Freedom From Oppression | Stratford Festival Forum 2018


(upbeat music) (audience claps) – Good morning everyone
and thank you for coming, my name is Julia Miles and
I’m the assistant producer for The Forum. We would like to thank the Huron-Wendat, the Haudenosaunee, and the Anishinaabe, for their stewardship of this
land that they share with us through The Dish With
One Spoon wampum treaty. Over the summer we are
partnering with CBC Ideas to consider the five freedoms through a series of discussions examining our relative freedom and the challenges it
faces both within ourselves and in the social and political arena. Today is the third
installment of the series. Our discussion will consider
freedom from oppression, considering the forms of oppression and how it shapes who
we are both individually and collectively. Today’s event is being live-streamed, so I’d like to welcome
our virtual audience around the world. I’m so very pleased that we can share our discussion with you. We will begin today with
introductions of our guests and a moderated discussion and of course leaving time
for some questions from you. Here in the studio theater, the ushers have distributed
pencils and note cards so you can jot down any
questions you might like to ask and we will collect
them in a timely manner. To our live stream audience, we will also be accepting questions. Simply pose the question
in the conversation feed and we will do our best
to include it today. There is so much to discuss today, so I’m just gonna get down to business and introduce to you the host of CBC Ideas and our moderator today,
Mr. Paul Kennedy, thank you. (audience claps) – Thanks Julia, there
really is a lot to discuss, so I’ll be very brief
in this introduction. Just to say that, what we’re talking about today, freedom from oppression is
something that Canadians come to second hand almost. Although maybe we’ll find out that’s not the case as well. It’s something that I
personally didn’t really, it didn’t really enter my radar screen until I was probably postpubescent that I didn’t really understand what was going on in the world. We have people with us today who can tell us a lot
about what was going on and maybe give us some indication about where we could be going with that. In the questions for
those in the audience, if I could ask you to write large, I’m getting old. (laughs) And I can only see letters that are larger than life in
some ways, so please do that. And I’ll try to get those
questions in at the end, but to get things rolling
right off the top, we’ll introduce first Bhutila Karpoche, who is a really interesting woman, and she comes from, first right now she is a member of the Provincial
Legislature from High Park, Parkdale-High Park in Toronto, a place I used to live, actually so I couldn’t vote for her this time but I might have, had I been there.
(Bhutila laughs) I actually lived in China for a year, and I tried to get to Tibet
in that period of time and (clicks tongue) couldn’t do that. And I think that might have a little bit to do with some kinds
of oppression, perhaps. And so I’ll ask her to maybe introduce that possibility in and
herself to the crowd. Bhutila. – Thank you Paul. So my name is Bhutila Karpoche and I was born in Nepal, in Kathmandu Nepal, and… The reason why I, as a Tibetan ended up being born in Nepal was because my parents and grandparents had escaped Tibet after
the occupation by China. And so in Nepal I was, in my own family, the third generation Tibetan who was born as a stateless person. Because in Nepal we weren’t recognized as being residents or even having
any kind of status. And so, right from the moment I was born, the fact that the state refused, or could not recognize me as a person, the fact that I was born away
from the land of my ancestors, away from the home of my
parents and grandparents, all were influenced because of politics, political decisions. And, I remember as a child growing up, our bedtime stories used to be stories that my parents and grandparents would share about their memories of Tibet. What their escape was
like, how was the journey, what was the land like, what
kind of life did they live? And so, I grew up knowing and feeling what Tibet might have been like, without ever even having
stepped foot in the country. And very early on in my life I had a very strong
sense of social justice, I had a political consciousness because of the life that I was born into and because of my family’s history. And because we were stateless, and because the country
couldn’t recognize us, there was never going to be
a pathway to citizenship. There was never going to
be a pathway to becoming a full person in the eyes of the state. And so my parents made a
very conscious decision and left the country
and we were so fortunate to come to Canada and build a life here. And, we finally in some way felt that it was the end of a
one kind of oppression, which was that finally we had a pathway to citizenship in Canada. And with that came rights that were enshrined in
Canadian constitution that we would be protected in many levels. But also in Canada, as a typical newcomer in a
big urban city like Toronto, we faced many challenges. We lived in a high rise building owned by a corporate landlord that never did any maintenance work but never hesitated to increase
the rents. (laughs) It was a small two bedroom apartment for a family of six, so it was tight. And my first job in Canada
was as a pick-up laborer. We would wait outside a Mcdonalds, the parking lot of Mcdonalds, and the temp agency van would come in and decide how many workers
they needed for the day and pick us and leave. So sometimes you didn’t get picked, it meant you didn’t have work, you didn’t have pay for the day. And so, in my experiences, working and living in Toronto, in Canada, I realized that as a worker as a temporary agency worker, I didn’t have the same rights because I wasn’t protected
under the workplace protections. Even though the law
existed, it didn’t cover me. And as a tenant, I realized that the law was actually
designed not to protect me. That it was geared to
benefit corporate landlords. So those kinds of lived experiences for me and with that political
consciousness that I grew up with led me to community
organizing in my own community in Parkdale-High Park. It started out specifically
within the Tibetan community, we have a fairly strong Tibetan community in Parkdale-Highpark, and it sort of branched from there and in everything I did I always saw the
connections of how politics and policy was dictating the
kind of experiences we had. It could be very easy, an easy ride, or it could be one where
in every step of the way you faced a barrier, you
had a hurdle to climb, and I saw how closely the personal is political
and so I decided that if I wanted to do something, if I wanted to make a
difference not just for me, my family and the community, I needed to get politically active. And that’s how I started to work on many different issues
from tenant organizing to continuing to advocate
for human rights in Tibet, and it just built on from there and one of the things in political work and in movement building is solidarity. You show solidarity and
you work in solidarity with many different groups
in many different issues. So I branched out because of that, because I saw the connections, and that led me to, more deeply into the political world of
partisanship. (laughs) And I got involved with the NDP because I felt that from all
the parties that existed, my values, my belief in democratic
socialist principles, was most closely related to the NDP. So I got active, I started working for the local Members
of Provincial Parliament then Cheri DiNovo. And I just branched on from there. And within politics I saw that we didn’t have the same kind
of representation, right? Like you look at even in my own riding of Parkdale-Highpark,
such a diverse community. Our local high school boasts
of having 91 mother tongues. But yet we had never been represented in the provincial level
by a person of color. So we needed the kind of representation that reflected the population we serve. And I wanted to not only talk the talk but walk the talk and when the opportunity opened to run for the nomination
in the riding for the NDP, I went ahead and did that and it just built on from there and I’m now elected as the
Member of Provincial Parliament for Parkdale-High Park. And I’m hoping that even
though I’m in politics in an elected capacity, that I continue the organizing work in the community. So that the experiences that I had and the experiences that
many are still having in Parkdale-High Park and in the city, and in the country at large, the issues that we face are addressed, so. Here I am today. (laughs) (audience claps) – I should perhaps point out that Bhutila is the first
person of Tibetan heritage to be elected to public
office in North America. (audience claps) Eloge Butera comes from
a place I’ve never been, I’ve been to Africa but I’ve certainly never been to Rwanda. He is a good friend however, of a very good friend
of mine, Payam Akhavan who was a Massey lecturer a few years back and actually he’s appeared in The Forum from time to time. He is from Rwanda, he is now a lawyer who was taught at McGillian
University partly by Payam and he’s here to talk
about his experiences and what they might be. Eloge. – Thank you, Paul. I guess one of the first
things to say is that I am a survivor of the
genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda. And that I don’t say lightly because it’s a special privilege, one of the few people who were children during this experience who
actually lived long enough to tell that story. In 1983, the year I was born, Rwanda was a military dictatorship in which the political elite used the oppression of
Tutsis as a core feature of the government structures. My family, my parents, middle class, father who was a medical doctor, mother who worked in
different institutions, had tried their best to
shelter us from any overt expression of political oppression that they lived and they
confronted on a daily basis. But that experience was shortly lived. Only in second grade, our teachers were allowed to humiliate, to really
single out Tutsi children, and make us stand in front of our peers, and use terms like cockroaches and snakes to refer to us and what we
represent in the Rwandan society. That, was only the beginning. In 1990, when the civil war broke out, that hateful government
sanctioned propaganda was actually being
disseminated in public airwaves by the national radio and soon after a whole weaponized machine of
the Radio des Mille Collines. Radio, private radio that
combined entertainment and hateful messages to incite more virulent hate of Tutsis. – [Woman] Excuse me could you
adjust your microphone please? – Thank you. – [Woman] Thank you. – On April 7 1994, the
genocide of the Tutsis started. In only 100 days, over one million people died. Those included my father, my grandmother, and several thousand of
our closest relatives. I survived because a Hutu
family took me and my brother and hid us for the better
part of those 100 days. And my mother separately
was taken to the mass grave over 12 times and through a whole host of confusions, she was spared, and also lived to raise
us past that point. It’s hard to compare the reality of Rwanda to the western political system that we live in. But one thing for sure, is
that we can’t take for granted the fragile democratic institution that in their tone, in their actual words, if they were to fail, would
similarly give license to, in the case of Rwanda
1.5 million people, who in some way or another
participated in the genocide. And to us, they were our neighbors, in spite of this
politically sanctioned hate and messages, we still
attended the same churches, went to the same schools, our relatives had intermarried, and they are, they were
truly our neighbors. Surviving a genocide also means carrying the weight of that history. The deep disappointment, that the patients of my father, although they were willing to
receive his medical advice, even during the genocide, were not willing to
stand up and protect him or save his family. The preachers who would
allow the parishioners to come into their churches only to abandon them to their murderers to later, in some cases
buildings be burned down with their Tutsi occupants inside. So the breakdown of that social cohesion, the social fabric that
Rwandans experienced, was and is an ever present memory that propels me in my role as a public office holder today and in my previous experience
as an honorary witness to the Truth and
Reconciliation Commission. There have been big flashing warning signs that the fragile coexistence
that we hold here in Canada, the ability to disagree
without being disagreeable, the ability to confront eachother in the hope that ours would
be a more just society, that requires patience
and constant engagement and constant renewal that
yes, we look different, we sound different, we
believe in different things, but all of that should be propelling us towards a destination. Towards a future in which our own children will never have to experience
what we lived through in Rwanda. So we can never take that for granted, but the patience also, to get those interactions right, to honor one another’s pain, is also a key feature
of this constant tension between a violent revolution
when you’re outraged and a complacency not
to interrogate the past because it has always been so. I’ll stop here. (audience claps) – Thank you Eloge, as you can tell from the
first two stories we’ve heard, there are a lot of questions
that can come out of it, so. I think we should move right along and moving, in some ways right back home, we’re in Canada now with our next guest. Christina Gray comes from
Vancouver actually just now but, comes actually from the Deni region along the Mackenzie Valley. Great Slave Lake I think
she was born in the edge of. She’s a lawyer, she has always worked
in human rights issues, for a good reason, and she’s here to tell us what
that reason might be today. Christina, welcome. – Thanks Paul, first I want
to start by acknowledging the Indigenous people’s
lands who we’re on today, I hold my hands up to you, that’s an acknowledgement
that we do on the West Coast, and I hold my hands up to you guys too for sharing your story with us, because as I was listening
I almost cried a few times and you know I think you guys do a great service to your ancestors in sharing your story here today. I want to acknowledge that
my mom’s here as well, she’s sitting up there, and she traveled here from Vancouver, I was born and raised in Vancouver BC. My dad’s Dene from Lutselk’e which is in the Northwest Territories, and my mom is Tsimshian
from Lax Kw’Alaams, which is in Northern British Columbia. So part of my story is also
recognizing their story and where they came from, and who I am is really a
reflection of who they are. And so I’ve asked my mom if I can share a little
bit about that story and she said yes and my
dad is no longer with us but he would be really
proud if I could share a part of his story as well. So part of my story, or their story is, my mom’s mom came down to
Vancouver from Prince Rupert which is very close to
Lax Kw’Alaams near Alaska and she had many children,
you know under the age of 10 and from when they came to Vancouver they lived in the housing projects near the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver. And I think it was a really hard time to be First Nations in Vancouver, you know it was hard to get a job, there was a lot of racial
discrimination that happened. Indigenous women were
being disenfranchised under the Indian act, meaning they could no
longer live on the reserve and there was a lot of
hatred that was happening and so I think that resulted
in a lot of poverty for First Nations but also segregation and segregation still continues but it’s a lot more silent, and something that we have
to really fight to recognize, and I think as an Indigenous
person I’m always like, where is the other Indigenous people? You know who else here is Indigenous, so. I think back then a lot of Indigenous people lived together in the projects, because that’s where other
Indigenous people lived, and so they felt comfortable and similarly when I was growing up I
grew up in a housing co-op called Synala Housing Co-op
that my mom helped to start and so I grew up around a
lot of Indigenous people from all over Turtle Island
which we call North America and so I felt really comfortable going in and outside of people’s houses, I would just knock on their
door and say you know, can I play with your cat? And that’s just the way it was, it was a real community and that community still exists in Vancouver, there’s a very strong community aspect for Indigenous peoples there, and so when I moved to Toronto, I also similarly looked
for that community aspect of Indigenous peoples, you know you talked about solidarity and people who stood
in solidarity with me. So that’s my mom’s story really but, and part of my story but my dad’s story was a little bit different
from my mom’s story. He was born in Yellowknife,
near Lutselk’e, Lutselk’e is on the
southeast end of the lake and he always said that he was, he grew up on the land and so his grandparents helped raise him, Louisan Desjarlais and
Maria Del Desjarlais, and so that was something
that he felt really proud of. It was who he was as a Dene man and he spoke our language of Chipewyan and he would talk about his
grandparents making his clothes and living on the land. And so he instilled that sense of be proud of who you are for being Dene and this is who you are. Even though he went to
residential school for many years and through that as we learned, through the Truth and
Reconciliation Commission, that Indigenous people were
made to feel inadequate and not allowed to speak their language, not allowed to have long hair, like he had long hair and they
made him cut his hair short. So that kind of assimilationist policy that Canada imposed on
the Indigenous people had an affect on people like me, where I wasn’t able to live with my dad because he suffered, or lived with the intergenerational effects, or sorry the effects of
trauma from residential school which I live with the
intergenerational effects of trauma of residential school. So what that means is, you know there is many
Indigenous people who are made to feel ashamed of who they were as an Indigenous person. And that had a tremendous
effect on like family, upbringing, community, belonging, and really being a whole person, so. That could also have the effect
on you know, addictions or abuse or poverty, you know it has those kinds of effects. So that’s something that
I’ve had to overcome, and so when thinking about oppression, that’s what I think about. As oppression is assimilationist policies, and those intergenerational
effects of trauma so, I think part of my work as a lawyer and why I went to law school at UBC was to really help Indigenous peoples and work with Indigenous peoples to overcome these
assimilationist policies, to overcome inequalities, to overcome oppression and
oppressive policies and laws. And I think the difficult
thing that we live with in this time period is thinking, okay so residential school, the last residential
school closed in 1997, that wasn’t that long ago, right? So are there laws in place now where similar inequities or inequalities are resulting and how do we overcome them? How do we be reflexive about
those laws and policies now? How do we be reflexive with ourselves and thinking who’s not in this room? Who is Indigenous, who
speaks for this community, and why do they do that? And that’s something that I am continually
trying to think about. And so I’ve worked as a human
rights lawyer in Toronto, and I’ve worked at
Aboriginal Legal Services where my job was to challenge government laws and policies to help create equalities. And so I hope to continue to do that, and right now I’m gonna be
going back to the west coast to start a masters program
at the University of Victoria to look at how Indigenous
laws were a part of, or are part of the human rights system. How are they being
looked at in that system? And that’s I think really where you know my vision is, and where my heart is
is sort of in creating more equal opportunities
for Indigenous people and what are those laws
that I have as a Dene person or as a Tsimshian person,
or as a Metis person, and how are those laws already being looked at within Canada, how is Canada a multi juridical system? And I think it’s a really exciting time to be part of this
discussion and this dialogue especially at the University of Victoria, they have their first Juris
Indigenous Doctor program and so it’s part of that same sort of dialogue. And so I think it’s really
exciting, so thank you. (audience claps) – Thank you Christina. I think that the panelists
have all in some sense told us where they came
from and how they got here and why that’s what they’re doing, and we can maybe get a little more of that in the conversations that goes. But first I wanted to
draw on attention that I think I pointed it out
in the introduction and actually came from each
of the speeches as well and that is you know as Canadians we can sit back and say
oh, that’s oppression and that happens far away, and there are ginormous
instances of oppression around the world today. The problem I think is that it’s growing, and it’s sort of moving
closer, coming closer, becoming part of where we are and I want some indication from the three, from three very different
places on the planet, one of which happens to be in Canada, how do you deal with
that apparent distinction between here and there,
between the very very bad and the apparently very very good? But even within the good
there can be the bad, and I, you mentioned it first Bhutila, that in Canada you confronted things that maybe weren’t as oppressive
as where you came from but they’re oppression as well. And how do you deal
with juggling those two, measuring, weighing them I suppose? – For me I think that what I experienced and what I observe is both whether it’s back in Tibet, or whether it’s here in Canada, the oppression manifests
in different ways, right? In perhaps back in Tibet, because we are under
the Chinese government which operates as a one party state, which has a complete authority over the governance of everyday
lives, and over everything. Here we are in a democratic, so to speak democratic country, but at the end of the day when you look at the
day-to-day life of a person, what other challenges
are they experiencing? There it might seem very explicit, you know okay there is one
person who has all the power and that’s how things are run, and so that’s why that seems
like an oppressive regime, but here we have a
system that’s designed to privilege certain groups over the others in a more covert way. So for example, and I’ll tell you this because one of the things as a
community organizer that I do is I knock on doors and I talk to people. And when I knock on
doors and talk to people and ask them about their lives and what challenges they face, the oppression is actually quite visible. Because when I’m talking to a mother and she tells me about the bedbugs and she shows me a two year old son with bedbug bites all over his face, that’s very visible to me. And when I’m walking down a street and I see a homeless person
in the middle of the winter, that’s very visible. So I think that here perhaps
what’s slightly different is because we are within a democratic system, it almost feels like it’s masked. We don’t necessarily pay
full attention to it, or perhaps we just call
it something different. We name it differently. And so I think that no matter
which systems you live in at the end of the day, every
person has a very simple wish which is just to live a happy life. And so when you have the daily challenges to people it doesn’t matter who’s in power as long as they can live a
decent life with dignity. And so in both situations you face the similar kind of challenges. – Yeah. I would I guess start with pointing out that the here and there
concept is actually no longer the case. All of us carry around devices that have components
from dozens of countries, we drive in cars that
are made by components from dozens of countries. There’s really nothing
under the sun any longer, I guess except the thunderstorm last night that you can,
(audience laughs) you can locate it here. But everything else is
truly tied together. And the question I would
put to you is whether the systems that allow us to have three, two different electronic devices when somewhere down the chain a kid may have been risking their life digging down a mine to get the coltan to allow the cheaper prices. The stitching in our clothes,
the reality of our lives, and our willingness to
accept without questioning the ethical underpinnings of our way of life is our own contribution to what we may think is the oppression that is happening out there, so, the point being that yes, Canada is not a one state party, we are not sitting in our world dreaming of some crazy schemes to violate Canadian’s human rights but the role and the way the global
economy is structured can’t, we can’t exist in that
context without questioning the ethical underpinnings
of every single aspect of our lives because we
are all interconnected. The second piece is, the fragility of all
the political systems. Growing up in Rwanda, the hate messages, we all knew that we were not cockroaches. We could look at ourselves and not see tentacles and antennas, but deep inside that
dehumanization actually took hold that we could see ourselves as subhumans. We could see ourselves as the object of that total destruction. The oppression that rendered
some of us invisible and what it takes to
reject that invisibility is one of those things that as Canadians we need to be very, very
much aware of because the key is that most people get to
experience their oppressions that they confront at an individual level. It’s those glass ceilings
that are visible to you but that may be a common day reality for other people, that are the source of
the kinds of resentment that make people out there,
in those other places, take to the streets and choose violence to do what we would refer to as resist their
perceived oppression. In the Canadian reality I would say we can’t afford to only
look at the politics. Now the politics can get scary, but we can’t afford to
only look at the politics without actually opening the box to look at our neighborhoods, at our day-to-day interaction, to really question what some have called the vulnerability principle that creates those, the poet once called the nobodies, the invisible people in
our society who’s franchise we should be working
working hard to return and to rehabilitate. – [Paul] Christina you come
from that part of Canada that has perhaps been oppressed. So you have a very different
attitude I suppose, you’ve felt it here all the time. – Yeah, can you repeat the question? (audience laughs) – The question was
basically how we deal with the fact that we can see
oppression from far away and it is very, it’s black and white, it’s very clear to us, but we don’t necessarily always
see the oppression at home or feel it in the same way. – Yeah I guess that’s you know the, what I’m hearing is we and… – We is probably a word
that doesn’t work here. – Yeah so we, in human rights, I’ve dealt with people all over Ontario and talked with people
all over Ontario who experienced human rights, had human rights issues and my job was to give them legal advice, so I’m very familiar with that on a more professional level. And then when I was working
at Aboriginal Legal Services, it was more on a national
level during interventions at various courts and trying to, trying to change the law,
to make it more equal for Indigenous peoples in
the criminal justice system more specifically. And so I’m really familiar with trying to fight for equal
treatment of Indigenous peoples with other Indigenous peoples in Canada so laws are sometimes created, created in Canada where in one place it might be one way and in another place
it might be another way and so you can challenge those laws to see if you can change them
to make them more equitable. And so that’s using the
Charter of Rights and Freedoms and that’s available
to everyone in Canada. And I think it takes a lot of work and as a lawyer and as a claimant to bring those claims where it could take years
and years and years, it’s not a fast process. And similarly for
Indigenous rights in Canada we have Indigenous peoples are under the legislation
of the Indian Act and you can use section
35 of the Constitution Act which you mentioned, to challenge those laws and so that also takes years and years
and years to challenge. Indigenous peoples had to fight to have inclusion of their
rights in the constitution when it was changed in the 80s, it wasn’t given. So all along I feel as though Indigenous peoples had
to continually fight for that inclusion and
fight for their rights where it wasn’t freely given, and it isn’t any different today. I think the political system
has changed a little bit and now Indigenous
peoples are very visible and I think very good at
advocating for themselves as they always were, but it’s the visibility
I think has changed a little bit in the last few years and I think that started to change especially with Idle No More
when that started to happen and people saying, no, like
we’re not okay with this, and we’re gonna do something about it, and I felt as though there was a strong systemic shift in
Canada when that happened. Indigenous peoples were
taking to the streets to round dance, and for me it’s more about
like a coming together of Indigenous peoples and even more so with the Truth and
Reconciliation Commission I felt like there was a shift. So we have these gradual shifts but we have to keep pushing, pushing the boundaries a little bit. – I’ll ask a question
which is a bigger question jumping off of right that, the shift and what we’re seeing happen. I have to say, and maybe I woke up on the wrong side of
the bed this morning but if I look at the world, it seems the world is
moving towards oppression. And this to me is both very disturbing, and also sort of surprising. A couple years ago I suddenly, I studied history, I was a historian, I’m a lapsed historian now I suppose, (audience laughs) but I suddenly realized I’m in history. And this is strange for a 65 year old man to come to that realization but I’m living, you people
have all lived history, I studied it, and assumed
it was in the past, and suddenly I realized no, this world is very like worlds that I studied. That world’s tending towards oppression. And I see the world sort of now tending towards oppression. Not just in the bad awful places on the other side of various oceans, but even here at home, close to home. I see things happening
in democratic societies, in western liberal
societies that scare me. What is your general
impression, the three of you, are we moving in one direction or another, are we moving, I would
say backwards in time, backwards in moral space, or is there some sort of
progression towards democracy, towards values of freedom, values that don’t emphasize
or endorse oppression? – Yeah. I would say that we need to pay a meticulous attention to what is actually happening
to people out there. The reality is that we have taken a habit of looking at political systems and judging electoral outcomes as the only indicator of what is changing in those places, but never fully interrogate it, the oppression generated by poverty, by the absence of women in public spaces, never fully interrogate it, what people didn’t ask, partly because they didn’t know. Today everybody can see the American dream on their cellular phone and they know and they have the appetite to come and live the way we do here. And when people are asking that, they are also asking for
leaders who will come and be decisive in delivering that, and delivering that fast. And that, from a North American perspective is very strange. Because we like a fair debate. We like a fair campaign where there is a certain predictability. We have a constitution
since 1867 that tells us exactly what fades and the
provincial can and can’t do and sometimes the parliament proposes things that we didn’t know that they could do and we spend a whole day
with our heads reeling, but I think we need to put a bit of water into our wine about how much of a doomsday reality is unfolding in the world out there. The second piece is how
much of our own reality that we need to revisit. The quintessential mode of democracy, the oldest in the world,
the United States, most people in Rwanda that I meet, they always point out that the person who had
three million votes more is now sitting in retirement. So what exactly is it about your democracy that you’re wanting and
insisting on judging us about? So in that,
(audience claps) In that context, we need to
be able to sell the benefits of the freedom we enjoy here. Because here, we get to call in members of parliament, and quiz them about their private lives, what they had for lunch,
what they had for breakfast, and we need to prove the merits of having that kind of freedom and losing that is what scares us because that kind of space of
really the voice of the people is narrowing, but it’s
narrowing for people who are seeking efficient government. And us who are engaged in public life, we need to make the case to you that efficient government can still happen with honest and thorough debate, but the question is open on both ends. What is happening to
us and as much as it is open to what is happening there because what’s happening there
is really an expression of what people are asking and we are not sure about it and I think the truth is
somewhere in the middle. – From my perspective, I think that what we are seeing, especially in western liberal democracies, is that the status quo is not working. You know we keep, we may elect different governments, but things don’t seem to change much for the people on a day-to-day basis. They still have to work really hard to barely earn enough to live and survive and so when you are, when you are confronted
with this situation where no matter who’s in
power or what’s happening, life is not changing much, then there is that thirst
for something different. And I think that people feel that the current system
ignores their needs, they feel ignored by government, and with the general desire
for some strong leadership to take action, you know, not
make those incremental changes a little bit left, a little bit right, a little bit forward because we’re humans. We’re only here for a certain
period of time, you know? And so the incremental changes are too slow for people. People are dying in the meantime. And so I think that
when that vacuum exists because the status quo is not working, and somebody comes in that you know, is trying to portray or
talks like a strong leader and it may, it may be something that
seems a little bit extreme or stretched and as I’m talking right now I have Doug Ford in my mind, (laughs) but then for the people, right? Like why is it that people are attracted to somebody like Ford? And I think it’s because the status quo is not working for them and
they wanted to see change and they wanted to see somebody who exhibited strong leadership and they said you know what? What’s the harm, we’ll go
try something different because the status quo
is not working anyways. So, I think that when we want to bring about meaningful change, it can’t be done on an incremental basis. We need to act boldly. We need to act fast to
make transformative change, to make a difference in people’s lives. And only then people will see, okay, the government’s
really working for me, the government has me at the center of their decision making. And so when for a very very
long extended period of time we don’t see much movement anyway, somebody like Ford can come
in and seize that moment and that desire for something different, and destroy the province. (laughs) (audience laughs) – That’s a happy thought. Christina though, is the world generally moving towards or against oppression? – I think that question
is pretty blatant yes, overall I think at this time we’re looking at more oppressive forces that we’re living with. You know we see it in the
news every single day, there’s so many different
changes that are being made especially at the south of the border and maybe in Ontario now too. So but you know the cynic in me is like, I think sometimes we go
more to the left or right depending on how secure we’re
feeling as people generally and I think right now we’re
in a period of insecurity where people don’t feel
secure with themselves, don’t feel secure with
their personhood, their jobs and I think especially when people’s jobs are being lost, that’s when we see a lot of racist behavior
and discrimination and hatred and violence and that’s you know
people trying to protect their own personhood, their livelihood. So it’s hard for me to
think this is a new thing because I don’t think it’s new. I think it’s part of a paradigm and I think that’s just
the way it is right now and it could change in the future. – Yeah. Can I just add, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, the former chief Rabbi
of the United Kingdom has a lecture called The
Danger of Simple Answers, and we are in that time. Many people in this
audience way older than me remember the days when on
this side of the Atlantic, we were asking, what can
I be doing for my country? Today the danger of simple answers lies in that situation where we are disengaged citizens
looking at government as the provider who is supposed to be delivering all aspect of our cohesion and coexistence when the government is really that permeable vehicle where if democracy is working right, we all go through in and out, in and out, to look at how we improve the well fare of our fellow citizens. So the danger of simple
answers lies in that people are using government
only for the purpose of power not the purpose of actually
affecting justice and change, not the purpose of making
those who once were invisible more visible. And, to in that paradigm, almost forces of oppression, as one would put it, at play are really targeting us. We have people go sitting and looking at our internet behavior and predicting what we’ll
think and say and do the next day. But the purpose of all of
that is not to empower us, not to make us better neighbors, it’s really to know how
we can pitch this brand, this dude or dudette, this person in a political campaign, but real change, we’ll indeed soon know they have to look like what do we actually want to
do with this collective power that we hold in our government and retake a bit of ownership in what those government feels
and sounds and behave like and, it’s going to take a lot of work but just a hint, we need to do something drastic
in our education system. (audience claps) – That response obviously
got a positive reaction from the audience, and I think I know why. Before I ask the next
question I’ll point out Ideas is a program that I think does not look for simple answers, that actually tries to find the
complexity in everything and really dance on that in some ways. And so the next question
comes from that context. I spoke earlier with my own,
perhaps incorrect perception that the world seems to be moving to hell in a handbasket fairly quickly, in that I can already see the germs of something much more exciting and the reaction to the current president of the United States who’s
name will not be mentioned in this room.
(audience laughs) There are really hopeful things emerging, I mean there is elect emerging, Bernie Sanders seems to be suddenly really quite acceptable to large parts of the American population. There’s a socialist possibility emerging in Europe in response to
what seems to be oppression. We see new forces are beginning to rise, forces from the left, forces
questioning oppression, forces questioning the direction that they think society is going. Within the sort of the silver
lining inside the cloud, or the light at the end of the tunnel seems to be becoming
more and more obvious, which is a hopeful sign. And I guess I’m looking
to the three of you for any examples of that. Do you see, in response
to what’s happening today something that we can
all look at and say, wow! This is where the future might lie. Christina.
(audience laughs) – (laughs) Like sheepishly, not me. I talked about some of the hope that I
saw in the last few years, and I think we all just
have to look within us and think about that hope individually and collectively what we want as a society and what we want for our children, and I don’t really see any
one movement at this time that I can think yeah
like, that’s so amazing, because I just, everywhere I
go I talk to different people and hear about what they’re
doing and what’s going on. And I travel a lot and so it’s not within one specific city, or one specific region, but generally like I feel
as though there is a hope and you know the topic
of today is oppression, and the opposite of that is freedom. And the topic, generally,
is freedom from oppression. So how do we move from
freedom from oppression is, is really the big question and I think it’s just individually. Individually we have to look within to fight oppression and to look towards love of our community. – Yes, I mean I think
especially south of the border where we see a great interest in democratic
socialism right now, of course Bernie you know
brought that at the forefront during the presidential elections, but we see now so many young people engaged in various primary races and other levels of government, especially coming up in the midterms, and I think that everybody’s aware of people like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez who, you know, ran on a
democratic socialist platform and beat a 10-term incumbent, who’s spent 10 times more money. And I think that when
you look at the heart of the platform that she ran on, it’s very simple. (laughs) Because the principle of universalism is something that can work anywhere because it works for everyone. So when we talk about
healthcare for everybody, when we talk about education
for everybody it’s really putting the power in people’s hands. It’s making sure that
at the end of the day we have, still a democratic system, but we put in place socialist principles that will serve people, and we’re not in a society where the you know, the first day of the year by mid morning, the CEO has earned more
than the worker will earn in an entire year. Where, you know, the 1% controls more than 90% of the wealth. So that inequity can only be addressed when we reorganize ourselves, when we make the
principles of universalism at the heart of it, where we work on social justice over
market justice and where we, where we have state, and by state I mean you know the people, at the heart of our
society and not the market. Because we know when the market
is the center of the world everybody’s just driven by profit. So I think that what we’re
seeing south of the border, and we have a little
bit of that here already because we do have a
public healthcare system, we do have a public education system, obviously it needs to be
strengthened, enhanced and spread across different sectors, but to me, I see that as something hopeful and something that we can work towards. – Yeah. Now for full disclosure, my public office, I work for the liberal, the federal liberal government, for minister Ralph
Goodale at Public Safety. I’m one of his senior policy advisors. So they, in terms of change, I think the argument we’ve
made three years ago about hope to me at least resonated in that the outlook that is required for us to take the kinds
of necessary changes to their fruition, will require a great deal of patience. Will require that our education system don’t produce only workers,
but produces citizens. And you don’t do that in four years. You have to do that in a generation. It will require that our, the reason that the CEOs are
getting away with these profits is because we consume what they’re selling and they are paid in what we are buying. So taking on the roots of consumerism, does require a change in our attitude, a change in how we inform
ourselves on everything, from the bed we sleep in,
to the clothes we wear, to the food we eat. And so, I am hopeful, and the change we are seeing is women. The future of our political system and really subversion, is
more women coming to the fore. And this panel just shows you
exactly where we’re headed. (audience laughs) Two to one. (audience claps) But I believe we are seeing, because the questions that are being asked are very different, the way the questions are being put, the way the decisions are being advanced, is different when the women are in charge. We have, unfortunately, a situation where there’s only one woman left standing at the confederation table. But hopefully that won’t be for long. But the future of our democracies, here and elsewhere in the world, is in the hands of really, because by changing, and
having women at the table, will not only change our politics, but will change our
attitudes towards one another and that genie is out of the bottle and the strong man syndrome is just the last kick of patriarchy that’s on it’s demise. (audience laughs and claps) – Christina. – Well I think Eloge raises
a lot of really great points, but I think patriarchy
is inherent in democracy so how do we fight those ideals, right? Because democracy was
created by men in France in the 18th century. And so what we live in now is sort of a carryon from
that and those ideals. But I think one point that
I really wanted to raise which you mentioned was hope, and I couldn’t help but think of in 2008 when Obama was running and he won the presidential election, and he had a whole campaign based on hope, and there were these
really excellent fliers or posters that were done by Shepard Fairey that just said hope. And that was a really
interesting time in our history because I felt like collectively we were really hopeful, at that time I was in Guatemala when he
won and I remember down there, the Mayans who I was working with they were really excited down there, like yes, this is great! This is really great. But now, you know 10 years later, it’s a very different scene and what’s going on here is very different but I can’t help but think of what Noam Chomsky has talked about which is beware of the charismatic leader. And I think we have to be even more aware of what our leaders are saying when they have perfectly coiffed hair and you know, or they
can speak very eloquently because we have to think
about what’s not being said and right now we live in a time where there is said to be a lot of transparency, but I think there is even
a lot that we don’t know about what’s going on behind closed doors. And so we have to continually work to
look and ask questions, continually put pressure on
those forces and governments and people within power. – To add to that, as a woman
who ran for political office, I agree with Christina that right now we know the
answer in the sense that the future is female but at the same time we’re working still within the system that is designed for men. And so you know in politics, we’re continuously asking, oh how do we remove barriers
for more women to run, because we need more women at the table, how do we, make it such that you know, we can break the ceiling
and things like that. But at the same, I mean,
you can do all of that but really the system
itself needs to be changed. Because as long as the current system, especially first-past-the-post
that we have here in Canada, if that doesn’t change then we will never have that
same representation that’s required with
women at the forefront and with women leading because it’s designed for men. So if we wanna smash patriarchy, we change the system
that we have currently. And move into a really in depth and meaningful discussion around what electoral reform looks like here in Canada. (audience claps) – I think that’s an excellent summation in some ways of what,
where we’ve been going with the discussion and it also I think is that silver lining inside the cloud I was talking about. That this is a time not
just of enormous challenge and almost impossible challenges that we’re facing, but this is a time to actually
get our heads together and start thinking about
making things better and making things better in a good way. – And I think also taking into consideration Indigenous laws, Indigenous legal orders, and worldviews is really important. And we’re at a really critical juncture I think in Canadian
history, where we’re able to have those conversations and so I think that’s something that will continue to be built within Canada, especially as we continue to have these dialogues like this. – As people can see, I have enough questions here.
(audience laughs) It would take me as long as we have left to just read the questions, but I don’t think that’s good plan. I’ll, because it’s from the livestream, this is not from the room
but from somewhere outside, this question comes and I
think it’s a good one to pose, comes a bit out of something each of you have been saying too. Do you think equality and equity can only come from social justice? And this is, it actually reflects quite a few questions from the audience which were saying, isn’t politics money? Isn’t religion money? Isn’t all sorts, and also how do we find, how
do we oppose the oppression that we find in the corporate world? So is social justice sort of the foundation upon
which we must build things? – I think that equality and equity are inherently social justice principles, but I think they can operate
within all different realms. So for example, I live in Waterloo and I was talking with an Indigenous woman who works at Google, and I thought that was really amazing, and she was really lovely, and she was talking about how yeah, there is Indigenous
people that work at Google and it’s very important and diversity is really important there and I was, you know, I was just really taken
aback by talking with her, and so I think it can be
operating within all realms and it’s all about creating that space. – I think, yes I mean, you can have equality,
you can have equity, but when you have justice,
then you have all of it. Because when you have equality, then it’s that classic image
I’m sure many of you have seen, you know where three
kids of different heights can’t see a ballgame, and everybody’s given a stepping stool. That’s equality. Equity, is when based on the height, everybody is given the number of stools that they need to be
able to see the ballgame. But when you have justice, you don’t even have the barrier in front. You don’t need the step stools, everybody can see the game. So when we strive to work towards justice, then as Christina said, inherently you have equity in it. – Yeah. I would say that the concept of oppression operates mainly in the
realms of the extremes. And in those realms we get to really see the invisible people. The people who’s franchise, who’s voices has disappeared. And in that, in those realms, social justice is as Obama
used to say in his speeches, that ladder that reaches there to actually keep that movement going. But, the reality is that especially
in a country like Canada, the people who came here before we did, have also a claim of we’ve been here, we hassled. We were talking this morning about your childhood home where basically families went and dug, worked
on the floor of the factory to build this country into what it is and the quintessential middle class white men still need to feel heard
and seen in this country. We can’t take me to make them the nobody. And to make those things happen, all sectors of society
need to be at the table. Our politics need to work differently, our education need to work differently, our economies need to work differently. And the social justice is essential for those of us who are new arrivals, who have to really build
our lives from scratch, those, all of us, who have been left in the margins of Canada’s progress, but the second, third
generations of Irish workers, the Italians in Little Italy in Montreal, the Greeks who came and
hassled in this country, they also can’t disappear
because we have arrived. And, a just society will have to honor what I would call those historical pains, that we all come to this table with a little bit of, a pinch on our heart that we need to honor, to respect, and then use it to fuel a society that works differently. Because, I would repeat this, we now know what the 1%
has, and we all want it, so. (audience laughs) To actually, if we all were to have it, we won’t have a planet! But figuring out how we coexist together is that challenge. And we do need to basically be taking, doing what
you’re doing here in Ideas, opening every book and
trying to get ourselves in that space. – There’s a question
from the audience that in some way the panel
has talked about already but from very specific positions, and I’ll throw this first to Bhutila because I don’t think you
did mention anything about it but the other two did. This is a method of
dealing with oppression, or dealing with the
aftermath of oppression, and it’s Truth and Reconciliation which was used in Africa,
which is being used in Canada now. What is your experience with it? And we heard brief comments from the people on the
extreme ends of the panel here of Bhutila. Truth and Reconciliation, is this a viable method of dealing with oppression in the past and trying to prevent it in the future? – Absolutely. And I think that, you know, the work that was done here in Canada around truth
and reconciliation was a big step. Because the first part
of this term is truth, and I think that right now,
we’re still in that stage. Because while there’s some
work around reconciliation that has started and you know, it doesn’t mean that they don’t have to, that it comes in a particular order, there is some work going. But I think that for most people, you know we haven’t fully dealt deeply with the truth. And I think that as Eloge mentioned, it really really starts with a strong public education system where we teach children
about the true history of Canada and what has happened. And for somebody like me, who came to Canada when
I was 18 years old, so I skipped the public education, I didn’t have a public education system here in high school and
middle school in Canada. For somebody like me, that when I come here I don’t come in with
thinking that, you know, this is Canada and learn about confederation
and all of that, but go further back. And so for me, the challenge and the responsibility as somebody who has come
and emigrated to Canada is learning that truth. And so we in Canada need to
make sure that everybody, whether they learn it through
the public education system or whether they learn it at
some different point in time, and that can be through citizenship tests and things like that that
everybody has to go through, that we do that work. Because unless everybody is in it, unless we all accept it, then it’s very very hard to be able to make meaningful change. And for somebody like me, again having come from a family history where we experienced some similar things in the sense that you know, in Tibet it’s the same. You’re treated as second class citizens, or not even citizens, you are told not to speak your language, you, there are more non
Tibetans than Tibetans in Tibet. Even just pure figure
wise, the population wise, where in every aspect of your being there is some sort of discrimination. So when you have come from that history, it’s especially important
that wherever you are going you honor and you learn the truth of the place that you’re entering. And so I think, absolutely it’s critical and when I do that here in Canada with the Indigenous people of this land in some way I’m honoring my own ancestors because it’s all related, right? And I’m also making sure
that through my actions I am also accepting
and spreading the truth of my family history. So for me I see the strong
connections between that. – Eloge you were actually
an honorary witness at these Truth and Reconciliation
hearings here in Canada. What did that mean to you? – The Truth and
Reconciliation Commission here was a very powerful experience. One because as a survivor of a genocide in Rwanda, the staggering, the genocidal nature of
the residential schools that went on for several decades unchecked when most of us, pretty much everyone
in this room was alive was to me symptomatic of one of those invisible corners of society. That, all the well meaning Canadians who make the trenches to come to Africa and save poor African kids, were not aware, and I sat in those rooms and I heard heartbroken grandparents who basically lived in a stone throw away from a residential school were these abuses were happening and the impact they continue
to have on our society. I found that the seven national events that we’re part of, gave in
every city an opportunity that we should really learn to replicate often. To come one of the powerful
gestures we did is that there were a lot of
tears because the stories were so powerful, but none of the napkins
used were ever thrown away in the garbage. We actually had a sacred fire ceremony at the end of every event and the dust from that fire traveled with us to every
national event to the very end. – I’m obviously not the first
person that’s heard that but that is amazing. – And we felt in those rooms, with the whole, not all,
when that was going on that a new Canada was being born, that our potential to do right by our elders who were here before us and our potential to actually do something unique that
the rest of the world is struggling to come to grips with is very mass, because those who carried
out this systemic violence, the victims, the generations of survivors, did come to the fall to really engage with this painful past. But for all of us
settler populations here, our guilt and tears are not enough. They’re not enough if in
Winnipeg or if in Attawapiskat Indigenous kids are still confronting the, unacceptable levels of poverty, hunger, and so on. So, the moment is to be cherished, and I think we need to revisit more often, but I also feel that we
maybe need to return to it so that we can be inspired one more time to keep on pushing this struggle further. But by far, I think ours was a very special TRC for no lesser reason
that it is the survivors who insisted that this be
part of a legal settlement. The government didn’t volunteer this, we had to be sued into
doing the right thing but I think, yeah.
(audience laughs) It’s the Canadian way.
(audience laughs loudly) – I think, appropriately,
last word to you, Christina. – Thanks. So yeah as we know, residential school lasted
a long time in Canada. It started I think even
before Canada was Canada and only ended about 20 years ago, and the Truth and
Reconciliation Commission came to a close in 2015 in Ottawa and I had the opportunity
to attend the closing and it was a really
beautiful event for me. And for me it meant healing, because my dad went to residential school, so did his brothers and
sisters, I have aunts and uncles that also attended, so
it was very personal. And it was the personal
reason why I wanted to attend and it was beautiful and
I’m really glad I did it because before that, you
know, I held a lot of anger and resentment towards the
government and not knowing like, you know I think the thing
that I want to express to everyone is that, people didn’t talk
about residential school when I was growing up. I had to ask my dad when I was a teenager, did you go to residential school? And I just kind of looked away, and he was like, “Yeah, yeah I did.” And he was like really taken aback but, think about all of the years
and generations of people who didn’t talk about this, so having that conversation
was really important for me and attending the Truth
and Reconciliation Closing and the Walk for Reconciliation was really healing for those reasons because it gave us the
opportunity to have a dialogue about this dark chapter
in Canada’s past but Eloge mentioned, you know,
there’s still children that are part of the child
welfare system in Canada who are being taken
away from their parents, so how do we reconcile that? That’s, I think that’s
a difficult question and there’s been a number
of human rights cases on the subject and a number of court cases and the most recent was the First Nations Child
Caring Society where they tried to bring the
government to account in reconciling this and the ongoing systematic oppression of Indigenous children in that system, and I read the court case,
you know it was 200 pages long and I think it’s really important to continually look at these cases because they’re ongoing. And similarly, reconciliation
is an ongoing discussion so how do we look at the calls for action, of how which the Truth and
Reconciliation Commission put out and how do we get governments to have these dialogues? And I think one of the difficult
things right now in Ontario is around the education system and having this
reconciliation syllabus and dialogue in classrooms. So, you know, I think
it’s really difficult, I think we continually have to bring out those old
dusty papers and say like, yeah so the government, like
we have these documents, we need to put them into effect. We need to hold the government
to account still, right? And that’s what I think
is really important. – I think we need to keep asking difficult and complicated questions
and I think we’ve done so this morning. Before Julia comes back to the
stage to close the morning, I wanna thank you for coming out and I want you to join me
in thanking this panel. (audience claps) – Thank you, excuse me. (clears throat) Thank you Paul, and thank
you to our guests here. Leadership and strength is inspiring, and we thank you all for
your work that you do and that you continue to do for others. We’re a little bit over time, so I’m gonna go really fast and say thank you so much to
everyone here in our audience in the studio theater. Thank you to our audience around the globe for being with us, and please visit our website for more exciting Forum events that are coming up in August
and September and October. Thank you so much.
(audience claps) (somber music) – The biggest thing I think
that I hope people learn when they come to the show
and that they take with them is to step in other people’s shoes before hating, before judging, just take a second to think
about where their journey is and what they may have gone through, even when it’s not your
responsibility to, you know. If someone is being racist to me it’s not necessarily my responsibility to teach them about the hundreds
of years of racism (laughs) that comes before it. If I have the energy to do so, I should try to approach
that with compassion the same way that I would hope
that someone would approach me with compassion if they
see me walking down the street with a hoodie on listening to my music, or if they see me driving in my car with hip-hop blasting from the windows, just driving on the street, or if they see me just sitting down existing as a black person. See things from other people’s perspective before you judge. Because the minute we begin to do that I think we’ll be, we’ll be starting to
take steps to get towards a better place for society, you know. – Jean Louise, when we first meet her, is obviously in search of something. She needs to find Scout again, she needs to find the
person who had clarity about right and wrong and she needs to find the
person who had the voice to speak up, to not be part
of the silent majority, and I think that’s what she’s in search of in these moments. It’s so powerful to me that almost daily there’s a
news story or a podcast or a headline that I
can relate immediately to this production. Racial inequality and racism in general is thriving in our world, and I think it’s
everybody’s responsibility to stand up, to speak out, to not be a part of the
silent majority anymore, but to find that courage to call out racism and inequality when they see it happening. And to be kind to people and to, again, just remind everybody that we’re all created
equal, we’re human beings. – I think hate and prejudice can infect people. Anytime anyone, an adult or children can talk about racism, if they can talk about racial injustice, that is a step in the right direction, if they can confront it. I think that one of the ways
that we don’t move forward, is by ignoring it, or by supporting it, or by silencing it, or by
protecting children from it, but I think that one of the things that happens in this play, after the guilty verdict happens, when Miss Maudie is
speaking with the children, with Scout and Dill and Gem, and she talks about, we’re making a step and it’s just a babystep but it’s a step, but it’s… Maybe not a lot has changed but what they’re actually doing is, is thinking about considering the world that they live in. I think that we always
forget how smart kids are, but we have to give them an opportunity to change the world. And we have to give them an opportunity to look at the world head-on and they have to stop the cycle of hate, they have to stop the cycle of racism and the ideology of hate. And so that’s, they’re
our only hope, really. – None of this would
grab us in the same way the play does, if it wasn’t told through
largely the lens of children. To think that we as human beings, as adult human beings
don’t have the answers, is willful delusion. And kids actually recognize that, the conversations I have with
my girls is the same thing. The questions they ask about racism, you know are as plain as
the nose in your face. I know there is more nuance, I know it’s complicated and
history is a part of that, and we inherit things
but even still, you know. Kids are right. They mostly go, mostly go, what are you doing, you know. That is a subject that
is as timeless as ever, as relevant as ever and we certainly have not figured that out. We really have not figured that one out. How do we actually make a world where the children won’t have to cry at the injustice that they see perpetrated largely by the adult world. I think what Atticus
has to teach us is that it may scare you but you
have to take a stand. You may know that things are at risk, be it yourself or those things you love but you have to take a risk because it’s too important not to. (upbeat pop music)

Danny Hutson

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