Tuesday 19 May 2015

The Saskatchewan Filmpool At the Cathedral Village Arts Festival

One of our partners for the Stories of Integration Project is the Saskatchewan Filmpool Cooperative. Incorporated in 1977, the Filmpool is one of the most successful and active artist-run centres in Canada.

This week, in partnership with Regina's Cathedral Village Arts Festival, the Filmpool will present Screening Under The Steeple at The Artesian on 13th. The event will showcase a collection of short independent films produced by Filmpool members from across Saskatchewan. Each year, the Filmpool presents about 50 events for its members, the artistic community, Regina citizens and Saskatchewan. 

The screening will be followed by the premiere of RIIS From Amnesia, a feature-length documentary, written and directed by Janine Windolph and Trudy Stewart, on the Regina Indian Industrial School (RIIS), its descendants and legacy.

The Saskatchewan Filmpool provided support for the production of RIIS From Amnesia. Each year, the Filmpool supports the production of more than 60 independent films and provides members with opportunities to screen their films at numerous events, venues and festivals in Saskatchewan and beyond.

In 2013, the Filmpool was the recipient of a Lieutenant Governor's Arts Award in the category of Leadership in the Arts - Organization. The Filmpool's unique and innovative programming reflects the individual and collective expression of Saskatchewan people, and the important role that creativity, art and culture play within society. It publishes the bi-annual 
Splice Magazine, which has existed for 35 years and is one of the only magazines in Canada providing a forum, voice and context for independent, indigenous filmmaking.

The Filmpool functions as a gathering point for aboriginal, rural, immigrant and women filmmakers by providing outreach opportunities to these communities, including both administrational and technical support for Queer City CinemaIPUFF (International Puppet Underground Film Festival, mispon (A Celebration of Indigenous Filmmaking), Poetry and Film night and many others. 

Hope to see you at Screening Under the Steeple and the premiere of RIIS From Amenisa.

Monday 27 April 2015

Fostering Fransaskois Culture

One of my favourite stories of integration involves singing, records and the post office.

Paul Campagne’s grandparents came to Canada in the early 1900s from France and settled in Willow Bunch, SK. When Paul was growing up, they couldn’t find French music in Saskatchewan, so his father would call a Montreal record store and ask them to send him French music so that he could share it with his children. Paul remembers getting boxes of records in the mail when he was a kid. The French music he listened to as a child inspired Paul to sing. Every year, he runs a Francophone festival on his family farm in memory of his parents.
Willow Bunch, SK from www.willowbunch.ca
Paul and his siblings also went on to form Canadian folk music groups, Folle Avoine and later Hart Rouge. One of our partner organizations, Conseil culturel fransaskois, was instrumental in fostering young Fransaskois singer-songwriters like the Campagne family. Formed in 1974, the organization was mandated to foster the development of Fransaskois culture. According to its website:

Le Conseil culturel fransaskois s’engage à fournir un appui concerté et soutenu à la communauté fransaskoise dans son développement artistique et culturel. Il voit à l’intégration de la culture dans les écoles fransaskoises et d’immersion, facilite la diffusion de spectacles dans les communautés et offre des formations artistiques.

“The Conseil culturel fransaskois develops programming, policies, and activities that will allow the Fransaskois community to achieve its cultural and creative potential thereby increasing its economic viability. The organization helps facilitate the overall cultural and artistic development of French artists and cultural workers.”

The Conseil culturel fransaskois is also a sponsor for Saskatoon’s week long Francophone Film Festival, Cinergie, which kicks off tonight, Monday, April 27. This year, Cinergie celebrates its 10th anniversary, with five days of Francophone films from the Prairies, Canada and beyond. The films range from coming-of-age stories to animation, romance and drama. Learn more about the festival at cinergiesk.ca

Thursday 16 April 2015

"Come & Join Us": Powwow welcomes everyone

A friend of mine told me the other day that he wanted to go to the 37th annual First Nations University of Canada Powwow in Regina this past weekend, but wasn’t sure if non-Indigenous people were allowed to go. This reminded me of an interview we did with First Nations elder Maria Linklater for the Stories of Integration Project.

Born on Thunderchild First Nation, Linklater moved to the city of Thunder Bay and brought her cultural traditions with her. She did craftwork, held feasts and taught people how to make quilts and do beadwork. Linklater told us it’s important to her that we “enjoy one another’s way of life.”

Keeping in line with this philosophy, the FNUC powwow was open to anyone with an interest in attending. As Elder Linklater said, “Come and join us when we have feasts, when we have round dances, and have an open mind.”

As a non-Indigenous person, I had the honour of attending the powwow this past weekend with friends. It was powerful to watch the more than 650 registered dancers fill the Brandt centre stadium during Grand Entry, to smell the burning sweetgrass and to enjoy the sound of the traditional drummers and singers.

To view more photos visit Michael Keith Dubois' album on Facebook here.

Powwows take place across North America. For a list of upcoming powwows in Canada and Saskatchewan, click here.

Thursday 9 April 2015

Saskatchewan Ukrainian Community

One of the first interviews we did for the Stories of Integration Project was with Alice Derow in Canora. Her grandparents were Ukrainian and immigrated to Canada in 1898. It took them two weeks to get to Halifax from eastern Europe. Later, they settled in Yorkton, SK. Their first home was a one-room log cabin, which housed five adults and five children. The cabin was plastered with clay, and heated by an oven. Alice told us that her grandparents were farmers and wanted a better life for their children. When we spoke with Alice, she was active in her church and sang in the choir, saying that it was important to her to pass on Ukrainian traditions and language.
Alice Derow, Canora, 2013

Alice is also on the executive of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress Canora branch. The Ukrainian Canadian Congress - Saskatchewan Provincial Council is one of our partner organizations and is "an inclusive, self-sustaining, vibrant organization that serves the Saskatchewan Ukrainian community to maintain, develop and share its Ukrainian Canadian identity, culture and aspirations."

On the UCC-SPC website, you'll find lots of opportunities to contribute to, and participate in, Ukrainian culture in Saskatchewan. You can enter a 50/50 lottery, the proceeds from which support cultural, heritage, educational, youth projects and activities. You can read about the history of Ukrainians in Saskatchewan, check out a calendar of events, which includes everything from a Ukrainian Dance Festival in Prince Albert to a Concert for Humanitarian Aid to Ukraine in Saskatoon, read about the organization's services and programming and much more.

Do you have a story to share about Ukrainian culture? Tell it to us in the comments below, or on Facebook or Twitter using the hashtag #WeAreSK

Tuesday 31 March 2015

Saskatchewan German Council

One of our partner organizations, the Saskatchewan German Council, is dedicated to promoting the heritage, culture and interests of Saskatchewan people of German-speaking backgrounds. Its mission is to “to preserve, promote and further German language, traditions and culture for all people of Saskatchewan by engaging people of all ages to become active and involved partners in a vibrant multicultural community in Saskatchewan.”

There are a number of upcoming events at the Regina German Club and German Cultural Centre in Saskatoon that promote German culture. Want to attend a Spargelfest or listen to a German choirYou can attend a workshop on buying a house, go to an Easter Sunday Brunch or take German-Canadian cooking classes.

While traveling Saskatchewan during Culture Days 2013, we stopped at the Harvest Wine Festival at the Regina German Club to eat Zwiebelkuchen (onion cake) and enjoy a choir singing traditional German songs (see photo to the right). 

Got a story to share about your German family or upbringing? Comment below or share it on Twitter or Facebook using the hashtag #WeAreSK.

Tuesday 24 March 2015

Dispelling Myths about the Niqab through Story

Canada is currently having a national debate about the niqab, the face veil worn by a small number of Muslim women, after a woman did not remove hers during a citizenship ceremony. She then asked a federal court to make a ruling about the legality of the Conservative government’s policy that stipulates women must remove the niqab during the oath-swearing portion of a citizenship ceremony.

A passionate debate on the matter has emerged, with some people saying the niqab is rooted in a sexist culture and that it is a practice oppressive to women. While teaching a course on Women’s & Gender Studies at the University of Regina, a student from Syria told me that her decision to wear the hijab, a veil that covers the head and chest, was not forced on her by sexism; rather, it was a personal, spiritual decision.

Stories are important for bringing a new understanding and awareness. They can help dispel myths, break stereotypes and correct false assumptions. Stories are also a way for people to express their truths. Rather than talk about Muslim women who wear the niqab, it would be useful to make space for niqab-wearing women to be able to share their stories and for everyone else to listen.

In this study, Women in Niqab Speak: A Study of the Niqab in Canada, 81 women were interviewed, and “being forced” to wear the niqab was never provided as a reason for wearing it.

In this article, Zunera Ishaq, the woman at the centre of the niqab debate, writes, It’s precisely because I won’t listen to how other people want me to live my life that I wear a niqab. Some of my own family members have asked me to remove it. I have told them that I prefer to think for myself.” 

She also shares this: “Aside from the religious aspect, I like how it makes me feel: like people have to look beyond what I look like to get to know me. That I don’t have to worry about my physical appearance and can concentrate on my inner self. That it empowers me in this regard.”

In this powerful interview that aired on The Current, three women who wear, or have worn, the niqab share their reasons for choosing to wear it, as well as the impact that choice has had on their lives and their loved ones. 

As we collected stories from Saskatchewan immigrants, newcomers and Indigenous communities for the Stories of Integration Project, a noticeable theme emerged. People expressed the importance of being able to retain their unique cultural customs, values and practices. As one woman, Xiaofeng from China, said, “I think multiculturalism is great because it's like a rainbow. You see a rainbow, and it's colourful.”

Another woman, Ingri, immigrated to Weyburn from Chile, and told us a story about going shopping with a friend from El Salvador. The Salvadorian woman would wear her apron instead of a purse, said Ingri, who appreciated that her friend could continue practicing her cultural customs in Saskatchewan, instead of being forced to assimilate into Canadian culture.

One of our PSAs, “From Many Peoples Strength,” reflects the idea that everyone has a story to tell. Sharing our stories and respecting one another’s culture helps build a stronger community.

Thursday 12 March 2015

The Sharing of Two Cultures: Bratwurst & Perogies

Oskar's Deli and Sausage Haus had a special place in the hearts and bellies of the people who belonged to the German community in Regina. When the deli closed last year after 39 years of business, its customers needed to find a new place to buy bratwurst. 

Last week, the CBC told a touching story of how the Ukrainian Co-op in Regina stepped in to recreate some of Oskar's products for the German community. The Ukrainian Co-op, managed by Karen Rogers, even ended up with Oskar's secret sausage recipe so that its former customers could continue to buy and enjoy it. Read the CBC story here.

What a beautiful story that exemplifies the coming together of two cultures. It's a story of collaboration, cooperation and respect, reflecting some of the themes from the Stories of Integration PSAs. As one woman said in the PSA, Culture is a Two-Way Street, the relationship between two cultures is "more of a give and take relationship and eventually it develops into friendship."

Tuesday 3 March 2015

International Women's Day - March 8

In 1910, at an international conference of working women in Copenhagen, Clara Zetkin, a member of the Social Democratic Party in Germany, proposed the idea of an International Women’s Day—a day when women would put forward demands for equality. The delegates at the women’s conference—representing 17 countries—unanimously voted in favour of Zetkin’s proposal. In 1911, International Women's Day was recognized for the first time in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland. Since then, countries worldwide continue to celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8, recognizing women’s achievements while calling for greater equality.

There are numerous events happening across Saskatchewan for International Women’s Day this year. One in particular focuses on storytelling. Women Building Bridges for Change Through Art and Story is a collaborative project of the Multicultural Council of Saskatchewan, Regina Immigrant Women Centre, the MacKenzie Art Gallery, Intercultural Grandmothers Uniting, Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission, Amnesty International and other community groups. The event, which will take place on Sunday, March 8 at the MacKenzie Art Gallery from 1:00-3:15 p.m., includes opportunities for women from a variety of cultural backgrounds to connect through story and art.

Attendees are invited to interact with the MovingForward, Never Forgetting exhibition, which features work exploring the intergenerational impact of colonization and ways of moving forward through cross-cultural friendship, familial sharing and cultural continuance.

What’s particularly unique about this exhibition is the works are accompanied by Story Keepers—living speakers who will assist visitors in learning about the stories behind the art works and collect stories from visitors.

At 3:30 p.m., participants will then be invited to board buses and travel to the Albert Street Bridge to take part in an international movement, Join Me On The Bridge. There, participants will connect with one another with red coloured scarves “to show freedom and empowerment.”

Do you have a story of integration to share about a female relative? Are you a woman with your own story to share? Tell it to us using the hashtag: #WeAreSK.

Tuesday 24 February 2015

Heritage Language Day: Promoting and Preserving All Languages

Katharina Ulbrich describes the German class she teaches at the Estevan Library as “fun and funny.” Canadians, for instance, say “on cloud 9,” but in German, the equivalent of that happy expression is “on cloud 7,” says Ulbrich.

I met Katharina while travelling the province during Culture Days in 2013. The seven partner organizations involved in the Stories of Integration Project -- Multicultural Council of Saskatchewan, Saskatchewan Organization for Heritage Languages, Saskatchewan German Council,  Saskatchewan Filmpool Cooperative, Ukrainian Canadian Congress - Saskatchewan Provincial Council, Conseil Culturel Fransaskois, and Aboriginal Friendship Centres of Saskatchewan -- asked people to share their stories for a series of public service announcements.

Katharina wasn’t the only one who spoke about language. Berbel Knoll’s parents immigrated to Tisdale after WWII from Germany. Berbel’s mother worked in a Chinese restaurant, where the owners only spoke Chinese and Berbel’s mother only spoke German. As a result, they relied on their hands to communicate. One day, Berbel’s mother had gotten frostbite on her face. One of the owners of the restaurant ran outside, gathered some snow and put it on her cheek. Somehow, Berbel’s mother had managed to communicate that she had frostbite, and the owner knew exactly how to treat it.

Berbel’s parents fostered an appreciation for German in their children and eventually, Berbel became a German teacher at Luther College.

Every year since 2000, International Mother Language Day is celebrated on Feb. 21, making this year the 15th anniversary. The day promotes the preservation and protection of all languages all over the world.

Photo by Maria Aman
Since 2002, the Saskatchewan Organization for Heritage Languages has held celebrations in recognition of Heritage Language Day. This year’s event was a wonderful success with about 300 people in attendance. Dignitaries who were present included Senator Pana Merchant, Honourable Ralph Goodale, MLA Warren Steinley, Mayor Michael Fougere, SaskCulture Director Renu Kapoor, SOHL Director Nishchal Prasad, and MLAR President Jim Leskun. 

The celebration was a day of multicultural performances, including powwow singing and dancing, Irish dancing, Bengali singing and dancing, Hindi singing, a Chinese Lion Dance, a Nepali dance, and a performance by a local spoken word artist.

Natya Sudha Dance Group, photo by Maria Aman
The people we interviewed for the Stories of Integration project told us that it’s important to them to be able to preserve their cultural traditions and language. Recent data indicates a rise in Filipino, Urdu, Mandarin and Hindi new immigrants settling in Saskatchewan.

According to the United Nations: “More than 50 percent of the approximately 7,000 languages spoken in the world are likely to die out within a few generations, and 96 percent of these languages are spoken by a mere 4 per cent of the world's population. Only a few hundred languages have genuinely been given pride of place in education systems and the public domain, and less than a hundred are used in the digital world.”

Statistics from the 2011 Saskatchewan National Household Survey reveal that only 24.3 percent of all self-identified Indigenous people indicate having an Indigenous language as one of their mother tongues. 

According to UNESCO: “All moves to promote the dissemination of mother tongues will serve not only to encourage linguistic diversity and multilingual education but also to develop fuller awareness of linguistic and cultural traditions throughout the world and to inspire solidarity based on understanding, tolerance and dialogue.”

Saturday 14 February 2015

Stories of Integration: Remembering Michele Sereda

Integration is when two or more things, people or groups come together to create something new. When we speak of cultural integration, we’re referring to cultures coming together to form a multicultural society, in which each culture is equally respected, celebrated and encouraged to retain its unique characteristics, customs, values and features.

This past week, a dear friend, Michele Sereda, passed away in a tragic fatal car accident just north of Regina. Well known to the arts community in Saskatchewan and beyond, Michele was someone who loved to learn about, learn from, and integrate with cultures that differed from her own ethno-cultural background.

I remember Michele telling me about an evening Spanish language class that she had been taking. Her excitement for learning a new language was evident in her animated gestures and facial expressions as she talked about the prospect of being able to communicate with a new friend who spoke Spanish. Shortly after Michele enrolled in the course, she traveled to Europe, and asked that I stay at her house to care for her cat, Bruno. As I moved about the house, I discovered random sticky notes posted to objects. There was a sticky note on a plant, the bathroom mirror, the telephone… On each sticky note, she had written the word for the object in Spanish: planta, espejo, teléfono.

Michele had a profound admiration and respect for Indigenous peoples and cultures. She used to say, “Anyone can go out to the reserve. You don’t need an invitation.” I took this to mean that if you cared about bridging Indigenous and non-Indigenous cultures, it was up to non-Indigenous people to involve themselves in Indigenous ways of living, to learn about Indigenous traditions and values, and to visit with Indigenous peoples wherever they are.

Photo by Ann Verrall
When Michele tragically passed away, she and three of her colleagues, who also lost their lives in the car accident, Lacy Morin-Desjarlais, Michael Green and Narcisse Blood, were on their way to Piapot First Nation. Michele had been working with Piapot students for five years as part of a drama program called Spirit of the Story and was active at the school in other ways for more than a decade. Global reported that Chief Ira Lavalee “described Sereda as an adoptive family member in their community,” saying that Michele “opened that door, that it is ok to talk about our ceremonies, our own creation stories, our own unique cultural diversity.”

Michele was a wonderful example of someone who practiced cultural integration and demonstrated genuine curiosity and appreciation for diverse cultures, especially the cultures of Canada’s first peoples.

In honour of Michele, we welcome you to share your story of integration in the comments below, or on Twitter, using the hashtag: #WeAreSK. And we offer our sincere condolences to the families and friends of those who lost their lives in the fatal car accident outside Regina on the morning of Tuesday, Feb. 10.