Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Indigenous and Newcomer Relations: a good start!

Bi Aliraza Alidina, 1st year MDP student

Globalization, immigration, war, displacement, economic struggles … these are words that define the world we live in. There is a chain of interconnected factors – from history to contemporary politics – that have shaped what is today Canada. Interestingly, one could ask: what is it to be a Canadian? What is the essence of Canadian-ness? Just like a big chunk of the modern globe, Canada is a new country. The country is new, but the land is not. Land and its native inhabitants have always remained. The rest is a result of colonialism, settlement, and immigration. History cannot be changed. There is room to make future better, so that there is a positive trend in the history seen from the near future. For that, we will have to focus on the ‘now’! 

Winnipeg is a city with different dynamics amongst which are a large urban Aboriginal population and an ever growing newcomer population. The two communities share a lot in common: history, culture, traditions, socioeconomic challenges, etc. There lies however many barriers and misconceptions between the two. Without going into details on the reasons behind it – something I am working on in my placement project – the primary reason behind it is the lack of dialogue, positive interaction and communication. Community organizations, settlement service providers and grassroots groups can play a leading role in this regards. Through these platforms, a safe space for dialogue can be created. In this safe space, exchange can happen on diverse areas: history, culture, identity, experiences, views, beliefs and so on. These exchanges – if done in a framework of respect and understanding – can produce good results. Do such initiatives exist in Winnipeg? For sure, they do!

Event poster

I attended one such initiative titled Indigenous and Newcomer Relations which took place on June 20th, the World Refugee Day. Interestingly, the following day represented Aboriginal National Day. The event was organized by 13 Fires Winnipeg in partnership with Social Planning Council of Winnipeg, Manitoba Moon Voices, World University Service of Canada, and the Spence Neighbourhood Association.

The main component of the event – besides from the talks given by different speakers – was the relations-building activity. The attendants were made into different groups with a good mixture of newcomer, mainstream population and Indigenous. The activity consisted in engaging in serious discussions on several questions such as racism, similarities, inclusion, etc.

Group members shared their personal experiences and observations on different aspects such as stereotypes that they have been hearing about Indigenous peoples. It was interesting to hear people share about commonalities in terms of spirituality, culture, language and history.  

Relations-building activity facilitated by Jackie Hogue (photo courtesy of 13 Fires)

Initiatives such as this one are definitely a good start. This has to be worked on at an institutional level: what is required is an institutional policy of dialogue. Perhaps, there are signs that this is something more to be seen. I personally think that Indigenous and Newcomer relations can play an important role in shaping the present and future of Canada. This will require a lot of ground work so that the relationship is established and strengthened.

Painting activities by children who attended the event

No comments:

Post a Comment