Belonging

Bon, une autre semaine d’enseignement terminée, et comme d’habitude – et surtout parce que j’enseigne un cours sur la diversité culturelle – plein de questions qui restent avec moi, comme des traces. Jeudi, ma classe m’a confirmé ce que je savais déjà. En parlant des accommodements raisonnables – « scandale » créée par les médias il y a quatre ans – un étudiant me réplique le sorte de commentaire que je commence à m’habituer avec. « Nous, les québécois, il faut que nous soyons respectés, que nos valeurs soient suivis par eux. » En voulant amener la conversation encore plus loin, je le taquine un peu. « Nous, ça veut dire quoi exactement? Ma famille, on est ici depuis quatre générations, est-ce qu’on fait partie de « nous. » » Toute ma classe me dit non, certains à voix haute, d’autres avec le mouvement de leurs têtes, mais décidemment et certainement, et mon coeur, comme tant d’autres fois, fais boum.

C’est un peu comme l’entrevue qu’on a fait avec Katherine Riva, et son explication de pourquoi ma grandmère et mes oncles ne pourraient pas être considérés québécois. Même si ils ont travaillé toutes leurs vies – dans des fabriques, dans des restaurants, des emplois bien honnêtes et sujets aux beaux impôts québécois – le fait qu’ils n’ont pas maitrisé la langue française les exclue en permanence de la collectivité québécoise. Selon moi, il y a d’autres façons de contribuer à une société, et ce n’est pas tout le monde qui peut apprendre une langue rendu l’âge adulte. Et même si j’appuie la cause du français comme langue première au Québec – même jusq’au point de me sentir gênée de parler l’anglais en publique! – je ne vois pas comment ce mouvement devrait écraser les droits d’autres, surtout ceux qui n’auraient pas autant de temps libre à consacrer à l’apprentissage du français.

La culture Sino-Québécoise – c’est quoi ça?

The term Sino-Québécois is seldom heard of, let alone Sino-Québécois culture. Culture exists to reflect the common experiences, values and expressions of any group of people that shares a collective heritage and identity. Culture develops for the community and not against anyone else.

A people’s culture can also reflects the larger dominant culture and can absorb many of those elements that are influential or imposed, be it language, TV, film, music or arts and letters. In a multi-intercultural society, culture does not only reflect the dominant population. Even in Québec, there are minority cultural entities like the Teesri Duniya theatre and the Montréal Serai e-zine that depict the South Asian experience here. The more established cultural communities, such as the Jewish and Italian, are represented by people like the much maligned Mordecai Richler and the Italo-Québécois playwright Marco Micone.

Does a Sino-Québécois culture exist?  Of course it does. Its existence is independent of one’s will. When you have a group of Chinese come together, like the Chinese Social Club, they express their shared experiences, identities and ergo, culture. Cedric Sam reflects some of the cross cultural experiences of the Chinese in Quebec on his Blog, http://commeleschinois.ca/ . One question that Parker and Bethany asked in their travels around Québec was “What do we have in common?”

–          “Our face?”

–          “The way we cut the oranges!”

That is on the surface, but once you dig deeper, there is a common sense of struggle to live here as a minority that we all share and there is an eagerness to express that experience.

One Sino-Québécoise who has written about her experiences living here is Day’s Lee. Unfortunately, we have not been able to meet her for this film, but here is an example of her writing which some of us can identify with.

Warrior Women
by Day’s Lee

« Two. » Jingping Chen carefully enunciated, and pushed a five-dollar bill through the opening in the glass. Thin lines marbled the skin across her knuckles, red and dry from washing vegetables and rice daily, and cracked from the heat of gas fires generated under the giant woks. At forty, she had the hands of a woman twice her age. In her haste to change out of her splattered uniform and arrive on time at the Park Avenue theatre, she’d forgotten to slather on hand cream.

Two days ago, one of the waiters told her the theatre next door to the restaurant was showing Chinese movies every Wednesday afternoon for the summer. A Chinese movie! In China, she once walked several miles to the next village to see this marvel. Here in Canada, the black and white television images didn’t make sense because she didn’t understand English.

Ever since they bought the restaurant four years ago, life was a cycle of work and sleep. Overseeing the kitchen meant endless hours on her feet. Between customers arriving for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, there were chickens to kill and pluck, egg rolls to make, homemade pies to bake, and supplies to replenish. A bowl of rice, some stir-fried meat or fish, and a cup of tea were downed in a short thirty-minute lunch break. Friends commented that her five foot three inch frame looked smaller since she’d lost weight. Rivers of grey seeped into what used to be ink black hair, now cut short to fit under a hair net.

The middle-aged woman in the glass booth bobbed her Jackie Kennedy hairdo in understanding and rang in the sale. « One adult, one child, » the cashier confirmed in a heavy Greek accent. « Three dollars fifty. » Her plump manicured hand took the five-dollar bill, and then slid the tickets and change across the green marble counter and through the slot. Lire la suite

Être Chinois au Québec – Role Models

Upon reviewing the rushes of our road trip through Québec, there are certain people that stand out as role models in the Sino-Québécois community.

Ms. Xiang Ma was a professor in a university in China when she decided to immigrate to Canada. She is one of the leaders of the Chinese Calego workers who confronted the employer when he accused the Chinese workers in the factory as being dirty and eating like pigs. Ms. Ma along with Mr. Yong Shan He led a walkout and filed a complaint with the Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse. As a result of their united struggle and determination, the Human Rights Tribunal awarded 15 workers of Chinese origin $150,000 for moral and punitive damages (see earlier posting, 6 septembre). Mr. He was physically assaulted for his leadership role but he was not intimidated and he was awarded additional compensation by the Tribunal as a result.

Ms. Ma now operates a dry cleaning establishment and Mr. He, an engineer in China, is now working in another factory as a computer numerical control machine operator. Both Ms. Ma and Mr. He believe that workers, especially minorities, should stick together and oppose any form of discrimination. As recent immigrants, they are determined to stand up for their rights and make a good life for themselves and their families here. Their struggle for justice united the Chinese community behind them. They set a good example for Chinese and other minorities to fight against discrimination.

Walter Tom was born in Hong Kong and grew up in Quebec City. He graduated from Laval Law School but he was not able to get a job in his profession there and he was forced to move to Montréal. When asked what it is like to be Chinese in Québec, his one word answer is “Tough. But it was even tougher for my father and grandfather.” Lire la suite

«Les Chinois ne veulent pas apprendre le français et ne veulent pas s’intégrer dans la société québécoise». – Mythe ou réalité?

«Qui ne voudrait pas apprendre le français, la langue de la majorité? »     Kenneth Cheung

« Je me sens comme un sourd-muet, ne sais pas le français ici. »  – Dong Qing Chen

Pendant la réalisation de ce film, je n’ai rencontré aucun chinois au Québec qui ne veut pas apprendre le français. Les gens apprennent le français, soit par choix ou par nécessité, afin de trouver un emploi et survivre ici. La francophile Lya Wu Bin de Québec demande au gouvernement de faire plus, de donner aux minorités un sentiment de sécurité et moins de stress, pour les aider à intégrer et apprendre le français.

Apprendre la langue est une étape cruciale vers l’intégration, mais un sentiment d’égalité et d’accès égal au travail et aux institutions donnera les sino-québécois la possibilité d’intégrer complètement. Sans emploi, les minorités auront besoin d’aide pour apprendre la langue, la première étape vers l’intégration et à trouver un job.

Les parents qui travaillent, comme Lin et Ben He à Rimouski, ils font de gros efforts pour apprendre le français quand ils trouvent le temps, mais leur fils de 4 ans, Simon, va grandir parlant français avec un accent Rimouskois.

Les jeunes sino-québécois, grâce à la loi 101, parlent couramment le français. Mais leur combat reste celui de l’acceptation et de l’inclusion dans les réalités quotidiennes du Québec. Toutefois, leurs parents, les immigrants récents et les immigrants à venir, vont continuer à lutter pour l’intégration, avec ou sans l’aide des divers niveaux de gouvernements.

wgwd

From the Cutting Room Floor (2)

“Sometimes what was left out may be as important as what was left in” –  A Wise Old Film Editor

We are entering the stage of the rough edit with our editor Meiyen Chan, who did such a masterful job editing “Moving the Mountain.”

Here are more provocative discoveries I made along the road that may or may not make the final cut.

  • Sophie Zhang’s and Rosalind Wong’s take on Chinese Canadian (CC) culture vs Sino-Quebecois culture is very interesting. Their feeling is that while there is a vibrant CC culture there is no such thing as a Sino-Quebec culture.
  •  Cedric Sam’s insights on media and lack of cultural representation of Chinese and other minorities may explain why Sino-Quebecois culture is pre-nascent. When he tried to set up an Asian club at the elite Collège Brébeuf, someone scribbled “Ghetto” over the poster.
  •  There are 95,000 Chinese in Quebec, 85,000 in metro Montreal. Only 4% of government jobs are filled by minorities (30% of population). Very few minorities are represented in the major institutions of Quebec. Is lack of representation in the mass media and mass culture linked to problems of integration and the lack of job opportunities for the Chinese and other minorities?
  •  Do young Chinese have a special passion for Quebec in order to stay here? That’s the question posed by Robert at the Chinese Social Club. Young Chinese in Quebec are products of Bill 101 which gives them better opportunities to integrate into the majority, while adopting the French language and Quebecois culture; they feel a sense of belonging here.  The question is more pointed at their parents and grandparents, why did they stay? Did they have the passion? Perhaps they didn’t have a choice.

We can look at these issues under the rubric of:

  • Cultural tension, assimilation, integration, cultural nationalism/chauvinism, interculturalists, multiculturalists, or just staking a place in Quebec, remaining true to one’s own identity, as in the case of Bethany’s uncle.

More later …..

From the Cutting Room Floor (1)

“Sometimes what was left out may be as important as what was left in”                                                                                                                                                    –        A Wise Old Film Editor

We are entering the stage of the rough edit with our editor Meiyen Chan, who did such a masterful job editing “Moving the Mountain.”

Here are some of the more controversial discoveries I made along the road that may or may not make the final cut.

  • At the Jardins de Métis, where Bethany fell in love with Quebec, there came to light a historical alignment of stars between the development of Canadian capitalism and early Chinese immigrants. The Jardins de Métis is owned by the Reford family.
    • The summer home of Lord Mount Stephen, 1st president of the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR), was built inside the present Jardins de Métis grounds, overlooking the magnificent St. Lawrence River.
    • The government granted the CPR $25M to build the transcontinental railway. The Chinese not only built the CPR in the West but also helped finance it with the $23M paid in Head Tax.
    • The Chinese, being major customers, also contributed to establishing the Reford family empire in the rice business. Alexander Reford, director of the Jardins de Métis, told me that the Mount Royal Rice Mill (MRRM) was set up in Victoria by Robert Reford in 1885 (year of completion of the CPR) to mill rice from the far east to supply the Chinese population in BC. Ottawa imposed a tariff on foreign milled rice to keep the price of rice milled in Canada artificially high.
  • Quebec Premier Jean Charest’s recent delegation to China included Winston Chan, a young member of Conseil supérieur de la langue française.  Quebec Inc. has been courting the new social-capitalists of China for some time now, including major participation in the famous Three Gorges Dam project. The state monopoly Hydro-Quebec  and Engineering giant SNC-Lavalin were actively involved in that project.

More later. …..

 

Solidarity with the Chinese Ex-Calego Workers

Fifteen Chinese workers show their combativeness and solidarity in standing up for their rights against their former employer, Calego International in Ville St. Laurent. On April 19, 2011, the Quebec Human Rights Tribunal ruled in favour of the workers and ordered the employer to pay $164,000 in compensation for discriminatory comments made at the workplace, and to set up a program to promote integration of immigrant workers in order to prevent any discrimination based on ethnic or national origin. Calego is appealing the ruling. For more information on the judgment, go to:

http://www2.cdpdj.qc.ca/Comm_HTML/COMM_Calego_avril2011_En.html

Last week, Wai-Yin and I met Mr. He Yongshan, a former Calego worker and Mr. Liu Sheng, a supporter who initiated a community campaign in solidarity with the workers.

Mr. He believes this is the first time the Chinese people have waged a struggle of this type. “We hope with our actions, we have shown to all Chinese and Asian people in Montreal that one should never be afraid to stand up for civil rights and to fight racism.” Mr. Liu was moved to take action when he read about the case in the Chinese newspapers. “We have the right to speak out, supporting fellow Chinese workers was the right thing to do. I did not know the Calego workers but I had a sense of shared responsibility to defend them.”

Together, the workers and their supporters collected 300 names in a signature campaign and raised money from the community for their legal fees. They are represented by the Center for Research-Action on Race Relations (CRARR). These workers will need ongoing support to carry on their legal case.

http://www.lesaffaires.com/secteurs-d-activite/general/discrimination-a-l-egard-de-chinois-au-quebec/529766

http://www.crarr.org/?q=node/10090

Être chinois à Montréal

As we return to the Montréal metropole to do our last series of shoots, there are two areas that come to mind, Brossard and Verdun. The class differences of these two areas are obvious. Many Chinese fleeing the turnover of Hong Kong back to China in 1997 immigrated to Brossard in the 90’s, attracted by large and relatively inexpensive houses, compared to HK. The HK money developed the strip malls of Chinese restaurants and groceries along Taschereau Blvd.

In contrast, with relatively cheaper housing in the plexes (2 to 6-plexes) of Verdun, recent immigrants from mainland China with more modest means have blended into this working class neighbourhood. The Chinese are the biggest source of immigration to Verdun in recent years. Along Wellington Street, we have Chinese storefronts and restaurants melding into the new landscape of Verdun re-development.

Chinese father and son grocery shopping

When I was growing up in Verdun in the 1960’s there were three Chinese families. On a recent stroll along Wellington, I passed no fewer than 5 Chinese parents walking with their children.

I should mention that there are other enclaves of Chinese establishments along Ste. Catherine street west and in Ville St. Laurent. These will be subjects of future studies on Sino-Quebec.

 Multi-ethnic neighborhood, Wellington St.

– WGW Dere

Volleyball à la chinoise

Imaginez 1400 personnes dans une immense salle qui jouent plusieurs parties de volleyball en même temps.

Ensuite, imaginez pour un moment que tout les joueurs sont asiatiques.

Impressionant? Lors de notre tournage au Tournoi de volleyball chinois d’Amérique du nord, (North American Chinese Invitational Volleyball Tournament, or 北美華人排球邀請賽) qui a vu sa 67e édition à Montréal cette fin de semaine au Palais des congrès, j’avais l’impression d’avoir découvert un univers parallèle, dans lequel il faut surtout être vigilant pour ne pas se faire heurter par un ballon errant. Le jeu me semblait familier, mais avec quelques variations majeures : 9 équipiers à la fois au lieu de 6, et moins de rigueur au niveau des mouvements de ballon permis.

Mais une autre particularité était moins subtile: deux-tiers des joueurs doivent être chinois ou d’origine chinoise. Le restant des joueurs peuvent soit provenir d’autres pays de l’Asie de l’Est ou du Sud-est, soit compter au moins un quart de sang chinois dans leur composition ethnique. La diversité des visages et surtout d’âge – l’équipe « the Stretchmarks » me vient à l’esprit – était en évidence.

« Le sport existe depuis longtemps en Chine; mais le tournoi comme tel existe depuis les années 30, » nous explique Kim, une équipière des Los Angeles I.V. Ball et habituée du tournoi.  « À l’époque, les chinois travaillaient tout les jours, sept jours sur sept. Le seul jour où on leur permettait de prendre congé était la fête du travail. C’est pour ça que, habituellement, le tournoi a toujours eu lieu pendant cette période. »

Si les circonstances ont changé depuis, en dépit des noms d’équipe un peu rigolo comme Toronto T.O.F.U. ou Hoy Sin, la compétition demeure féroce, tout comme la détermination des joueurs, leur affiliation portée avec fierté en caractères chinoises sur leurs uniformes.

Photos à venir…