Category Archives: Politics, Policy & Governance

Kent Monkman: Shame and Prejudice

Shame & Prejudice: A Story of Resilience by Kent Monkman
06 January – 08 April 2018 @ the Agnes Etherington Art Centre at Queens, Kingston, ON

It’s interesting, artist Kent Monkman said.

When he posts a new painting to social media the predictable response is around 500 likes. But this one, he said gesturing to the projection, was different. This time, his accounts blew up to the tune of half a million hits.

The Scream, it appears, was da bomb. And I am not surprised. Continue reading Kent Monkman: Shame and Prejudice

I Am Not Your Negro

The question you have to ask yourself, White America needs to ask itself: Why was it necessary to have a nigger in the first place? ~ James BaldwinI Am Not Your Negro

In a neighbouring village more English than England and whiter than white, I found Agatha Christie’s book in the stacks of the church’s charity book sale. I was shocked to a degree commensurate with my liberal leanings. Then I bought it for a dollar. Continue reading I Am Not Your Negro

More Than Enough Refugee Blues to Go Around

Refugee Blues was published by writer and poet W.H. Auden in 1939, at the start of World War II.

It’s safe to say not much has changed and, perhaps, it never will if war and hatred continue to be our modus operandi. The million dollar question is this: Are we doomed as humans to this destructive cycle of scapegoatism and righteous indignation? Or is there truly a possibility – a probability – for something else?


Continue reading More Than Enough Refugee Blues to Go Around

Capital Building: A View from Washington – Part 3

Click here for Capital Building: A View from Washington – Part 1

Click here for Capital Building: A View from Washington – Part 2

Not Set in Stone: Memorials for the Future

The National Park Service (NPS), the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC), and Van Alen Institute collaborated on Memorials for the Future, an international ideas competition that took place between March and September 2016. The goal of the competition was not to directly produce new monuments, but to reimagine how we think about, feel, and experience memorials. 

It called for designers, artists and social scientists to develop new ways to commemorate people and events that are more inclusive and flexible, reflect the country’s diversity in history, heritage and culture, and that enrich Washington’s landscape while responding to the limitations of traditional commemoration. 

The jury chose four finalist teams –  Climate ChronographAmerican WildThe IM(MIGRANT) and VOICEOVER – who offered distinct concepts and approaches.

Continue reading Capital Building: A View from Washington – Part 3

Capital Building: A View from Washington – Part 2

Click here for Capital Building: A View from Washington – Part 1

Having finally seen Washington, DC for myself this summer, it was great to connect with this presentation by Marcel Acosta, Executive Director of the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC), the Federal Planning Agency for America’s Capital. In it he discusses how the city came to be shaped, and how it will continue to be shaped in the future.

Acosta and Beth White, NCPC Commissioner, were guests of the National Capital Commission (NCC) in Ottawa, presenting in September as part of the NCC’s Capital Urbanism Lab public lecture series. Continue reading Capital Building: A View from Washington – Part 2

Capital Building: A View from Washington – Part 1

In spite of the oppressive heat and humidity of August in Washington, D.C., I did what I like to do best: I walked around, looked at things and talked to people. This being my first trip to the capital, I focussed on the National Mall, exploring adjacent neighborhoods, and my relentless pursuit of Guastavino tile

In D.C., security is the conversational opener in the same way people elsewhere talk about the weather. 9/11 and the Oklahoma City bombing were cited as the salvo, the traceable moments in time when Everything Changed. Reduced accessibility was visible on the streets, in screening procedures employed at every public building, and in architecturally-based security features. And what you couldn’t see – the behind-the-scenes invisible – hung in the air. Continue reading Capital Building: A View from Washington – Part 1

Alex Janvier at the National Gallery of Canada

Alex Janvier is among the most important figures in the development of contemporary Indigenous art in Canada. This retrospective presents more than 150 works created from 1950 to the present day and recounts the story of a life devoted to art and the re-empowerment of Indigenous cultures. Over a prolific sixty-five-year career Janvier has produced thousands of paintings and many public commissions, all in a unique style, recognizable for its calligraphic lines, vivid colours, Dene iconography and forms that evoke land, sky, galaxies and microscopic life. Janvier is part of a distinguished group of artists in Canada who have brought Indigenous beliefs, issues and aesthetics to the foreground and successfully combined them with Western art styles and techniques. ~ National Gallery of Canada website

Yesterday marked the opening of painter Alex Janvier’s gorgeous retrospective at the National Gallery of Canada. I slipped in for the members tour before catching the 6:00pm opening ceremony, which included traditional dancing, honour songs, prayers and a speech by Janvier in his signature white cowboy hat and black suit. Continue reading Alex Janvier at the National Gallery of Canada

Don’t be like this idiot

On the gravel shoulder of the road sits an abandoned clothes dryer wrapped in official-looking crime scene tape bearing the words “Under Investigation.”

Beside it, a canary-yellow lawn sign screams DON’T BE LIKE THIS #IDIOT. This curious tableau did what it was meant to do: It caught my eye and stirred my imagination. Continue reading Don’t be like this idiot

24 Sussex Drive is Falling Down

Contrary to opinions offered by former tenants of the building, reality television stars, CBC listeners, and social media commentators, there is no single right answer to the question: What should become of the Prime Minister’s residence at 24 Sussex Drive?

In fact, it doesn’t matter whether the building is razed or retrofitted. Either way, there will be gains and losses, which is the nature of choice. The answer lies in the the more difficult question: What do we want 24 Sussex Drive to be? Continue reading 24 Sussex Drive is Falling Down

Walk for Reconciliation

Until last Sunday I’d never done this kind of thing before.

By 3:45am I was driving through rainy blackness heading to the Sunrise Ceremony on Victoria Island, in the middle of the Ottawa river. The ceremony would mark the beginning of the close for the six-year-long Truth and Reconciliation Commission examining the effects of Indian residential schools on Aboriginal peoples and culture.

I stood amongst 200 or so souls, shivering under unsettled skies, feeling awkward. I wondered about my right to be at such an important event, wondering if I was taking up someone else’s space, mildly terrified I would do or say the wrong thing, feeling the weight of my ignorance. I needn’t have worried. Almost immediately a woman gathered me under her red umbrella, included. I watched and listened as the lighting of the sacred fire unfolded, but my role wasn’t an entirely passive one. As I would learn over the following days of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, through my presence and attention I was being called as a witness to the past and a bearer of knowledge into the future. Because we can never un-know what we know, we must move forward.

A few hours later I caught the shuttle from Ottawa’s City Hall to Gatineau to join in the Walk for Reconciliation. The walk was:

…designed to transform and renew the very essence of relationships among Aboriginal peoples and all Canadians. It sounds so simple, but just the act of gathering and walking and sharing our stories can join us all in a shared commitment to creating a new way forward in our relationships with each other. Our future depends on being able to simply get along, respecting each other for the unique gifts we bring.”1

I didn’t expect the walk to be magically transformative and it wasn’t. My goal was to show up, stand up, and begin to wake up to the legacy of Indian residential schools and the Canadian government’s assimilation policies. I’m tired of my own ignorance and of feeling useless in the face of the inevitable racist cloud that forms whenever the “Indian subject” arises. I don’t wish to pontificate, but it’s important to be able to explain my point of view and separate fact from fiction.

So last week I walked knowing it marked the beginning of a journey and not the end. It was a small, tangible action I could take in the face of such massive devastation.

Watch TRC Commissioner Marie Wilson speak about the purpose of the Commission and why it’s about Canadian history and not Aboriginal history.