Back to Our Regularly Scheduled Program

As of this week, we are back into more normal February weather. Was anyone else weirded out by the amount of warm weather we’ve had this winter? It’s strange to see people at the bus stop in February with bare hands reading the paper or scrolling on their phones. Granted, every time that Festival du Voyageur starts up, we always have at least a couple of days that the weather warms up just enough to slightly melt the lovely ice sculptures around the city so they become an abstract version of the original. If you squint your eyes and turn your head just so, you can almost see what the artist’s vision was. I’m not complaining about the unseasonable warmth(because you can’t complain when the weather is nice in winter), but when it’s rained in both January and February, it feels odd. Like maybe we’re in Vancouver, but without the scenery and expensive housing.

In the midst of all this weird weather, I’ve been doing some really cool stuff around the city lately, like seeing the MTC play Black Coffee (a whodunit Agatha Christie mystery) and enjoying poutine at the Festival while wearing a classic 80’s one-piece snowsuit. That last part was owing to a friend who has a ton of 80’s snowsuit stock. Let me tell you, 15 people wearing matching 80’s ski suits do not go unnoticed. I had a blast and Festival always makes you appreciate both our local French community as well as winter. It says something about Winnipeg that Festival takes place in the middle of winter, when we’ve grown tired of shoveling, and the magic of snowflakes wears a little thin.  Nevertheless, every year Festival brings out large crowds of people and often fills the grounds to capacity for late night. To me, the event is almost a perfect roundup of Winnipeg – laid-back, friendly, and full of good eating. Like if someone wanted to see the best of Winnipeg in the winter, Festival would be where I would direct them to go. Where else would you find hordes of people enjoying maple syrup on a stick or such a striking number of folks wearing lumberjack plaid. It may not be cosmopolitan, but it’s us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Building Up

One of my favorite things in recent years has been watching the changing Winnipeg skyline. For so long it seemed like it was the same as it ever was. But in the last ten years, it’s been steadily evolving. My two favorite ways to see it are approaching downtown from the Disraeli Bridge and driving along Tache across the river. CMHR, The MB Hydro Building, 300 Assiniboine Avenue and The Glasshouse have all gone up in  a short period of time. The Artis REIT Building is getting a makeover. I read a while ago that Richardson International has a new building in the works. When our economy is more of a tortoise than a hare, it’s nice to see tangible progress to remind ourselves that we aren’t stagnant. This slow change is interesting because it seems like that part of our economy is reflected in our culture. Or maybe vice versa.

As a whole, in Winnipeg and Manitoba, the reign of the status quo can be almost suffocating. Aggressively suspicious of change, we refused to entertain the idea of renaming our hockey team. Had Mark Chipman defiantly stuck with the Manitoba Polar Bears, you can be sure that merchandise sales would have suffered and a strongly-worded petition would have circulated. While we happily complain about how things are (terrible! Thanks for asking), when we are presented with an alternative, 9 times out of 10 we still pick the devil we know. In a municipal election, given the choice between a property tax raise and a ethically-challenged mayor, we confidently supported a broad range of conflicts of interest. Three separate times. An incumbent can literally kick a child in the face (albeit unintentionally) and be re-elected. Provincially, we waited until our previous government wore out their welcome, only to reelect a familiar face from about twenty years ago. The devil you know, right?

The underlying thought is if we stick to the same course, we can reasonably anticipate what will come next. This mentality makes it so easy to take what we have for granted. Generally speaking, we assume there is some stability to how things are in the current era unless a major event happens. Individually, if your life has any sort of routine to it, the days start to blur together. Occasionally there is a break in the monotony, whether it’s planned (like a trip) or something unexpected, like getting a promotion at work. Or on a sadder note, like losing someone you care about. These events remind you that you have no idea what is going to happen on any given day. In the middle of a routine, we stop remembering that things tomorrow won’t always be like yesterday. For each minute, day, month, year, there is a before and an after. These changes are so small, we don’t acknowledge them. Instead we spend our time thinking about the future or reacting to events, that we are perpetually surprised by time passing. And as time slips by like a renegade ninja, change happens always.

Accepting change as a part of life is often the best way to cope with it. It’s difficult to move on, if we can’t move forward. Usually, I’m a big advocate for change and progress because I want to get better. I want us to improve. Maybe though, our reluctance to move forward could be a positive thing. Growing up in Canada, at this time in human history, has reasonably assured me of my safety and my right for existence. I acknowledge that this isn’t the case for everyone in Canada, and Indigenous peoples especially, are faced with issues that need to be addressed. In a general sense though, the daily security that we take for granted is not the status quo. And this current reality, that we accept as the norm, is a gift that many people paid dearly for. Lately though, it seems that globally, a change is happening, but it’s a return to earlier attitudes. We are sliding back into our human tendencies to be prejudiced and fearful of anyone who isn’t like ourselves. The mosque shooting in Quebec was perpetrated by a university-educated white Canadian man who should feel at ease and secure in Canada. Instead he killed 6 men who were peacefully practicing their religion. He’s ruined countless lives, including his own, and all out of misplaced fear.

Locally, antisemitism has been making itself known. A family in Wolseley had a rock full of anti-semitic messages placed on their doorstep. Someone sketched a swastika in St. Vital Park. Reading about these incidents in the news, has me realizing how much hatred our fellow Canadians have been harbouring. Now it seems, they feel emboldened to express their hatefulness. As a community, we have a responsibility to actively condemn these acts. After the mosque shooting,  Last Saturday, I went to the Forks and took part in the Walk for Human Rights. It was the first time I have taken part in a public march. I wanted to experience an affirmation that Canada is a multicultural country and we aren’t going to be tricked into being afraid all the time. There are so many more things that as human beings, we have in common than not. The average person wants a right to safety and prosperity for themselves and their families. In the spirit of this, I would like to feature another local charity that does a lot of good work in our community: The Manitoba Interfaith Immigration Council Inc.

If you worry about refugees settling into Canada and adjusting to Canadian practices, this is an excellent organization to support. The charity takes a comprehensive approach to assisting refugees with their move to Canada, including setting them up with a temporary residence, reaching out to them in their own language, helping them make a refugee claim, explaining how to manage finances, and to help them learn skills that will enable them to thrive in Canada. These services are essential to helping people who might otherwise feel alienated or alone. If  this is an issue that concerns you, I encourage you to donate to The Manitoba Interfaith Immigration Council. Please help us maintain our tradition of being a welcoming multicultural society.

One last thing, if you feel uncertain about Islam and associate the religion with negative news stories, please take a moment to explore some local resources where you can learn a little more about our local Muslim community:

Winnipeg Central Mosque

Canadian Muslim Women’s Institute