Archive for category Saskatoon

Inappropriate & disproportionate cultural appropriation

If it weren’t for Ashu Solo, recognition for Saskatoon’s most stupidly sensitive person would have to go to Erica Lee, who objected to a Hawaiian-themed fundraiser because, well, let her tell you:


The poster showed a darkhaired, bikini-clad, apparently American tourist – an image the group took from an old airline advertisement for Hawaii. Within 12 hours, a new Tropical Night poster instead featured a palm tree.

U of S student Erica Lee, an Idle No More activist and one of the event’s critics, said she might not have realized the problems with Hawaiian imagery had another student not brought it to her attention.

“It’s something that’s so pervasive in our culture. We think of Hawaii and we think of flower leis, we think of grass skirts and sexy hula girls,” she said.

“It’s like having any other racial or ethnic groupthemed party. It’s something that seems like a fun and harmless idea but there are Hawaiian scholars that feel really passionately about not being represented in such a commercialized way.”

The history of Hawaii includes aboriginal people who were violently settled and had customs banned, she said.

The hula dance was formally banned for a period in the mid-nineteenth century following pressure from Christian missionaries, and later regulated by the state.

“For so long we oppressed them and didn’t let them do it, and now people in the West will take that and commercialize it.”

Oh, for crying out loud. Let’s ban any event just in case there’s someone who might possibly be offended because of past injustices.

So long, St Patrick’s Day, as it might (and probably does) offend an Irishman (sorry, Irish “person”).

Do pobačennja to Saskatoon’s “King of Kielbasa” festival, just in case this sausage celebration might harbour up grim memories of the Ukrainian famine.

Skuttle all Dragon Boat races. Don’t you know the Chinese were culturally exploited?

Don’t you dare forget about the debilitating effects of alcohol on those indigenous people who were forced to sell their island to the Dutch the next time you order a Manhattan cocktail.

And considering the culturally-appropriated name of this shitty, racist, Eurocentric hellhole, if you want to set off fireworks this Canada Day, you should take off, you hoser.



I’d like to think I’m being facetious, but considering that this topic produced an “uproar” (which the media defines as one person making a big deal out of nothing), I wouldn’t put it past Ms. Lee to keep raising stinks on such matters.

Notice that she doesn’t have an issue with indigenous cultures appropriating and benefiting from the trappings of “European” culture, such as medical immunization, or forged steel, or parliamentary governance, or central heating. No, her concern is limited to the appropriations by the “privileged” from the “unprivileged”, regardless of how the unprivileged might have benefited from the exchange, as if they would be, by net, better off had the cultures never merged or conflicted at all.

Perhaps she’s right on this, that indigenous cultures are presently, on the whole, worse off because of colonialism, etc. And as such I patiently wait while the non-European indigenous cultures around the world shed their woven-textile garments, shut off their electric lights, park their cars, and return to the land.

In any event, the article noted that the images and language used by the Arts and Sciences Students Union wasn’t exploiting the indigenous Hawaiian culture but was pointing back to the idealized island culture of the 1950s or ’60s. Her argument is akin to criticizing fifties-era sock-hops because white kids like Sam Phillips appropriated rock ‘n’ roll from African-Americans. In other words, it is so removed from the actual incident of injustice as to be ludicrous.

Even if you don’t agree with her precise concern, one might argue that all she wants to do is “create a dialogue,” as seen below:

But that doesn’t work either, because usually a “healthy dialogue” between two parties doesn’t start with a premise that one side is racist, QED.

In the end, Ms. Lee isn’t fighting for a “healthy dialogue” and her issue isn’t with the existence of disproportionate power, but rather that this power isn’t hers:

As a political studies and philosophy major at the U of S, Lee is living what she studies. She says her school work hasn’t suffered despite immersing herself at the very root of this national grassroots movement. Lee, who is the first person in her family to finish high school, refuses to let her grades slip.

“It’s important for me to finish and get into a position of power,” Lee said.

Indeed, and as this incident has shown, she’s well on her way.

UPDATE: Speaking of cultural appropriation, this is pretty funny.

As is this.

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Snow job

With all due respect to the mayor, this should not be his first concern:

Saskatoon Mayor Don Atchison wants to look at reducing speeds on the city’s freeway bridges after a car plunged off the Circle Drive North bridge and into the South Saskatchewan River.

A 23-year-old woman lost control of her vehicle while heading east on the bridge and her car jumped over the guard rail that had a window of snow built up around it. [emphasis mine–ed.] She escaped from her vehicle and was rescued off ice in the river, only suffering minor injuries in the process.

The guard rail didn’t build up the snow. City workers built up the snow along the guard rail, which changed a safety device into a ramp of death.

This unnamed woman should sue the city and any government ministry which implemented and enforced environmental regulations giving rise to this hazard.

She is lucky to be alive, no thanks to short-sighted government bureaucrats.

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Letter to the Editor

Saskatoon’s most sensitive man lectures us on freedom of expression (published Dec. 28, 2013):

In response to my civil rights case about Saskatoon Transit putting Christmas messages on buses, local churches have purchased Christmas advertisements to be placed on transit vehicles.

I support them being able to do that. I think this is a good alternative to the city promoting Christmas and Christianity on its own. Now that churches are buying their own ads to promote their religion, they shouldn’t care if Saskatoon Transit Services doesn’t promote Christmas on programmable bus signs.

There are more than 10,000 religions, 150 of which have one million or more followers not including branches of each religion. The city can’t promote all religions or promote all religions equally, so it should promote none. Also, people’s taxes should not go toward promoting a religion they don’t believe in.

Like churches, if other religious groups or individuals want to buy ads that promote their religion, they should be free to do that. Likewise, the Centre for Inquiry Canada should be free to buy ads that promote atheism. That’s what freedom of expression is all about.

Ashu Solo

Mr. Solo’s support for freedom of expression would have more credibility if he wasn’t also threatening to use the power of the state to silence the voices of duly elected officials such as Randy Donauer.

Also misguided is Mr. Solo’s view on the so-called “separation of church and state”. He seems to believe that this principle ought to ensure the state has nothing to say or do with religion whatsoever.

This is completely wrong. What this principle suggests is that the state should not coerce citizens to practice a particular form of religious belief. If a government wishes to endorse a certain religion over another, it may do so as long as it does not hinder a citizen’s right worship as he or she chooses. If citizens feel the government should not observe religious practices, the remedy can be found in the ballot box.

It is this distinction which Mr. Solo fails to appreciate in his campaign to wipe out any form of religion in public life.

Be that as it may, the city of Saskatoon is hardly “promoting” Christianity with its bus banners as much as it is commemorating a beloved cultural institution which transcends Christianity and is celebrated throughout the community by Christians and non-Christians alike. (Note that this would be different if the banners read “Have a Merry Christmas … or else!”)

If Mr. Solo truly believed in his cause, he would focus his intolerance on actual state-coerced religious observances, such as the mandatory Christmas Day holiday. Good luck to him on that one.

UPDATE: The letter was published on January 3.


Creative Dissonance

If you ever want to know if Gerry “The Finger” Klein wrote the StarPhoenix editorial (and who wouldn’t?), just look for the buzzword “creative” or its variants in the text. The Finger is a disciple of Richard Florida, the increasingly discredited “creative cities” “expert,” and as such uses every opportunity to propagate the ideology.

Here’s what The Finger wrote in the September 18 editorial:

The mayor’s other defence of the automobile – that the only way to convince more people to live and play in the downtown is to have more cars on its roads – is counterintuitive to anyone who has walked in a successful urban centre. It is when there is a dearth of automobiles that streets come alive. That’s when there is more room for street vendors, outdoor restaurant tables, more casual walking. However, even successful urban cores require access for people who live in the periphery. And in a city such as Saskatoon, which is still a long way from having the kind of rapid transit options available in Calgary or Edmonton, which can bring people to the core without their cars, there will long be a need to facilitate the automobile.

Check out the “dearth of automobiles” in the living streets of New York…

nyc times square

“Hey, I’m walkin’ heah! I’m walkin’ heah!”

…or Tokyo…

Granted, they're driving on the wrong side.

Granted, they’re driving on the wrong side of the road.

…or Las Vegas…

"Yeah, but the real fun is downtown," said no one ever.

“Yeah, but the real fun is downtown,” said no one ever.

…or, closer to home, Edmonton’s Whyte Avenue…

where they only burn phone booths during Oiler playoff runs (i.e. once a decade)

where they only burn phone booths during Oiler playoff runs (i.e. once a decade)

…or Calgary’s Red Mile.

Ditto for the Flames

Ditto for the Flames

If anything, it’s a dearth of dearth of automobiles.

It’s obvious The Finger doesn’t get out to successful urban spaces much, but does he even read his own paper? This is from the September 5, 2013, StarPhoenix:

"Pedestrians cross at a crosswalk on Second Avenue between 20th and 21st Street East in Saskatoon, August 24, 2013. "Photograph by: Liam Richards, The StarPhoenix"

“Pedestrians cross at a crosswalk on Second Avenue between 20th and 21st Street East in Saskatoon, August 24, 2013.
“Photograph by: Liam Richards, The StarPhoenix”

It is dusk on Second Avenue, and the air smells of cigarettes. Groups of young people gather outside the pubs and restaurants that line the street, laughing and chatting. A woman in a dress sits on a nearby bench asking for change in a high-pitched voice. Cars circle the block looking for a parking space.

It’s a Friday night, and this street is alive and buzzing. The after-work drink crowd is slowly being replaced by nighttime revelers who have chosen this street — and more specifically this block — for a night out on the town.

Again, emphasis mine.

What The Finger and other “pedestrian-friendly” advocates don’t get is that the walkways themselves aren’t the destination. They’re a means to an end. What draws people to urban spaces are their own desires and goals: a night out with friends, a new movie at the multiplex, a great band coming to town, a fancy dinner.

They need to get to these places.

A fancy new ped- and cyclist-only bridge would be fun for those wanting to go for a nice outdoor jaunt, and I get that. But that in itself doesn’t make a space “come alive.” This goes especially for a ped bridge that would merely connect an older residential neighbourhood filled with people who look like this to the downtown. And even then only when the weather cooperates.

Not shown on the bridge: hordes of pedestrians and cyclists

Not shown on the bridge: hordes of pedestrians and cyclists

Every new bridge has to be accommodating to pedestrians and cyclists. I agree with that sentiment. And I also don’t have any problem with creating public infrastructure with a pleasing aesthetic, especially if it is to be a particular landmark near the centre of the city, even if it costs (a little bit) more.

My issue is with those self-anointed elitists who adhere to a particular lifestyle that suits them to the disregard to others. For me, I want to get downtown, and I’m not about to ride a bike or jog just so I can have a few beers with the boys.

The best use of public funds is to ensure that public infrastructure benefits citiziens in the broadest way possible. Excluding the 90% of people who wouldn’t cycle or walk downtown normally is a poor use of taxpayer dollars.

Not that this would concern the “green” lobby one iota anyway.

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Letter to the Editor

I don’t know what it is about Mayor Atchison that Gerry “The Finger” Klein hates so much, as I’ve noted previously.

Last week, he takes issue with an exchange between the mayor and one of my other favourites, Darren Hill. My letter in response is posted below:

Gerry Klein calls out Mayor Atchison and other supporters of the proposed $170 road-maintenance flat tax for their supposed insensitivity toward the city’s poorer taxpayers. He says that this “regressive” tax would make widowed seniors “subsidize” wealthy residents of the suburbs and exurbs.

Where were Klein and the rest of the well-meaning councillors when they advocated and received an annual flat tax of $55 for homeowners to pay for their beloved recycling program? I recall no tears shed by mandatory recycling advocates on how well-off homeowners living beside The Willows (who were already recycling) would be subsidized by the poor, old widow living alone on a fixed income and consuming practically nothing.

One can debate the merits of using flat taxes to either keep roads safe and maintained or to put off the construction of a new landfill by a mere five years.

But, please, spare me the righteous and indignant hypocrisy.

Rob Huck
Saskatoon, SK

It was published nearly word-for-word the next day, a new record for me.


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The Lame-Stream Media Strikes Back

The following is a draft post I came across from more than a year ago (March 30, 2013). Not sure why I didn’t post it. Thought I’d do it now.

Just when you think the mainstream media couldn’t get any lamer, they go ahead and lame harder than they’ve ever lamed.

It started with the whole Graham James saga, how he was given a lenient sentence for the crimes of sexually abusing his former hockey players, Thereon Fleury and Todd Holt. It was all over the news, especially here in Saskatchewan, where the crimes were primarily committed.

Apparently, one of the StarPhoenix‘s readers had enough of the coverage given to the principles of the trial and wrote a letter to the editor expressing her displeasure. The letter is not available online for reasons I’ll soon explain,  so here it is in full:

Is anyone else as sick of hearing and reading about Theo Fleury as I am?

What Graham James did was wrong, and abuse should never happen to anyone. Did Fleury and Sheldon Kennedy do anything to stop it? Fleury could have walked away and in doing so may have prevented it from happening to someone else.

But Fleury wanted to get to the NHL at any cost. That cost was James.

And what about all the people in whom Theo Fleury gave drugs and money for sex? Is it not the same thing? Is being a “john” and doing drugs not a crime? Where is his jail time for his crimes? Enough already.

It’s signed “Carol Belton, Saskatoon.”

If you’re like me, when you read this you probably thought, wow, what a nut, she sure hates Theo and has some surprising assumptions about sexual abuse victims, and then you move on.

But, as what happens in these days of perpetual outrage, some people weren’t too happy about this. Fleury posted about it on his Facebook page, apparently, and the winds of fury blew up across the land or something. Fair enough. It would have been a stupid, insensitive letter at any time, much less at the tail end of Graham’s trial. Of course people were going to be pissed.

What’s stupider, however, was the reaction of the StarPhoenix to this outrage. Here’s the editorial from this morning, entitled “To our readers”:

It was a letter that should not have run. We were wrong and we apologize.

On Thursday, The StarPhoenix published a letter to the editor submitted by a reader suggesting Theo Fleury could have taken steps to stop the abuse that was inflicted on him by confessed sex offender Graham James.

The letter was disturbing and shocking in its lack of understanding around the issue of child abuse.

Every year, we publish hundreds of letters dealing with sensitive topics. Like the letter in question, many represent views with which members of the editorial board at The StarPhoenix strongly disagree, but are selected for publication to promote free speech and encourage dialogue. It was here the paper fell down.

Mr. Fleury is a survivor of child sexual abuse. There is no constructive moral debate to be had around the question of whether he could have fought back or “walked away.” For anyone to blame him for his fate is unfair in the extreme. The letter did little to advance intelligent debate around our need to confront and address the horrors of child abuse.

We have personally apologized, by telephone, to Mr. Fleury . During that conversation, he spoke of his belief that any discussion exposing the troubling issues of child abuse can be taken positively. He also said he welcomes all opportunities to advance his work as an advocate for greater understanding of the issue. We appreciate his grace and understanding.

We regret The StarPhoenix could not have contributed more constructively to the important discussion of the issue of child sexual abuse. We again apologize to Mr. Fleury , his family, other survivors and all of those we offended by publishing the letter.

Oh, please. Where do I begin?

There is no constructive moral debate to be had around the question of whether he could have fought back or “walked away.”

I hate to shock you, SP, but you obviously had at least one reader who disagrees with that position, wrongly or otherwise. And where there’s one, there’s probably others, which would mean that there might be a small subset of people who don’t approve of Fleury and his silence in these matters until now. This means that there is a moral debate going on, no matter what this city’s paper of record insists.

The letter did little to advance intelligent debate around our need to confront and address the horrors of child abuse.

Even though on the same page, the paper published no less than 13 letters to the editor advancing precisely that intelligent debate.

[Fleury] spoke of his belief that any discussion exposing the troubling issues of child abuse can be taken positively. He also said he welcomes all opportunities to advance his work as an advocate for greater understanding of the issue.

Of course he would say this. He’s taken on tougher opponents than some nobody on the letters page. He knows that the way to fight stupidity is with a good, solid argument.

The late, great Andrew Breitbart knew this better than anyone. The man was the news editor of the Drudge Report, helped build the Huffington Post, founded a formidable collection of Big websites, and took on all comers. Those of us who followed him on Twitter took delight in his constant re-tweets of every vile, wretched, subhuman comments directed his way by the vermin Left. He knew that sunlight was the best disinfectant, and that the way to battle ignorance was by exposing it for the foolishness it is.

He had balls not to run away from a bad argument, but to confront and challenge it to oblivion.

That original letter to the editor was stupid. So what? The public responded the way they should have. Good on them, shame on the editors of the StarPhoenix and any other self-described “journalist” who feels that, when it comes to bad taste, censorship is an option.

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South Asians Are Not Racist

So argues Satya Sharma, everyone’s favourite Marxist associate anthropology professor at the U of Sask, and a man seemingly oblivious to irony.

We last met Professor Sharma when he railed against “corporatization of the university’s decision-making process” as it leads to “declining support for humanities, fine arts, social sciences and the library.”

Today, he attacks the social science of his university colleague:

The story, Thousands of immigrants flock to Saskatoon (SP, May 9), featured an ill-conceived attempt at analysis by Prof. Ken Coates of the Johnson-Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy.

I take issue with both the immigration data and Coates’s analysis.

Note that mongers of competing grievances don’t mix well.

This influx of immigrants is exciting news. Saskatchewan was not a hot spot for immigrants during much of the latter half of the 20th century, so why is it so attractive today for newcomers?

The reasons are simple. Canada’s three big cities – Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal – have priced themselves out in terms of real estate value, rent and cost of living for immigrants. There’s also a perception that Saskatchewan’s economy is booming, although many residents might disagree.

If real estate prices were the primary factor, you’d think you’d see immigrants flocking to, say, New Brunswick than Saskatchewan, especially since Saskatchewan’s booming economy is merely a “perception”.

Canada is a land of the Inuit, First Nations and waves of immigrants. The early white settlers from Western Europe consider themselves privileged and have a strong sense of ownership of the country. Their activities and institutions caused much suffering to aboriginal groups through racism, discrimination, disease, war and ill-treatment, causing First Nations numbers to dwindle.

Ah, it’s about “privilege”, the latest buzzword in the ongoing saga to legitimize critical theory to the unwashed. I.e., differences in society are nothing more than psychological constructs in which one sociological group is “perceived” to hold power over another.

Which would have been news to the 19th-century “white settlers from Western Europe” known as “the Irish”.

The aboriginals now are the fastest growing group in Canada, which has made the early immigrant population anxious. We see numerous examples of it, especially in public policy and neglect.

“Early immigrant population” groups (i.e. Whitey) want to keep aboriginals down, you see. Because they are both racist and privileged.

And “anxious”, apparently.

Immigrants from across the globe have been coming to Canada steadily since the 1960s, although the current Conservative government has tightened the rules and made immigration in the family category particularly difficult.

Indeed. Note the severe drop-off of “family class” permanent-resident immigrants after the Conservatives came to power in 2006.

After early racist immigration policies toward non-white groups, governments of all political stripes have realized that Canada cannot survive without immigrants, regardless of colour.

Recent decades have seen an annual inflow of 200,000 to 300,000 immigrants needed to meet Canada’s labour shortage and to contribute to the safety net for the country’s aging population.

These newcomers, mostly non-whites, pose no challenge to the aboriginal population and have not done so at any time in history.

I agree. Even though the off-reserve aboriginal unemployment rate is almost double that of non-aboriginals and many unskilled labour positions previously available to aboriginals are being increasingly taken up by immigrants, immigration of productive workers does benefit us all.

But since the story was simply pointing out a “perception” issue and, as noted above, “perception” matters more than reality, Mr. Sharma shouldn’t be complaining.

The data used in The StarPhoenix, especially concerning South Asians, are totally wrong, but the paper is not to be faulted. The Harper government changed how Statistics Canada collects data, making long-form household surveys no longer mandatory.

“Totally wrong” being a statistical term introduced by Harper’s new-and-improved StatsCan.

These newcomers are highly underrepresented in the data. I have been doing research in Saskatoon’s South Asian community since the early 1980s. Even back in 1984, the city had close to 4,000 South Asians, the majority from India. Among Indians, Hindus were a majority at about 2,200. Their numbers are much higher today, well above 3,000.

If Mr. Sharma is so sure of his data, then why does he need the long-form census?

Within the past decade there has been a significant jump in the ranks of immigrants from Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Muslims in Saskatoon number close to 10,000, many coming from Ontario. Many Sikhs, too, have move [sic] to Saskatoon from British Columbia.

Good. Glad to have them. Hope they enjoy our cheap housing.

To attempt an analysis on the basis of wrong data is fraught with difficulty. To make sweeping generalizations on the basis of such data is foolhardy.

Though it’s perfectly fine to make “sweeping generalizations” on how “early white settlers from Western Europe [considered] themselves privileged and [had] a strong sense of ownership of the country.” Especially since there was no long-form census data available at that time to support such an analysis.

I am surprised that as a historian, Coates makes an argument about immigrants vis-a-vis aboriginals that amounts to accusing newcomers of being racist and insensitive toward aboriginals, considering them as competition for employment, and being ignorant of Canada’s policies regarding First Nations. It’s far from portraying the truth.

Would it be racist for this Whitey to suggest that Mr. Sharma should learn how to read more carefully?

In the offending article, Professor Coates actually said, “I’m not suggesting for a second [recent immigrants are] racist or aggressively anti-aboriginal, they just don’t buy into the public policy agenda that says dealing with these historic grievances is in fact an obligation of the current population.”

He’s not saying immigrants are racist; he just doesn’t think they care about First Nations concerns as much as guilt-tripped Whitey. That’s his opinion as a professional social scientist. Prove him wrong.

Oh, and he also said, “You’ll also notice among First Nations people that’s an area of concern. They’re saying if you have these temporary worker programs, you’re basically taking entry-level jobs from First Nations people who need to get into the workforce. So that’s a potential source of tension and concern.”

In other words, the perception of increased competition for jobs comes from First Nations people, not immigrants. Sharma has it backwards.

Personally, I wouldn’t say that South Asians in general are any more racist than those from other cultures — although this story goes right out and says just that — but this is based on the fact that I haven’t developed many relationships with recently immigrated South Asians other than with those who work with me. My knowledge on those particular cultures is limited.

I will say, however, that I think the concerns of both Professor Coates and Mr. Sharma seem to be overblown. Canada is one of the most tolerant countries on earth. Here, animosities between various cultures are almost entirely held as perceptions (there’s that word again) rather than outright hostility or aggression. When’s the last race riot you’ve seen in Saskatoon, for example?

I just don’t see the value in adjusting governmental policies and initiatives to appease the grievances between aboriginal and immigrant groups (sorry, leadership) while most members of these groups seem to just want to get on with their lives.

Can’t we all just get along?

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