Madeleine Hardin has been an associate professor with UFV Communications since 1989. During her time at UFV she has seen the school evolve from a college, to a university college, to a full university, from two small buildings in Abbotsford and Chilliwack to the expanded campuses that exist today. Madeleine’s work in media and advocacy helped shape the growth of the UFV Communications Department from a supplemental department assisting other disciplines with their curriculum, into a department on the edge of providing a four-year degree program.
As part of developing the oral history of the Communications Department, Madeleine spoke about her experiences over 30 years with UFV Communications.
Thirty Years at UFV
Prior to working at UFV Madeleine completed her Master of Arts in Communication at SFU. She then worked in television broadcasting for ten years as a researcher/writer with CBC TV News. While an exciting and fun career, she started to look for other careers that would allow her to spend more time with her young family. She was offered a job at Kwantlen College and UFV at the same time. She chose UFV because she “liked the people better. It’s really that simple,” she says. At the time the Communications Department was a small group of committed people working to establish the department, who Madeleine says are still some of her closest friends. Some of the earliest department members included Ken Fernstrom, Cheryl Dahl, and Wendy Burton.
Once at UFV, Madeleine used her experience from the newsroom and advocacy work to help the Communications Department evolve from being focussed solely on first year writing classes to include classes about media and journalism. Her experience in using her writing skills in a variety of mediums in television and media provided UFV Communications with a valuable resource for helping to expand their course programming from technical writing skills to include classes about advocacy writing, fundraising, public relations, and crises communication. Her department head at the time, Cheryl Dahl, established the Media and Communications (MACS) courses and department. Madeleine taught in both departments as a cross appointment for many years. Her experience in using her writing skills in a variety of mediums in television and media provided UFV Communications and MACS with a valuable resource.
Beyond the physical changes of an expanding campus as the school grew, she tells us the student population has changed as well. During Madeleine’s time with UFV, she has seen the school change from a “small friendly college”, with students mostly local to the Lower Mainland, to a bustling student population of over 15,000, including international students from all over the world. With all of these changes, the Communications Department has stayed current by constantly adapting to provide the students with relevant skills, something Madeleine promoted in the Communications Department during her time as Department Head.
Communications Department Development
Just as the physical campus and the student body experienced growth and change, so has the Communications Department. Madeleine tells us that her work overseas, especially in China and India, helped advance her knowledge about what other countries were doing with communications, and she brought that knowledge home to UFV. This acquired knowledge transferred directly into the development of courses focussed on Intercultural Communications, Public Speaking and Writing for Business classes being provided by the Communications Department.
Madeleine was also instrumental in the development of two courses focused on Public Relations, Comms 212 and 312. These innovative courses were then adopted at SFU through Madeleine’s connections to her alma mater, and eventually they formed the foundation of the Public Relations Certificate Program here at UFV.
While the Communications Department Head, Madeleine was instrumental in getting the department a minor and certificate programs. Previously, the department was fulfilling a service to other departments by providing courses the students would use to advance their work in other studies. Madeleine and her colleagues pushed for a minor program at a time when the school was transitioning from a college to a full university, which helped to advance the program even further. The department had to “start taking themselves more seriously” she says, as the department followed the trend of hiring instructors with doctorates as well as master’s degrees.
The Future of Communications at UFV
To Madeleine, communications is so much more than technical writing and public speaking. She believes that communication “touches everything.” She says, “There are no jobs without a communications component.” She explained that communication jobs that did not even exist in the past are now required and abundant in all types of workplaces. She noted that especially during and post-Covid, digital communication and Digital Communication Strategists are needed in every branch of government and business in order to communicate with people when they could not be face-to-face and when they need to reach a broad spectrum of stakeholders and the public.
Communicating digitally is both “dangerous and useful,” says Madeleine. She says more regulation for preventing the spread of false and misinformation is needed, but also there needs to be emphasis on teaching students ethical communication practices. While unethical communication is hard to prevent, Madeleine says, “You can train people to recognize misinformation,” and teach them critical thinking about the information being communicated over all media channels. As digital communication moves forward, she feels this is something the Communications Department will need to examine.
She believes the UFV Communications Department is in great hands to face these challenges, and to keep moving forwards as communication continues to develop. “The department has always been full of good people. People who really believed in what they were doing and why they were doing it; all were good writers, good communicators,” she says. “The department is in incredibly good hands, and I have been very proud watching them grow and change.”
Madeleine continues to be involved with UFV Communications Department, and will be teaching CMNS 125: Professional Communications, this fall at UFV.
We caught up with Elise Goertz, the Practicum and Internship Coordinator for the College of Arts. The last year and a bit has been disruptive for everyone, but when your job involves matching students with employers for workplace experience, the pandemic presented a unique set of issues.
What was the greatest challenge for employers and the practicum students due to the public health emergency over the past year?
The biggest challenge for both students and employers has been adapting to the new virtual environment. Most businesses we work with have been unable to host students in a physical location. Switching over to a completely virtual work environment was a learning curve for both employers and students, but all were able to adapt quickly.
I think that students had to learn to work more independently, ask more questions, use better time management skills, and become comfortable engaging in online meetings and using email communication. These are all skills they will continue to use in the future.
Do you think working remotely will play a bigger role in practicum placements in the future?
I think that remote work environments are here to stay and virtual practicums will continue to be available to UFV students. Many employers see the benefits of virtual work agreements for employees, interns and practicum students alike. Some of these benefits include flexible scheduling, low cost office space, fewer sick days, increased employee/intern satisfaction, increased productivity and more. In terms of practicum and internship placements, virtual placement agreements allow students to work from the comfort of their own home when their schedule allows. Students find this flexibility appealing.
What encouragement would you offer a student hesitating about taking on a practicum for the fall semester?
While taking on a practicum is a commitment, most students do not realized that a 80 hour practicum consists of just 8-10 practicum hours per week over the semester. Because of this, it’s easy for students to take other courses at the same time as their practicum.
If a student is unsure if they have the professional skills needed for a practicum, they will be happy to learn that the new practicum course (Practicum 1 & 2) involves a professional competency component. Students will first learn the skills needed to be successful in a workplace environment. Another thing to note is that all of our practicum placements are done individually. I make sure we make the right match and find a placement that aligns with the skills and interests of the student. If students have questions about this they can talk to me!
From your experience what is the most common benefit students report from their practicum experiences?
Practicum placements provide students with a great network that they can tap into when starting a career. Networking is such a huge part of a practicum placement. Many students come away with recommendation letters and references that they can use when applying for future roles.
Another practicum benefit is the fact that the experience allows students to develop their professional skills so that they are ready to launch into a career. Students learn that many of the skills that they have learned in the classroom are transferable to the workplace. After working in these types of positions, students become more confident, and develop a growth mindset. This experience also gives students the opportunity to explore ways they can contribute to our complex and ever-changing society and economy even before they have finished their education.
A practicum placement is a great way to earn credits towards your degree and diploma and at the same time get valuable workplace experience that can facilitate your transition from UFV to your career of choice. You can find out more about the UFV practicum courses (Arts 280 / Arts 380) here.
Having just completed teaching our Professional Report Writing course, CMNS 251, I am reminded once again of ten common business writing practices that many of the learners in the course need to have reinforced several times throughout a semester before they seem to stick. These ten are not the entire list but let’s not get too heavy here, right?
Why are these things so difficult to remember? My guess is that it come from three understandable places – thus why we teach such a class:
In our very first experiences with writing we learn to give lots of space between letters and sentences so that our rough attempts can more easily be read and corrected;
The academic practice of double-spacing is also meant for “corrections” and publisher notes
Given the need for speed in the business world, the message has to be succinct, accurate for the audience, with high readability (ease of understanding the main message), and ultimately bring a positive result. With these principles in mind, these ten memes just might help us remember.
#1: Single (not double) spacing is the default
OK, no problem, but of course this does not stand alone. Single-spacing will take up less pages but it also has to come with shorter paragraphs to create what is called white space. White space (the parts of the page that do not contain text, make the text easier to read). Thanks to the computer age, single spacing also comes hand-in-hand with the use of left-alignment and no paragraph indent (replaced by a single line space to designate a new paragraph (ah more white space).
This leads us to #2: Succinct Section Headings
Remember speed as a principle? The reader needs to be able to “glance” through a memo, letter, or document and pick out important information. No time for flowery prose here – make headings obvious with very few words that say exactly the focus of a particular section. Bold is best. Making the heading stand out is good but don’t overdo it. Just use bold, not italic or underline and for goodness sake don’t use a combination (horrors).
Of course headings only really make sense if they are configured in line with #3 Follow a Logical Path. Make sure that one section leads to the next. It is fairly common for inexperienced writers to just put their thoughts down as they are thinking without ever trying to organize them ahead of time.
Maybe a meme about making an outline first would be handy. OK – next time. Organizing my thoughts was something I certainly had to be reminded to do even in graduate school and I continue to remind myself regularly when I write. That being said, even the most logical route will not be enough if we don’t give clear directions to the reader on what to expect next on the pathway.
#4 Use Transitions as road signs. Almost every time I ask a class what they need for a good road trip, they say “snacks.” It takes us a while to get to “navigation tools” like maps and road signage. Those are just things we expect to be there but NO, somebody had to design them at some time and they did it for good reason.
It is pretty easy to find resources on line that offer hundreds of suggestions for writing a variety of types of transitions. These remind the reader where they have been, where they are headed next, how far they still need to go, and where they will end up.
# 5 Use Plain Language unless your audience is well-versed in a particular workplace jargon (specialized technical language). Using plain language is a not about dumbing down information, it is about making sure the message is clear for a broad audience. Along with the inherently multi-lingual nature of North America, Canada is fortunate in having a culturally diverse settler/immigrant and refugee population that offer a rich global experience and bring hundreds of languages into daily life. For many people English may be not only a second language but probably a fourth or fifth language at the least. Using plain language helps everyone have a better communication experience whether in speaking or writing.
#6 Use Past Tense in most cases when writing reports.
Why? because by the time your audience is reading the report is finished, therefore in the past. The most common bad (but natural) habit is to use a progressing/continuous future tense (i.e. you will read about an analysis of…). Present tense is also common (I am writing about…). Past tense is more accurate “For this report I analyzed..”
#7 Know your audience and your purpose.
This one really should be #1 but hey, we usually get there without as much trouble as 1-6 above. Those seem so simple but turn out not to be.
Identifying your audience takes time and thought. Audience demographics (location, age, gender, cultural background) are a great place to start but do not stop there. Ask yourself some more questions: Who cares? How do they want to get the information? What will they expect to from a particular time of document or mode of message transmission?
Know your purpose before designing your message.Why do you think this message is important to get out? What is it about this information that would get the attention of the audience you have identified? What do you want the audience to do in response to what you are writing?
Match your answers to these types of questions with the audience you have identified to double-check that you have a clear picture of what your message will be. Develop a short statement about your purpose to include in the introduction. This will help the reader but it will also have the bonus effect of keeping you on track.
#8 Know and honour the difference between a fact, an opinion, and your bias. Reports are no place for opinion. Even your conclusions should be based in the facts you present. Provide a source for everything you present as a “claim of fact;” and do your best to ensure that you acknowledge and account for bias (something we all have but often need to be more aware of).
I know that citing facts are the bane of all student existence but I promise that after a while it is the funnest part (my opinion lol). In the Communications department we most often use APA citation style because that is what academic journals in our discipline most often require. Plus the APA Style Blog is always a handy resource for all the cases that occur from rapid changes in digital information sources. In business writing it is more common to see something like Chicago (note and bibliography style) which demonstrates conventions similar to those used for Wikipedia style. It is more digital friendly for social media as well.
#9 Reports do not use salutary openings and complimentary closes. This one seems a bit picky but it will help you to identify the type of document that is best for your purpose. Is your audience just one individual? or written in a personal tone? You probably want to use a letter format (seems old-fashioned these days but still relevant in many circumstances). If so, please DO use salutary openings and complimentary closes.
Otherwise, remember that in professional/business/technical writing, speed it the thing. Greetings and closings slow both you and the reader down.
Tip #10 seems so, so obvious but one more time won’t hurt – PROOF READ before you send. If you have the time and resources, have someone else also proof your writing as a set of fresh eyes. Another trick is to have your device read out what you have written. This is a great way to listen for moments when you think “that doesn’t make sense” or “wow, where did that come from.”
Thank you for your time and now I need to go back and proofread one more time. Please let me know if I missed anything 🙂 Happy report writing to all.
A special Thank You to “Boo” the grizzly who lives and works at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort in the Dogtooth Range of the Purcell Mountains, Columbia Valley, Golden, British Columbia.
Also to Terry Curts for the meme ideas and image search
and follow the links to learn about the traditions, foods, activities, songs, and scenes from the five countries where the lunar new year is a national holiday.
This tour is just a little taste so you encouraged to trek out on your own across the world wide web to find out even more about the similarities and the differences of these New Year celebrations. You just might never refer to it as Chinese New Year ever again – but you can; no judgement here 🙂
Want to put your own lunar new year celebration together but have no idea what food to buy? Problem solved.
A Tour of Lower Mainland Asian grocery stores for your pleasure:
Let’s start with Surrey. The T&T Supermarket – For many general Asian grocery items. Their baked goods and cooked meals are excellent.
For more specialized Korean ingredients it’s H-Mart at 19555 Fraser Hwy, Surrey.
Want to take a trip into the big city for some specialized Vietnamese ingredients? Let’s drive on over to the 88 Supermarket at 4801 Victoria Drive, Vancouver.
Need some Vietnamese groceries in the Fraser Valley? Here we are in Langley and Abbotsford.
The Saigon City Market is at 20178 56 Ave. Langley City and for more specialized Vietnamese ingredients, Vihn-Tan Oriental Groceries is at 2681 Cedar Park Place, Abbotsford. They have barbeque pork and roasted ducks on Wednesdays and Saturdays and they are yum (we can attest to that),
During the winter semester, as part of my Communications 125 class, we were asked to look into a topic that university students should know more about regarding the future of the workplace. Intrigued by the successes and failures of teamwork I had done in the past, it seemed like a great subject to look into. Even as our world has transitioned to a more digital environment, understanding how to do teamwork effectively has stayed as important as ever!
Recently, I have spent a lot of time debating whether I prefer working in a team or by myself. On one hand, I have been a part of teams where it ends up as if it were just me doing all the work but having to share all the glory. On the other hand, I have been a part of some pretty incredible teamwork that resulted in a finished product that I could have never achieved on my own.
So, now I am left wondering how my personal experiences with teamwork so far will translate to a future workplace. Now comes the time to play psychic. Where is teamwork finding its place in the future of the workplace? Have too many of us been swayed towards eliminating it entirely as a result of the all-too-familiar one-person “team” in which we play the leading role but with the praise of a supporting member? Or does the pride of a team project done right still linger, making us believe that teamwork does actually makes the dream work?
How Teamwork Can be Ineffective
Those of us with teamwork experience can likely agree that when working in teams, we can encounter some major hiccups. So first, we must define what these issues are and what’s causing them. The issues within teams are often social (Farh, Seo & Tuslek, 2012; Stutzer, 2019; West, 2012). Some of the causes of these social issues have been attributed to multigenerational issues (West, 2012), low-emotional intelligence (Stutzer, 2019) and not clearly defining each members’ tasks (West, 2012). Stutzer has stated that multigenerational teamscan result in stereotyping among members. According to Farh et al., members with low emotional intelligenceare unable to read social cues to avoid conflict. Finally, when a member’s task is hard to define, West has said that they end up doing nothing and relying on the other members’ work.
All these issues in workplace teams create conflict. This is when teams start to become ineffective and just plain frustrating.
So, How Can We Build an Effective Team?
One solution to consider is team building exercises. Whether they are done inside or outside of the workplace, team building fosters cohesionwithin the team (Stutzer, 2019). Team building is all about creating healthy working relationshipsto solve or avoid issues amongst members (Dirks, 2019). So, meet with your team regularly and just get to know each other!Creating relationships with each other not only helps avoid social conflict but also encourages personal investment in the success of the team amongst members.
To Teamwork or not to Teamwork?
Experts agree that in many job sectors, teamwork is in fact crucial. For example,in the nursing sector, if the nurses aren’t all working together, they will not be able to create and execute a treatment plan for a patient (Dirks, 2019).So, no matter how messy teamwork can get, a great product often stems from people working together.With this being said, teamwork will likely continue to hold a prominent and productive place in the workplace of the future.
Farh, C. I. C. C., Seo, M.-G., & Tesluk, P. E. (2012). Emotional intelligence, teamwork effectiveness, and job performance: The moderating role of job context. Journal of Applied Psychology, 97(4), 890–900. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0027377
Last week in CMNS 180 (Introduction to Intercultural Communication), for an assignment related to our unit on Culture, Communication and Social Categorization, I asked the class to:
Find a current news article or broadcast about Canada’s experience with Covid_19 that demonstrates some element of ingroup/outgroup; othering; or social categorization
Provide a link to the item
Provide your take on how the situation in the news relates to this topic
After reading all the responses, very pleased with how the took on the assignment, I sent them this email and I thought other people might like to see the list too.
Dear Class: “I thought you might like to see the broad range of topics and articles that were submitted to me for the Canada Now – Covid_19 assignment.
This is just the links with none of the related comments which I found really fascinating with some things that I hadn’t thought of and with so much direct relationship to communication. Some of this variety included things like ageism, finances, border crossing, conspiracy theories, racism and racist graffiti, Indigenous communities, partisan politics, and many more – have a look.
The down side? our society has a lot of work to do to be better.” Regards, M
Intercultural Communication considers the impact that culture has on the way that people create and decipher messages; how they come to understand meanings through interactions with culturally different humans.
Why is Intercultural Communication Important
Learning to become interculturally competent is important in order to eliminate stereotyping and the judgment against other groups based on the lack of knowledge that people have on other groups. At the University of the Fraser Valley (UFV) we have the privilege to delve into the world of intercultural communication, where we as students can lean each other and support each other through our educational goals. There are many opportunities to get involved with intercultural communication at UFV; there are different social groups, intercultural events, support groups and counseling to help international students settle into their lives at UFV and in Abbotsford. Students from all over the world come here to complete their post secondary education or to study abroad to gain that experience of living in another country.
UFV has partnerships for the Abroad program from all over the world. Some of the countries include:
Each of these countries offer different post secondary education programs to give international students a chance to grow in their education and chase their passion. The programs that are available to students range from Business and Social work to open studies, to language studies. All of these programs are offered between multiple Universities in the countries mentioned. These different groups experience each other’s way of life and become acknowledged about their traditions, cultures and norms.
How Does it Impact UFV Students
Intercultural communication allows for UFV students to expand their cultural knowledge, and meet new people to share information. University is the time of your life to explore and have new experiences, why not learn about a new culture and experience something new. Learning about each other’s cultures can reduce culture shock amongst the international students that are here for an extended period of time. Also, these opportunities let the domestic students learn about the different cultures if they do not have the opportunity to travel. They give students and faculty a chance to communicate in a variety of ways. Communicating across cultural norms allows for open mindedness, especially when considering the difficulties that some international students may face, such as: language barriers, trying to open up and not being confident to introduce themselves. The social groups and peer mentoring help the international students to be more comfortable in a new country, new environment, and new learning atmosphere.
Intercultural Communication 101 at UFV (no not the course)
Some tips on how to achieve intercultural communication:
What are Universities Doing to enhance Intercultural Communication?
The University of Fraser Valley also has peer to peer mentoring to help the international students. On their website, you can look at the profiles of the mentors and see which of the mentors match your personality the best.
Here is an example of a Student:
Additionally the UFV centre for Teaching and Learning offers a page full of great resources and notes about what you can glean from them. This resource is intended for everyone at UFV; students, staff, administration and faculty.
Navigate find their way in life in Canada. Where they can find tutors, how to budget, how to find a doctor, and much more
Additionally, the University of Toronto has a website page dedicated to tips that professors can use in the classroom that will help international students with learning the material during lectures, which in turn will also help the domestic university students.
Let’s get personal; A UFV International student experience from one of the authors:
Q. How do you find UFV as a school?
A. UFV is a good school, more than I expected. International group lounge was very helpful in my adjustment here, the group lounge is particularly for international students to meet each other.
Q. Was your transition to UFV Easy?
A. It’s not so easy transitioning here from India, missing family and friends, and being in a new culture. Living alone and having to grocery shop, manage rent are all new things for me. I have difficulty finding a job and making new friends. UFV has many opportunities in helping make friends, different groups to join and meet people.
Q. What are some gaps you find in North American culture compared to Indian Culture?
A. There are many differences such as clothing, food, language, different styles of learning, celebrations, and different ways of greeting each other
Q.If you knew about intercultural communication when you moved to Canada, would it have made a difference in your transition?
A. YES 🙂
Activities for Communication in a Classroom
Activity #1 – Create a Poem
“ Where I’m From”
“Creating a “reflection” that communicates an affirmative personal, cultural, and linguistic identity is likely to benefit all students in class, but this pedagogical approach has been seen as particularly impactful for English language learners, whose home cultures and languages may be perceived as inferior in the mainstream social and educational environment.”
Allowing the students to write about where they are from, and the different cultures/ identities was able to help engage the students learning english as a second language a chance to give them each something to talk and show where they are from. Allowing them each to write about themselves and the place they came from gave them a sense of empowerment
Activity #2 – What Would You Do?
Time Required: 45–60 minutes: 30 minutes for activity and 30 minutes to debrief
Objectives: 1. Describe a range of “appropriate” responses in a given scenario. 2. Explore the diversity of communication styles within the group.
Materials: Post-it notes Pen or pencil for each participant Communication Styles Handout (distribute after step 3) Four pieces of poster-size paper: Each with a situation
Process: 1. Ask participants to read and decide how they would respond to each situation. 2. Have them record individual responses on Post-it notes and place them on the appropriate situation chart. 3. Ask participants to choose one charted situation to stand next to. Balance the four groups. 4. Ask each group to examine the responses to their situation. 5. Distribute the Communication Styles Handout. Review the style preferences listed on page 33. 6. Cluster responses into “style” preference.
Example Scenario: “You see someone using racist terms”
Example Response: “Say that you are not OK with that”, “Get somewhere safe”, “Get help”
Activity #3 – Personal Reflection for Transition
Time required: 75-95 minutes ( 5 minutes for setup; 20-30 minutes for completing worksheet; 20-30 minutes for small group discussion; 30 minutes for debriefing
Objectives: 1) for participants to let go of their current locations and psychologically moving on to their new location, and to reflect. 2) for participants to recognize that transitions are a process, not distinct events, and they can move on with conscious intent. 3) for participants to relax and get additional perspective and inspiration during what is typically a challenging time.
Process: answer questions about their departure and their transition into the new space.
To follow up: talk about the answers, and help the participants feel better.
References and additional resources:
Baldwin, J. R., & Levy, S. (2014). Intercultural communication for everyday life. Wiley-Blackwell. Berardo, K,. Deardorff, D.K,. Building Cultural Competence: Innovative Activities and Models. (2008) Retrieved from: https://books.google.ca/books?hl=en&id
Stringer, D. M. & Cassiday, P. (2009) 52 Activities for Improving Cross-Cultural Communication. Boston: Intercultural Press.
Zhang, M. M., Jie Xia, D, & Zhu, J. C. (2016). Managing Student Diversity in Business Education: Incorporating Campus Diversity Into the Curriculum to Foster Inclusion and Academic Success of International Students. Academy of Management Learning & Education, 15(2), 366–380.
Do you think being “colourblind” is a solution or that historically oppressed groups should just “get over it?” In this piece we explore what racism is, some history of government sanctioned racism through laws and Acts, the Canadian denial of racism, and what the government is doing to combat racism. Through this blog and the links we provide we hope you learn a bit about racism in Canada and how it shapes the Canada of today and inspires you to use that knowledge to shape the Canada of tomorrow as a country that values all its citizens and welcomes their contributions.
What is Racism?
Racism in Canada seems to get swept under the rug so first, let us try to answer the what is racism? Charlotte Reading, in her article Social Determinants of Health: Understanding Racism, written for the National Collaborating Centre for Aboriginal Rights, explains that term definitions such as race, racism, ethnicity and ethnocentrism, and topics of interests such as ideology of racism, forms of racism, epistemic racism, structural racism, social exclusion, symbolic racism, embodied racism and the concept of “colorblindness.” There is obviously a lot to learn when it is time to answer the question of “What is racism?”
One of the concepts that we found it useful to explore for our piece is the concept of “colorblindness.” Something that on the surface seems perfectly reasonable – not judging people by the colour of their skin; that if more Canadians became “colorblind” our society would become more accepting, allowing minority groups, immigrants and aboriginal peoples to feel more welcomed in a place that they call their home. In reality this is not anywhere near the answer. As Canadian scholar Robyn Maynard states “One of the reasons that racism persists in Canada is because our commitment to the perception of racial tolerance and harmony seems to be prized above the actual lived experiences of people.”
Charlotte points out that believing that ignoring skin colour will solve all our problems fails to consider the very real experience of racismthat occur in daily life. As a result, this attitude actually helps to maintain inequities. While people put into the category of “white” continue to access unearned priviledge based on their skin colour, racialized people continue to experience discrimination and oppression. Rather than promoting social justice, colour-blindness is simply a new form of racism that becomes even more subtle and indirect. Forms that slip through the net of Canada’s laws and Acts of Parliament that are meant to stop racism.
Canada and a Government Sanctioned History of Racism
Currently, Canada has many laws that prohibit singling out people of a certain race or ethnic origin for discrimination. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms has a section that deals with equality and rights. It states that people are to be treated equally no matter their race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion but this hasn’t always been the practice. In the past the Canadian Government has enacted laws that single out a race or ethnicity for exclusion. Some examples of this are the Continuous Voyage Legislation, Indian Residential Schools, the Chinese Immigration act, and the WWII internment of Japanese Canadians.
Continuous Journey Regulation
In 1908 and until 1947, the Canadian government Immigration Act included was was called the Continuous Journey Regulation. It stated that in order to be eligible to immigrate to Canada a person must complete their journey from their country of origin without any stopovers, or in other words a continuous journey. Without stating it, this regulation was specifically aimed at immigrants from India and Japan who, due to the technology of the time, were unable to sail to Canada without stopping at another country.
This regulation was challenged numerous times and was up-dated several times. One of the challenges, the Komagata Maru Incident of 1914 that happened in Vancouver, led to the death of twenty passengers and the imprisonment and execution of most when the ship landed back in Budge Budge, India. In 2008 the Canadian Government apologized for this incident.
Indian Residential Schools
Residential schools were Canadian Government funded school administered by religious bodies. They first opened in 1830 and the last one closed in 1996. The stated goal of these schools was to educate and convert to Christianity Indigenous youths so they could integrate into “Canadian” society but to accomplish this the method was to separate them from their families and culture and destroy their identity. Or as one government official said to “kill the Indian in the child.”Many of the children suffered years of abuse, neglect and death. The outcomes of this school system left generations trapped between two worlds.
Chinese Immigration Act and Head Tax
Due to the demand for cheap and exploitable labour to build the Canadian Pacific Railway (as well as for mining, fishing, and forestry) the Canadian Government encouraged the immigration of Chinese labourers. The cross-Canada railway was finished in 1885and in that year the Canadian Government passed the Chinese Immigration Act which applied a “head tax” of $50 per person of Chinese ethnic origin as well as limiting the number of Chinese people a ship could carry. In 1900 the head tax was raised to $100. In 1903 it was raise to $500. Then, in 1923 the Canadian Government passed the Chinese Exclusion Act which banned the immigration of people of Chinese ethnic origin all together. These discriminatory Acts not only prevented Chinese immigration to Canada but also broke up families by preventing the wives and children to join the men who came to help build Canada.
Japanese Internment Camps
After the attack on Pearl Harbour in 1941 during WW2 the Canadian Government created a “protected zone” along the coast of British Columbia in which there was to be no one of Japanese descent due to the distrust of anyone who “might have” Japanese loyalties … even if they were Canadian by birth. People were forcibly removed from their homes. Any possessions they could not carry were taken into government custody and sold. This included their homes, businesses, fishing boats, and even personal property. Men, women, and children were interned in camps in the interior of British Columbia, Alberta, and Manitoba. In 1946 when the war was over many were forced to return to a war devastated Japan. Even after the war, the people who remained in Canada were not allowed to return to their former homes.
Racism and communities of African descent in Canada
As Matthew McRae (2020) tells us in his piece “The Story of Africville” the history of Black people in Canada goes back at least to where there were communities in Nova Scotia since before the founding of the city of Halifax in 1749. Then after the American Revolution, in the late 1700s and early 1800s, large groups of Black settlers came, many of them former enslaved people who had been promised freedom and land. Instead they faced attitudes of superiority and segregation. Despite this they build vibrant communities that were routinely excluded from being provided proper municipal services of all kinds. Eventually in 1964, the community known as Africville, a part of the City of Halifax was destroyed under the guise of relocation and homes destroyed with little to no notice. They continued to face racism in their new homes. Robyn Maynard in her recently published book Policing Black Lives: State Violence in Canada from Slavery to the Present delves in to the legacy of such actions and government policies.
Denials of Racism in Canada
Sadly we still experience widespread and disgraceful denials of racism in Canada. Trevor Gulliver (2018), in his article Canada the Redeemer and Denials of Racism does an amazing job of explaining this in his chapter Denials of Racism. According to this article there are many different ways that Canada uses to be shielded from accusations of racism. Strategies includes minimizing incidents (it wasn’t that bad) or acknowledges to a limited extent (its just some individuals) but, even then, it is posited as in the past and better now.
What Strategies has Canada Implemented to Stop Racism?
One such strategyis the Anti-Racism Strategy created by the Government of Canada in 2018. The strategy focuses on three principles “demonstrating federal leadership, empowering communities, and building awareness and changing attitudes.” This also includes what is called the Anti-Racism Action Program which provides help to religious minorities, racialized communities and Indigenous peoples having issues with employment, justice and social participation. This website is very important to read and to become familiar with to become educated about the laws and regulations Canada has set in place to combat racism.
Another anti-racism initiative is through the Ontario Human Rights Commission. This website shows the different human rights laws and systems used to provide information on and address discrimination. This website provides the reader with the description of the human rights code which “provides for equal rights and opportunities and freedom from discrimination.” This website also provides the description of racism and racial discrimination because many people confuse these terms. Racism is “a belief that one group is superior to others” whereas racial discrimination is “the illegal expression of racism.” This website also defines systemic racial discrimination and lastly identifies and addresses racial discrimination. To understand racism this website really helps and makes it easier to identify and stop these types of discrimination from occurring.
By learning about these and other discriminatory acts and understand how they came to be through fear and the blame game, where you pick an easy target rather than looking for the root cause of your fears and troubles, we can be better prepared to meet the challenges of today, fairly, for all Canadians. Not only will our children and grandchilden be proud of us but we can build a strong united Canada that values all its citizens and welcomes their contributions.
We hope this blog and the links we provided will motivate you to look at racism in Canada with open eyes. There are so many stories of perseverance and courage, both in Canada’s past and present. Hopefully this will motivate you to go out and join the fighters and make a difference. Knowledge is power. Use it wisely.
Additional References and Resources (Books available from UFV Library)
Understanding the struggle of how someone manages daily life with physical challenges or deals with the hardships of stereotyping is not something you can truly understand as an outside observer. Until you have experienced what it is truly like to live in their shoes, you can only speculate on the physical hardship and emotional turmoil that can occur on a frequent, daily basis.
Using the resources we have available through both online and physical research articles and interviews, we can learn more regarding the struggle that everyday communication can be for people who live with these kinds of challenges and those who are subjected to ridicule based on misplaced stereotypes and potential language barriers.
With our growing use of online communication and interaction with members of the general public worldwide, we are afforded the chance to communicate while avoiding the risk of interacting based on stereotypes. Ware (2011) offers the premise that technology mediates social discourses and offers a way to have discussions in multiple ways. This means that someone with their own biases may now be required to interact or discuss someone else’s work purely on the content that they have created and not based on the person themselves. This means of interaction provides many marginalized group members with the chance to grow and develop without the fear or external judgment or ridicule.
Societies have also started to shift towards becoming more inclusive environments as well through technology. In television shows or movies such as Wicked, Maleficent, and Game of Thrones, characters with physical challenges are being portrayed in positive ways rather than positions of inferiority or isolation as stated by Donnelly (2016). While this is a good start, there is still progress that needs to be made. Modern day advertising still plays a large role on how we believe people should act. Mensa and Bittner (2020)) gives the example of Latin American countries still depicting women in a sexualized way. They are seen as decorative objects, doing activities outside the home in social contexts, but still removed from roles of power and completeness. With women often shown the same in domestic, maternal, and romantic roles, there is little opportunities for them to escape the feelings and acts of gender stereotyping (Litosselity and Sunderland, 2002).
Another area that has deeply imbedded stereotypes around gender but is starting to change in the media and in daily life is in the perception of non-binary gender. Acceptance of a broad range of gender identities is something that may seem new to our culture however, third genders have been around for longer than we might think. According to Souerbry (2020) many different cultures have had third genders with evidence that dates back to 2000 BCE. Wakashu also known as “beautiful youths” is a widely accepted third gender in Japan. The Muxe is another third gender that originated in Oaxaca, Mexico. Muxes are usually men who identify more as women however they may just be people who don’t fall into the traditional male-female or gay-straight categories. Two-Spirit, a term created for a modern understanding of third-gender understandings of Indigenous peoples of the North American continent is another example (Neptune, 2018). It’s important for us to understand that even though modern culture may just be getting used to the idea of gender binaries, our ancestors already thought of this idea as normal and even had their own definitions of it.
For those who are faced with the physical challenges of daily life as well coping with stereotyping, the struggle is immense. As one of the author’s of this piece, from person experience with being bound to a wheelchair for several weeks due to a broken leg, I can relate that every small task turned into a large project. Thankfully there were people who went out of their way to give assistance but there were many chances for people to help when they chose not to. I was lucky to only have to experience this for a short-period of time, many people are not so lucky.
Just in passing people by, a person’s non-verbal communication can express much of their views. Alberts et al. (2010) share the fact that while may people are not aware of it, people who struggle with accessibility or gender stereotypes are generally well versed in non-verbal communication. They experience these biased perceptions of themselves on a daily basis and it plays an integral part of how communication will occur between the parties.
In the end, behaviours by groups or individuals can influence and change our cultural systems. Our brains are wired to stereotype. Most patterns of stereotyping are socially constructed by our cultures, which means that we can change the patterns and train our brains (Nguyen, 2017). As our societies and cultures shift towards inclusiveness, the general population will also continue to take the right steps in developing healthy relationships with members from every group and cultural and strive towards a better understanding.
References and additional resources:
Alberts, J. K., Nakayama, T. K., & Martin, J. N. (2010). Human communication in society. Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.
Donnelly, C. E. (2016). Re-visioning negative archetypes of disability and deformity in fantasy: Wicked, Maleficent, and Game of Thrones. Disability Studies Quarterly, 36(4).
Litosseliti, L. & Sunderland, J. (2002). Gender Identity and Discourse Analysis.Gender identity and discourse analysis. Philadelphia, PA: John Benjamins
Mensa, M., & Bittner, V. (2020) Portraits of Women: Mexican and Chilean Stereotypes in
Digital Advertising. Communication & Society, 33(1), 63-78.
One of the advantages of a proactive policy of hiring people of different cultures is that it strengthens the employer’s place in the market. Employees from different cultural backgrounds bring with them an understanding of their new host culture and their original culture. They already have experience in dealing with the inevitable frictions between the cultures and are in a perfect position to interpret the advantages of dealing with their employer.
These intercultural employees are able to guide other host culture employees in the proper direction when dealing with potential clients. In the Narver (2018) video it is made clear that it is very easy to have an unconscious world view that is ethnocentric. Having employees from different backgrounds helps overcome that and positions the company to succeed in the international market place.
The Varner and Beamer (2011) book provides specific advice on raising skills on areas like business socializing in different cultures and handling controversies and various moral and ethical issues in various cultural settings. Working side by side with employees from different cultures raises everyone’s skill level as they observe each other maneuver different challenges.
My own experience in working with a range of cultures was in China. After I earned my first university degree in Chinese Culture, I was hired by Hainan Airlines to help the company cope with integrating its workforce from many Chinese sub-cultures. Hainan is China’s fourth largest airline with over 500 routes servicing many different ethnic regions in China. The airline is based in the city of Haikou which is populated by Mandarin speaking Han Chinese similar to the Chinese in Beijing. The airline services other far away cities such a Urumqi which has a large Uyghur Muslim population and Shenzhen which is a center of Cantonese culture near Hong Kong.
I was part of a team whose mission was to build an efficient and happy workforce which could work together. Our larger goal was to give the population of the various regions of China the feeling that Hainan Airlines was their airline and understood their needs. We developed strategies of cross training so that employees had to do each other’s jobs as part of a learning exercise. We would deliberately mix the cultures from all over China for this training. The object was not to foster a sameness but to build understanding of the different cultures in the group.
We also looked at the market for clients and created marketing messages suited to the cultures we were dealing with. For example, a marketing message for people from Urumqi might show a Muslim family traveling, and an advertisement for Beijing might depict young professionals. The skill was in getting the message just right and this required input from intercultural employees.
Developing skills of intercultural competent communication is vitally important for both the employees of national companies and international companies in this era of globalization. It simply makes sense to take advantage of the breadth of experience available from an intercultural workforce.
Duggan,T. (2018). Strategies for Dealing with Intercultural Communication. Retrieved from: