Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Nomenclature Rant

OK how many of you still call us East Indians? It is only in Canada that I have come across it. Even in the States, that morass of geographical ignorance, they call us Indians. Is it to distinguish us from West Indians and the Aboriginal population?

I look at it semantically. I am from India therefore I am Indian. What is this East Indian bullcrap? Anyway now I just say South Asian because I am never sure whether someone is Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Sril Lankan, Maldivian, or Indian. Sometimes I can tell by their names but not always.

And then there is this Asian concept. Asia for Canadians encompasses only East Asia and South East Asia. So when Canadians say Asian they could mean anyone from Burma to China including Vietnam, Korea, Phillipines, and Japan. But the rest of Asia is excluded. Hey, last I heard India, Iraq and Uzbekistan were still in Asia. Am I wrong? Has there been a geographical revolution since I was last in school?

And then there is the Middle East. Turkey to Afghanistan. Middle of what? East of what? East of Europe. Middle of … a trade route? Something to do with old colonial concepts of Far East, Near East and then Middle East. I dunno, you tell me. Does not South West Asia make more sense? I’ll try and post a map of Asia and let’s open it to the public.

I think we need compulsory standardised testing in geography for all Canadians. Don’t argue. Immigrants are forced to take a stupid culture test on Canada before they are given their Canadian passports. The majority of Canadians would fail that test. Why is the burden of a national Canadian identity being hoisted on us immigrants? And to compound the humiliation we have to swear allegiance to a decrepit, redundant monarchy, a queen in whose name our countries were colonised, pillaged, exploited and generally reduced to rubble and sectarian ashes. And speaking of the queen and colonialism, you know why the Brits can have free admission to their museums and do you know what’s in their museums? COLONIAL PLUNDER!!! LOOT!! STOLEN GOODS!! But I digress. Did you notice I digressed? So anyway, you will not be allowed to renew your driver’s license until you take a world geography test.

by: Isaac Thomas



Art as Resistance, Resistance as Art

August 25-27, 2006, Harbourfront Centre,
Toronto, Ontario

Featuring artists:

- daryl james bucar
- Natalyn Tremblay
- Natalie Wood

Curated by: Syrus Marcus Ware

Join us for a panel discussion and interactive talk about art and activism
on Sunday August 27, 2006, from 3-4pm.

Panelists include Rosina Kazi (LAL), Natalie Wood and Gein Wong

ARCfest 2006 will be taking place from October 22nd-29th. For more
information about Art as Resistance, Resistance as Art, or ARCfest, contact
Josh Bloch at info@arcfest.org, 416-538-4637 or visit www.arcfest.org

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Apology Rant

Now Harper is speaking of apologising for the Komagata Maru incident. Another cheap ploy to get the brown vote. What’s the point? What will an apology achieve? Does that change anything? Does it change atitudes? Does it change the fact that almost a century later, successive governments of all stripes succesfully ensure that immigrants are under-employed or unemployed and create this highly educated underclass, clinging onto this great hope that Canada will remain a land of freedom and opportunity?

Forget the apology – ensure that immigrants are employed in the field of their training not working with Group Four Security and Diamond Taxi. Deal with the systemic racism that shuts out pigmented MBAs from upper management. Then apologise.

Some background - in 1914 the Komagata Maru, a ship sailed from Calcutta via HK to Canada. The Canadian government did not want South Asian immigrants bringing their wives into this country because my god they would over breed and over populate the West Coast. It would be fine if they just came in to work and died child-less. Already the white Canadian population was terrified about Chinese immigrants daring to employ vestal white girls, and the dangerous possibilities of miscegenation would only be compounded by libidinous Hindoos (sic) coming into the country.

So they kept the ship in the harbour while disease swept through the passengers. Then they hurriedly changed their laws to say that immigrants had to travel non-stop to this country. And finally sent the ship back to India.

This was just before World War I, when the Globe and Mail lauded the brave Indian soldiers sent in as cannon fodder to protect imperial lands. Strictly speaking Indian soldiers were dying for the British Empire; but Canadian newspapers of the time spoke with the voice of the Empire. Bleed for the country but don’t breed in the country!!!

by: Isaac Thomas

Monday, August 21, 2006

Me Power

I checked out "Me Power" this weekend... This was put on by The Circle Playhouse, directed by Josh Bloch. It is a theatre initiative to create community for Youth in Care or formerly in care.

I was really surprised at the end of the show when only 3 people came out for a bow -- they are played multiple characters, and actually I would have guessed there were 6 or 7 of them in the cast -- they did a great job of making the whole piece feel very full! The production was a great example of using everything that you have; I understand that one of their actors went back to Latin America just 2 weeks before the show - so they changed everything around - kept her character as a audio character who wrote home to friends about her life.

The characters talked about some hard stuff: alcoholic parents, feelling isolated, not being "good enough", seeking approval from parents -- brave stuff!

And on top of that, they were so funny!!

An interesting audience make-up too. Actually, I think it was the most age-diverse audience I've seen. The youths' peers were present, as were program coordinators and other professionals who had helped out in various ways. You start to wonder who's teaching who, though -- which is lovely.

(yes, Isaac, this was another ulla-positive post!)

Monday, August 14, 2006

Grandmothers to Grandmothers

Toronto hosted a very unique and important conference this weekend: As part of the annual AIDS conference, the Stephen Lewis foundation created a “Grandmothers to Grandmothers” gathering. 100 African grandmothers were flown into Toronto (women who had never even left their village), and joined 200 grannies from across Canada. In fact, unknown to me, there exist many many Granny groups across our country – women who have come together with the avid desire to help the world in this way.

The conference aimed to create a dialogue between the African grannies and the Canadian ones. It opened up a conversation so that the Canadian Granny chapters could respond to what exactly the African grannies needed. The other thing that happened – that was so evident – was camaraderie between them. There was a profound respect for the African Grannies; women who have lost their own children to AIDS, who have never had the opportunity to grieve for this lose, who are now caring for sometimes dozens of grandchildren.

My own role was a volunteer with the film crew. We were filming testimonials from both the African and Canadian Grandmothers. One interview was with a woman who spoke Zulu. She told her story to us with a translator sitting next to her. Another woman, we went over-over-over time with --- and just after we finished and turned off the camera, she told us “no wait, turn it back on, I have something else to say.” There is something very empowering for these women to tell their stories to a camera, and to hope that it will be heard. The intimacy of these interviews I think came from the openness of them. There was no specific agenda for them, but rather they provided an opportunity to give voice to whatever these women needed to express. Breakthrough Films provided the crew for the filming, all of who were volunteers. I think the eventual form of the video is TBA - for the moment I think it was mostly gathering and will be used in a few different ways for the Stephen Lewis foundation. The director of the documentary was Shelley Saywell. She created the film Martyr Street about the lives of a Jewish and a Palestinian girl living in Hebron, which won the Best Canadian Documentary prize at Toronto's Hot Docs International Documentary Festival.

And then there were the celebrations! I arrived to the evening dinner at the same moment as a busload of African Grannies and was caught (happily) in the middle of them as we danced and sang all the way into the building. And the rest of the evening saw many Grannies go to the front of the room and take turns singing for the crowd! There's something to dancing and singing that can bring hope and determination to action, I'm sure of it. This was absolutely a bonding experience for the grannies from different sides of the world.

There was one strong exclamation of negative energy --- the fact the PM Harper did not make an appearance, nor will he at all at the international AIDS conference. He was 'booed' loudly by the crowd - and deservingly so. I am so upset by this. To be honest, I was so proud to be a woman and to be a Canadian this weekend. This is a Canadian initiative - these are Canadian Grandmothers who want to help and who are helping; who showed compassion and action; who will encourage grandmothers from the rest of the world to act; who are starting a movement. Yes, I did feel pride, amongst a million other emotions, but this pride was hurt enormously by Harper's inability to show Canada's commitment to this issue - to the world.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006


itled Document

Sun Aug 6, 3:30pm

Wed Aug 9, 6:30pm

Sat Aug 12, 11am

Tickets. $10/ $13

Box Office. 416.504.9971


Dear Friends of Cahoots,

Cahoots Theatre Projects came across an extraordinary
play about teen violence written and performed by a group of high
school students from North Etobicoke. The play is called LOYAL-T
and it was created by youths from North Albion C.I. The director
of the play, a young woman named Mila De Battista, was inspired
to create LOYAL-T after the horrifying funeral shooting at the Seventh
Day Adventist Church. Using African and Caribbean dance and music,
the play is a moving expression of the students' outrage and sorrow.
We feel that LOYAL-T has the potential to engage young people and
to inspire them to say no to violence. I hope you have a chance
to come and see the show.



North Albion C.I. proudly presents


A collaborative play led by student director and lead
writer Mila DeBattista.

The original recorded musical score is composed and performed by students
Yadpreet Singh and Ramandeep Bansal.

Choreography is created by Rochelle Stultz and Patrick Parson.

Loyal-T follows the lives of four youth as they struggle to make difficult
choices with issues close to their hearts in a volatile urban community.
Loyal-T’s breathtaking scenes, heart stopping music, theme of friendship
and honour, and powerful plea to end violence has brought audiences to
their feet with every performance.

Recently Loyal-T received several awards of excellence in writing, directing,
production and performance at the Provincial Competition of the 60th Annual
Sears Drama Festival.

The community in where these students live has been brought to the media’s
attention on several occasions but not in a positive light. Gang related
activity and other violence surround these students on a daily basis.
The words, the voices and the images of this play are real. The students
have opened their hearts, their minds and their creativity to put forth
an artistic piece that is authentic to their experience.

The show has been generously supported by the
Pitblado Foundation
and Cahoots Theatre Projects.

To be removed from this mailing list, please
send us an e-mail with "unsubscribe"
in the subject line.

Race class visa rant

I’m Isaac Thomas. I received a grant from Theatre Ontario for a part of this summer to work as an intern in dramaturgy and artistic direction. I have been primarily reading scripts, and been peripherally involved in Sheep and the Whale which I will be stage managing in the fall.

In thinking about the Sheep and the Whale, my mind had been swirling around issues of race, class, immigration, and refugee status.

And then in my own small world it suddenly came to the fore. My mother, who lives in India, had been planning to visit us this summer. For one week. She has been missing her grandchild and regrets not being able to see him grow up. And I suppose she misses seeing me.

She called me with the Canadian visa requirements. Previous to this my mother has received the visa with merely a letter from a close friend stating that he will be financially responsible. She has been to Canada several times both personally and professionally. This time with the change in government or change in foreign policy the list was longer.

Along with that same letter of financial support, the Canadian High Commission required my tax returns from the previous two years; my companion’s tax returns; 6 months of our bank statements - checking account; letters from our employer stating that we were indeed employed; and the usual immigration and citizenship documentation. From my mother they required the same.

But what call for all this extra documentation? Why now? Is it the war on terror? Will this screening weed out terrorists? Is our Canadian foreign policy’s nose rammed so firmly up US foreign policy’s derrière that they cannot see anything but the Great Brown Threat? Is a 79 year old grandmother likely to pose a threat to national security? Or is it that in a 1 week visit she will decide to settle down here, bilk our decaying health system, and attempt to leach the system for every last dollar.

And what matters my bank account and tax return? It must be to check my class. Am I wealthy or at least comfortably middle class enough to support her if she falls ill? Or is my mother a worthy visitor only if I am in a particular tax bracket? Canada revenue already checks all financial transactions over $5000, so it can’t be a terror check. Would these same demands be made of a white nation? Of an Israeli visitor?

The funny part is that my mother will visit my brother and his family in Denmark. She will be staying there for a month after her Canadian visit. The Danish government gave her the visa upon merely receiving a letter from my brother stating that he will be financially responsible for her costs. That was all that was required. She had the Danish visa in her passport; but the Canadian High Commission wanted to confirm that my mother had no diabolical plan for the one week she would be here, so they sent her for this barrage of medical tests. By the time the second set of tests were done and the passport had been shuttled between Chennai and Delhi it was too close to her date of departure. So she rebooked her ticket to just a Copenhagen return, and has given up any hope of coming to Canada again.

The Dane’s have a far less open immigration policy. But getting a visa from them was not an issue. The Canadian’s on the other hand who pride themselves on their immigration policy haul us into this bureaucratic maze. The Liberals’ motto was “Give us your PhD’s, your Doctors, your Engineers, your IT specialists and we will make of them taxi drivers”. Is Reform’s, sorry the Regressive Conservative’s motto “Keep your brown skins out of our land unless they are gilded with Swiss Bank account numbers”?

If I wanted a group of immensely talented theatre artists – poor, brown and S.Asian - on a theatre exchange program would any of them get visas? What does this story say of Canadian immigration policy? What does it say about this nation and our obscenely underemployed immigrant population?