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Wednesday, 25 July 2018

Social Movements, Class and Power: "Olympics! Meet War Canoe Racing"

Indigenous Stream War Canoe Racing
Mainstream/Whitestream War Canoe Racing

What makes a social movement different from say, a wedding committee or a social group?

In the book Social Movements By Suzanne Staggenborg and Howard Ramos it says “most social movement scholars would agree that social movements “are collective efforts, of some duration and organization, using non-institutionalized methods to bring about social change” (Flacks, 2005:5). This creates a difference between a social movement and say, a wedding committee or social group. Whereas the latter is   gathering together that amounts to a collective activity.

In my own experience, another example of a social movement versus a social group can be seen in the Canadian sport system. Let me use the example of “war canoe” racing in the sport of canoe/kayak and with it come a number of sociological problems.

Social Movements - As a result of the Canadian “Indian” residential school system, First Nations people are trying to reconnect with their culture. A symbolic part of their culture is the canoe and specifically the “war canoe” where First Nations people of Canada went to war using these canoes against other tribes pre-colonisation. A small group of Coast Salish families on the west coast of Canada race “Indian War Canoes”. The problems include those of the origin of race, class and culture in society. Over the past decade, despite a collective social movement against the Government Institutions of Canada, methods including; a) newspaper articles, b)  letters to politicians, c) online petitions and d) the filling a human rights complaint against the institution of CanoeKayak Canada (Formerly known as the Canadian Canoe Association - CCA). This organization disregards the Indigenous stream of “war canoe” racing in preference of their own version of “mainstream/whitestream” “war canoe” racing in what academics refer to as the “Double Helix” sport system adopted by the Federal Government of Sport Canada.

Collective Activities - The mainstream sport of “war canoe” racing is a predominantly white sport in Canada. We know from history that white people didn’t go to war in a canoe and as a result is not part of their cultural makeup. Therefore it is just a group of white people who race “war canoes” which amounts to a collective activity. Despite this fact, it didn't stop Hugues Fournel, an Olympic Kayaker from saying “Everybody's screaming and you feel like you are in a war and thats why its called war canoe and it's one of the oldest, oldest races we do in Canada”.

What relevance does social class have for the study of social movements?
According to Christian Fuchs there is relevance that social class has on the study of social movements. Fuchs wrote the paper Social Movements and Class Analysis, Vienna University of Technology. His paper focused on empirical evidence from 1981 to 1997 from 15 different countries. Fuchs says “The results show that cultural and economic capital are important factors in mobilizing or demobilizing protest, that the new knowledge and service class is the most active group in protest, and that there continues to be a significant political left-right distinction concerning protest activities.”.

In my own experience in regards to War Canoe racing is the Institution CanoeKayak Canada, which overseas the pathway to the Olympics via theInternational Canoe Federation, has all the federal money to put them in a class of their own compared to the Indigenous population of Canada. For example they can get CBC news to write articles about their colonial version of the war canoe - such as seen when CBC Nova Scotia journalist Nina Corfu wrote an article called “New $25K war canoe gives Banook paddlers edge in 'very Canadian' sport”.  They also get Television attention by putting their Olympians on to make statements such as Hugues Fournel, an Olympic Kayaker said “Every kid, every club, if you’re in a canoe club somewhere in Canada, you’re for sure going to do War Canoe.” The reporter says, that the mainstream/whitestream “war canoe” “is considered the cadillac of canoes, that Fournel and Ontario’s Taylor Potts, a gold medal winner here as a stepping stone at the club level for their success.” Their narrative simply drowns out the Indigenous one on the topic and they see nothing wrong as a result.

What is power? Why is it important to analyse power when looking at social movements?
Typically power is the ability to accumulate labour hours. However, power can take different meanings in a social movement. For example, the Windspeaker is an Indigenous newspaper.  In the Windspeaker newspaper article called “Olympics! Meet war canoe racing.” by Sam Lakaris in 2003 writes about a Coast Saalish man on Vancouver Island. - “If Derrick George had a wish, it would be to see the sport of war canoe racing added to the Summer Olympics' roster of activities.” When Sam Lakaris writes “For starters, George will have to get the support of theCanadian Canoe Association (CCA). But John Edwards, the CCA's domestic program director, said he knows nothing about George's initiative. "I haven't heard anything about this," he said. "That's all news to us. But we're all the way out here in Ottawa."” he does not mention that the same John Edwards is also a) trying to get his institutions version of the “war canoe” to the Olympics and b) John Edwards sits on the board of directors of the International Canoe Federation which is affiliated with the Olympic committee for the sport of canoe. In 2012, the CCA would be successful in bringing a group of white only participants to demonstrate their own version of the“War Canoe” to the London 2012 Games as seen in the Globe and Mail, leaving the Indigenous peoples of Canada excluded, despite knowing their intent and wishes to bring their own war canoe to the Olympics. John Edwards was in a position of power to reasonably help Derrick George with his dreams, however took his own Institutions interest in lieu forward as seen at the London games at the 2012 Olympics.

It is important to analyse power when looking at social movements because when combined with class, it becomes clear how Fuchs was correct in his final analysis in his paper  Social Movements and Class Analysis, Vienna University of Technology where in this case the Institution CanoeKayak Canada has the class and power to “demobilize the protest” where those who oppose have no chance to mobilize against them.

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.’