Every year, the Quebec Public Interest Research Group (QPIRG) at McGill University and the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) hold a series of events and workshops called Culture Shock. This year’s Culture Shock will be held between November 5 and 9, and, as always, will aim to explore myths surrounding immigrants, refugees, indigenous people and communities of colour. The purpose is to create discussion around these topics, let members of these communities share their experiences with one another, but also to educate non-members about the issues faced by communities of colour in Canada and beyond.
What makes Culture Shock especially exciting is the fact that it is open to anyone and everyone, and not just students; which is precisely why we at Forget the Box have decided to give you an overview of the many workshops and events of Culture Shock! Here’s the twist, though. We have compiled the list based on topics that will be discussed, and not the schedule. This way you will be able to focus on one specific subject. Most event descriptions are based on those found on QPIRG McGill’s website.
The workshops are not the only events done under Culture Shock, there will also be a book launch of Nahla Abdo’s Captive Revolution; a keynote event by Dark Matter, a trans south asian art and activist collaboration; a fundraiser party held by Solidarity Across Borders; an anti-colonial dinner; and a Convergence for Indigenous peoples and people of colour.
If you want access to the schedule, you may find it here.
You can also click on the names of the events to reach the associated Facebook events, for further details on location and times.
“Canada currently accepts more migrants under temporary permits than those who can immigrate permanently. Barriers to permanent residency for refugees, skilled workers and family members are increasing, while citizenship for migrants is becoming harder to get and easier to lose.” – Why everyone should care about the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, Harsha Walia
This workshop by the Immigrant Workers’ Centre (IWC), the Temporary Agency Worker’s Association (TAWA) and the Temporary Foreign Worker’s Assoication (ATTET) offers an overview of the history of temporary foreign work and migration in Canada. Think of it as a crash course and introduction to the topic. The workshop and the discussion around it should prove to be invaluable for those who wish to acquire a broader understanding of troubles facing migrant workers.
“Though it is illegal to discriminate against a person for their disability (stated in Article 15 of The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms), this protection is contradicted by Canada’s Immigration Act where Article 19 (1)a, refuses to grant residence to immigrants with disability who are confirmed by at least two medical officers to be a threat to public health and public safety or are deemed an excessive burden to health/social services.”
To be held by the Committee-to-be for Immigrants with Disabilities of Solidarity Across Borders, this workshop will also focus on the topic of migration, but from a more focused perspective (compared to the one above), by focusing explicitly on the concept of being “an excessive burden” in Canada.
Decolonization and Indigenous Rights
It is no secret that Canada is built on Indigenous territories. For that reason, it is important to learn more about Indigenous histories, and position ourselves on the land that we work and live on, and call home.
This workshop, to be co-facilitated by Canadian Roots Exchange – Youth Reconciliation Initative and KANATA McGill Indigenous Studies Community, will strive to build cultural solidarity through an interactive dialogue about our relationships to the land and its histories.
This workshop and film screening will be facilitated by Kanahus Manuel (Secwpemc). Kanahus is a mother and warrior from the Secwpemc Nation in the Shuswap region of “British Columbia.” She has been active in fighting against development projects and corporations such as the Sun Peaks Ski Resort and Imperial Metals. Recently, she has been involved in organizing to raise awareness about the Mount Polley gold-copper mine tailings spill, possibly the worst mining pollution disaster in Canadian history. For her efforts, she has been named as a defendant by Imperial Metals in a court injunction to stop blockades of the mining company’s operations.
Colonialism is an inherently violent system which marginalizes and oppresses Indigenous people on Turtle Island, and people of colour. This workshop will explore the historical processes from which colonialism arises and how this is deeply tied to capitalism. Historically, Capitalism has been the motive for colonial policies. Colonialism has disempowered and dispossessed Indigenous peoples on Turtle Island through genocide, dislocation, and assimilation. Colonialism has been used to justify the exploitation of people, namely racialized and Indigenous bodies, as well as Indigenous lands and resources.
Molly Swain and Lindsay Nixon of the Indigenous Women and Two-Spirit Harm Reduction Coalition will critically explore processes such as racism, white supremacy, patriarchy, heteronormativity and how these concepts are derived from and enacted within colonialism. Settlers need to understand their positionality on Turtle Island and work towards a decolonized way of thinking so not to participate in harmful behaviors towards Indigenous peoples, and people of colour.
Race @ McGill is a film produced between 2012 and 2014 by student of colour, Sha, about the experiences and observations of students, faculty, and staff of colour at McGill. It seeks to highlight and connect the shared struggles and resilience of racialized and indigenous community members at McGill.
While the film itself may be focused on McGill, the discussion afterwards should prove to be invaluable to those who wish to share their experiences, or to hear about these experiences to reflect upon themselves.
According to Kai Cheng Thom aka Lady Sin Trayda, the facilitator of this workshop, racialized, Indigenous, and mixed-race folk very often come into the world with a story of what they are not: white, whole, beautiful, enough. This story is the soul of colonization: it drains them of the will to struggle, of the confidence to name themselves and their ancestors, the vision to see each other and act in solidarity.
The potential of stories as both revolutionary and therapeutic will be explored, as will the possibilities and limitations of writing/storytelling in indigenous versus colonial languages. Participants will experiment with the use of story tools, including meditation, visualization, play, story-listening, and group creation. Poets, writers, rappers, spoken word artists, slam poets, storytellers of all kinds and at all stages welcome.
Also, note that this is a closed workshop; meaning only Indigenous persons, mixed-race folk, and people of colour may attend.
Oppression & Design
Sajdeep Soomal, who is a self-taught graphic designer and a history student at McGill, will be facilitating this workshop which aims to trace out how graphic design contributes to the perpetuation and formation of systems of oppression. The topics to be discussed include Typefaces and Racial Formation, Minimalism and Economic Privilege.
Think of the wispy strokes and the diamond shaped dots used in Aladdin in order to create an aura of mysticism, which then becomes central to Western conceptions of brownness and contributes to the racial formation of brown people in the West. Or, in terms of Minimalism, the extensive use of whitespace, or empty space is a result of a level of economic privilege, where people do not feel the pressure to use that empty space. Come to the workshop to discuss these topics and more.