Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The New World

The Globe's front page story today is about the New Face of Canada.

In short, it is and will be "visible minority" face.

That is bringing and will continue to bring new excitement, new possibilities, and new challenges and struggles as cultures rub hard up against one another.

Canada, since the European invasions, has always been a country of immigrants.

Until now, the new Canadians have been largely, mostly, white Europeans.

That caused enough friction and comedy.

Now, every second citizen is from China or India or Africa and a hundred other places round the world.

On the same front page, the niqab/burka melodrama continues in Quebec.

If any story reveals the "challenges," this is it.

What is so interesting is that the Quebec authorities have been absolutely unequivocal.

“There is no ambiguity on this question: If you want to [attend] our classes, if you want to integrate in Quebec society, here our values are that we want to see your face,” Immigration Minister Yolande James said.

On Monday, Christine St-Pierre, the Quebec minister responsible for the status of women, called the niqab and burka “ambulatory prisons” that violate a woman's right to equality.

To complicate matters, the Muslim Canadian Congress, which has called for a ban, applauded Quebec's attitude toward the niqab and burka.

“This is an attire worn in the desert during sandstorms. It's got nothing to do with religion,” said Tarek Fatah, founder of the congress. “It's a very clear sign that women are the possessions of men, and it's being thrust on North America and Europe. Most Muslims are fed up with the niqab and burka.”

It is rare in this politically correct, terribly self-conscious country to see this kind of clear, declamatory positioning.

There is so much that new Canadians bring to the mix -p new and old energies and ideas, wealth, enthusiasm.

And there is so much that we are afraid to ask of new Canadians.

The written driver's test in British Columbia should not be available in 170 languages, including dozens of local Chinese dialects, peculiar to regions and town in the People's republic. It should be available in our two official languages, French and English. Period.

A month ago, I stepped out of a coffee shop to speak to three young men.

I was friendly and polite and non-threatening.

I said Hi and asked where they were from.

When they told me Korea, I greeted them in one of the few Korean phrases I know.

They were pleased.

That allowed me to point out that I had been sitting in the window having my coffee and in the last few minutes I had watched one of them spit on the side walk six times.

I added that 1) I found this personally disgusting and sickening; 2) Spitting on the sidewalk is against the law in BC; & 3) It's a cultural thing. It's just not done here.

The boys were very kind and respectful and offered that they didn't know any of this and that they would be mindful to not continue this habit.

We all shook hands.

But the question remains...

Why didn't they know?

Because we are not spending time with new Canadians and short-term student Canadians and telling them a few simple truths about their new home.

My mother - may she rest in peace - told me years ago that the future of humankind was..."somewhat chocolate."

In another words, the only and best and inevitable way that we will get past all the racial and other differences in the Family of Man/Woman will be intermarriage.

She was right.

But until we get there, we could do a lot better job about honestly getting to know one another and being clear about our mutual expectations.

Art Smart

The Vancouver Art gallery is fighting about its future.

Location, that is.

Stay put and dig down deep for more space.

Or move to that former bus depot spot near the QE?

Many have rightly argued that the VAG doesn't really have the stellar collection that would warrant really really big bucks being spent on a monumental edifice designed by some terribly famous world-beating architect.

But I disagree.

I think a monumental edifice designed by some terribly famous world-beating architect is exactly what Vancouver needs.

That's what cities do.

They declare themselves.


They commission Big Guys & Dolls to build Big Stuff and we all look at the thing every day in passing and every few months we even go in and gawk around and have an expensive coffee and buy a few over-priced note cards and call it a day out.

Why not?

That's what cities have always done all over the world.

Build it and they will come.

School kids and tourists come and pay money. People buy souvenirs. They spend money at hotels.

If we could spend gazillions on Olympics and Trade & Convention Centres, why not spent a bundle on a terrific new crazy-looking beautiful controversial Vancouver Art Gallery?

And while we're at it let's throw in a music and theatre complex.

We laughingly call ourselves a world-class city.

We delude ourselves that the Olympic event - for all that it was great fun and came off beautifully - will now transform us and put us on the map.

Get serious.

Build a new Art Gallery.

Hold a world-wide open competition.

Hire the best.

Spend the money.

Do it.




No Starbucks.

No Tim's.

No Big Mac.

Welcome to the tough, free-thinking pristine community of Tofino.

The local town council is drafting a bill outlawing these and other fast-food chains.

I love it.

Tofino, you rock!