2006-11-05 02:05:32 UTC
Canada's rapidly shifting demographics, as outlined in the article
below. According to countless demographic projections, Canada will have
a non-white majority by the year 2040 at the latest; Ontario, Quebec,
and British Columbia will have non-white majorities by the early 2030s;
and the cities of Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal will have non-white
majorities by the year 2017. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper is
doing the right thing by formally apologising to Chinese-Canadians for
the racist head tax, making inroads with Indo-Canadians over the Air
India disaster and moving the Conservative Party of Canada more toward
the mold of Brian Mulroney and a lot less like Preston Manning and
Stockwell Day. However, the Conservative Party of Canada is still
largely dominated by racists, sexists, bigots, homophobes, patriarchs,
rednecks, and other socially regressive backward Neanderthals. Stephen
Harper needs to further embrace Canada's multiracial, multiethnic,
multireligious, multilingual, and multicultural realities if the
Conservative Party of Canada hopes to remain electorally relevant to
the vast majority of Canadians.
Are we all going to be latte?
They were waiting at the stop for the bus to Runnymede subway station.
As Rita Asare checked the stroller to make sure year-old Charmaine was
okay, the thin Asian woman they encountered there every day looked at
the baby, and then at Asare, who is black.
"You're such a good babysitter," the woman said.
"Sitter?" Asare replied. "This is my kid."
Despite Asare's efforts, there was no convincing that bus stop stranger
a few years ago that she was Charmaine's mom. Their faces were too
different. Asare concedes Charmaine, now 5, does look more Chinese,
with her round face, flat nose and Asian eyes. And Asare, 22, says
people still question her maternity. "No one ever thinks she's my kid.
At times it makes me feel like I'm not valued, that it's impossible to
have a light kid when you're dark. Like there's something wrong with
Charmaine is half black - Asare was born in Ghana. The girl's other
half is mostly Chinese. But also East Indian, Spanish, and black - all
the ethnic parts that make up her father, whose family emigrated from
Kids like Charmaine are the new faces of Toronto. As one of the world's
most ethnically diverse cities continues its long simmer as a racial
and cultural melting pot, there will be more children like Charmaine
who blend traditions that were once locked into geographical and
They are the New Métis. While there are mixed-race individuals a
generation older than Charmaine, experts say that today there's a much
greater willingness among such adults to define themselves as
mixed-race rather than allying themselves with the background of one
Just like the Métis, a culture is emerging around mixed-race people,
with its own distinct identity - they have their own websites, books,
clothing lines, even dolls. No matter how diverse their backgrounds,
these individuals share remarkably similar experiences - including
the feeling they don't belong in the culture of either parent.
It's not just happening in Toronto, of course. Statistics Canada
reports that 452,000 people were in mixed marriages and common-law
unions in 2001, up 35 per cent from 1991.
Furthermore, 328,115 people marked more than one box in the 2001 Canada
census question on visible minorities. That's probably an
underestimation, sociologists point out, because for a variety of
reasons, some people might still check just one box, and recent studies
show that many parents also designate their children's background as
that of one parent.
In Toronto, where visible minorities are expected to represent more
than half the population within the next decade, we're in for a lot
"The numbers are skyrocketing," declares University of Toronto
geography professor Minelle Mahtani, who studies mixed-race identities.
"I think all the statistics are indicative that this is a social trend
that's going to continue."
It's instructive to look at the Métis. In the 17th century the Métis
were born of the mingling of European fur traders and Indian women.
They suffered discrimination, but a distinct culture flowered, as did
separate Métis communities. Today, the Métis are one of three
recognized Aboriginal peoples in Canada, and, at 292,310, make up the
fastest-growing Aboriginal group, according to Statistics Canada.
The New Métis already outstrip them in numbers, and seem likely to
exceed their social clout as well. Still, the future of this culture is
anything but black and white. It is fraught with unique challenges,
from encounters like Asare's to getting caught in a tug-of-war in which
there's pressure to identify with one ethnic or racial group, to
concerns that people of mixed race are harbingers of dangerous cultural
People of mixed race have experiences that are singular, which, Mahtani
says, is one of the main engines of the growing multiracial culture.
"There is something unique about the perspective of growing up
multiracial. You see things from both sides," she says.
At the same time, she notes, you can experience racism just like any
visible minority, but also feel as if you don't fit into either of the
groups to which your parents belong.
The feelings of 19-year-old Justin Baptiste are typical. His father is
black, with some European heritage, from Trinidad. His mother is Greek.
He says that people like him "feel like outcasts." When he is with his
Greek relatives, "I don't look like anyone, I don't speak Greek. We are
family by blood but we don't look like family."
Similarly, Baptiste, who is finishing up high school at Central
Commerce Collegiate, says, "When I do something black, like listen to
black music, some people look at me, unsure if I am black or not. I
have to act as if I'm this or act as if I'm that.
"I want to be just mixed - but no one can accept that."
As Baptiste's words reveal, a complex heritage can lead to a complex
life. It often means others find it hard to pinpoint ethnic origin.
Questions like, "What are you?" are common.
People of mixed race must often jockey two completely separate cultural
worlds. Shanti Thakur, a Canadian filmmaker living in New York, says of
her East Indian and Danish roots, "There is an acceptable way to
communicate, a certain kind of humour, etiquette, protocol on gender,
and all that can be flipped upside down by another culture, within your
"So you learn early, because you're negotiating these differences, you
become a cultural translator of sorts."
Nikki Mah, 22, who is half-Chinese and half-Italian, has had to deal
with both appearance and cultural issues. "You feel lost and don't know
where you fit in, Chinese or Italian?" she says. "Out for dinner with
my Chinese family for birthdays or Christmas or whatever, people will
be looking at me like, `Who's the white girl?'"
Mah recently returned to Calgary from Toronto after making it to the
finals during MuchMusic's popular VJ Search. Her background became a
mini-obsession within the show. Internet forums were abuzz with
speculation on her origins. Another contestant asked Mah point blank,
"Don't you wish you were fully Chinese?" She says she felt offended.
Asked during the final episode what her "trademark" was, she replied,
"Maybe the half-Chinese girl?"
But Mah and others say these common experiences are what make them feel
most comfortable in the midst of other mixed people. "You meet someone
mixed and you bond instantly," Mah explains. "It's like, `Oh my gosh,
my long-lost brother!' You automatically feel comfort, like, `I
Mahtani, the scholar, says this is an integral part of the formation of
a mixed culture - "critical mass ...
"I think mixed-race people gravitate toward each other because the
experience is so different; that experience of not fitting in," says
Mahtani, who is herself of East Indian and Iranian descent. "We're
moving into a stage where finally there are things happening with
respect to the recognition of multiraciality as a real category and a
real experience of identity."
Reginald Daniel, a sociology professor at the University of California,
Santa Barbara, who specializes in mixed-race issues, says that being
multiracial is not as mainstream in North America as in Latin America,
particularly Brazil, where it's been a fact of life for 500 years.
"It's not even something people think about," he says.
However, in Canada and the United States, mixed-race people are
beginning to define themselves proudly as such, he says. "That
normative, matter-of-fact expression of a multiracial identity is very
People like Toronto photographer Michelle Yee are helping to shape a
mixed-race culture. She wrapped up an exhibition in May at the
Inabstraco Gallery, on Queen St. W., for which she photographed solely
mixed-race subjects. "I remember from my opening night," she says,
"people were saying, `This just looks like a single culture!'" Yee, who
is Chinese and Filipino, says, "These people really felt like I had
given them a voice, that this was a project long overdue."
The mixed-race critical mass is showing its face more and more,
particularly on the Internet.
Five years ago, there was one North American website dedicated to
Now there are dozens of sites and blogs where individuals can meet,
communicate, even date.
Most are U.S.-based, such as mixedfolks.com, multiracial.com,
eurasiannation.com, mixedmediawatch.com and Mavin.net, the website of a
Seattle-based foundation established specifically for mixed people that
puts out a magazine and school materials, runs a multiracial
bone-marrow-donor recruitment program (see sidebar), and last year
organized a cross-country RV tour and documentary ...