Mainstream public and media discourses often reify the myth that Canada is a bastion of multiculturalism, a model of equality and social cohesion. Canadians look to our immediate neighbour to the south and feel good about how "different we are from them"; we think we are a kinder, gentler nation, with laws and policies rooted in core values of equality and human rights. We can point to numerous laws that protect equality and human rights, including the Canadian Multicultural Act and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which provide part of the basis for our identity as a community and a nation. Yet, even if our governments are seen to "take action" through royal and other public commissions of investigation, these have shown a legacy of policies where equality and human rights have not been upheld: the Royal Commission on the Status of Women; the Truth and Reconciliation Commission; the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism; and the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls, and 2S+ are recent examples.
While we may think that enshrining rights in legal documents is the solution to our problems, in fact we know that legal rights on paper do not necessarily translate to change "on the ground." Canada is among a multitude of countries that have seen a sharp rise in extremist views and behaviours, alongside an increase in right wing populism, white supremacy, and misogyny. While Canadians may think we are gentle and kind, in actual fact we can see recent examples of a ramping up of hostility and anger towards those who are not white settlers, including Anti-Asian backlash throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, anti-Indigenous racism, anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant sentiment, and increases in violence towards women, both in and outside the home. Angry insider/outsider rhetoric is becoming commonplace and can be easily seen in the newsmedia and from prominent politicians, and as a result, it is becoming increasingly "normal" to express racism and sexism as a part of common parlance.
Against this backdrop, Memorial University will host a workshop to investigate, critique, and understand the contours of these discourses in contemporary Canada. This work is important because while discourse cannot be directly or causally linked to action, strategies of discourse and discursive frames/framing do inform and shape the political agenda. We are particularly interested in asking: How do we talk about people? How do rhetoric and discourse shape identity and belonging? How do we portray political issues that deal with ethnicity, gender, and race? How do text, image, official press releases and party platforms, social media, and traditional news coverage influence our understanding of our identities and those of others? What role does storytelling play? How does it affect the distribution of political/public "goods"? How does it affect how we perceive others and how we perceive our responsibilities to working with others, helping others, versus helping "our own”?
This multi-disciplinary two day workshop co-organized by Dr Amanda Bittner (MUNL Political Science), Dr Nicole Lugosi-Schimpf (U Alberta Native Studies), and Dr Jennifer Selby (MUNL Religious Studies) is open to the public and will involve a keynote virtual lecture by Dr Marie Battiste, Special Advisor to the Vice President Academic, Provost and to the Dean of Unama’ki College on Decolonizing the Academy at Cape Breton University. This workshop is funded by the Office of Public Engagement, the VP Research and Provost’s Office, the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences at Memorial, and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.
Scholarship in the Arts Funding (HSS)
VP Research Conference Fund
Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council - Connections Grant