Cultural Navigators Talk Back | Federal Election Edition

Posted by Rosel Kim & filed under Current Affairs, Identity, Life, Politics.

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Editors’ Note: The views and opinions expressed in this section are exclusively those of the writers.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011 | A True “Ethnic Vote” Tale

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F.L. Feimo identifies as

“a generation 1.5 who breathes in different languages and cultures, and am passionate about helping you thrive in an increasingly diverse society.”

Feimo shared the following exchange with us, overheard during an Elections Canada Officer Training. Read the original at F.L.Feimo’s blog, Diversity and Inclusion. You can also follow F.L. Feimo @ffeimo.


Trainee: Why don’t voters have to provide a certificate of citizenship for identification?

Trainer: Oh, it is not a requirement to vote but people in the “ethnic” areas love to proffer their cards to show they are citizens.


What is wrong with this picture?

The trainee assumes a certificate of citizenship is required to vote. Yet the trainee, who just happens to be white, can’t possibly have a certificate of citizenship herself because she was born in this country. So if the certificate of citizenship was a requirement, then a born citizen (who would not own such a document) does not have proper ID to vote.

Silly me, oh you mean people who are “ethnics” should produce a certificate of citizenship. So the certificate of citizenship is not directly tied to naturalisation but rather, race or ethnicity. Hmm…did you know there are many “ethnics” who are Canadian born citizens and have thrived in the true north strong and free for several generations?


The trainer’s response (shown at the top) reinforces the original comment and assumes “ethnics” are naturalised citizens, that they cannot be Canadian born just like the trainee hence they would own a citizenship card. They need to carry a certain card to prove they really are legitimate and belong here.


I sense there are many degrees of Canadianness and they seem to correlate with shades of the skin. The true Canadian is fairest of them all.

Sunday April 24, 2011 | Where are the real issues at?

Schema contributor and 1.5 generation Canadian Rosel Kim writes about the issues that really matter to her in the 2011 federal election. You can also read the original post at her awesome blog, “What Are Years?”

If you’re in Canada, you know (or you should know) that there is an upcoming federal election. In my opinion, his election campaign has been a particularly disappointing one for two reasons. First, there is a definite lack of issues being discussed (Aboriginal issues? Cuts to culture funding? Women’s issues? WHERE ARE THEY?).

Second, because of the blatant hypocrisy of the Conservatives the Conservatives have been circulating the word “ethnic vote” for awhile now. Schema Magazine asked the question “WTF is the Ethnic Vote?” which got me thinking about the particular issue and the election in general.

The first issue at hand is the inappropriate broadness of the word “ethnic vote.” When Jason Kenney sent out his original note with the phrase used, he really meant the South Asian community. But instead, he chose to use a rather loaded term for Canadian politics; in 1995, when the sovereignty referendum in Quebec resulted in a “no” (very barely), the premier and separatist Jacques Parizeau blamed it on “money and the ethnic vote.”

Semantics aside, this shameless pandering to the “ethnic vote” is eye-roll inducing on other sides, too. For majority of the time, people of colour are swept under the rug, or only brought up when they’re deemed a problem – or a potential source of gain for the white man.

It is also insulting to see the so-called effort of “wooing” ethnic votes, which apparently involves telling people of colour to dress up in their ethnic costumes for a photo-op of Stephen Harper. This is tokenism at its worst. (As an Asian-Canadian, my options would’ve been pretty varied too, like this one, or this one.)

What might people of colour gain from all of this? Turns out, not very much. The Conservative platform on immigration is woefully lacking when it comes to welcoming immigrants or refugees, and only detailed in areas of deporting immigrants or cracking down on “human trafficking”. The one incentive for newly arrived immigrants they do offer is a “foreign credentials loans program” that will help immigrants “upgrade their skills for use in Canada.” So those immigrants still need to pay to be re-educated out of their own pockets. (All of the quotes are from the Conservative Party platform.)

Moreover, a group of legal scholars have found that while the “Harper government” is busy trying to convince people of colour that the Conservative government is on their side, the reality is pretty much the opposite. Some of the highlighted statistics include: quotas for sponsored parents and grandparents are down, and it takes longer time for refugees to reunite with their families.

And let’s not forget about women’s issues. The Conservative government has been slashing funds to women’s groups left and right, while also telling women that their votes matter. Here’s a list of women’s groups that have lost their funding during Harper’s time as Prime Minister. I am glad, however, that voters everywhere are speaking out against these measures.


So what is the Harper government doing, exactly? It is paying lip service to my ethnicity and my gender, while secretly making the lives of people belonging in my “identity brackets” harder. It all feels rather disingenuous and unfair.


So yes, I will be voting in this election against the problematic messages of Stephen Harper and this government, and I would like to encourage all the young people of colour voters to do the same.

Here are some useful links for educating and humouring yourselves this election:

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