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Tuesday, 10 July 2018

Dual Colonialism: Racialized Discourse, Prejudice and Discrimination

I am not of an ethnic minority, my ancestry is predominantly French and German. As a result of being of European decent, I have an interest in Post-colonialism. Indigenous and Colonial topics are at
best a difficult undertaking to discuss from a balanced perspective. As a sociologist, I find it interesting to study the “whitestream” otherwise known as mainstream sport system in Canada. I specifically find the Olympic sport of Canoe fascinating where you have a “Double Helix” sport system broken into two streams based on “race”; a) mainstream/whitestream and b) Indigenous stream. I feel - through the lens of sport, it allows for a palatable narrative that can be accurately told from my sociological imagination.

Have you ever come across racialized discourse or the hierarchical sorting of race? 

In Steckley’s book, ‘The Elements of Sociology,’ he writes about dual colonialism as a theory: an “idea that under a colonial regime, the most oppressed groups suffered at the hands of the colonizing group who are given privilege and power by the outsiders.” From my personal experiences, I can relate to Dual Colonialism where a) we have a mainstream sport system that at best is creating a racialized sporting space and b) hierarchy of power within Indigenous communities based on family lineage. I often refer to this power dynamic as the “haves and have nots” or the “Power Families”. This provides an opportunity for the colonial sport organizations to give opportunities to the power families within indigenous communities, while neglecting the have-nots in various sporting events.

Have you seen others engage in prejudice or discrimination based on, for example, skin colour or ethnic background? 

When I was a canoe coach, I experienced prejudice from local retail stores such as the local Outdoor paddle store. As a white person, in my experience of mainstream sport, raising donations and discounts for youth sport in my community was a viable option. For example, the local bicycle store giving the local bicycle youth club a 10% discount on parts and accessories. Yet, when I attempted to obtain the same privileges from the mainstream stores for the Indigenous stream of canoe, it was much different.

In this particular case, I had $1000.00 to purchase paddles for the launch of the local indigenous canoe club. I was speaking with the store manager, a white person in decent about purchasing 60 paddles and asked if he would provide a discount for this Indigenous initiative. He simply said no, He said “Don’t the Indians get enough already?” to which I replied, how so? He would go on to talk about the fact that the store was on the Cowichan First Nation Band land and that they were not subject to paying taxes as a result. Equating the federal agreement between First Nation communities and the government was enough of a discount.

Another example happened when I was trying to purchase 60 jackets with the paddle club name on it. Approaching one supplier, from whom I had already purchased $5,000.00 worth of paddle club clothing, I asked for a discount on the jackets. I was told, Why would I give “them” a discount?.

It appeared to me, based on these two experiences, that the Indigenous youth could not even get a break at the grassroots level. Such practices many mainstream sports take for granted.

Thursday, 5 July 2018

Growing Up The Children of Institutionalized Parents

"The Duplessis Orphans were children victimized in a mid-20th century scheme in which approximately 20,000 orphaned children were falsely certified as mentally ill by the government of the province of Quebec, Canada."

While living full time on a West Coast First Nation reserve, I was able to relate with many of the indigenous people. The connection we made was one of mental health and shared experiences because our parents grew up as institutionalized children of a governmental system.

I am an only child of a mother, who raised me as a single parent for the first ten years of my life. My mother was raised from the ages of 2 years to 16 years in the Duplessis Orphanage system in Quebec. She experienced similar traumas as those raised in the “Indian” Residential School system. Wikipedia states that “The Duplessis Orphans were children victimized in a mid-20th century scheme in which approximately 20,000 orphaned children were falsely certified as mentally ill by the government of the province of Quebec, Canada, and confined to psychiatric institutions.” The Montreal orphanage my mother resided in was run by the Catholic Church. She was abused for many of those years. The long-term effects of the mental stress and physical abuse she suffered was immense. Not only did she have a short lifespan, but the mental health issues resulting from this abuse would be life changing for me as well.

Who defines what is right and wrong, what is good behaviour or bad?

My mother would invoke the authority and values of the Roman Catholic Church. The same beliefs were reinforced by the French Catholic schools I attended. At the age of 10 years old, I entered the Roman Catholic ‘Children Aid’ system. These Authorities followed the similar rules/expectations my mother had growing up. At the same time, she had no respect for this authority and would not listen to or adhere to their advice if it differed from her own. For example, as a young child, I would attend my local parish church as much as 4-5 times a week, yet my mother refused to attend at all. Regarding school interactions with teachers and principals, if she didn’t receive the response she wanted from these authorities she would place the blame on me or simply refuse to participate in discussions. Despite reports from my school officials and a Psychologist that alluded to a Mental Health concern for myself, my mother refused to believe my behaviour was caused by anything other than willfulness and my father’s ‘bad’ blood.

Who defines the rules, controls the money, and makes the decisions?

My mother made the rules of the home, enforced the rules of the home, and when she couldn’t control my behaviour, called in the Higher Power - the Catholic Church. My behaviour was so troubling for her growing up due to my own mental health disorder that at one point, she inquired about an exorcism as a solution. We are talking about a mother who was desperate to save her son and conform to society's standards even as a child.

Is it the parents equally, is it just one parent, do the children have any say?

Parenting was not equal in my family. My mother did the majority of the parenting and I did not know of my father for the first five years of my life. I would meet him around the age of 8 years old when I flew out to Vancouver to visit. He had no decision making or influence in my life until I was in my early teens, when I went to live with him.

If there are school-aged children in your family, you may also want to consider how your family intersects with the school authorities. Does your family take responsibility for enforcing school expectations (grades, attendance, behaviour in class) and if so, why and how?

By the time I reached 10 years of age, my mother was ready to disown me. She packed my suitcase and locked me out of the house one cold Ontario night. I was to wait for the social workers to pick me up (unknowing at the time that she had given me up to their care). Rather than find supports and accept I had a neurological disorder, she abandoned me to foster care. On the eve of signing off her parental rights, my father got involved. My mother changed her mind and got me back into her care to spite my father. A few years later, I would find myself passed off to him as my mother once again rejected my behaviour as willfulness and was done with me. However, my father, did not value school, thus I was encouraged to drop out in my first semester of grade 10.

What do you think would happen to your family if the parents refused to educate the children as specified by the government, or if they chose different values and different ways of existing?

The reality is that both my parents have very different values regarding education and parenting than the mainstream population. My mother fought her emotional demons most of her life and choose partners who were “known to law enforcement” for one reason or another. My father skated the law and taught what he knew to me. I literally grew up on the streets of Windsor and Detroit while in my mother’s care; and had a varied education (non-academic) while in my father’s care.

Despite being enrolled in school during my formative years, I suspect the multiple homes I lived in while in foster care, moving from Ontario to British Columbia created chaos in my academic life, to say nothing of my home life - such as it was. The Roman Catholic Church, it’s schools, and Children’s Aid of Ontario could not predict that I would only last less than a couple of years with my father, I was living on my own at the age of 16 years. These and subsequent experiences led me to become cunning, manipulative, a fan of ‘smoke and mirrors’ - as I was in pure survival mode.

Canadian “Indian” residential school.

Compare this to the residential school experience of Natives in Canada.

Like the “Survivors” of the Canadian “Indian” Residential School, my mother was a “Survivor” of the Duplessis Orphanage System. In both institutions, they faced mental, physical and sexual abuse. Once my mother ran away from the school at the age of 16 years old, she was not provided with any supports. If her childhood wasn’t difficult enough, her adult life could be measured equally as difficult as she lacked the parenting skills required to raise me, a child with disabilities. The Indigenous people have coined their own term of the “offspring” of the Canadian “Indian” residential school and therefore in similarities, I was the “offspring” of the Duplessis Orphanage system. With that comparison comes a number of mental health issues that are known today amongst medical professionals. In my own discussion with Indigenous friends, we compare the similar parenting strategies as a result of our parents growing up in institutionalized government systems.

Sunday, 1 July 2018

#TRC88: Aboriginal paddlers welcome academy. #Olympic dreams, am I a Normal person?

by: Jason Anson

1. Am I a normal person?” 

I felt I was always a normal person until I was 38 years old and diagnosed with a form of Autism known as High-Functioning Asperger’s. Which much to my surprise implied I was anything but normal.

2. How you came to be such a “normal” or “deviant” person, as the case may be. ? 

In 2011, Normal for me was my blog “The Sport Technologist Chronicles” and for me “deviant” was my unique perspective on my second blog introduced in 2013 “Living with Aspergers in Sport: My Evil Twin” post diagnosis. From 2004 to 2010, I developed athletic training software for retail and Olympic teams. By 2011, social media and blogging were a popular pastime for people. I wanted to explore the opportunities for demonstrating my skills as a Sport Technologist and I would develop a Sport Technology Canada Blueprint that helped all Canadian athletes to implement technology in their sport. In a short time, my social media would be extremely popular with more than 25,000 followers including many world sport scientists, sport organizations, coaching professionals and professional athletes. During this experience I came to see first hand how the mainstream and Indigenous sport institutions were treating the Indigenous people of Canada. Much to my surprise, my world would fall apart after being diagnosed with High-Functioning Asperger’s.

3. Have you ever been subject to sanction because you stepped outside of what would be considered normal behaviour? Some examples might include the sanctions directed at effeminate male children, sanctions because you did not fit into normal learning styles, sanctions because you looked or acted differently, etc.). 

In 2012, I would be one of the first to join the new “BC Aboriginal Canoe Committee” which was responsible for the selection process for the North American Indigenous Games. For a period of almost two years, I would participate in all the meetings leading up to the 2014 North American Indigenous Games. Once I started to challenge their practices and philosophy towards First Nations in the sport of canoe and kayak I was ostracized. Despite being on the Board, - they never notified me of scheduled meetings; made decisions without my expertise or participation; minimized my skills and knowledge; and disregarded what I was bringing to the table. I was “put out to pasture" in other words. Through my 5-Day BC Human Rights Tribunal Hearing (Victoria, BC) against the BC Aboriginal Friendship Centre who operates as the “Indigenous Sport and Recreation Council (iSPARC)”. I would learn that CanoeKayakBC Executive Director and iSPARC’s Director of Sport would go on to “gossip” regularly with a B.C. Government employee in the Ministry of Sport and Recreation by downplaying my involvement in the sport of canoe and kayak at the time (2012-2014). That employee would then forward emails and make claims that were a) false about me or b) lacking full information to comprehend the situation - to members of Parliament including the Deputy Minister to the Minister of Sport and Recreation in B.C. Not only were these “gossip” emails obtained under the BC Freedom of Information Act (FOI), The television show “APTN Investigates” Executive Producer would comment after a lengthy investigation that his sources said “"The story I’m getting from the others is that a few insiders spend most of their time, energy and money on protecting their own jobs " from the things I was saying. The APTN investigation sources revealed: “they back up what you’re saying about there not be any emphasis on pursuing excellence and world class competition. The Indigenous games are basically a recreational level athletic event and there is no interest in identifying potential world class Indigenous athletes and then developing them.”

4. In other words, did you ever feel pressure to normalize and, if so, how did you deal with that pressure? 

In past years I had the ability to mimic “normal” behaviours, mannerisms, and attitudes of successful individuals and “fake it” for a period of time. This allowed me to present myself as ‘normal’. I went to Toastmasters to learn how to speak in public, I learned how to dress for success, I learned what was acceptable by certain population groups and behaved accordingly. However, the energy to maintain this facade was immense and would occasionally result in miscommunication; misinterpretation, and anger. On the eve of my Human Rights Tribunal hearing, the Institutions lawyers were reconsidering my entry to coach paddlers to train for the 2017 North American Indigenous Games. However, they wanted assurance that I was going to behave “normally” moving forward by talking directly to my medical professionals. Yet, the Tribunal was not about my medical disabilities, but rather about their retaliation towards me for having a disability. This would lead to the negotiations breaking down and the hearing proceeded as scheduled. I was given an opportunity to “act normal” if I virtually kept quiet and did not question any decision they would make in the future. There was no attempt by the Sport Organization to educate themselves on the needs and characteristics of an Asperger’s Adult, nor were they interested in finding ways to accommodate my unique challenges in order to work with me. Either I conformed totally, kept quiet about my concerns or I was out. The result was --- I was out. I could not be other than who I was - an Asperger’s person who has a has expertise in a select area; dedication to detail, and a tireless attention to ‘getting it right.’