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Olivia Schneider

On answering “where are you from?”

I always thought I looked like a Canadian. I have olive skin, green eyes, and dark brown hair, but I’m frequently asked where I’m from. Last week, a colleague told me I look Greek and others suggest I look Portuguese or Italian. It confuses me when people ask me where I’m from, and refuse to accept Canada as an answer.  Many people say: “You must be something,” or “Where are your parents from?” I always answer with Saskatchewan and Ottawa. They’re determined to discover my ethnicity. Finally, I tell them that my great-great-grandmother was Spanish. Inevitably, they say knowingly, “See? I knew you were something.”It’s a point of Canadian pride that we strive to embrace diversity. There are legal provisions to ensure this, including the 1988 Multiculturalism Act intended to preserve multiculturalism and respect those with a “hyphenated” cultural identity (such as Caribbean-Canadians). Despite this inclusiveness, stereotyping still exists. Many people apparently see Canadians as looking a certain way. From my experience, those who do not fit that profile will be asked to identify their heritage.For example, two of my friends have fair-skinned North American fathers, and mothers born in other countries. Amanda’s mother was born in Sweden, and Zubeida’s in Pakistan. Zubeida—who has dark brown hair and eyes with light brown skin—said that when she’s asked where she’s from, people don’t accept Canada as her answer. Amanda, fair-skinned, freckled, and red haired, said she’s only occasionally asked where she’s from.Zubeida feels ties to her Pakistani heritage, but it hasn’t shaped her a lot. “I was born in Canada, it’s where I grew up,” she said. “I identify most with Canada.” Amanda said she enjoys embracing her mother’s Swedish traditions, but she sees herself as Canadian.  As for me, being genetically 1/16 Spanish is a mildly interesting cultural fact, particularly since… Read More

Halifax mayor ends “Occupy Nova Scotia” encampment

On Sat., 12 November hundreds of protesters associated with the “Occupy Nova Scotia” movement gathered in Grand Parade, a historic military parade square in Halifax, N.S., chanting that the city’s mayor, Peter Kelly, should resign. The group is angry over its eviction from Victoria Park the previous day.On Fri., 11 November Occupy Nova Scotia protestors were issued a notice in the morning saying their presence was breaking the city by-law which prohibits camping in municipal parks. On Friday afternoon police enforced the by-law by removing tents that still remained in the park.Some protesters resisted the eviction by linking arms and blocking the path of police officers. Fourteen people were arrested for obstruction of justice.The incident has left Occupy Nova Scotia protesters feeling misled by the mayor. The group moved to Victoria Park from Grand Parade a few days prior to allow the city to begin setting up for Remembrance Day events at Grand Parade. Protestors said they believed they would be allowed to return to Grand Parade on Saturday after the ceremonies.However, Kelly says that the by-law will be enforced again should they choose to set up camp in any public park.  In an interview with the Halifax Chronicle Herald Kelly said, “They can continue to protest, their democratic rights are protected [. . . ] but they cannot tent or encamp in public space.” Read More

King’s College Chapel vandalized

On Monday, 3 October the Chapel at the University of King’s College in Halifax was the subject of a break-and-enter and subsequent vandalism. The incident took place between 11 p.m. Monday and 1:30 a.m. Tuesday. Three fire extinguishers were emptied, covering the interior of the Chapel in a thin white film. In addition, various items were broken, possibly unintentionally.The Reverend Dr Gary Thorne, King’s chaplain, says clean-up of the Chapel will take about a week at an estimated cost of $13,000. The restoration of the Chapel requires a professional crew because of the chemicals present in the discharged fire extinguishers.Vandalising places of worship is not uncommon. On 29 August, the sign of an Ethiopian church outside Halifax was removed with a chainsaw.The Reverend Brian Yealland, chaplain at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, says traditionally sacred places are often targets of vandalism because they represent the “untouchable.” He also says that alcohol can be a contributing factor to such vandalism, especially when it occurs in the early morning.To date, no charges have been laid for the incident at King’s. The motive remains unknown. Read More

Halifax hopes for economic boost from new ship contracts

On Wed., 19 October, Irving Shipbuilding in Halifax, NS, was awarded a $25 billion contract to build combat vessels. The contract was part of Canada’s National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy (NSPS), which awarded two Canadian shipyards contracts to rebuild fleets for the Royal Canadian Navy and the Canadian Coast Guard. The $8 billion building contract for the non-combat fleets was given to Vancouver’s Seaspan Marine.In an interview with the CBC, Nova Scotia Premier Darrell Dexter described the potential benefits he sees arising from the contract. He says it may encourage skilled Nova Scotians who have settled elsewhere in Canada to return to Nova Scotia. He also says it is good news for young people in Nova Scotia, offering future related job opportunities and training programs, further stimulating the economy.  The Nova Scotia government says Nova Scotia is “the education province,” a claim they support by pointing to the province’s 11 universities and 13 colleges. But these educational opportunities often do not translate into jobs in the area once students graduate. The province hopes the shipbuilding contract will offer long-term, sustainable employment.Despite the visible support and excitement from the Halifax area community over the announcement, some have raised concerns, including questions about how much it cost the provincial government to lobby for the contract.  Read More

“SlutWalk” incites debate

The recent “SlutWalk” event in Halifax, Nova Scotia, which attracted participants from Dalhousie University and the University of King’s College, among others, has further incited recent debate about the controversial protest movement.The first so-called SlutWalk was held in Toronto, Ontario, on April 3, 2011. The rally was a response to a Toronto police officer’s statement that young women could avoid rape by dressing more modestly. Since then, more than 50 SlutWalks have taken place in Canada and around the world, including in Australia and the United States.As SlutWalks gain popularity, their goal has shifted to include reclaiming the word “slut.” This effort to eradicate the stigma attached to the word has become tied with the original goal of ending victim-blaming in cases of sexual assault.Ellen Taylor works for the Dalhousie Women’s Centre (DWC), open to both the Dalhousie and the wider Halifax communities. Taylor did not attend the Halifax SlutWalk on September 17.“I’m fearful of moving ‘slut’ into the direction of being reclaimed,” Taylor says. “I think a lot more groundwork is needed before you can reclaim language.”Sharon Jessup-Joyce teaches first year communications to policing students in a two-year community college program. She tells her students that trying to reclaim a judgemental word like “slut” permits others to use it from their own perspective.“It’s risky. It allows others to use such a word as a weapon, because we’re asking for that word to become part of acceptable common currency,” Jessup-Joyce says.Taylor echoes this sentiment. “For me, ‘slut’ is a violent word that has been used against me. I don’t think defining myself as a ‘slut’ would be enough to remove its negative connotations,” she says.Taylor does, however, see the SlutWalk as effective for reaching a community when other events, such as “Take Back the Night” marches, may not. The SlutWalk’s… Read More