stereotypes surrounding Black women, stereotypes which originated during the slave trade. When exploring resistance in slavery and slave rebellion women are again further excluded again because Canada doesn’t want to admit that slavery happened and because slave masters would have been reluctant to admit their slaves had out smarted them and escaped so these stories would have rarely been told or investigated.

One text which does tell the story of Black fugitive slaves is The Refugee; or, the Narratives of Fugitive Slaves in Canada. Related by Themselves, with an Account of the History and Condition of Colored Population of Upper Canada by Benjamin Drew. It is an important text because it contains narratives of Black women who escaped slavery. It is an interesting text in the way it addresses the testimonies of fugitive slaves in Canada. Firstly, Drew introduces the topic of slavery, explaining that it was the most “irritating subject of discussion between the North and South” and something which he disagreed with as he was an abolitionist. After this he introduces different cities or towns in Canada before noting down the testimonies of Black escaped slaves who lived there. In the introduction, he addresses the argument that Southerners use to justify slavery, that in Southern cities there is order and the streets are quiet because Black people do not have freedom and the belief that slaves are happy. He disputes this argument because he explains that if a slave is happy it is because “he is ignorant of his condition” and he then uses the testimonies to support his argument that slaves are unhappy and they escape to Canada to finally be free.

Have you heard of Harriet Tubman?

I’d be surprised if you haven’t.

Harriet Tubman is arguably the most famous heroic and defiant women of the Slave Trade and hers is one of the first narratives we come across in the book. Her narrative is one that is taught throughout high schools across the world, however she is primarily associated with America, not Canada. Although there are remnants of her Canadian legacy in Canada such as the Harriet Tubman Institute for Research on Africa and its Diasporas at York University. We can assume that she is largely remembered in American history as apposed to Canadian because she was raised a slave in America and returned there multiple times to help hundreds of fugitive slaves escape to Canada through the underground railroad. Not only was she incredibly brave to return to a country where she was a wanted criminal but she defied expectations of a Black person and as a woman and therefore is rightfully celebrated. However, her celebration could allow for some to argue that heroic women are given equal weighting in history, especially with Harriet Tubman being recently added to the $20 in The United States but Drew highlights other equally defiant women who also deserve recognition.

A key woman who’s narrative deserves celebration is that of Mrs John Little who was a domestic slave in Tennessee until she was an adult when she was sold away from her husband and employed in hoeing cotton, a job she struggled with because of blistered hands and the heat. She was obviously a clever woman because after working here for several weeks she had persuaded her owner to also buy her husband and so he came to work on the plantation too. They quickly planned their escape together, but her husband had to leave earlier because he was threatened with the ‘paddle’ for disobeying the master. After his escape Mrs Little truly showed her defiance by refusing to give up his location or tell the master anything of their plans, she even comments that despite being put under watch she was “too cunning” for the master and managed to escape. After being reunited with her husband they had a very tough journey to reach Canada which included them nearly being killed after being noticed as runaway slaves, so it’s clear to see that Mrs John Little – despite her first name not being given in this book – was clearly an impressive, defiant woman. Her husband sums this up when he says “I did not realize it then; but now I see that she was a brave woman.”

Mrs John Little wasn’t the only woman who was cunning and defiant during their time in slavery, another testimony that supports this is that of Nancy Howard. Nancy was a slave in Maryland who explains that in slavery “when you tell them the truth, they whip you to make you lie. I have taken more lashes for this, than for any other thing, because I would not lie.” Her refusal to lie is a clear indication of her resistance to slavery, her refusal to be controlled and her expression of her autonomy. This rhetoric of Black slave women refusing to be controlled and using ‘small’, or passive, acts of rebellion is translated into fiction as seen in Lawrence Hill’s The Book of Negroes. In this novel the protagonist Aminata learns to read and write without her masters permission and then when she escapes she is able to build a life for herself because of these skills. These narratives depict the harsh realities faced by both men and women during these times but more importantly they give a voice to the Black women whose voices have been left-out of mainstream Canadian history.

As I previously mentioned, these narratives are found under chapters titled by location. It was incredibly interesting to read the narratives of people living in London, where I am currently studying because it’s a piece of history that seems long forgotten when I ask people here about local history. Drew does an excellent job of explaining the circumstances of every city and London had schools open to children of all colours however the population of Black children was very small because of the prejudice they faced from white children and even the white teachers. This very fact is probably why this history is forgotten in London, other communities and Canada as a country, because people want to forget that Canada had, and still has, racist beliefs.

Drew creates a book which explores multiple slave narratives to create a collection that accurately depicts the life of refugee slaves from all areas and genders. The result is the creation of a powerful book which every Canadian should read to fully understand the history of slavery, the underground railroad and racism/prejudice in Canada. A video discussing a film which explores rebellious and defiant Black women during slavery. Video of Viola Davis’ acceptance speech at the Emmy’s where she quotes Harriet Tubman and addresses racial inequality. Video exploring the life of Harriet Tubman and her amazing contribution to the underground railroad.

#WS3330F Blog Post #9: Naciza Masikini - Angelique's Story of Resistance

Slavery in Canada: Marie-Joseph Angelique’s story of resistance
The Hanging of Angelique by Afua Cooper
The Atlantic Slave Trade was started by the Portuguese in 1444, when they sought access to the Gold Trade in Africa. They  began by forcibly taking Africans from their countries, until they found willing slave traders in the countries of the Gold Coast (Sierra Leone, Guinea, Guinea Bissau and Senegal), as well as Angola and the Congo.  The Atlantic Slave Trade/ Slavery continued on until 1860. Portugal dominated the slave trade for the first 250 years,  until Great Britain took over.  The Portuguese and other Europeans were interested in Black slaves as labourers in their home countries but also in their new Western colonies. Portugal and other European colonies had citizens, who lived in varying degrees of poverty, however this was not a problem that the Crown wanted to fix by providing the necessary infrastructure. Instead, the Crown supported the migration of its citizens to the new colonies (i.e. Brazil, the West Indies, and the Americas, etc.).   When we think of slavery in the Americas, we often envision plantation slavery. This imagination makes it very difficult to place slavery within the Canadian context. Even though, Slavery was institutionalised in Canada for 206 years.
When Canada was a French colony, known as  New France, there were both Panis and Black slaves.  (Panis slavery was the enslavement of Indigenous peoples in Canada.) Black slaves were not brought directly to Canada and as a result in 1688, Marquis de Denonville and Jean Bochart de Champigny appealed to King Louis the XIV, for “Negro slaves” to be brought to New France. King Louis  XIV did not formally grant this appeal until 1701, but by that time the French settlers along with their Indigenous allies, Abenaki and the Iroquois, had been capturing slaves from the English to the South. They also bought slaves from New York and New England.    In New France, most people owned slaves. Since, the climate did not support plantation slavery the majority of the slaves engaged in domestic work and other  town functions, such as executioners and boats-man. The fact that the majority of Canada’s slaves were domestic, when slavery in Canada is acknowledged, it is often framed as milder or better or that Canadian slaves were happier. Domestic slaves still suffered. Their suffering was often because they lived in their master’s/ mistresses homes. As a result, it was difficult for domestic slaves to form  a sense of community, as they were under the constant watch of their owners. They faced constant scrutiny, as a result. For Black women,  this meant that the slave owners had more access to them and more opportunities to enact sexual violence on their bodies, whether that be through rape or forced ‘breeding’. Breeding is what occurred when two slaves are forced into a sexual relationship so that the slave owner can gain more ‘property’. The violence they experienced was varied but these slaves were not idle in the face of their own oppression. They resisted.
Black resistance, throughout the slave trade era took on many forms.  Some organized, like the Black fraternities that originated in Portugal. These fraternities sought to protect all Blacks both slaved and free, performed marriages and petitioned to have laws changed (e.g. King Manuel on street vendors).  Other forms of resistance were more violent.  Marie-Joseph Angelique was accused of setting fire to her mistress’ house on April 10,1734. This fire burnt down most of , what is now known as, Old Montreal. Slaves remained defiant . They spoke back to their owners and in some cases ,engaged in le petit marronage. This was when a slave ran away for a few days or weeks to show their owners that they didn’t own them completely and that they didn’t have to put up with their owners. While every slave did not become a free Black or runaway (marronage),Black resistance has always been present, in the face of Black oppression. Despite Canada’s efforts to rid itself of its past, Canada would not be what it is today, if it didn’t enslave Indigenous or Black peoples. The Underground Railroad may have ended in Canada but that does not absolve Canada’s involvement and investment in Black slavery and Black oppression.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

#WS3330F Blog Post #8: Papouleh Abdie - Ain't I a Woman, bell hooks

Ain’t I a Woman – bell hooks

          The site at which Black women experience subjugation has been historically, and continues to be, located at the crossroads of, at the very least, their race and their gender. In her book, Ain’t I a Woman, bell hooks argues for the recognition of the intersecting oppressions Black women encounter by analyzing the context of significant historical events in the lives of Black people, and particularly Black women. In addition, she emphasizes the hardship this divide of oppression causes Black women on a regular basis as it at times requires them to choose between prioritizing their Blackness or their being a woman. Hooks divides the book into five major sections, Sexism and the Black Female, Slave Experience Continued Devaluation of Black Womanhood, The Imperialism of Patriarchy, Racism and Feminism: The Issue of Accountability, and Black Women and Feminism in order to pinpoint the origins, and trace the lineage of the very specific intersectional race and gender based oppression experienced by Black women.
Hooks’ begins by focusing on the ways in which Black female slaves, although not historically remembered so, had to endure very harsh, anti-woman treatment, in addition to the racist one that the Black men endured (7). While the male slaves were exploited for their labor on the field, females slaves exploited for their labor the field, in the houses as a caretakers or housekeepers, or as ‘breeders’ of new born slaves (28-9).  While the male slaves experienced intense physical brutality in order to achieve submissiveness, female slaves endured this as well as well as sexual assault, most prominent between the ages of 13-16, and the harming of their children; relatedly, they were coerced into “prostituting themselves” in exchange for their safety, safety of their children, food, and water (26).
It is important to note here that this would not have been these women’s first encounter with sexist behavior as that was something they most likely has already experienced at the hands of Black men, rather, this might have been their first experience with sexist behavior inspired also by racist hatred; thus, marking the start of a race and gender based subjugation that continues to haunt the lives of Black women in contemporary Eurocentric societies (87).
Although patriarchy did in fact exist on its own in Africa, and African women were consistently subjected to it, the slave owners introduced news ways of subjugating women (87-8). These new forms of female subjugation when taken up by Black men, worked to create a form of male bonding between Black and white men. So, as described by hooks, while racism has always been a force that has worked to separate black men and white men, sexism has always been a force that has united them (99). Unfortunately for them, Black women continued to be the target of violence and assertion of male dominance by both of these groups of men.   
Black women’s subjugation and violation continues to be diminished and minimalized through its being referred to as a thing of the past, rather than as a thing with a long lasting impact (30). This inaccurate claim works to discount the reality that the violently sexist and racist brutalities that Black women endured throughout slavery set a precedent for the now deeply rooted institutionalized marginalization and sexual exploitation faced by Black women on a daily basis; contemporarily, Black women continue to be used as means to an end for achieving the ultimate levels of control and conformity, and thus profit, by those in power. It is important to actively emphasize that, because of this, most Black women constantly find themselves without allies that are sensitive to their intersecting identities; they are often forced to either identify with their Blackness, in which case their experiences with sexist behaviors are discounted, or they identify with their woman-ness, in which cased their experiences with racist behavior are discounted.
           It is because of this sense of dysphoria felt in both Black movements and women’s movements that there was a need for the creation of specifically a Black feminism. Inspired by the likes of Sojouner Truth, “a prominent abolitionist and women’s rights activist,” Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin, a black woman activist, Fannie Barrier Williams, a Black woman suffragette, and Anna Cooper, a Black feminist in support of higher education, Black feminism centers around the lived experiences of Black women and addresses both Black women’s race and gender (160-73). These Black women’s rights activists differed from most of the white feminists in that they possessed the lived experiences necessary to properly inform their activism, and performed their activism in a manner that was non-exclusive of other populations.

Kerry Washington performing Sojourner Truth’s “Ain’t I a Woman”

Friday, October 21, 2016

#WS3330F Blog Post #7: Sally Crowe - African Canadian Feminisms: Back to the Drawing Board

African Canadian Feminisms: Back to the Drawing Board
Njoki Nathani Wane, Katerina Deliovsky and Erica Lawson

While Back to the Drawing Board identifies experiences of people from different classes, sexualities and origins, these experiences have shared backgrounds and histories in relation to oppression as a consequence of racism and the effects of colonialism. Njoki Nathani Wane Tamari Kitossa and Dolana Mogadime all offer differing perspectives that unite through their comments on Black feminist thought. Njoki Nathani Wane’s writing Drawing on the Experiences of my Sisters comments on Black feminist thought from a Canadian perspective. Throughout this essay Wane identifies the issues inherent within feminism, she stresses the fact that White feminisms do not include Black feminist thought, “Theories such as Western feminism, which seek to explain the nature of women’s oppression, may not speak directly to the experiences of Black women” to which she lays out the focus of her essay by posing the question: ‘is Black feminist thought no more than White mainstream feminism with a prefix?’ Her research she carried out with her class of students in 1999 carried her to this conclusion, -“Black feminist thought is a theoretical tool meant to elucidate and analyse the historical, social, cultural and economic relationships of women of African descent as the basis for development of a laboratory praxis. It is a paradigm that is grounded in the historical as well as the contemporary experiences of Black women as mothers, activists, academics and community leaders. It can be applied to situate Black women’s past and present experiences that are grounded in their multiple oppressions.” Throughout this essay Wane also wishes to articulate the issue that Black feminist though on African-American theory doesn’t speak to Canadian experience and she stresses the importance of the need for a theoretical framework that doesn’t fragment African-Canadian women’s experiences.

Tamari Kitossa’s writing Criticism, Reconstruction and African-Centred Feminist Historiography looks at African-centred feminist historiography. Throughout his essay, Kitossa raises important issues with the construction of Western feminism and brings to the foreground questions about racial representation and the idea that Western feminism chose to neglect radicalized women, thus setting up a framework that misrepresents and entire gender.

Dolana Mogadime’s work approaches Black feminist thought through more of an educational stance, her chapter looks at Black women in graduate studies and offers a ‘critique of the limitations that contribute to the oppressive reproduction of Black women who are marginalized in the world of academia.’ Dolana introduces her essay by stating, ‘the institutional climate at the departmental level in higher education poses particular challenges to Black women and other women of colour who are graduate students and faculty’, ultimately supporting Linda Carty’s argument that her work as a Black woman teaching at university level is ‘rare’ and how this in turn highlights the unacceptably low level of racial inclusion of Black women in high education institutions. Dolana Mogadime carried out a study at two universities where she looked at how the professional social environment and socialization plays a role in the development of academic careers. Throughout he study she found that Black students faced more scrutiny and underwent significantly more constraints as they went through the socialization process, outlining that White graduate students were more supported for academic positions while Black graduates were not, thus identifying the racial lines and limitations prevalent in the academic sphere and calling for a self critique and change in Canadian institutions of education.

Furthering Dolana Mogadime’s argument, Wane’s final essay addresses African-Canadian Women and the Academy. Wane addresses the issue that ‘marginalized groups show how the educational system has been locked into a paradigm of Euro centrism.’ Wane highlights that one of the most prominent issues within education results from the fact that the validation of information on certain subjects relies on the hegemony of White males, they set the criteria and information on what is regarded as valid knowledge, ‘the knowledge produced by marginalized groups is subjugated by the dominant group and the exclusion of Africa-Canadian women scholars from academic courses demonstrate the euro-patriarchal structure in place.’ To conclude her work, Wane articulates the need for African-Canadian women to talk about their experiences and the need for these realities to be translated into the academies so that a critical space for Black feminist thought can thrive.

#WS3330F: Blog Post #6: Lydia Weigel - Black Feminist Thought

Gender, Race and Migration: Black Feminist Thought

Black Feminist Thought is situated in a global and transitional world. It looks to the future, while paying homage and respect to the past. What is unique to Black Feminist Thought, is that it is sustained through an unspoken spirituality that is not prevalent in the white feminist movement. The memories of slavery, migration and resilience offers another perspective of social transformation that is needed to equalize the lives of Canadian Black Women in mainstream white society.

Theorizing Empowerment: Canadian Perspectives on Black Feminist Thought is a key collection of essays evaluating feminist theorizing in Canada. Jazmine Zine, Assistant Professor in the department of Sociology at Wilfrid Laurier University reviews ‘It is indeed empowering to read the new critical imaginings of Canadian Black Feminist scholar/activists as they theorize the fractured and shifting spaces of identity, community, and nation in a globalized post-modern world.’ As mentioned, its focus on spirituality is endearing. Through Wane and Neegan’s deeply engaging essays and research on spirituality between rural women in Embu Kenya, and Burnt Ground, Jamaica, we come to see spiritualty as a form of resistance. This reliance on spirituality is indicative when exploring African resistance. This spirituality, not necessarily religious often connects Black Canadian women, but it act as somewhat of unspoken kinship. African ancestry connects the lives of many Black Canadian Women today. At the bottom of this page there is YouTube clip, of three Black women who met each other 30 years ago in Russia, having been reunited after all this time, they express in a conversational, colloquial manner why they felt so connected to each other all those years ago, which I believe is a great example of placing Wane and Neegan’s research into a ‘real world’ context and explaining this spirituality.

When looking at Black Feminism, it is vital to acknowledge that Black women experience a very different kind of oppression, one that is racist, sexists and classist. This is referred to as Triple Jeopardy. Black Canadian Feminists must then have an awareness of what ‘others’ they are not. This brings us to the question, can sisterhood ever truly be an inclusive movement? What feminism means to the white woman, is very different to what it means to the women of colour. Black feminisms runs counter to the mainstream view, whereas white feminism works within its realms. Canadian mainstream feminists have repeatedly tried to address the particulars of women’s oppression, however, what works for white women, doesn’t necessarily work for women of colour, e.g. the issue of domestic violence. Thus Black Feminism is necessary to empower black women, not just within the context of Canada, but all around the world. Black Canadian Feminist theory holds the stories of many Black women living in Canada which not only provides them with recognition but provides them with a framework that shine light to other Black women who paved the way.

Incorporating spirituality into our everyday lives: what I like to call a ‘self-care checklist’
(Taken from Theorizing Empowerment: Wane and Neegan, pg42)

  • 1.       Begin with nurturing the inner self.
  • 2.       Become aware of our weaknesses and strive.
  • 3.       Ritualize our lives through methods such as singing, storytelling, humour, ceremonies.
  • 4.       Constantly remind ourselves of who we are and where we come from and that the spirit that live in us lives in all of nature’s creations.
  • 5.       Constantly remind ourselves that spirituality evolves from exploring and coming to know and experience the nature of living energy moving in each of us, through us and around us.
  • 6.       Provide room for growth and learning from others.
  • 7.       Recognize the right for every individual to explore their spiritual identity whether it is religious or not
  • 8.       Understand the challenges of bringing spirituality into public spaces such as the academy
  • 9.       Acknowledge and accept there are multiple spiritual ways of knowing and that African women’s spirituality is just one of them
  • 10.   Aim for inner peace, including the understanding of multiple knowledge systems
  • 11.   Understanding the colonial context of what happened to spiritual knowledge and ways of knowing, how power permeates societal structures, and how this power is disseminated through pedagogical practices.

A cross-continental black sisterhood rekindled after 30 years:
Barbara Smith, ‘That’s not going to work for us’:

Friday, October 14, 2016

#WS3330F: Blog Post #5: Tyeona Wade - Women Migrating to Canada

Women Migrating to Canada
Race, Gender and Migration
Tyeona Wade
October 13th, 2016

In search for safety, opportunities, successes and fulfillments, women’s lives and personal experiences are marked by migration. Their gender and race influence these new markings. According to the United Nations (1990), large proportions of the world’s immigrants and refugees are women; the UN estimated that 80% of all refugees are both women and children. The United Nations (1994) claims that,“improving the status of women is increasingly recognized as fundamental to improving the basic human rights of over half the population of the world and also contributing to socioeconomic progress.” However, women who have migrated to Canada experience numerous
conflicts within their host society, complicating and or prohibiting self-expression and or socioeconomic progression.

More background information on immigrant women in Canada from Statistics Canada 2015: dq151021a-eng.html

The term host society, simply refers the new society that one migrates, such as Western society. In terms of self expression, heterosexual and lesbian women immigrate to Canada with restrictions on their sexuality. In many cultures, there is the pressure and importance of virginity brought from other
cultures and practiced here. In addition to these practices, a Western society imposes burdens and desires through prejudices and racism. For example, a Muslim woman immigrating to Canada with her hijab and the pressures of honouring her family by abstaining from promiscuity, may also have to deal with the West telling her that her head scarf is oppressive. Assuming the oppression of others, without listening to their beliefs and experiences, is oppressive in itself. Therefore, many migrant women are crossing sexual boundaries when they migrate to Canada. These boundary crossings
may include: refusing to marry young, living in a society where lesbianism is legal, along with the dating of men. And thus, new Canadian women also have to negotiate Americanization and Westernization, which are synonymous with promiscuity to outside cultures. Overall, family honour and women’s sexuality are inseparable for a lot of new Canadian women.

In addition to self-expression conflicts, many immigrant women experience issues with socioeconomic progression. Firstly, it is important to note that many women do not have the choice to migrate, as there are patriarchal family structures and political circumstances that force migration for women. Within transnational migration, men and women have different access to resources. However, race is also a factor. On October 7th in 3330F, we discussed the split labour market and how the racialization of immigration started to take place in 1906 to 1910; we discussed Canada’s specific desire for Chinese men to be railway workers. Moreover, we discussed the racialization
of immigrating Free Blacks and strategic restrictions later made in the early 1900s, such as payments made to Black preachers to discourage Black migration to Canada from the US. Also, scarce immigration resources and offices were available to West Indians and Africans, to limit Black immigration to Canada; the nation aspiring to whiteness in the early 1900s.

These historical acts of dismissal, influenced African immigration to Canada. Wong discusses the 1996 Canadian Census in her article, which revealed that 1, 054, 190 immigrants arrived in Canada prior to 1961…only 4, 945 were Africans, accounting for 0.5% of Canada’s immigrant population. However, these numbers started to grow between 1961 and 1970, when 25, 685 Africans arrived in Canada, but only accounting for 3.3% of all new Canadians. Mind you, Africans are not all one community. Therefore, this population consists of many diverse cultural norms, practices and socioeconomic profiles (Wong 47). Within the African immigration population, are Ghanians.

Ghana’s economy has undergone a crisis of stagnation since the 1970s, declining average wages and overall decline in social and economic standards of living. Because in many Ghanian home traditions of men taking care of their families, women account for 30% of Ghanian immigrants in Canada. However, the Ghanian women who are here, generally reside in Toronto and the great Toronto area. Although these are large Canadian areas with great opportunities, many Ghanian women find themselves struggling to prosper economically. Perhaps this influenced by the old and present issues of refugee statuses and work permits.

Welcome to Canada...

In between 1981 and 1996, many Ghanian women had to wait ridiculous amounts of time for
refugee claimants in Canada. In the meantime, work permits were also hard to attain for Ghanian women, relating to the historical undesired want for African and African women immigrants in Canada by the government. However, when and if Ghanian women received work permits, they were
required to pay a fee of $75 every six months, which then increased to $125 every six months. Coming from a poor economy with the hopes of succeeding in a more prosperous economy, you can see how these circumstances are discouraging and inconvenient.

In between refugee claimant and work permit struggles, many Ghanian women are expected to send money back to their families. Remittance, a transfer of money by a foreign worker to an individual in his or her home country and money sent home by migrants, can be burdensome for new Canadians experiencing racism and sexism. Not only did and do Ghanian women have to deal with not being desired as Black female worker in Canada, their credentials, along with other immigrant women’s credentials, are often dismissed and deemed less than Canadian credentials and experiences.

Madeline Wong shared interviews with Ghanian women, which revealed that the majority of them have a high-school diploma and post-secondary training. However, they are denied these positions in Canada, which usually come with social benefits and good pay to support their families. This has left Ghanian women,capable of being more prosperous, in precarious and deskilled positions.

Here are some examples:
Biama, teacher in Sorter at clothes factory in Canada
Edna, Maternity Nurse in Quality Controller of auto parts

Video example of financial strain on immigrant women in Canada:

Although Canada has many opportunities and is safer than a lot of other countries, it is evident that there has been social disenfranchisement, along with diverse sexuality negotiations for new Canadian women. All of which has been influenced by strategic practices in history and the present day. Canadian citizens are encouraged to assert themselves in more diverse policy making when possible!

Tyeona Wade

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

#WS3330F Blog Post #4: Laura Cullen - Gender, Race, and Migration

Week 5: Gender, Race, and Migration

            An immigrant is commonly defined as an individual who migrates from one country to another. The individual experiences of immigrants within Canada varies greatly dependent upon their race, gender, nationality, class, sexuality, and other life factors.  Himani Bannerji, a sociology professor at York University and the author of The Dark Side of the Nation identifies and exposes some of the realities of being an immigrant in Canada. The author explores what it means to either be an insider or an outsider in Canadian society.  According to Bannerji, to be a “Canadian” is to have white skin and a European, North American background (Bannerji 64).  The author discusses the issue of Canadian society places labels on individuals from the moment that they immigrate to Canada.  These labels never fade, regardless of citizenship and permanent residency, within Canadian society, there is common mentality of once an immigrant, always an immigrant.  There is a lasting paradox between a feeling of belonging and not-belonging.  One can gain citizenship but this does not give them membership to fit into society.           

            Author and sociology professor at UBC, Gillian Creese conducted a research study in Vancouver B.C. looking at the gendered experiences of African immigrants in Canada. The authors also draws attention to the varied experiences of immigration and settlement in Canada. Two key terms used in Canada to describe immigration is that it is a multicultural and diverse nation.  The dictionary defines Multiculturalism as “the preservation of different cultures or cultural identities within a unified society, as a state or nation” and Diversity as “the inclusion of individuals representing more than one national origin, color, religion, socioeconomic stratum, sexual orientation, etc.” ( Through the study, Creese found that African-Canadian individuals experienced discrimination based on their accent, discreditation of previous
credentials and work experience, and overall everyday racism in the workplace.

            If you are interested in the issue of what it means to be an immigrant or non-Anglo-Canadian in Canada, this TVO interview has many good points and is worth watching. . Also, this mini-interview with a married couple who immigrated to Canada from Bangladesh contextualizes the reality of resettling in Canadian society today.


Bannerji, Himani.  The Dark Side of The Nation: Essays on Multiculturalism, Nationalism and Gender.  Canadian Scholars’ Press, 2000.  (Chapter 2) 

Creese, Gillian, The New African Diaspora in Vancouver: Migration, Exclusion, and Belonging.  Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2011.  (Introduction, Chapter 5) 

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

WS3330F Blog Post #3: Joelle Kabisoso - Strangers at Our Gates

Joƫlle Kabisoso
Dr. Taylor
Women’s Studies 3330F
October 5th, 2016
Strangers at Our Gates
Immigration and Immigration Policy 

For most of its history, early immigration policies were rooted in overt discriminatory and restrictive practices despite the Canadian government’s attempt at creating an “open-door” approach to immigration. With the First Immigration Act being passed in 1869, the only restriction prohibited the entry of criminals. That being said, the policy was further amended to exclude paupers and destitute immigrants, with the latter excluding Chinese (The Head Tax Act of 1885), Blacks, Japanese and any other non-English or British foreigners. 

In a race to attract and encourage settlement in the prairies, legislations such as the Dominion Lands Act and “3,000 Families Scheme” were introduced. These acts provided settlers with incentives such as free acres of land, guaranteed financial assistance from the British government and the promise of financing farms from the Canadian government. However, it is important to note, that these measures were only intended to attract settlers 21 years and older, British families, farmers, agricultural laborers, female domestics from Great Britain, United States and Northern Europe and “men of good muscle who [were] willing to hustle.”

Throughout this reading, I found it quite unbelievable the measures governing bodies took to exclude or discourage the entry of prospective immigrants into Canada. For example, under Frank Olivier’s leadership, the cancellation of the North Atlantic Trading Company contract saw a decrease in number of newcomers due to a change of system that would no longer provide bonuses for European agriculturalists immigrating to Canada. Olivier’s efforts to bar the entry of undesirable immigrants, led to the movement of re-encouraging British immigration through propaganda and advertising.

Additionally, under the Macdonald government, the introduction of the Transcontinental Railway equally presented problems for the country and the status of immigration. This initiative was intended to bring settlers from the West to the East and aid in economic growth, but only resulted in Macdonald taking extreme measures to extinguish the aboriginal title of the land, the displacement of indigenous people into reserves and the introduction of the Dominion Lands Act. This program was financed through the government, and despite great efforts, Canada saw very few settlement from western settlers.  * Link to Heritage Moment showing the Macdonald government in favor of the Transcontinental Railway.  

With ever changing social attitudes and views on immigration, it is important to understand the impact a true “open-door” policy has on the state of our country. Immigration policies following the Second World War still manifested discriminatory practices and beliefs, such as the Immigration Act of 1952 and the Points System; however, it made way for a shift in policies. Contemporary Canadian immigration policies began to surface in the 1970s, resulting in the 1975 Green Paper Act, which was the first truly “open-door” and inclusive legislation that welcomed diverse ethnic groups into Canada, emphasizing the importance immigration has on our economic growth and our move towards a more “desirable society.” From here on, immigration legislations began to broaden and improve, and under a new framework Parliament introduced new governing acts such as Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, Department of Citizenship and Immigration Act, and the Citizenship Act in hopes of the process of immigration.

WS3330F Blog Post #2: Mariam Ahmad - A History of Canadian Immigration

A History of Canadian Immigration
“Gender and Race in ‘Non-discriminatory’ Immigration Policies in Canada: 1960s to the Present

Similar to the United States, Canada is one of a handful of countries where immigration has traditionally been a major shaping factor in society and culture. With its historically small population and vast untapped acres of unsettled land, Canada's immigration policy was initially fueled by a desire for expansion, with most immigrants settling in rural, frontier areas. However, this desire did not come without discrimination. In the early twentieth century, Canada began to control the flow of immigrants, adopting policies that excluded applicants whose ethnic origins were not European. There was a need for the “desirable” immigrant, in other words, those of European heritage were welcomed with open arms, while others were not.

Until 1966s, Canadian immigration policy was extremely racist. There were clear efforts to develop Canada into a white settler place, based on British traditions. However, change came when Canadians realized that skilled, professional and technical labour was needed and the explicitly racist criteria was eradicated and swapped for a points system. This system in particular was based on objective criteria and focused on education, occupational skills, occupational experience and knowledge of Canadian national languages (French & English). The idea was implemented in hopes that this would generate immigration from other parts of the world, and for the first time in Canadian history, the majority of those immigrating into Canada were of non-European ancestry.

However, this did not come without its own share of issues. Although the points system was supposedly non biased, it definitely favoured those who could bring the most use to the Canadian market. The point system essentially led to the commodification of immigrants, peoples value is based on their place in the labour market, and essentially on how much capital they could generate for the Canadian market, and not much else. 

Around the early 70s into the 80s is around the time Canadian immigration policy started to give special consideration to refugees and family class immigrants, in other words, immigrants who did not have to go through with the points system. Family class immigrants are defined as being close family members, spouses and unmarried children under the age of 18. Unlike independent immigrants however, they are not given some rights and benefits. They are admitted to Canada on a 10-year basis, under the dependence of their sponsor family who will partake in the accommodation, care and maintenance of the family. Family class immigrants however, emerged to be a very gendered category. Females are extremely overrepresented (59% compared to 41% male). One of the major reasons for this was that until 1974, women who were married were not allowed to enter Canada as the principle immigrant, they were always the dependent. In addition to this, there were two major reasons women were more likely to be classified under family immigrants rather than independent. Firstly, worldwide gender inequalities meant women have less access to opportunities for education and employment, Secondly, often times women’s domestic responsibilities interrupted their ability to contribute to the labour market.

Many women and immigrants in general did not have language proficiency in both English and French, which meant that they could not get access to jobs. To tackle this, the Canadian government introduced learning programs that also offered a small living allowance. However, entrance was heavily restricted and there was shortage of seats along with huge waiting lists, so many immigrants did not gain the adequate access to language learning that they required. By the 1990s however, the language program that had a living allowance was cut altogether. In replacement, the LINC was introduced – providing basic communication skills, and the LMLT – providing specialized training for those whose market skills were in demand. 

By 1994, measures were being taken against family immigration. While overall immigration numbers were being reduced, there was a decrease in the number of family immigrants and an increase in independent immigrants under the argument that family class immigrants were costing more money than they were contributing back into the economy.  The Canadian government managed to cut family class immigrants down from 51% to 30% and increase independent immigration to 52% from 43%.

Immigration from the late 90’s till now, as claimed by government officials, has been to reduce the deficit, saying all they have done is shift cost from the tax payer to the beneficiaries. The beneficiary meaning the immigrant or their sponsor family. Today, Liberal governments have claimed they want to reconfigure an immigrant-selection system in a rapidly changing labour market where a growing number of jobs are temporary and there’s “increasing mismatch” of available skills and the skills in demand.

(Immigration Today)

Monday, October 3, 2016

WS3330F Blog Post #1: Sam Erdelyi and Africville

Africville: A Broad Overview

Sam Erdelyi

The community of Africville is an important and telling example in Canadian history of the lives of Black refugees upon their arrivals in Canada, a country which had only recently abolished slavery. Africville exists along Bedford Basin in Halifax, settled by Black refugees around 1812. These refugees arrived in Nova Scotia on the promise of land and equal rights by British government. This was a common promise made by the British to Black people in exchange for joining wartime initiatives, particularly for those seeking to escape slavery states. In Africville, rather than land grants in exchange for services to the British army, residents were given licenses of occupation. This meant that the land did not legally belong to and could not be sold by its inhabitants.

Like most Black settlements in Canada, the land plots given to the refugees were too small and infertile to farm sustainably. Typically these communities were placed along the outskirts of town and were viewed only as valuable as the work they could produce for the neighboring White communities. Africville was no exception to this, with the plots of land located around the outskirts of Halifax. This was far enough away to keep the Black community socially segregated from Whites, while also close enough for Africville people to commute to work in Halifax. As a result, Africville became isolated and economically dependent on Halifax, leading to poverty throughout the community. At this time, Halifax was modernizing to include services such as sewers, streetlamps, a water system, police patrol and fire hydrants. Africville received none of these services and in fact were subject to several initiatives which negatively impacted the community’s ability to thrive. A rail line was built cutting through Africville, a prison established, a night soil disposal pit built along with a fertilizer plant, 2 slaughter houses, a city dump and several other industrial facilities. These builds lead to some (entry-level, general labor) employment opportunities, but the results were largely noise, soot, pollution and forced relocation of residents.

It is important to note, that while the community members of Africville were experiencing extreme racial discrimination, their community still thrived in many ways. In particular, a huge asset to the inhabitants of Africville was the establishment of their Baptist church. This provided a sense of community, a physical place to educate the community, and promoted Africville identity. Historically, churches in Black communities (usually Methodist or Baptist) have been used for these purposes, as under the Black Codes, Black people were legally barred from gathering in groups of more than 5, unless it was in church. As a result, Black churches existed as spaces of resistance against racism, as well as essential spaces to promote Black pride, community involvement, and support. These spaces are integral to the survival of marginalized groups in the face of oppression. It is quite clear that Africville’s church brought the community together, helping to ensure their survival.

In the 50s, it was announced that Halifax would start a major renewal program, relocating thousands of Africville residents. At this time the political atmosphere was largely pro-integration in Canada. This can be seen through the relocation of Africville children to schools in Halifax. As a result, rather than fighting relocation itself, Africville fought for more favorable conditions upon relocation. Unfortunately these conditions were never realized, and Africville’s people were scattered through Halifax with minimal government assistance and major unemployment issues. In response, the Africville Genealogical Society was created in 1983 in order to carry on the “Spirit of Africville” for the community and its descendants. They are currently working with the Canadian Government to return Africville’s people to its land, developing it as a history memorial, as well as a functioning source of sustainable revenue and community.

The example of Africville is an excellent allegory for the Black experience of early Canadian life. It is simple to see how racism in a country which had abolished slavery still implicates Black communities to this day. Africville’s pre-relocation history exists as a result of racist policy which disadvantaged Africville specifically in order to economically benefit the White population in Halifax. It is the problematic history here which warranted, in the eyes of the Canadian government, a complete relocation and separation of the community as a solution to the ‘issue’ of Africville. This history is not one unique to Nova Scotia, this is an example of a common experience faced by many Black communities in early Canada.