Friday 16 February 2018

Bringing a Voice To The Forgotten-Seven Fallen Feathers


2018 RBC Charles Taylor Prize Finalist

By KJ Mullins, Newz4U

Toronto Star investigative reporter Tanya Talaga's investigation into the 2011 death of teenager Jordan Wabasse opened the door for a horror show of questions. Why is there inequality in the standards of First Nations schools. Why was there negligence on the part of the Canadian Government into the disappearance and death of a First Nations' student?

A journalist job is to dig and Tanya is one of Canada’s best. She began delving into ta student death in Thunder Bay and found the broken trail of six more student deaths. The result of that research is her first book, the current #1 non-fiction book in Canada, Seven Fallen Feathers.  The explosive expose is shortlisted for the 2018 RBC Charles Taylor Prize.
Racism and discrimination from the government level to the street is an everyday occurrence for Native People in Thunder Bay. In her award-winning book Seven Fallen Feathers journalist Tanya Talaga examines the deaths of seven young people who moved from reservations in Northern Ontario to Thunder Bay to attend high school.
Talaga's journey to uncover their stories shows a nation that is guilty of neglecting their own children and until now getting away with it. The last death took place in 2011; unfortunately the story is as current today as it was seven years ago. One need look no further than this month’s trial concerning the death of Colten Boushie hammers home the injustices that still befall First Nations people.

Jordan Wabasse. Kyle Morrisseau. Reggie Bushie. Jethro Anderson. Paul Panacheese. Curran Strang. Robyn Harper.

Each of these young people is connected to each other by death. They are all victims of an educational system that is sub-par in a nation that prides itself on its higher learning. They were Canadian children, living in third world conditions on lands that have been destroyed, the reservations. The how and the why of how they died remains a mystery. The cases were plagued by police bias and racial profiling. City authorities closed their eyes and stood still instead of conducting investigations that would have taken place if the victims hadn’t died in Thunder Bay and were not from First Nations communities.
Tanya Talaga
Author Tanya Talaga's Seven Fallen Feathers brings to light the continuing injustices that First Nations people face every single day, from the broken treaties to governmental promises, she tells the stories of the seven young lives that were lost. Each one of the dead attended Dennis Franklin Cromarty High School(DFC), a private school in Thunder Bay that hosts students from several Sioux Lookout District First Nations reserves.
The stories in Talaga's book “echoes the tragedies that are mirrored across Canada.” The educational issues that children face in Northern Ontario reservations are the same throughout  most of Canada. Student funding is in some cases as much as $6,000(per student) less for Native schools than for other schools in the same area.  Often First Nations children attend school in classrooms filled with mould, dirty water and a lack of resources. Many youths who want a proper high school education must leave home and family in order to attend Grade 9 and beyond. In Northern Ontario, most students attend DFC. 
In each of the seven deaths, the Thunder Bay Police Department failed to notify parents in a timely matter that their children were missing. When the bodies were recovered sub-par forensic investigations took place giving no real detail in how the children died. Considering that several of the boys who died in water were strong swimmers and their bodies were recovered with signs of trauma, it shocking to read that only a basic autopsies were performed on a number of the dead. Currently, Thunder Bay Police are under review for 40 investigations dating back to the 1990s by Ontario's Office of the Independent Police Review. Almost all of these new cases deal with Indigenous deaths.
Tanya Talaga signs books at Ben McNally Books
According to Talaga DFC tries to do right by their students. There is an on-site Elder for spiritual guidance and dedicated teachers whose jobs don't end when the final bell rings. Teachers struggle mightly to fit the needs of students whose prior education at the primary level has left them years behind the educational curve.

During the hours between classes many of the young people (most who have never lived away from their families), are on their own. Drugs and alcohol become a part of their lives as they try to fit into a culture that is rife with prejudice.
While the current government administration is working to make improvements for First Nations people Talaga says that “I am hopeful for the future but this will take generations to correct. The education problem is nation-wide, only when First Nations children are treated fairly with equality will this be solved.”
Talaga said that she had no idea how her book would be perceived when she started writing it. She has found that educators are her biggest champions giving praise to her research that shows a shameful side of modern Canada. She asks w how it is that children have been cast aside and made to endure substandard living and educational conditions.
This is a story that every Canadian should be aware of but Talaga has found, “unless you are living the story you don't know the story.” With Seven Fallen Feathers the truth has been brought to life, and the voices of Jordan, Kyle, Reggie, Jethro, Paul, Curran and Robyn are heard long and clear.

The RBC Taylor Prize winner will be revealed at a gala luncheon on Monday, February 26, 2018.

Thursday 15 February 2018

Trini Carnival had a huge Canuck connection in 2018

By Stephen Weir, as published in the Caribbean Camera

By all rights the Trinidad red, white and black flag should now have a small maple leaf stitched into it’s corner tin honour of Canada’s participation in the just concluded Trinidad Carnival. A large contingent of Canadians came to the island to supply costumes, pan music, inspiration, comedy and song to the world famous festival.
From the King and Queen competition, to Panorama, to the J’ouvert and the actual parade, Canadian carnival experience was put to work. Hundreds more joined bands and jumped up in the street, or, simply stood on the sidewalk and took it all in.
The annual event got off to a rocky start when reports of a possible terrorist plot became a much repeated news item across the Caribbean, The UK, and the US and in Toronto.  Last Thursday, according to the Trinidad Guardian “T&T Police Service revealed they had uncovered and prevented a threat to disrupt Carnival activities mere days before the festival … 13 persons were detained.”
There were no “terrorist activities” although the Trinidad News reported this Wednesday that there had been four murders, a series of robberies, shootings and the death of an elderly United States citizen (who died when a float truck backed over him) were some of the incidents “that marred this year’s Carnival celebrations’.
“How come so many Canadians in T&T this year? No idea...but we did see quite a few,” said  Toronto Mas Maker and artist Jackie Forde. “It probably is because it has been so bloody cold this year in Toronto, but strange as the flights were ridiculously expensive. There were less Americans. Maybe the terror threat scared them off. We had no issues at all and felt quite safe.”
“There were no problems that I saw during Carnival.  None at all. I didn’t play Mas, opting instead to walk around Port of Spain, taking in the fetes and watching it all,” said Caribbean Camera’s Alicia Sealey who is currently in Trinidad managing the 32nd Music Festival in Port of Spain.
--> Eustace in second place place King costume - photo Ted Eustace
“There were heavily armed officers carrying machine guns on the street and three and four officers and inspectors at every major intersection.  People I talked to said they were happy that there was a police presence (given the earlier threat).”
“There is a new law in place that for the first time forbids a man from coming up behind a strange woman and winning on her,” continued Ms. Sealey. “ If the woman complains he is arrested on the spot. I don’t know if anyone was taken in, but, women feel good about the new rules.”
 “What a morning “ said Toronto ticket promoter and commercial printer Tony Chankar. “San Fernando is the best place in the world to play J’ouvert!!  I am seeing a lot of Canadians. You couldn’t get a flight to Trinidad  (from Canada) in the past two weeks!”
Tony Chankar and friends (TC selfie)
So who were some of the Canadians making the Carnival the success it was?  The Camera talked by phone, email and Facebook with over a dozen people taking part in the festival.
Carnival NationzMarcus Eustace was an integral part of this year’s King and Queen Competition at the Dimanche Gras at the Queen's Park Savannah, Port of Spain on Sunday.
“I designed and built a King and Queen costume. Both placed second,” said Marcus. “The king lost by one point which prevented me from a 3-peat (Marcus costumes won in 2017 and 2016). My brother Ted Eustace wore the king and Krystal Thomas the queen.”
Earl Thompson was the 2018 King of Carnival winner in “Death And The Maiden, The Fancy King Sailor Plays Pegasus” while Ted Eustace grabbed second place with "Los Bandditos”. Krystal Thomas, tied for second place in the Eustace costume De Head Huntress.”
Mas K Camp - Louis Saldenah didn’t make it to carnival but his brother and son did, with good reason.  “Yes. Trini Revellers played a tribute to Harold Saldenah my father (and famous Trinidad Mas Man),” said Louis Saldenah. “My brother lives there and my son Ronnie went down for carnival so we were well represented.”
Tribal Carnival – Although the Toronto mas band wasn’t on the road this year, their costumes were. Dexter Seusahai and his daughter Celena supplied custom costumes to Canadians to wear in Trinidad.
Tribal costume
AfroPan - Many members of Toronto based oldest pan orchestra were in Trinidad playing with different local groups.  Kerry-Anne Wright performed with the Renegades Steel Orchestra, the winner of Panorama. 
“Hey! Yes I was! “texted Kerry-Anne Wright. “It was my first time playing Pan in Trinidad and my very first Panorama. There were a few others from Afro Pan and a couple other people who play pan with Pan Fantasy with us.”
LaToya Brown, another AfroPan member joined the Skiffle Steel Orchestra who took second place.
Earl LaPierre Senior.  The founder of AfroPan Earl LaPierre was a radio host for a live broadcast on WACK 90.1 FM covering the Panorama Semis with host Kenny Phillips. Earl LaPierre Junior was also playing in Trinidad for Carnival.
T&T Camboulay Riots Reenactment Photo by Jackie Forde 
Many of the entertainers performing both at carnival events and fetes have a strong Canadian connection including: Singer David Rudder – Trinidad’s favourite son (and now Toronto resident) at the Socadrome and on the road with Lord Nelson and the Etienne Charles' Street Party. Comedian Sean Paul was in Trinidad for Carnival, as was Connector the Canadian Soca Monarch.

Wednesday 14 February 2018

New Mentorship Program announced for Emerging Writers

RBC Foundation and the RBC Taylor Prize launch 
RBC Taylor Prize Emerging Writers Mentorship Program

The RBC Foundation and the RBC Taylor Prize are launching the new RBC Taylor Prize Emerging Writers Mentorship Program, a professional development program designed to support the next generation of Canadian writers on their career journeys. The program will be part of the RBC Taylor Prize Emerging Writers Award, a distinction that is given annually to a Canadian author whose work embodies the pursuit of excellence in literary non-fiction.
The Mentorship program will be made available to five Canadian non-fiction writers, who are selected in partnership with a national network of university and college writing programs. These students will then be paired with RBC Taylor Prize shortlisted authors, who will help support their career development and growth.
Nadina Taylor, a trustee of the Charles Taylor Foundation, and daughter of the late Charles Taylor, is one of the main champions of the new program. "We've seen great successes with the RBC Taylor Prize Emerging Writers Award and realized that perhaps a more dedicated focus on how best to prepare these talented writers for the competitive world of writing and publishing could be effective. As we've seen in all professions, the impact and benefit of mentorship can be potent and mutually beneficial."
The five students selected will be required to have an existing body of work and a non-fiction manuscript that is close to completion. As part of the program, they will attend several meetings with their mentor and participate in an intensive agenda of professional development seminars focusing on the business of writing and publishing in Canada.
Students and mentors will connect several times prior to the RBC Taylor Prize event. They will also have the unique opportunity to travel to Toronto for the weekend of the RBC Taylor Prize awards (February 22-26, 2018). While in Toronto, they will meet with their mentors and be part of several sessions on professional development with individuals from Canadian cultural industries. In addition, students will accompany their mentors to various events scheduled for the shortlisted authors, including the IFOA/TPL roundtable and various media engagements.
"At RBC Wealth Management, we recognize the value of mentorship and its importance to enhancing career development," said Vijay Parmar, President of RBC PH&N Investment Counsel. "This award is an important part of RBC's larger commitment to bridging the gap between emerging and established artists – which will no doubt help the next generation of writers."
At a gala luncheon on February 26, 2018, the members of the inaugural RBC Taylor Prize Emerging Writers Mentorship Program will be introduced, and then the winner of this year's RBC Taylor Prize will be announced.

2018 RBC Taylor Prize Emerging Writers Mentorship Program

The five participants in this year's Mentorship Program are:
Christopher Brown

Christopher Brown — University of Calgary
Born and raised on the Prairies, Brown is pursuing his PhD in English Literature. His intimate family history, linked to the Canadian North, has led to an interest in the spectre of the Indian Agent, the Hudson Bay Company, the RCMP, and the impact and aftermath of the Residential School system. His most recent writing can be found in The Feathertale Review and Road Maps & Life Rafts Lit Magazine, and his current project seeks to interrogate Indian Affairs archival documentation from the '50s and '60s through the space of the lyric essay.
Michael Downing

Antonio Michael Downing — University of Waterloo
Antonio Michael Downing grew up in southern Trinidad, Northern Ontario, Brooklyn and Kitchener. He is now a musician, writer and activist based in Toronto. His 2010 debut novel, Molasses, was published to critical acclaim. His nonfiction manuscript, Buttahfly, is a memoir of his obsession for radical identity transformations and how a tragic fire forced him to invent his '"baddest, boldest self: John Orpheus".
Gena Ellet

Gena Ellett — UBC
Ellett's writing has appeared across North America including Malahat Review, Slice, Canthius, EVENT and SubTerrain. She won the 2015 EVENT NonFiction Prize and was nominated for a 2016 National Magazine Award for Personal Journalism. Her work-in-progress, The Backroads, is an essay collection that explores the finite years of young-adulthood as characterised by first encounters with death, loss, relationships, identity. She lives and writes in Vancouver.
Stephanie Harrington

Stephanie Harrington
University of Victoria
Harrington has worked as a journalist in Canada, Hong Kong and Australia, and recently completed an MFA in Creative Writing at the University of Victoria.  Her manuscript in progress, Four Blows, explores the effect of a violent crime from the perspective of the accused's family. The incident landed her brother in prison and displaced her family, prompting them to leave their home in Hamilton, ON. Her brother later successfully appealed his conviction, pleaded guilty to a lesser charge and was released. She asks, "What do we do as a society with violent people?"

Martha Roberts

Martha Roberts — Dalhousie (Kings)
Having grown up in Kingston, Roberts has an MA in sociology from Queens, specializing in crime & research methodology. She now lives in North Central Regina, which Maclean's labeled Canada's Worst Neighbourhood in 2007. The article inspired her to undergo a sobering re-examination of her home. Her manuscript, "Wounded" details the historical and social forces that have shaped the neighbourhood, the relationships she developed with 5 Indigenous residents whom she followed for two years and ultimately, her understanding of herself as a non-Indigenous Canadian.