The Robarts Centre Fellows (RCF) program was launched in the fall of 2018. RCFs will build their skills and knowledge through a year-long series of events and collective activities. They will benefit from a peer network of support and access to a wide range of opportunities. Through attending a minimum number of Robarts events, volunteering commitments and mentoring sessions, RCFs will have a chance to complement their academic learning experiences by deepening their understanding of the common patterns that are emerging on Canadian topics, beyond the classroom.
We seek a group of fellows who are interested and passionate about Canadian studies and are eager to do work outside of the regular program meeting times on individual and group projects that will enhance their study of Canada.
Applications for the program will re-open in August 2019 for the next cohort that will be asked to participate in the program from September 2019 to May 2020. For more information, please contact us.
Canada, trois syllabes et le grand inconnu, ou le grand méconnu. Canada, quelques images en têtes : les grands espaces, le froid, le Québec. Voilà ce qu’étais ma connaissance du Canada avant de venir. Maintenant, ma vision est tout autre. Grâce à mon année universitaire passé au Collège Glendon de l’Université York de Toronto, et ma participation au programme de recherche du Centre Robarts (ai peu découvrir beaucoup de choses.
Voici donc, le Canada, tel que je le perçois aujourd’hui, sous forme d’Anagramme Le Canada, c’est d’abord la Curiosité intellectuelle. Qu’il s’agisse de penser les villes intelligentes et inclusive, de concevoir un TGV entre Montréal et Toronto ou encore de réfléchir aux enjeux de communication interculturels, il y a toujours des personnes prête à s’intéresser à des sujets à nul autres semblables.
A, comme accueil. L’accueil, ce fut celui des Premières Nations qui ont permis aux arrivants européens de survivre. L’accueil, c’est également le caractère multiculturel qui se construits des apports de nouveaux citoyens du monde entiers, permis par la politique du multiculturalisme. L’accueil, c’est l’hospitalité amicale et chaleureuse qui m’a été offerte à Glendon.
N pour Nations et plus particulièrement, Premières Nations. Ces peuples, représentés dans la culture occidentale au travers d’une imagerie grotesque et insultante, sont extrêmement divers. J’ai eu l’occasion d’apprendre un peu à propos d’eux. Bien loin d’être des « sauvages », ils possèdent des valeurs précieuses : valorisants l’auto-apprentissage, la non-violence, l’autonomie, la coopération et la solidarités, l’importance des liens intergénérationnels, la communion et le respect de la Nature, le respect des ainés, l’égalité et le respect entre les femmes et les hommes, ils semblent avoir dans leur mode de vie des valeurs éthiques essentielles qui font malheureusement toujours défaut à la société occidentale. En outre, ils possèdent une culture et des langues d’une incroyable diversité, se battent avec beaucoup de dignité pour leur préserver et ont su rester dignes, malgré les méfaits considérables de la colonisation.
A comme avancée. C’est l’entreprise difficile de la Commission de Vérité et de Réconciliation qui vise à retisser peu à peu le lien entre la société canadienne Mainstream. C’est l’écoute, l’ouverture d’esprit, la franchise, la remise en question, la volonté de reconnaitre l’autre dans son identité et dans son humanité, c’est la bonne foi, c’est un chemin difficile, qui n’est pas tout droit tracé, mais qui finira par conduire à l’harmonie et la guérison.
D pour diversité. Diversité des langues : deux langues officielles, plusieurs groupes de langues autochtones et plusieurs langues du monde qui se développent avec l’immigration, diversité des paysages, de la Vallée du Saint-Laurent au Lac Ontario en passant par la rivière de l’Ouatanais. Diversité des destins des personnes que j’ai pu rencontrer. De l’émouvante épopée de Kim Suy et l’amour qu’elle a développé pour la Langue Française à l’enthousiasme de David Colonnette pour son projet de TGV ou en passant par le récit généreux et affable de Deborah Mac Gregor lorsqu’elle nous a raconté l’histoire de sa langue et de son peuple. Diversité des cultures qu’a constitué pour moi la plongé dans le grand bain multiculturel qu’est Toronto.
Un dernier A pour l’apaisement : apaisement du débat politique, avec une culture de l’écoute et du respect de la diversité d’opinion, avec la volonté d’inclure le plus grand nombre à la société, quel que soit son origine, son état de santé ou son handicap, quel que soit sa religion, son orientation sexuelle ou son identité de genre. Cet apaisement des tensions vient également de la croyance durement ancrée dans l’esprit des canadiens que la diversité est une force. Alors que dans beaucoup d’endroit du monde, chacun se replient sur son identité et tout semble enclin à la décision et aux clivages, le Canada délivre chaque jour le message inverse avec une portée remarquable. L’apaisement c’est donc en partie les accommodements raisonnables qui visent à concilier le projet de société avec les valeurs de chacun. C’est un respect profond des individualités sans que le collectif ne soit abandonné. L’apaisement, c’est aussi la volonté de regarder la vérité avec lucidité et sans fard, en ce qui concerne les deux grands points noirs de l’histoire du Canada : les mauvais traitements infligés aux Premières Nations par le gouvernement fédéral et aussi, la mise au banc économique et sociale du peuple fondateur français par le colonisateur d’origine britannique.
L’apaisement c’est également la sérénité que l’on peut trouver en contemplant la beauté de la nature sauvage pour peu que l’on se rende dans n’importe quel parc canadien. Un spectacle souvent à couper le souffle qui permet de se vider la tête et de mettre à distance les tracas de l’existence humaine. L’apaisement, c’est semble-t-il aussi le chemin que va prendre la population canadienne, dans un rapport respectueux vis-à-vis d’autrui et de la nature. C’est aussi un comportement qui s’impose lorsque l’on doit lutter contre un climat hostile.
Pour illustrer cet impératif, je voudrais citer Louis Aragon afin de conclure cette note introspective :
« Quand les blés sont sous la grêle Fou qui fait le délicat Fou qui songe à ses querelles Au cœur du commun combat »
La Rose et le Réséda.
Shop local? Watch local.
There has always been a sense of pride associated with ‘Canadianness.’ Whether it be cheering on the Team Canada or buying a bottle of VQA wine, people are proud to be Canadian and are proud of Canadian exports. This phenomenon is also visible on a consumer level. Grassroots efforts to shop local and support small businesses are evident in community markets and events.
The effort to keep it local is reaching a mainstream level, but why hasn’t this effort reached Canadian film and programming? CanCon (Canadian Content) is often seen as boring and quaint, and thought to be directed towards boomer audiences. While young creators are pointing out the faults in the system, campaigns like MADE | NOUS are striving to change that.
MADE | NOUS is a collaborative effort from the Canada Media Fund (CMF), Telefilm Canada, and other industry giants. The campaign’s goal is to promote CanCon and the people behind it. Boasting a strong social media following, they promote rising stars and Canadian classics, as well as hidden gems. The campaign takes it a step further too(remove too?), with an interactive map on their site that shows where major films and programs are produced.
What exactly is Canadian Content or CanCon? The CRTC sets out several key criteria to receive Canadian Program Certification. This includes the producer n, either the director or screenwriter and one of two lead performers being Canadian. Additionally, a minimum of 75% of program expenses and 75% of post-production expenses are paid for services provided by Canadians or Canadian companies, among others.
While key players like Telefilm and the Canada Media Fund (CMF) find that this system works, young Canadian artists like filmmaker Matt Johnson, disagree. In an interview with Radheyan Simonpillai , Johnson, points out the flaws in the CRTC’s system. Funding for his film, Operation Avalanche, was rejected by Telefilm, but a movie like Room was financed, although the people making it weren’t Canadian. As a result, Operation Avalanche was picked up by an American distributor.
“What happens is that the international producers use Telefilm, our financing system. They say, ‘we will come and shoot our movie in Canada if you agree to give us this money from Telefilm,’” says Johnson to Simonpillai.
This isn’t the first time the filmmaker has spoken up against the major players in the Canadian film game. In another interview with Calum Marsh, he hits on other flaws within the current system. “You have a dozen filmmakers who, no matter what, are going to get funded by Telefilm and, no matter what, are going to have their world premiere at the biggest festival in the world,” a nod to the unchanging roster of names at the TIFF galas every year.
While Johnson may sound cynical, he’s revolutionizing film and content making. His first hit, The Dirties, has become a cult classic. As a film student Johnson had a budget of a mere $10,000 for the film. His webseries Nirvanna the Band the Show was turned into a television series on Viceland. He has quickly become one of the biggest advocates to make filmmaking more accessible. Another young filmmaker, Kevan Funk, steps away from Johnson’s ‘burn down the institution approach’ and sees hope in a system he also considers flawed.
Funk allowed his response to TIFF Artistic Director Cameron Bailey ’s editorial piece to be made public. Bailey called on Canadian filmmakers to make films about us not just themselves. Funk saw this as a problematic demand in a country where Canadian distributors and broadcasters tend to be disinterested in these types of narratives, something that he himself experienced first hand.
The constant ragging on the Canadian film industry becomes problematic to Funk as well. “It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. If Canadians are only hearing about how terrible Canadian films are, I'm not surprised with the lack of interest that they have in searching out our work,” he states.
Although the MADE | NOUS campaign strives to showcase Canadian talent, it often focuses on the big names, one of the issues brought up by Johnson. Their site even features Room, a movie with an Irish director. A force funded by the film giants, the campaign won’t bring change or awareness to the issues faced by Canadian filmmakers. All it can really do is showcase their talent. While it’s refreshing to see how many mainstream films and shows are classified as Canadian, it begs the question of if they just found a loophole to be able to bear that label.
The Robarts Centre Fellowship was a great program that encouraged me to think about Canada outside of my history major. It was both a nice mental exercise and a good way to learn about the events going on around the university. One of the components of this program was to attend presentations about Canada. I attended four presentations, on Glenn Gould, on Smart Cities and Toronto, on treaties and land issues, and on food sustainability. I originally went into this program with the hope that I would learn more about Canadian history in particular, but ended up learning more about contemporary issues in the latter three presentations. This was a pleasant surprise. A lot of the topics in the three presentations were on Toronto or Ontario, and I heard about some initiatives going on, such as community-based environmental movements.
The Glenn Gould presentation was the most historic of the four, and I did enjoy it. I hear about Glenn Gould often on the CBC and in books, but I actually knew very little about his life. The most interesting thing about the presentation, however, was that it was presented by a person not from Canada, but from Japan. It always surprises me when people abroad take any interest in Canadian issues or histories.
Another component of this program was to participate in some sort of volunteer activity. I volunteered in a group with three others to create a booth showcasing Toronto’s and Canada’s linguistic diversity. We set up in front of Glendon’s cafeteria for two afternoons and offered information to students about language resources around the city. We also tried to start conversations with students about what they do to learn, re-learn, and preserve languages. I had some great talks with students who’ve had different experiences with languages - some who hated learning them and some who loved it, some who were preserving their languages through their children, and some who struggled to re-learn their native tongues. I am part of the latter group, and it was nice to talk to other people about the strange difficulty of forgetting your first language.
What stands out most to me from this experiences is all of that maps that I looked at that showed the linguistic diversity of the country.
While I am more aware of language trends in southern Canada, I do forget about the north’s diversity. Northern Canada tends to be a homogenous blur in my mind, but these linguistic maps, which showed the differences in Indigenous languages in the north, helped to break apart that image. Canadians in cities tend to be very south-centered, and it is quite a mental exercise to stop thinking this way. Thinking about linguistic populations was one way to stop thinking about the south as if it is the core of the country.
While I had already finished my volunteering requirement, I later volunteered at the Graduate Conference, just because I wanted to know how a conference worked. This was something that I looked forward to and I was not disappointed. It was nice to see such a group of people with similar interests.
Overall, I did learn a lot about Canada, both about its past and its present. However, the most valuable thing that I learned was that all of these events go on around campus. Normally, when I want to learn about something I look for a book about it, and I usually avoid talks and events on campus. I now know where to look when I want to hear about and discuss ideas on a topic I’m interested in, and will definitely attend more events next year.
My Sense of Gratitude for Robarts
My name is Ana Kraljević and I decided to join the Robarts Centre for Canadian Studies for quite a few diverse reasons, but before I dive deep into what they are, I find it appropriate to first introduce myself. My passion for world history began when I found myself more and more engaged during my elementary school history lessons. Learning about a society that is outside of my reach always sparked and continues to spark my curiosity as an adolescent. I am currently pursuing an undergrad in French Studies with a Bachelor of Education, as well as a minor in Canadian Studies, at Glendon College, and I just completed my first year. Having the privilege to dedicate my student life to studying two of my biggest passions is something that I will never take for granted. Education is the key to the glass door of drastic social change and I believe that the study of history has the immense power to challenge conventional world views.
On November 13th, 2018, the launch of the Robarts Centre Fellows was held at the Canadian Languages Museum at Glendon. I had three classes on the day of the launch and was extremely tired, but I knew that deciding to skip would result in a huge regret, and I was right. This launch was the perfect occasion to meet multi-disciplinary students, each with their own diverse and intriguing history, who all ultimately valued the power and study of history. More often than not, I have had a difficult time encountering people my age who find an interest in and are passionate about history, especially Canadian history. Although there might exist many speculations as to why younger generations fail to understand the importance and power of history, I tend to trace this lack of interest to a failure on behalf of our education system. History should not be treated as a school subject, but as a way to understand societal changes and how future generations have the power to reshape their world by studying the mistakes of the past.
The fact that Glendon is bilingual allows and encourages me to frequent a number of on- campus events that are conducted in one or both of Canada’s official languages. Robarts Centre Fellows are required to attend just two events throughout their academic year and I am grateful to have been given a series of various distinct and intriguing opportunities to choose from.
On November 21st, 2018, I attended a discussion in French that analyzed, “la pluralité des savoirs dans Wikipédia,” which translates to, “the plurality of knowledge on Wikipedia.” It was very interesting to learn about the complex intricacies of a website that I use so often, but never found the occasion to research about. The small group of participants led to a tight-knit atmosphere where everyone was encouraged to freely express their opinions and arguments. My level of French in November was nowhere near where it is currently, hence I was thankful that the presenter spoke at a speed that was understandable for all of the attendees. The presenter discussed the specific details of how Wikipedia is governed and the reality that many intellectuals believe that the use of Wikipedia is dangerous since anyone with Internet access is able to add and modify any given information. In addition, I learned about how the Atikamekw, a First Nations group, worked collectively with members outside of their community to create a Wikipedia page about their culture and history, all in the Atikamekw language. One of their principal difficulties was the direct translation of many English words that do not exist in the Atikamekw language. This project was created with the intention of educating members of the Atikamekw community about their history and culture in their own mother tongue. Compared to other Indigenous languages, the Atikamekw language is not under threat as it is spoken daily by its population, however this site has the direct effect of preserving their language, as well.
In addition, on February 28th, 2019, I attended a presentation by Jeremy Dutcher, an Indigenous composer and activist of the Tobique First Nation, on the significance of linguistic revitalization and the power of music in his community. He discussed how his Indigenous language is under threat, and how losing a language leads to the loss of an entire world view and one’s relationship to the land. He and his team has had an instrumental role in preserving many Indigenous pieces that were created by elders on wax cylinders. Unfortunately, these cylinders degrade as they are overplayed and he consequently lost one third of the songs. At first, Dutcher did not feel as if he had the right to sing the songs, but then he realized that it was not about him saying what he wanted to say, but letting the archives speak for themselves. Although there only exists less than 100 fluent speakers left, Dutcher does not see his language as dying nor does he like to be seen as someone who is saving his language. He left his community when he was 17 and soon realized that at times, fitting in everywhere means fitting in nowhere, and he admitted that the work that he is doing today was not even imaginable one generation ago. Past and current Indigenous narratives have always sparked my interest and Dutcher’s presentation was unique in the way that he did not conceptualize the dark past as so many intellectuals have done and continue to do today. He drew a picture of his community in the present, not in the past, and he discussed a world of cultural belonging without borders.
The graduate student conference and closing event for the Robarts Centre Fellows took place from May 3rd-4th, and I participated as a volunteer. I worked with other fellows to greet and direct the attendees and panel hosts to their respective rooms, as well as answered their questions concerning the schedule of the conference. In addition to being a volunteer, I was also granted the opportunity to join any panel that sparked my interest, and I did just that. I attended a panel regarding the politics and specific laws pertaining to sexual assault on Ontario college campuses, as well as the court case concerning the death of Cindy Gladue, an Indigenous women from Edmonton, in June of 2011. The two discussions were distinct and similar in their own ways, and I truly enjoyed the fact that both of the panelists did not try to speak on behalf of their victims nor take control of their respective narratives. The closing event began shortly after the end of the graduate student conference and it was a great opportunity to socialize with other fellows and compare our experience as fellows throughout the year. Many of us discussed our introspective work, as well as the skills that we gained as a Robarts Fellow. In relation to my introspective work, I was given the opportunity to work on an Indigenous Languages booklet for the Canadian Languages Museum at Glendon with a very close friend. Being able to work collectively on my introspective piece with a friend made the experience even better and we were encouraged to educate each other along our journey. We learned about the various linguistic differences between distinct Indigenous groups across Canada and most importantly, we learned the danger of stereotyping all Indigenous languages as one entity. In reality, all Indigenous languages are fruitful with their own abundant history and culture.
Being a Robarts Fellow during my first year of university aided me in acquiring many valuable skills, such as time management, effective note taking and organization skills. The Robarts Centre is much more than a research centre for me and I believe that one of the reasons as to why I enjoyed my first year so much was due to my participation as a Robarts Fellow. I thank every single person that has had an impact in making this program a reality, and a special sense of gratitude is given to Jean-Michel Montsion for always being engaged and interested in making the experience of each fellow as amazing as it could be. I have very high hopes for the Robarts Fellows and I wish to see this pilot-project progress throughout my time at Glendon. I also hope that this program grows in numbers and that more and more people begin to value the true power, significance and complexity of history in our past, current and future societies.
My Robarts Fellowship Experience
Why did I join?
Honestly, I wasn’t 100% sure if joining a fellowship in my first year of university would be the best fit for me. But in the end, it was hard to say no to anything involving Canadian studies.
What will I have to do?
Before coming to a decision as to whether I would officially join, I had to figure out if I really wanted to do all the required components. The answer of course was yes. For this impressive fellowship I would be required to attend two talks on campus that were related to Canadian studies. Then, I would need to do some volunteer work, and finally, an introspective work which is this here blog post.
Wikipédia et les Attikameks
La première des deux présentations que je suis allée voir était celle de Wikipédia et les Attikameks pendant le mois de février. Avant cette présentation, j’avais déjà su un petit peu à propos de chacun des deux sujets, mais j’ai pensé que cela sera intéressant de savoir encore plus.
Wikipédia. Maintenant, je comprends pourquoi les enseignants ont une passion si sévère contre la base de données. Ce séminaire nous a enseigné comment changer la page web dans quelques clics. C’est absurde qu’un site web avec si beaucoup de pouvoir puisse être changé si vite par n’importe qui. Donc, il est juste de dire que les professeurs ont raison de le détester. Quand même, j’ai trouvé la présentation très informative, et je suis content que j’ai appris quelque chose de nouveau.
Les Attikameks. La dernière fois que j’ai entendu, de l’information à propos des Attikameks était au cours de la huitième année, alors c’était la partie de la présentation pour laquelle j’étais le plus excitée. Je trouvais le concept de leur langue très fascinante, et je pensais que c’était formidable qu’ils aient reçu leur propre dictionnaire de Wikipédia. Aussi, les difficultés m’intéressaient, car l’évolution d’une langue par bouche à l’oreille est tellement fascinante. Je sais que cela fait le travail des traducteurs plus compliqué, mais c’est la tradition qui fait la langue unique des autres.
I have always loved listening to music, but Indigenous music is a genre that I never encountered prior to joining the Robarts fellowship. Having experienced this Jeremy Dutcher talk I am now intrigued more than ever to find out about Indigenous culture and its relation to music. Dutcher was extremely personable even in an auditorium filled with people. He quickly pointed out the power of music and most importantly the power it can give to a language.
“Language is an assertion of one’s sovereignty”.
This was the most powerful thing I heard Dutcher say as he explained that in his community the number of Wolastoq language speakers is greatly diminishing. Statements like these provide great perspective when looking at other cultures outside of your own. Languages represent the independence and individuality of groups and it is scary to think that, in the case of many indigenous groups, language is fading. I am glad to have participated in this talk because it opened my eyes, and I thoroughly enjoyed myself.
Indigenous Languages Booklet
For this portion of the fellowship I worked closely with my good friend Ana Kraljević. This volunteer effort pushed me more than any of my previous efforts. Ana and I were tasked with editing and recreating the layout of an Indigenous Languages Booklet for the Canadian Language Museum.
I found this experience to be especially rewarding, but it also required a lot of work. Overall, it was a highly enjoyable experience that allowed me to gain knowledge regarding the composition of different Indigenous languages. It was especially interesting to find out that there are different Indigenous language families, which is actually quite similar to how other non-Indigenous languages are grouped. Also, it is interesting that the differences between Indigenous languages are often tremendously subtle. In many cases, it comes down to a slight difference in pronunciation or spelling.
It was truly incredible to work on a project that is so far outside of my comfort zone. I learned that all languages are complex and that Indigenous languages are invaluable. Additionally, I know that the booklet is not a quick read, but I think it is absolutely worth taking time out of your day to sit down and enjoy. We should all try to make an effort to learn more about the groups we share our country with.
Was it worth it?
So, would I recommend the Robarts Fellowship? Of course! My experience was centred around Canada’s Indigenous population, but yours doesn’t have to be. Canadian studies is such a broad subject that there is something for everyone. The Robarts Fellowship helped me to grow and expanded my perspective. Furthermore, it was important in my development as a human being in becoming more aware of other cultures that differ from my own.
Canadian? What is Canadian?
When asked, I always say I’m rather uninterested in Canadian history, and much prefer the history of Europe. Although the opportunity to participate as a Robarts Centre fellow was exciting, I was a little hesitant about the Canadian Studies aspect. When thinking of Canadian Studies, I was reminded of my high school experience of continuously learning about how the railroad connected the west with the rest of Canada. This was interesting enough in isolation, but utterly boring when repeated every year, to the exclusion of learning about Canada in between Jacques Cartier and the rebellions of 1837. (Yes, it’s been almost ten years and I am still slightly bitter about that).
But of course the Robarts Centre provided different opportunities, and different areas in which to reflect on the Canada that we have today, with its common threads and regional differences. (An impromptu family reunion and conversations with my Grandma about our family history also helped reflection there.) Looking back on the project with the Canadian Languages Museum, it was sometimes a wild mess deciding how to approach educating people on Canadian languages. It was a good way to reflect on the multitude of languages brought to Canada through immigration. It also brought consideration to how reactions to historical events has informed the use of language by immigrant Canadians, even those whose ancestors immigrated around the era of confederation.
The question we asked participants was, “What are the strategies you use to preserve your language?” In response, one native French speaker asked us each what languages we spoke. Now aside from being able to hesitantly communicate in basic French, I only speak English, and one single Norwegian phrase that survived my great-grandfather’s purge of the family’s home languages of Norwegian and Swedish. This purge was in response to someone accusing a family member of being “a dirty Finn.” On the other hand, there’s the low German that my grandmother’s family spoke. My grandmother’s family came to Canada from Mennonite settlements in Russia in the 1870’s. All the way through their history of immigrating from one European country to another, they managed to keep speaking their language. But then, of course, history intervened in 1914 and it became wise to not speak German. To this point, according to the wartime census, my family no longer spoke German, but Russian, which luckily for them was an allied nation. Then, of course, came the Russian Revolution, and by the 1930s, my grandma was told to say her family was of Dutch origin. However, even coming from such a patchwork of languages and cultures most have faded over time.
Before participating with the Robarts Centre I didn’t really think of other European languages as relating to the Canadian immigrant history in the same way as I think of more recent immigrant languages from Asia or Africa. My thoughts on that didn’t really connect until I attended the launch of Emily Laxer’s book, “Unveiling the Nation”. Prior to that, I thought of Quebec as being culturally distinct from the rest of Canada, only in a superficial way. However, the way the political debate in Quebec over the veil worn by some Muslim women is framed is completely different than the type of debate on this subject held in English-speaking Canada. The comparison with the debate in France certainly highlights the distinctness of Quebecois political and social culture. Quebec is distinct and has its own laws - that's easy enough to recognize. However, growing up in British Columbia, I learned Quebec’s legal and political distinctions mainly from the childhood memory of seeing the fine print that contests were not available to residents of Quebec. But that doesn’t really explain the nuances of Francophone culture in Canada and how it exists in so many parallels to Anglophone Canadian culture. This is something the average Canadian seems not to think of. Certainly not in western Canada, where the fall of New France was never framed as “The Conquest.” So, when you first hear the term, it sounds overly dramatic. Often, as a Canadian growing up in the West, it's easy to not pay full attention to the politics and culture of Quebec.
So what did I learn from my time as a Robarts Centre Fellow? it is clear that to understand Canada and Canadian culture, one must develop an understanding of its history. (A relatively young history, which can so easily be neglected by Canadians, including me!) Yet for mainstream Canadian society, our history is built on the stories, the language, the traditions and cultures of our ancestors from histories the world over, immigrating and integrating together, into a patchwork society, where not everything is kept but the underlying stories remain. And history continues to grow.
Robarts Centre Fellowship Reflection 2018-2019
As a participant in the Robarts Centre Fellowship program during this past 2018-2019 school year I had the opportunity to learn valuable skills through a series of presentations, discussions and the implementation of a project. Throughout this time, I was able to connect with professors and other individuals who do contributory work to the Robarts Centre, graduate students, and my peers in the fellowship network. I was lucky to connect with a group of my peers and Elaine Gold from the Canadian Language Museum in order to facilitate a project of our own. With Elaine’s help, we planned and executed a two-day interactive booth that combined information from the Canadian Language Museum and resources from around Toronto which allowed us to highlight the diverse range of Mother Languages that are spoken around Toronto and in the greater Canadian context. Through this project, we were able to foster our event planning, management, and execution abilities in a real-world capacity. As well, we were presented the opportunity to learn about the array of Mother Languages spoken in Canada and inform our understanding of Canada’s ever-changing linguistic environment.
Our year as fellows began with the Launch of the Robarts Centre Fellows at the Canadian Language Museum. Immediately prior to the launch, I attended an event in which former federal Minister and Glendon graduate David Collenette presented “High Speed Rail in Canada – A Dream Unfulfilled”. For me, this event demonstrated a new lens through which I could view Canadian Studies, a field that I had always viewed as predominantly concerned with the study of Canadian History. I quickly learned that Canadian Studies includes the study of many aspects of life such as the study of Canada’s (changing) environment, Indigenous studies, Public Policy issues (like transportation, as discussed in the presentation), and the exploration of culture in both a historical and dynamic way. This new view reshaped my expectation of the Fellowship, acting as the perfect primer to the launch. The placement of the launch at the Canadian Languages Museum allowed us fellows to see how Canadian culture and the many cultures that contribute to shaping and reshaping Canadian culture at large interact symbiotically within the context of language. With the group of peers that I would eventually pursue my own project with, we began to think of how we could explore this complex relationship.
Following the launch, my group reached out to Elaine and we began putting together an event inspired by the upcoming International Mother Language Day. The resources at the Canadian Language Museum reflected an abundance of foreign Mother Languages spoken around Canada in addition to the many Indigenous languages that we are quickly losing awareness of. This relationship made us consider how the vast positive aspects of multiculturalism often overshadow the negative impacts it has had on the preservation of Indigenous and even French language and culture in Canada. Keeping this in mind, we decided to create a project that would showcase Mother Languages around our locale, Toronto.
Our project took the form of an informational booth which would be run by our project group in Glendon over the course of two days. We truly felt that our booth would act as a sort of microcosm of Glendon itself: a place where different histories and cultures are united in an effort to understand and learn about each other. With the guidance and support of Elaine, we set out to gather information and resources to help people understand the multicultural makeup of Toronto. During this time, we were astonished to see how welcoming the different cultural centres around Toronto were, and the genuine effort they put toward making their cultures and languages accessible. We found many resources that would help provide people with an introduction to these different languages and allow them to pursue lessons or interactive sessions where they could become more actively involved.
Framed by panels from the Canadian Language Museum’s Tapestry of Voices exhibit, we set up our booth to display our collection of resources and communicate our experience to students, staff, and visitors to Glendon. We were lucky to experience the best of Glendon through the warm reception of our booth. Throughout our two days, we heard stories from Glendonites of overcoming challenges learning new languages upon moving to Canada, balancing Francophone and Anglophone culture, exploring and learning about Indigenous languages. It was interesting to see how everyone brought their own personal and academic insights into the conversation around Mother Languages: students and professors of Psychology shared their knowledge of neural networks and the vast benefits of speaking multiple languages on the mind, Linguists utilized their knowledge to share interesting connections and highlight differences between languages and language speakers, students and professors of French Studies helped us as Anglophones to better understand French language and culture, and Sociologists shared their thoughts on the cultural makeup of Toronto and Canada as reflected in Linguistic distribution.
To see all of these different perspectives truly demonstrated the amalgamation of so many different personal experiences, cultures, and academic disciplines that is the core of Glendon as well as a reflection of the synthesis of work that is done through the Robarts Centre for Canadian Studies.