Tag Archives: be the change

Why I was ashamed to be a Canadian

I think the best way to begin this is by telling you about my family history.
My father arrived to this beautiful country all by himself as a teenager. After finishing high school in Manitoba, he came to study at the University of Saskatchewan where he met my mother, received his two degrees and proceeded to work there for another two decades.

Over my entire lifetime, I have had to learn about ignorance because it wasn’t something that even existed to cross my mind as a child. My household was a literal example of cross-cultural acceptance.  I simply thought it was normal that people had different backgrounds and cultures. I learnt about Norwegian customs: we celebrated Christmas eve with Yule Bread, the Nativity scene, and lefse. I learnt about Chinese New Year: All of the superstitions, what the big meal meant, and how to get that red envelope from my elders 😉 Two of my great aunts spent several decades overseas, one in India and the other in Ethiopia, so we heard all kinds of stories about life across the globe and how differently people lived, yet how similarly we all love.

Most importantly, I learnt about how crucial it is to embrace people and make them feel like they are home. My mom has taught English as an Additional Language to immigrants, and my dad worked as a researcher out of the University for years. Through their jobs, we met several different people from all over the globe.  Over the years, on holidays and for different family events, we welcomed foreign students, new immigrants and some people who just couldn’t get all the way home for special holidays. I remember my dad once telling me that it was important to him to do so because so many people welcomed him and made him feel at home when he came to Canada. It never really was a question, if we knew someone would be alone for a holiday, they were to be invited to the Chan household.

Tonight I sat in shock as he recounted the following story to me. He has an assigned parking spot at the location where he has been working. When he came to park in that spot, he was surprised to find someone sitting in the spot. After pointing to indicate that it was his spot, the driver refused to move for him. After a bit of a standoff, he had to go back to work, so he got out of his car and asked the lady to move out of his parking spot. Her response still confuses me. “You’re trouble. You immigrants are the problem.” She then threatened to call the police and told him he was in trouble.

Ok, let me just stop there. I’m very confused by this statement. So, his immigration to Canada over 4 decades ago somehow relates to YOU parking in HIS spot HOW? This person repeated this phrase and sentences similar to it over and over again, somehow insulted by his simple request to park in the spot that he was entitled to.

In light of recent events around the world, the issue of immigration/refugees has garnered quite a lot of spotlight. Ignorant, rude, racist statements have been exchanged over social media and fear has somehow overtaken this once open-hearted nation. My father, who always seems to find a way to make new friends laugh, yet possesses a quiet, strong way of taking in the world around him has never been one to “cause trouble” because he believes it wouldn’t change anything. Perhaps he is right. I’m sure there are people who will always harbour this kind of fear, anger, hatred and ignorance in their hearts. But I have to believe that the more we talk about how wrong these kinds of occurrences are, the less it will happen.  My heart is broken, and it took me a while to figure out why.

My heart is broken, because I realized that it had nothing to do with my father being an immigrant, and everything to do with the fact that he wasn’t white. And some white person somehow believed that she was more entitled to a parking spot for that simple fact. Here’s a thought: Unless you can trace your ancestry back and are 100% native to this land, all of us have been immigrants, or come from people who immigrated at some point.  And, not only have we broken the hearts of those who cared for and loved this land before we set foot on it, but have flourished simply from being here, instead of somewhere else.  How does that entitle any of us to anything more than another? This kind of hatred and ignorance is something that I had believed in my heart of hearts wasn’t part of Canada. I don’t know that I could say that I’ve ever felt ashamed of being a Canadian until tonight. Because tonight, I am ashamed of sharing citizenship with someone who could be so wrong.

But then, I think of others who have immigrated to this country. And it makes me proud to share citizenship with someone who could be so right. And this is what being a Canadian is truly about. My father has taught me a lot of things about being a Canadian: do not create conflict- but stand up for yourself and what is right, respect your government, seek peace,  care for your neighbours and your neighbours’ neighbours, always do what is right-even when no one is watching, work hard, do your best, be proud of who you are, show grace and forgiveness even if it is unsolicited and probably undeserved.  I suppose I have a lot to learn from my father, who it seems, has grasped the true nature of being Canadian better than some who were born on this soil.

Initially I was angry, and wanted to post an image of that person, but I knew it would only create more anger and backlash for that person. I guess you could say that I then became ashamed of my own anger and hateful attitude.  Plus, I just don’t believe this kind of hurtful behaviour really deserves specific attention. Despite my own initial anger, I know this is not the Canadian way.

In conclusion, I’m not ashamed of our country at all and I’m sorry if the title threw you off. I’m ashamed that we still have people like this here. Because I do believe that we are a nation that stands for multiculturalism and tolerance and peace. None of these attributes were represented in this woman’s actions, but I believe that my dad did stand for these things in his response. Initially what I wrote began as an angry outlet, which I didn’t necessarily intend to share, given the amount of anger already floating around on the Internet. It soon became my attempt to write a different sort of post- one that doesn’t just stand by and let this kind of behavior simply happen without note, but brings to light a more positive outlook instead of feeding the monster I call the angry Internet troll. Peace, love, grace and patriotism do prevail- I LOVE being Canadian. It’s true: pride ourselves on being kind, polite, and welcoming, and we do love beer, maple syrup and hockey (along with apologizing too much, eh?).

But let’s not fool ourselves, we still have much work to do. Above all my patriotism lies with the human race and all of the people fighting to let love win. Far too often, people stand on two sides of an issue and fire different kinds of hatred at each other. I’m hoping this encourages people to stand for justice while keeping in mind that love and kindness go a long way.

My dearest Canadians and fellow citizens of this beautiful planet, let us open up our hearts again. Fight hate and fear with love, grace and forgiveness.

xoxo

love ehjae

 

Chan

 

Advertisements

I’m not sorry for what I’m about to say.

There’s a part of me inside that is wanting to curl up and hide somewhere instead of writing this post. But another part of me has been screaming loudly, boiling my blood, reminding me that words like these must be spoken, no matter the hour, no matter the potential loss. I’m shaking as I write this because I’m scared of how this could be taken.  But I’m writing it because I’m scared of a world where we don’t speak up.

Earlier, I was out with some friends at the bar. A young woman walked in wearing a beautiful sundress, walking in heels. Some of the people seated at my table made faces at each other, and when they saw me catch their gaze in disdain, the justification was this “She wanted us to look at her if she came the bar dressed like that.”

Shock.

Anger.

Hurt.

Disappointment.

Silence.

Deafening Silence. I couldn’t say a word.

So the only logical reason that she was dressed up was for your visual stimulation? Since when are women only allowed to wear what you’ve dictated as “suitable bar clothing” without “inviting” lewd eye gawking and stupid comments? And dressing nicely suddenly means she’s a slut, or asking for attention? We’ve definitely come a long way in our modern era.

1 in 4 women are victims of sexual assault or know someone who has been a victim.

Common statements made by the perpetrators?( http://project-unbreakable.org/)

“It wasn’t rape, you were being such a tease.”

“You know you want it”

Now some of you are thinking, “Whoa, it’s just a girl at the bar. It’s just some dudes admiring her from afar. This isn’t rape.”

You’re right. It’s not. But it also isn’t really admiring her, because what was said to me revealed a lot more than what they thought of her appearance.

What that statement is doing is perpetrating the mentality that women are inviting disrespect and degradation in how they act or how they dress.  In fact, a person’s inability to honour a human being as a human being and not as a piece of meat tells me that they aren’t much more than a piece of flesh themselves. Let me tell you something about rape. It’s dehumanizing. It leaves the victim feeling completely worthless. The biggest struggle? Self-blame. Shame. Guilt. Self-hatred. Where does this come from? hmm.. I wonder. Perhaps it is this idea that a violating action or a debasing comment is somehow NOT the violator or the speaker’s fault because it was somehow provoked.

Let me ask you this, is it OK for a human being to ever be degraded below their fundamental worth? Because when I listen to you tear apart a girl because “her face isn’t hot, but she’s got great cannons” it shocks me. Then it disappoints me. It used to silence me because I didn’t want to be labelled as that girl who is “too uptight” or “takes things too seriously.”

I’m done letting people talk about other human beings like that.

I’m done being silent.

I’m not going to apologize for taking human worth “too seriously.”

So I’m not sorry at all.

Jane Galbreath & Hope for Her International

Founder of Hope for Her International
Jane Galbreath, Founder of Hope for Her International

Jane Galbreath is a fascinating human being.  If her dancing curls or her adorable dimples don’t captivate your heart, it will be her passion and gentle strength encased within a tenacious vulnerability that will grab your attention. A couple weeks ago, she contacted me regarding an upcoming fundraiser. I told her I would be happy to meet up and see how I could help out.  In our meeting together, she told me about the non-for-profit that she has founded and wondered if I would be willing to help her promote a fundraiser.  We met together to chat about her organization and I realized that people would naturally desire to get involved after hearing her heart.

Originally from Scotland, Jane moved to Canada in June 2004 when she was 18 years old. She left Scotland to travel and experience the world and to find a place of safety and healing from experiences in her past. Now holding a permanent resident status, Saskatoon is the home where she has found that safety and healing.  At first, after meeting such a vibrant human full of love and care, one wouldn’t expect such a dark history to have overshadowed her earlier years.  “I come from a background with sexual violence. I know the heartache and the shame that come from this, but I also know the strength that comes when you can make it to the other side and work through these things. I believe that survivors of violence are the answer to some of the issues” As a victim of sexual violence, Jane has walked through incredible pain and has struggled to find her healing and peace.  That violence which once enveloped her with shame and confusion has now led her to a place of personal strength and propelled her forward with clarity.

“We believe that when a community doesn’t accept [sexual violence] as normal, that it will stop”

In September 2013, Jane founded Hope for Her International. ““Hope for Her International is focused on ending sexual violence against women and girls, existing on a local and global level to collaboratively cultivate communities that won’t accept sexual violence as the norm. We believe that when a community doesn’t accept [sexual violence] as normal, that it will stop” Jane’s passion is not blinded by revenge or bitterness. The main goal behind Hope for Her International is in supporting communities to change the perspective surrounding incidences of sexual violence.  Hope for Her International is founded with a purpose that can seem impossible at times, but Jane’s vulnerable courage and fierce dedication to ending sexual violence seem like the perfect fit for such an organization. Finding her own hope and freedom was the catalyst that mobilized her into founding Hope for Her International.

 I want people to know that there is hope and that, as a community, we can bring an end to sexual violence.

“Why focus on issues of sexual violence? It’s a really hard topic, and it’s a topic that brings out a lot of shame and fear in people.  From a personal perspective, I’ve been a victim of sexual violence and I know the heartache and the shame and the hopelessness it creates, but I also know what it’s like to come out the other side as a survivor. I believe that victims of sexual violence can [find freedom and strength] with the help and support of their community, family and friends. So my desire is to use my own story as a way to tell other people about the issues that come with sexual violence and to advocate for survivors.  I want people to know that there is hope and that, as a community, we can bring an end to sexual violence. Jane and is not trained in counselling or support for victims of sexual violence, but she does understand the struggle in overcoming such an experience. She encourages any victims needing help to contact her and she will point them in the right direction to find support.

THERE IS HOPE

Founder of Hope for Her International
Jane Galbreath, Founder of Hope for Her International

“My message to people who have experienced sexual violence would be that it’s not your fault. It’s not your shame. You deserve to get help. And the last thing I want to say to you is no matter what happened; no matter how often; no matter how old or young you were; no matter how extreme it was, it was horrific and there is hope to come out of this. There is hope.”

 

How can you get involved?

On Wednesday June 11th, at 7pm Hope for Her International will be hosting its first fundraiser sponsored by Stephanie Schlosser with the Investors Group at the Broadway Theatre in Saskatoon.  Tickets are $15 in advance and are available online at www.hopeforher.ca/events.  The event will feature a viewing of the award winning documentary “Girl Rising.” All proceeds from this fundraiser will be used towards working with women and girls forced into prostitution in South East Asia, as well as towards the continued development of Hope for Her International’s work on a local level.

 

Links:

Buy tickets for the Hope for Her International fundraiser: www.hopeforher.ca/events

Visit the Facebook Page for the upcoming event here: https://www.facebook.com/events/1422213631379938/

Follow Hope for Her International on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/hopeforherinternational?ref=br_tf

Visit the Hope for Her blog: https://hopeforherblog.wordpress.com/tag/hope-for-her-international/

 

Have you experience sexual violence?

You are not alone. There is hope. Talk to someone.
http://saskatoonsexualassaultcentre.com/

http://www.kidshelpphone.ca/teens/home/splash.aspx

http://saskatoonsexualassaultcentre.com/

http://www.awhl.org/