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Look Back/Look Ahead

January 17 2016 |

I’m turning 31 today. As I’ve said before, having a January birthday is helpful in delineating points in your life – a new calendar year is followed quickly by a new year for me, personally. So it’s a good point to look back/look ahead on what I accomplished, learned, and hope to do better. So here we go:

Looking back at those last four points has made me realize what I’m really getting value out of are things that can’t be accomplished in a day- they are things that require days/weeks/months of work. And they probably can’t be done alone. So that will be something to think about moving forward: what do I want to say, how do I want to say it, and who do I want to say it with? Hopefully I can figure that out.

So this was 30

January 17 2016 |

Since turning 30, I’ve been trying to record one second of every day of my life. There’s some gaps here and there, but overall this feels pretty representative. There’s a few big moments, but there’s also the little ones that get more important with time: family, friends, a bike ride home, pets who’ve since crossed the rainbow bridge.

I’m surprised at how valuable of an exercise this has been, making me think just a little more about what I want to do each day, what I want to remember, and discovering how even something as simple as a one second image of a faucet or the outside of a building can take me back to a moment I’d otherwise forget.

My only regret is the days I missed but, hey, there’s always next year.

Thanks for the past 365 days, y’all. You make it grand.

My five most popular posts of 2015

December 31 2015 |

Every year, I find it’s a helpful exercise to look back on some of my output from the past 365 days to see what resonates. Some of that is the stuff that resonates with me, personally, and some of it is what resonated with people more widely. I’m happy to see that this year, more than any previous ones, the stuff that resonated widely is largely the stuff that resonated with me, as well.

According to a combination of Google Analytics, Medium’s built-in analytics, and Facebook + Twitter shares, these are my most popular pieces of writing of 2015:


Best of northern B.C. media 2015

December 31 2015 |

Alright, so every New Year’s I like to do a little personal “best of” highlighting work I’m proud of from the past year. I’m going to do that again, but I wanted to give a shout out to other people, first.

I’ve said it before and I’ve said it again, journalism doesn’t happen in a vacuum. When stories go national, they get all the attention, but they have to bubble up from a local level, first. And sometimes they just stay local, but are hugely important on a local level. And the local journalists deserve the recognition for that. For example:

This isn’t a definitive listing, and I’m sure I’ve missed some really good stuff, especially from near the beginning of the year. It’s just some highlights off of the top of my head. Journalism can feel like a grind sometimes, but it’s nice to step back and look at all the truly compelling stuff coming out on a regular basis. To all of y’all on that grind over the past year- thanks, and all the best for 2016.


Almost Mainstream: The 2015 Mixtape

December 24 2015 |

Every December/January, I like to make a little mix of my favourite things in music from the past year. Sometimes it’s top songs, sometimes it’s top albums, sometimes it’s twelve tracks, sometimes it’s twenty. It really depends on what feels most relevant to my listening habits of the past year.

This year, it feels like the most honest thing to do is make a mixtape that’s roughly representative of my listening habits of the past year, which was largely listening to various mixes and individual tracks. I limited it to forty tracks because I find anything too long is just not worthwhile as a curated mix of the best of the best. If you desperately want more, I suggest my 2015 jams playlist on Spotify which sounds awesome on shuffle and includes basically every song I loved from the past 360-ish days.

As it is, these are the forty songs I’ve selected as the best representation of the past year. I followed the Said the Gramophone rules for year-end lists, which is: every artist only gets one song, and the songs are ones that heard for the first time in 2015- a few came out at the tail end of 2014, but I didn’t catch them then.

By the way, my favourite albums of the year were: Carly Rae Jepsen‘s Emotion plus all its related singles, Grimes‘ Art Angels plus all her related singles/releases of the year, and Bleachers‘ Terrible Thrills Vol. 2. My other favourite artists were Drake (who released a good album, a good joint album, and good singles) and Justin Bieber (who released a strong slate of singles, but whose album still has too much filler). My favourite live artist was Black Spruce Bog, who had a great year from the Canada Winter Games through to The First Waltz and who also released the very excellent ConfluenceMy favourite song, period, was “Can’t Feel My Face” by the Weeknd. My favourite soundtrack was the season one playlist for Aziz Ansari’s Master of None, which is great all the way through and introduced me to “Cool It Now” by New Edition, which I’d somehow never heard before.

If you are interested, here are my previous year-end lists:

2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010

And here’s this year’s mix:

Almost Mainstream 2015 Mixtape Cover


MixcloudDownload | Spotify (not all tracks are available on Spotify)


  1. Cree Dance Clearwater Revival – Mob Bounce
  2. The Peoples’ Champ – A Tribe Called Red feat. Hellnback
  3. Uptown Funk – Mark Ronson feat. Bruno Mars
  4. WTF (Where They From) – Missy Elliott feat. Pharrell Williams
  5. Adventure of A Lifetime – Coldplay
  6. Electric Love (Oliver Remix) – BØRNS
  7. Tete Jaune Road – Black Spruce Bog
  8. Cheer Up London – Slaves
  9. HOTFOOT – Doldrums
  10. Pedestrian At Best – Courtney Barnett
  11. FourFiveSeconds – Rihanna feat. Kanye West & Paul McCartney
  12. Bassically – Tei Shi
  13. Gold – Kiiara
  14. I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times) – Jaime xx feat. Young Thug and Popcaan
  15. Lean On – Major Lazer feat. MØ and DJ Snake
  16. Want To Want Me – Jason Derulo
  17. Unlock The Swag – Rae Sremmurd feat. Jace of Two-9
  18. Like Whoa – Logic
  19. Everyday – A$AP Rocky feat. Rod Stewart, Miguel, and Mark Ronson
  20. Old Love/New Love – Twin Shadow feat. D’angelo Lacey
  21. Run Away With Me – Carly Rae Jepsen
  22. I Wanna Get Better – Bleachers feat. Tinashe
  23. How I Want Ya – Hudson Thames feat. Hailee Steinfeld
  24. Bad Blood – Nao
  25. Can’t Feel My Face – The Weeknd
  26. Burial – Yogi feat. Pusha T, Moody Good, and TrollPhace
  27. Shutdown – Skepta
  28. Energy – Drake
  29. This Aint’ Toronto – Wasiu
  30. Where Are Ü Now – Jack Ü feat. Justin Bieber
  31. All My Friends – Snakehips feat. Tinashe and Chance the Rapper
  32. Middle – DJ Snake feat. Bipolar Sunshine
  33. King Kunta – Kendrick Lamar
  34. Don’t Wanna Fight – Alabama Shakes
  35. Moaning Lisa Smile – Wolf Alice
  36. Firefly – Hollerado
  37. Pretty Good Joke – Dan Mangan + Blacksmith
  38. ‘Cause I’m A Man – Tame Impala
  39. The Feeling – Justin Bieber feat. Halsey
  40. Realiti – Grimes

Farewell, Rdio

December 14 2015 |

rdio farewell akurjata

Please leave the pub, you’re making the other patrons uncomfortable

November 30 2015 |

Today, CBC’s acting director of digital news announced comments on stories about indigenous people will be closed until at least mid-January. In the post, Brodie Fenton writes (emphasis mine):

We’ve noticed over many months that these stories draw a disproportionate number of comments that cross the line and violate our guidelines. Some of the violations are obvious, some not so obvious; some comments are clearly hateful and vitriolic, some are simply ignorant. And some appear to be hate disguised as ignorance (i.e., racist sentiments expressed in benign language).

This comes at the same time CBC News has made a concerted effort to connect with indigenous communities in order to improve our journalism and better reflect these communities to a national audience. The success of our Aboriginal unit and our investigative journalism around missing and murdered indigenous women are just two examples of that commitment.

We don’t want violations of our guidelines by a small minority of our commenters to derail our good work or alienate our audience. So we’re taking a pause to see if we can put some structure around this. We will reopen comments as soon as possible.”

I’ve spent a fair amount of time thinking about comments, and recently put my own, loosey-goosey policy into place about which sort of comments would get deleted on my Facebook page. One of the things I didn’t really get into with my explanation, but which was top of mind, is a desire for people who are marginalized to feel comfortable being present in my online space, even if it means cracking down on people who are less sensitive to those sorts of situations.

It’s all about what sort of space you want to make – is it a shouting match where anyone can say anything, or is it a civil discussion where people of different backgrounds can speak up and feel a sense of belonging and respect?

* * *

Earlier this year the city of Prince George decided to rename a city park in such a way that it recognized the indigenous people who originally called that space home (and many of whom still do). The online debate was, at times, heated and in some cases boiled over to the point of implicit and explicit racism.

Some sites allowed this debate to stand. The Facebook page for a local radio station wound up deleting a post about it after the discussion veered outside of what they deemed good taste, and then they posted about that decision. They were not the only one to delete stories.

There is a popular Facebook page in Prince George for posting good news stories about the city. It has created an amazing community of people who want to celebrate the city, connected people needing help, and quite literally changed lives for the better. And the job of keeping that page a place of positivity is not easy. I’ve seen some of messages the admins receive – all volunteers mind you- and they are virulent, hateful, expletive-filled, and not something I would wish on my worst enemy. In order to prevent these messages from polluting the public-facing parts of this community, the admins have had to make some difficult decisions about what is and isn’t allowed. Controversy is not.

The world is full of spaces for people to argue. This page is not one of those spaces. It is a space to share good-news stories and feel good doing it. So one of the rules is, basically, if a post starts to generate controversy, it gets deleted. One time I posted a story about stairs being painted a new colour, and people didn’t like the change, so the story got deleted. I shrugged and moved on.

I think, however, this decision-making gets a little more complicated if you are dealing with stories affecting marginalized groups. Because while for some people the renaming of this park was something to complain about, for a great many others it was something to celebrate. For the Lheidli T’enneh people, it was a moment of acknowledgement of their past and present in this city. It was a moment of reconciliation. It was a good news story.

And so they did what many other people in this city do when they want to celebrate – they posted the story in this very popular Facebook page for sharing good news. And then the negative comments would start, and the story would get deleted.

The metaphor I came up with was to think of the Facebook page as a popular pub where people go to celebrate. In this instance, people came in to celebrate the renaming of the park. Some people at the other table didn’t like it. So the people celebrating were asked to quiet down or leave.

I don’t think for a second this was the message the admins of the page want to send. They have a tough job (that isn’t actually a job), and they are keeping things civil as best they can. I know for certain I’ve clammed up or tried to change the subject when a conversation gets uncomfortable, simply because I want to move on and keep the peace. I know that isn’t always the best decision, and yet I continue to do it. So I’m not going to fault anyone for how this played out.

There are large media organizations with dedicated comments manager who still struggle to keep discussion respectful– see CBC’s decision to shut the comments down as they consider ways to fix this. Rather than kicking people out of the pub, they are shutting the pub down while figuring out their next move.

But I also think the reasons for doing this are worth paying attention to. There is a desire to keep the comments open, but open to people of all backgrounds, rather than letting the baser elements control the conversation. I’m not sure how that will be accomplished, but it will be worth following. At the core of this, for anyone with an online community, is the process of thinking about what sort of community you are aiming to create, how you do that, and who might get left out in the process. Who do you want to be allowed in your pub?

Filed under: Aboriginal, blogging, Canada

Podcast content needs to stop being so gosh darn predictable → 

November 12 2015 |

Nicholas Quah:

“The vast majority of the charts draw upon the same few concepts, deriving from the same few traditions, borne of the same few sensibilities. Touchy-feely reportage. Public radio two-ways. Public radio science-y shows. Shows about music. Comedians talking with comedians. People talking with people like themselves. Celebrities talking celebrity things. Conversationals. True crime true crime true crime.”

Sounds about right.

Corner store

November 3 2015 |

I live in the same neighbourhood I grew up in. A few blocks away from both my childhood home and current home, there is a small business plaza.

When I was a kid it had1 :

The bakery, deli, dentist, and pub have all shut down.

Some of the businesses that have opened and subsequently shut in the intervening years include:

Today it has:

Only the pizza place, as far as I know, is under the same ownership. The convenience store is also still there, but it has changed hands once or twice.

I feel like there’s some sort of story about demographic and cultural shifts in there.

  1. all of these are partial lists, based on memory 

hot take on cultural appropriation and Hallowe’en

October 30 2015 |

If people from a cultural group say a costume is offensive, I just won’t wear it.

There is no costume that is so important to me that it is worth making a group of people feel excluded or belittled, regardless of my own thoughts on the subject.

And that’s my hot take on cultural appropriation and Hallowe’en.

Filed under:

This is why I deleted your comment on Facebook

October 23 2015 |

My relationship to Facebook is kind of dumb. I like it, in that it connects me to people and provides a platform for conversation, but I hate it in that I think it’s a poorly designed platform for conversation and I would happily abandon it except it’s where a lot of people I like hang out.


I often post things I write there, and a lot of the time it’s fun because other people read it and give me feedback, which I enjoy. But there is also a downside, which is that if a thing gets popular it starts to get shared and show up in the feeds of total strangers who think the things I have to say are stupid and would like to say so, and they do, in the form of comments. It’s not always as simple as “this is dumb” but they disagree with me to a certain degree and would like to say so.

Now, disagreement is completely fine, and yes my posts are public so they are basically sitting there for people to comment on, but the reality is, it is still my space. If I go to my Facebook page, I would like to see things that make me happy and I would also like the people who are, by whatever definition, my friends, to be happy upon seeing one of my posts. And I’ve noticed that the more I take a laissez-faire approach to what people can say on my posts, the more likely it is that I and others will not be happy with what comes out, to the point that it has at times spilled over into real life negativity.

Look, it’s not like I’m saying I am infallible and incapable of error so dissent will not be tolerated. But I guess I kind of think of it like this: if a person writes a book, what sense would it make for them to put negative reviews on the back jacket so that every time they saw this thing they created, they would see the words of people who think they did a bad job or who fundamentally disagree with their worldview? Those people are entitled to hold those opinions and even post them, but I am not required to let my space be a place for them to express those views. In a weird way I view my posts as a body of work, and every comment on that work actually becomes a part of my piece because it is inextricably linked to the original text and given essentially the same amount of visibility. So if I write something I like and someone comments “this is stupid” below, the words “this is stupid” are appended to my original writing and become a part of it. This is the part of Facebook’s design that I hate.

This becomes especially true if those views are expressed in a way that is less than respectful to myself or others. As a matter of fact, I am far more comfortable with critiques of me than critiques of other people involved in the discussion, sort of like it’s not super to have two people come into your home and then get into a shouting match – you feel a certain amount of responsibility to step in, and that is not something I have always been the best at. Especially when it comes to sensitive issues like race and gender it is sad to me when I write something with the intention of bringing people together and it devolves into ad hominem attacks.


So with that in mind, here is a partial and ever-evolving list of reasons I *might* delete your comment:

My hope isn’t to limit to discussion, but to make that discussion productive rather than combative, which online discussion too often is. If you feel strongly that you want to get into a debate about the existence of white privilege or sexism or xenophobia or whatever, then feel free to write your own post outlining your views and invite me to participate.


Filed under: misc

Denying white privilege exists is like denying being tall helps you make it to the NBA

October 23 2015 |

This is adapted from a comment in a Facebook thread about white privilege.

So let’s look at the NBA. It is not easy to get to the NBA. Lots of people from around the world try to get to the NBA and fail. Only the most dedicated, most skilled players, the ones who sacrifice a lot, will join that elite group. Most people do not have what it takes.

But the people who make it to the NBA almost all have another thing in common. They are at least six feet tall.

In fact, only 24 people under 6 feet have ever made it to the NBA.

If you are under 6 feet, you are probably not going to make it to the NBA, no matter how much drive you have.

That’s not to say it’s impossible. It’s just that there are people who have a natural advantage over you: they are taller. It’s not their fault they were born taller. And being tall does not guarantee them access to the NBA. The vast majority of people over six feet never play in the NBA.

But still: being six feet tall or more helps you get into the NBA.

People over six feet have an advantage over people under six feet. They didn’t invent the rules of the game, they may not be able to change the rules, but they benefit from them.

That is white privilege. You can’t just sit back and be successful because you were born white. But being white gives you a natural advantage over those who aren’t because those are the rules of the game we’re playing.

There are countless statistics indicating the existence of white privilege. The number of white people vs non-white people in high-level leadership positions, elite schools, and jails point to a disparity of outcomes. Put a white person and a non-white person in the same socio-economic space to start and, generally speaking, the white person is more likely to advance, for a whole variety of near-invisible cultural reasons which you can educate yourself about with just a bit of googling.

If you are white and deny the existence white privilege, imagine having this conversation with your average 6’7″ NBA player:

YOU: “Man, sometimes I wish I had been born taller, maybe I could have played in the NBA.”

THEM: “What are you talking about? You think just because I’m tall this was easy for me?”

YOU: “No, I just mean… you being tall helps. I’m short- it’s a bit of a disadvantage…”

THEM: “I got up every day of my life in high school and college to run laps. I gave up evenings. I gave up weekends. I didn’t have a girlfriend until I was 23”

YOU: “No, no, it’s not that – it’s just – I mean, I could have done that, but I’m 5’6″. I wouldn’t have made it…”

THEM: “Look at Muggsy Bogues. He was 5’3″ and he played 15 seasons.”

YOU: “I know, I know, but he’s an exception. Being tall helps.”

THEM: “My parents looked after themselves! They were healthy… they made sure I got good nutrition. You’re going to hold it against me that my parents were both tall and looked after me so I would be tall?”

YOU: “I’m not saying that.”

THEM: “I saw a homeless guy the other day. 6’5″. Being tall really helped him, huh? Looks like being tall is a REAL advantage in life. I prefer to judge people on their skill, not their genetics.”


Filed under: misc

“Why I’m Embracing Cynicism Amidst The New Trudeaumania” → 

October 21 2015 |

Scaachi Koul:

“You’ve earned your cynicism if you’re a woman and have watched men in power try to trample on your rights, or if you’re aboriginal and you’ve been ignored for eons, or if you’re a Muslim woman whose existence suddenly became politicized. You’ve earned it if you’re trans and have seen government after government barely acknowledge that your suicide rates are out of control.

“You’ve earned it for decades through things that happened in this country long before you got here, to your ancestors, your community, your neighbours. You get to be cynical because elections are nothing if not cynical events. One day, the Liberals will likely fail you (they did before) and another party will rise to power. No party deserves your allegiance immediately after an election. They actually have to work for that.”

Even though Liberals in Prince George lost, they won → 

October 20 2015 |

Even though the Liberal candidates in Prince George lost in both ridings last night, they made huge gains for the party- taking it to levels of support not seen since 1974. My analysis is here.

Racism doesn’t end just because we had an election

October 20 2015 |

So the forty-second federal election is over.

During the past 78 days, I  saw a lot of people expressing shock- SHOCK!- at some of the racist and xenophobic sentiments being expressed by people during the campaign. You could see it in the Twitter feeds and comments sections on stories about immigrants, Muslims, and Canada’s indigenous people.

Here’s the thing: THOSE SENTIMENTS STILL EXIST. They aren’t Conservative or Bloc or NDP or Liberal. They are Canadian.

They exist outside of politics. They are part of Canada. You just didn’t know about it. And they aren’t gone. You don’t vote for someone and then racism ends. It’s much, much harder than that.

It’s on every level of our society. It’s in our bones. Nobody “won”. A woman in a niqab was still attacked. Indigenous people are still underrepresented. This is everywhere. This wasn’t on the party in power. It’s on ALL of us. We are all in a society that is inherently, structurally, discriminatory. We have to work to address that every day.

We can do better Canada. The party in power has nothing to do with it. WE have to do better.

Filed under: Canada

Where and how to vote in Prince George

October 17 2015 |


Here we are, the end of the longest election campaign in modern history. Look, I’ll level with you: sometimes, it feels like your vote doesn’t matter, especially here in northern B.C. Usually, we know who’s going to form government by the time we’re done with Quebec and Ontario, so the results can feel like something of an afterthought.

Why voting matters this time

But this time, it’s different. First of all, we have a real three-way race nationally and it’s impossible to guess how that will play out. There’s a whole ton of different configurations based on majorities, strong minorities, weak minorities, and coalitions. And so it’s quite possible no deals will be made until the votes are counted out west. And secondly, Prince George is in play. Whereas in the past it’s been pretty easy to predict what was going to happen come election day, this time all the major parties have been running strong campaigns, getting their candidates out to events, going door-to-door, talking to media, and generally making it more likely that someone will vote for them. So as much as it’s a cliché to say this time, truly, every vote counts.

But hey, you’ve been busy, and aren’t quite sure how to go about voting. Well, here’s a handy guide.

Where do I vote?/Which riding am I in?

UPDATE: Elections.ca is experiencing issues. If the below isn’t working, you can go directly to the postal code page here. If THAT doesn’t work, some of the major federal parties have tools to find your voting station as well, so head to the party website of your choice.

If you head to elections.ca it’s pretty easy to find out. Here, let me show you.

First, type in your postal code and hit “Go.”

postal code


Then you’ll be taken to a page with the name of your riding (either Cariboo-Prince George or Prince George-Peace River-Northern Rockies). That’s your riding!

Now click on the “Where Do I Vote?” option.


Then you’ll be given a page that shows you where you should be voting, including a link to Google Maps so you can get directions.



That’s too far to walk and I don’t have a car

Lucky for you, the city of Prince George is providing free transit today so you can vote. And the PG transit system was recently updated to work with Google Maps. So you can just type in where you are and where you need to go, and the power of the internet will tell you how to get there, for free! Check it out, you can get from downtown to my voting station in half-an-hour, but you’ll actually be able to find something much closer.



Sorry, I have to work

Cool fact: you are required, by law, to be given three consecutive hours to vote. The polls open at 7 am and they close at 7 pm. So let’s say your job is 9-5. That gives you only two hours prior to your shift and two hours at the end. That means your employer is federally mandated to either let you come in an hour late or leave an hour early in order to go vote (and still be paid for a full day’s work). If you aren’t given this time, your employer could be fined $2,000 or sent to jail for three months.


I don’t have a driver’s licence/voting card/whatever

First of all, you do not need a photo ID. A photo ID is useful because if you have it, you don’t need anything else. But if you don’t have photo ID, you can still vote. There are a literally dozens of things you can use to prove your identity, including debit and credit cards, mail with your name on it, the label of a prescription container – find the whole list here (or, if elections.ca is down, find the whole list here or here!). And if you don’t have anything with your current address, you can take an oath.


I’m not registered to vote

No worries! You can register when you go to vote. Just bring that stuff from the last question, and they’ll help you out. More information here.


Will I miss the Jays game?

The polls open at 7 am and the  first pitch is at 5 pm and it’s easy to get around this city so honestly, this shouldn’t be a problem.


Who should I vote for?

No comment on this one, but you can get informed. Here are some resources.


About the parties

CBC Vote Compass

Maclean’s Policy Face Off Machine

Riding profile: Cariboo-Prince George


About the candidates

CBC candidate interviews and stories (Cariboo-Prince George)

CBC candidate interviews and stories (Prince George-Peace River-Northern Rockies)

Prince George Citizen candidate profiles

Prince George Citizen election stories

CFUR candidate interviews



video of Prince George Public library debate

live twitter coverage of Prince George Citizen/CKPG/UNBC debate part one | part two

live twitter coverage of Prince George Native Friendship Centre debate


I have other questions

Well, Elections Canada has a whole ton of answers, especially in their Frequently Asked Questions section. But if that doesn’t work, feel free to reach out to me and I can try to find the answer – I’m on Twitter @akurjata.

Riding profile, Cariboo-Prince George: Safe No More → 

October 17 2015 |

Could a traditional Conservative safe seat in B.C.’s interior swing left?

I’ve been talking to various candidates in this campaign from the start, been to multiple debates, and did a few more interviews this past week. Here is a final look at the Cariboo-Prince George riding’s shift from safe seat to potential battleground, and the people hoping to bring change to Ottawa on election day. I hope you enjoy it.

Filed under:

Nation building

October 15 2015 |

So I’ma go ahead and criticize Rick Mercer here in his rant on national vision, or lack thereof, from our current leaders.

“Is he the kind of guy who would’ve said ‘let’s build a national railway?'” Mercer asks of Harper. “Nation building is for everyone.”

But was it? Take a look at the historical record on the national railway.

Macdonald largely-ahem- railroaded the building of a national railway which led to massive debt, political scandal, and his eventual resignation.

And that controversy was just among the dominant class (white, male, land-owning voters) of the time. What of everyone else?

Well, there were the Chinese, who were paid $1 for every $1.50 white workers earned, and were assigned the most dangerous + often fatal jobs. And there were the First Nations people, forced off their land, in some cases starved into submission, to make room for the railway. There’s even a whole book on this.

So I think it’s pretty disingenuous to try and criticize ANY politician of today for not having more of Macdonald’s vision, because there was a pretty dark side to this so-called “big tent nation-building,” one that is still left out of our official historic narratives.

It’s not that there’s nothing to the rant, but it loses a lot of power when you simultaneously decry the debate over the niqab as small-minded whilst at the same time pining for a time when leaders steamrolled over First Nations rights while building an unpopular project on the backs of straight-up structural racism.

Brown man doesn’t smile in picture, is accused of barbaric cultural practices

October 10 2015 |

Yesterday, Zunera Ishaq did what the law of this country told her she is allowed to do: she went to a private area, identified herself to officials, then wore a niqab to a public ceremony to become a Canadian citizen.

The woman at heart of niqab controversy gets citizenship pic.twitter.com/lOEV0S5Z8f

— Susan Ormiston (@OrmistonOnline) October 9, 2015

The media was there, and took some pictures. And in some of those pictures was her husband. And do you know what her husband did?

He didn’t smile every single second.

This might not seem like a big deal, but this is Canada in 2015 and if you haven’t heard, we have to be on the constant lookout for barbaric cultural practices.

We’ve been promised a tip line we can call if we suspect someone of engaging in those practices, and we’ve also been told repeatedly that the niqab is a symptom of those practices. So really what we get here is a snapshot of that mindset in action.

What follows is all screenshots of actual tweets from actual people who would actually be able to call a tip line if it existed.

Check it out:


look at this guy


Because he’s wearing a grey suit? He has a beard? What are we supposed to be looking at? What just happened here?


not smiling

Think twice if you look like that guy. If you don’t smile, you’re suspect.



forced marriage do as i say


Of course. One look at this picture and you can tell he forced her to marry him under threat of death!



This, by the way, is what Ishaq herself had to say about her husband’s role in her decision to wear the niqab (which she started doing as a teenager, against her parents wishes):

“She was also asked on The Current whether her husband was in favour of her wearing it.

“‘No, not exactly,’ she said. He wanted to know how it might affect her ability to ‘move around’ in Canada. ‘But I told him I will figure it out,’ and later, she found her community to be ‘very welcoming.’

“Ishaq’s husband also urged her to think about whether she could remove the niqab for the citizenship ceremony and be willing to take on the legal fight.”


So all the evidence we have is of a husband who encouraged his wife to wear what she wanted, even when he wasn’t sure it was the best idea.

But buddy simply exists in the background of a picture and a bunch of people are ready to say he’s a violent abuser.

Based. On. How. He. Looks.

Again, let’s be perfectly clear:

He is being accused of what Canadian legislation now defines as Barbaric Cultural Practices because of what he looks like and people are uncomfortable with the clothes his wife chooses to wear.

This isn’t partisanship. Vote for whoever you want.

But do not judge another human being because he isn’t smiling while being brown.

And think deeply about how we got here.

Be honest: when you hear “barbaric cultural practices”, which culture comes to mind?

October 8 2015 |

I understand why people are supportive of the Conservatives targeting of “barbaric cultural practices.” What’s not to support? No one likes rape, murder or any other form of violence against women and children. And yes, you could get into a discussion around the word “barbaric” because of its past misuse to refer to non-white cultures, including First Nations, but sure call them “barbaric” as in “terrible”, “cruel”, “brutal.” They are.

It’s the “cultural” part that’s a problem.

Because I hate to break it to you but rape, murder, violence: those ain’t exactly limited to one culture.

And guess what? They’re already illegal in Canada. And have been for a long, long time.

So the new part is the culture.

The implication is it’s not enough to be diligent against individuals who would rape and murder. There’s a whole “culture” to beware of.

And which culture, exactly, are you talking about?

It’s reminiscent, I think, of the arguments against decriminalizing or legalizing homosexuality back in the day.

Once upon a time, homosexuality wasn’t viewed as simply being attracted to other men. It was, in the minds of many, pedophilia.

So when people would try to defend homosexuality, many people heard someone trying to defend pedophilia.

And you can see that in this whole discussion. The niqab isn’t just the niqab. The niqab is rape and murder.

Look at the online discussions around this. If someone defends the right to wear the niqab, someone else jumps in asking why they support ISIS, the subjugation of murder, and forced marriages. They simply don’t see them as two different things.

Just like people couldn’t separate homosexuality from pedophilia. They were simply intertwined in the minds of people who didn’t understand. And felt nervousness and fear as a result.


And it doesn’t stop at the niqab.

That fear extends to Muslims as a whole.

Here’s a Liberal campaign sign defaced with the words “More Muslims + Taxes”.


Here’s another that reads “Arab Scum.”


Some terrible vandalism found on a campaign sign in riding of London-Fanshawe. #elxn42 pic.twitter.com/w1sqJTR6PG

— NEWSTALK1010 (@newstalk1010) October 7, 2015

There is no subtly here. This isn’t “I disagree with the practice of covering a woman’s face.”

It’s Muslims = bad. Arabs = bad.

This isn’t about one particular manifestation of Islam.

It’s about all Muslims. And all Arabs. And anyone who looks like they might be Muslim are Arabic.

They are suspect.

Because there’s a culture out there. A culture that is incompatible with Canada.

A culture the Conservatives are so worried about they’re promising to set up a special tip line so you can call on your neighbours if you suspect them of being a part of that culture.

Again, the practices they are referring to are bad: rape, murder, etc.

But again, those were already illegal.

And we already have 911.

So why do we need this new tip line?

Why isn’t it simply called a “child and woman abuse tip line?”

A brown man who says he’s a Muslim rapes a woman.

A white man who says he’s an Atheist or a Christian rapes a woman.

But only one of them needs a tip line. And “rape” isn’t the key word.

What does that do to your views of Muslims generally? Of brown people generally?

So if you see no problem with the terminology of the barbaric cultural practices tip line, ask yourself this…

When you hear the phrase barbaric cultural practices, which culture comes to your mind?

What colour is the skin of the person who you’re going to be more diligent about watching with suspicion, just to make sure they aren’t up to anything bad?

Then say it out honestly and see how it feels.


Filed under: Canada


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