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How At Home Are We Really?
Art, Diversity, and Dwelling in Canada's Multicultural Landscape

Devora Neumark

Canada as a nation-state was largely defined within the idealism prevalent in a settler colony during the mid-nineteenth century. Initially understood as a geopolitical site wherein old-world dreams could be literally mapped onto the surface of the land and its body politic, Canadian national identity was forged through a profound belief in a better life devoid of racial, economic and class restriction – an expectation that is still prevalent today. Yet, from the beginning, various categories of sub-citizenry existed in the new Canada. Among these were Aboriginal people. Formerly partners in trade, warfare, and explorations, First Peoples were relegated to the periphery of the nation – a process fixed in a series of laws commonly known as The Indian Act. While absorbing minority immigrant and indigenous communities within the ideal of the "imaginary" national community, even acknowledging their integral and important contributions, the seamless construct of Canada denied many Canadians full participation and inclusion.
From the forward of: Racism, Eh? A Critical Inter-Disciplinary Anthology of Race and Racism in Canada edited by Camille A. Nelson and Charmaine A. Nelson, 2004.

According to a news report from the BBC published on June 29, 2007 – confirmed by Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper in his November 2 2007 speech in Halifax, Nova Scotia – entitled Government Achievements for Aboriginal Canadians - there are over eight hundred unresolved First Nations land claims across Canada.

A Brief Introduction

Having been asked to write about the issue of diversity, I chose to focus on artistic efforts dealing with the (un)making of home across the great expanse of land between Coast Salish territory (in what is now called Vancouver) to the Easternmost tip of what is now called Newfoundland and Labrador, long home to the Inuit, the Naskapi, and the Montagnais. This focus takes into account the often-tenuous capacity for art to make a significant difference in other social structures such as politics, law, and economics. Whereas the actualization of home — symbolically, spiritually, in relation to environment and memory, and rooted in place, physical construction and social organization – both implicates and impacts directly all these and other social structures in ways that is often litigious, art is most often tolerated and sanctioned when it is unlikely to fundamentally challenge the dominant socio-economic-political agendas.

Whether art can influence anything outside of its own self-reflexive parameters is a theoretical debate that has been raging for some time. This question is still relevant, however, as artists and cultural agencies (including funding bodies such as the Canada Council for the Arts) are increasingly interested in artist/community collaborations. The upsurge of such collaborations along with the relatively recent proliferation of art projects dealing with the issue of home makes me wonder what is going on in this multicultural landscape called Canada.

Multiculturalism: A Viable Policy for Coexistence?

During the past months, I participated in the Christian Peacemakers Team (CPT) Aboriginal Justice delegation to the proposed uranium mine exploration site in Shabot Obaadjiwan and Ardoch territory where, along with other delegation members, I met with Algonquin leaders, settlers, environmental activists, government officials and those representing mining interests. I also travelled to the West Bank to visit the International Centre of Bethlehem. There, amongst the Centre’s many programs, the Dar al-Kalima Academy is investing in cultural programs aimed at nurturing democracy, free expression and critical thinking while actively promoting the Palestinian civil society.

Despite the considerable differences between the struggles of the peoples indigenous to the area within several degrees north and south of the 49th parallel in the territory now called Southeast Ontario and the people indigenous to the area now called Israel, the two experiences have revealed much about the similarities of systemic oppression and its devastating individual, communal, and environmental impact as much in the Crotch Lake area and in the occupied West Bank as anywhere else. At least a part of this dynamic, detrimental to so many, is linked to flawed assumptions about multiculturalism being a viable policy for coexistence.

Darlene E. Clover, in her widely available text entitled Culture and Antiracisms in Adult Education: An Exploration of the Contribution of Arts-Based Learning, explores one of the predominant frameworks for theorizing race and ethnicity. Citing Jon Young's 1987 publication Breaking the Mosaic: Ethnic Identities in Canadian Schools, Clover suggests that the liberal or multicultural approach theorizes racial inequality as emerging from individual prejudices "stemming either from ignorance or from fear of the unfamiliar, often fuelled by media stereotyping and negative reporting." These feelings "lead to exclusionary practices by members of the dominant group and to a lack of self-respect amongst minorities." What I want to highlight from Clover's text is the way in which she presents the dangers of this approach that both emphasizes individual difference and advocates for sharing customs and cultural experiences as a means of overcoming prejudice. By not looking at the systemic roots of racism, society more than runs the risk of continuing to patronize, stereotype and discriminate, because the social construction of power, privilege and control is not addressed — conveniently so.

In her report on a workshop held in 2000 titled Trouble and conflict in Europe and Canada - cultural solutions, Ritva Mitchell recalls Frances Henry's presentation: "While tolerating, accommodating, appreciating and celebrating differences, multiculturalism allows for the preservation of the cultural hegemony of the dominant cultural group." Referring to the Canadian Multiculturalism Act passed in 1988, Henry made mention of the fact that "some critics claim that the Act limits diversity to symbolic rather than political or transformative kinds of change: [...] The Act is primarily focused on providing opportunities for ethno-cultural groups, community organizations and even researchers to engage in activities that deal with ethnicity and culture rather than the dismantling of barriers to equal opportunity in employment, housing and the institutional structures of Canadian society."

Mourning the Loss of Home

Prior to my travels to the Sharbot Lake region and Bethlehem and after closely following the public hearings associated with the Consultation Commission on Accommodation Practices Related to Cultural Differences (otherwise known as the Bouchard/Taylor commission on reasonable accommodation in Quebec), I participated in the November 25, 2007 forum in Montreal hosted by the Institut du Nouveau Monde 35 (INM) in collaboration with the Commission that focused specifically on the question of integration "a La Quebecoise." With the Commission having wrapped up the public consultations and the report due out at the end of this month, I find myself questioning the premise underlying this process, especially the conviction that there is a fixed core of Quebec society into which (mostly) racialized Others have to integrate.

My decision to participate in the CPT delegation and travel to Israel/Palestine at this time was directly linked to the uneasiness I felt about the Commission's racist, sexist, and xenophobic overtones and to the work I've been doing for more than a dozen years dealing with the issue of home triggered by the November 9, 1995 arson that completely destroyed the loft building I was living in with my family in the St. Henri neighbourhood of Montreal. Although I had explored the issues of memory and mourning in my creative practice for many years prior to the fire, finding myself standing with my three-year-old daughter in my arms and my eight-year-old son by my side looking up at the billowing grey smoke and red-orange flames – knowing that the animals we shared our lives with would not survive, knowing too that all our belongings and treasured objects (including artwork and family photographs, home-made blackberry jam made from hand-picked berries just recently put into jars, and literally thousands of books) were lost for good– forced me to engage with a heightened emotional connection and a more profound analytical awareness of the relationship between place, history, process, sentient beings, objects, and the (un)making of home.

Through this experience, I came to understand that what links the ontological, symbolic, and physical manifestations of home are the narratives constructed about it. The narrative, for example, about what has been considered home within my own family – and more largely within the dominant Jewish community developed before and after the Shoah (literally meaning catastrophe, in Hebrew, though most commonly referred to as The Holocaust) – can be easily considered a troubled one. While the fire that left my family and me out on the street was set by a single disturbed individual, the tyrannies that led my grandparents to seek refuge in Canada were deliberate acts of domicide (a term coined by J. Douglas Porteous and Sandra E. Smith to refer to the willful action of destroying peoples' homes and/or expelling them from their homelands). Whether fleeing from the pogroms in Poland or religious oppression in the former USSR, my immediate ancestors experienced firsthand the urgency to deal with displacement as part of the making home in their new host country.

Given my own personal experience, those of my family, and the Jewish community within which I was born, it seems appropriate that I am attentive to the memory of what my family members and other Jews experienced in the years leading up to the Holocaust and during the period when, under Nazi rule, a deliberate attempt was made to annihilate anyone with even one quarter Jewish blood. Yet, however much I have been careful to honour the memory of the more than six million Jews who were killed (along with the tens of thousands of gays & lesbians and the hundreds of thousands from the Roma and Sinti – so-called 'Gypsy' – communities), I have also been intensely shaken by and acutely critical of the victim-to-hero-to-perpetrator syndrome that appears to be currently operative in the Zionist subjugation of the Palestinian people. And though I can still hear the dire warnings about the dangers of anti-Semitism – repeated frequently to this day within the Jewish community in Montreal and around the world – I cannot imagine that peaceful co-existence is possible in the Middle East any more than it is here on Turtle Island without a commitment to rectify the wrongs of colonialism and imperialism on both sides of the Atlantic. Does this make me a self-hating Jew, as some within the Jewish community have labeled me? I think not. Rather, I think it is precisely because I want to responsibly carry the memory of those who have perished that I feel compelled to work with these issues. A member of several Montreal-based groups dedicated to intercultural dialogue and the call for justice in the Middle East (including the right of return for Palestinian refugees and displaced persons — many of whom are still living in one of the fifty-nine UNWRA refugee camps established to accommodate the people fleeing from the 1948 Arab-Israeli War set up in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the West Bank and Gaza,) I feel the need to also engage with the issue of indigenous rights here in my own back yard.

Art and Not So Ordinary Housing

In the spring of 2005, ten years after the fire and more than a dozen performative, text-based, photographic, and community art projects dealing with the issue of the home, I initiated an interdisciplinary collaboration called home beautiful exploring the complexities of home/housing at the nexus of cultural/political oppression, ecological coexistence and personal/communal healing. With this project, my colleagues Lisa Ndejuru and Pauline Ngirumpatse and I are participating in the development of a cultural framework critically exploring the conditions for healthy coexistence. Home beautiful is also a real-life studio/workshop for the practice of healthy coexistence beyond the theoretical construct.

Peter King, author of The Common Place: the Ordinary Experience of Housing, suggests that, "When we are living our lives and pursuing our interests we, as it were, take our housing with us. It forms the basis upon which we can act, and this is the very reason why we are able to ignore it and take it for granted." As Lisa, Pauline and I state in our workshop description for the upcoming conference titled Genocide in Rwanda and the Reconstruction of Knowledge (being organized by the Interdisciplinary Genocide Studies Centre based in Kigali), once the social fabric has been destroyed as it has been by the countless genocides humanity has experienced, how can we take for granted the "normalcy" of home when it is not only a physical location, but also an ontological state? How we dwell after genocide and domicide is an ethical, political, physical and emotional question as much as it is an aesthetic one. The systematic efforts of government officials and legal proceedings in Canada to annihilate the indigenous inhabitants through policies of forced assimilation, economic policy, and the destruction of homeland and territory cannot be abstracted from the colonial and imperial oppressions in the Middle East and elsewhere.

Art that has emerged across Canada over the past ten years dealing with the struggles for and about home has been predominantly the work of indigenous artists and immigrants to Canada who are familiar with forced displacement. Among the First Nations' artworks is the decade-long Uts'am/ Witness Project co-founded by artist and photographer Nancy Bleck, the now deceased wilderness educator John Clark, and Hereditary Chief of the Squamish Nation Bill Williams in collaboration with Vancouver's Roundhouse Community Arts & Recreation Centre. Maria Hupfield's site-specific project, My Grandmother's Home – a dawn-to-dusk performance – took place during the Southern Albertan MSTF 3 (the third Mountain Standard Time Performative Arts Festival) festival in 2006, while an earlier work created by Hupfield titled My Grandma's Tipi was presented at the Tecumseh Festival in Fort York, Ontario.

According to The People's History of Kanada Poster Project's website, the series of original art works created in collaboration between No One is Illegal-Vancouver and grassroots artists "explore[s] various moments of repression and resistance in Canadian history. The artists working on this Project come from a diversity of communities and almost all carry his/herstories and direct experiences of colonization and displacement that are being engaged within the Project." Artists who have created posters in this series include Tania Willard, Riel Manywounds with Gord Hill, Angela Sterritt, and – in the 1990s – Alex Mah.

Elwood Jimmy, currently General Manager of Common Weal Community Arts Incorporated, has been involved with a broad range of projects dealing with home/land as an artist, curator, administrator and activist since the late 1990s. Most recently, the 2007 edition of "Artivistic" titled Un.Occupied Spaces included the performance work of Emilie Monnet and Melissa Mollen Dupuis titled Zone de resérve addressing the questions: What is Indigenous? What is Natural Space? What is (there) to occupy? Also in 2007, Curtis Kaltenbaugh's autobiographical film, A Place Between: The Story of an Adoption, about his journey as a cross-cultural adoptee struggling to figure out where he fits in to the world, had its world premiere.

Socio-politically charged artwork by immigrants and refugees include the Maleta (Suitcase) collaborative art project hosted by Gallery Gachet – involving twenty artists and the gallery's then artist-in-residence, Wing Diocson Yap – that dealt with migration and participation in Canada as home for the Filipino community. Umurage, the Rwandan Cultural Centre of Montreal, emerged in 2007 from a multi-year dialogue process initiated by Lisa Ndejuru, who is 'Tuganire'. With the support of a grant from the LEVIER Project of Engrenage Noir, Tuganire opened the space for a healing conversation to begin in the aftermath of the 1994 Rwandan genocide, though at the time of this writing members of the Isangano troupe are "burnt out trying to fuel the group, the centre, the community while making a living, studying and trying to fuel relationships and families and social lives for themselves."

All these works are similar in that they share a concern for thinking through the problematics of belonging. They are different, however, from each other when we consider factors such as intended audience, duration and anticipated scope – including the extent to which the artwork created was a symbolic expression or part of a complex, multivalent effort to bring about systemic, socio-economic and/or political change.

More Questions about Canada's Multiculturalism Policy

The Creative City Network of Canada (with support from the Canada Council for the Arts) affirms the role that art can play in supporting "positive change in communities" and in "building community identity and pride" in their 2005 series of publications under the general heading titled Making the Case for Culture. Homelessness, isolation, disabilities and intergenerational contact are mentioned as issues that can be "addressed through the arts." Furthermore, citing Francois Matarasso's 1997 publication 1191298453, Use or Ornament: The Social Impact of Participation in the Arts, the Creative City Network of Canada documents suggest that not only can the "arts help to nurture local democracy" and "build the organizational capacity of a community," they can also "facilitate effective public consultation and participation." Whereas these documents assert the importance – even the necessity – of creative practice to "serve as a powerful tool for community mobilization and activism," "help facilitate social cohesion," and "foster a continuing dialogue about the past" (amongst other claims in support of art and culture), I find myself asking the following questions:

Why has there been such a proliferation of art projects dealing with the issue of home in the years following the implementation of Canada's multicultural policy?

Why is it that the majority of artists dealing with the issue of home are people of colour?

How does the cultural production of artwork dealing with the issue of home influence other social systems (such as the law and economics)?

Even as the Federal government's Multiculturalism platform described in the Canadian Heritage report titled Canadian Diversity: Respecting our Differences outlines Canada's approach in respecting diversity, it also acknowledges the "tensions in Canada that flow from the differences between people." And while this document emphasizes the need to move forward in "healing Canada's relationship with its Aboriginal Peoples," Monica Kin Gagnon and Scott Toguri McFarlane's seventeen-page essay called T1191298457, The Capacity of Cultural Difference (presented during the Minister's Forum on Diversity and Culture hosted by the Canadian Museum of Civilization on April 22-23, 2003), underscores a major problematic of Canada's multiculturalism policy that paradoxically calls for both multicultural assimilation and the maintenance of cultural difference. They suggest that " 'Canada' belongs to a history and memory of different cultures coming together as one – a multicultural project that at its origins was marked by colonial violence. Precisely because the cultural memory and originary violence of 'Canada' is of many different cultures as one, 'Canada' will never ever reflect, or be able to represent cultural differences."

Another paper submitted to the same Minister's Forum is perhaps even more specific when it comes to the issue of diversity in relation to the house/home issue. Citing the book 1191298459, Building a House for Diversity, by R. Roosevelt Thomas Jr., Hamlin Grand and Andra Stevens, the authors of 1191298459, Mainstream Diversity in Cultural Expression in Canada, refer to "a fable about a giraffe who invites his colleague, an elephant, into his award-winning and beautiful house. There is only one problem: the house was built for a giraffe and the elephant can't find his way in. What ensues," state Grand and Stevens, "is a powerful metaphor for where Canadian society is today on the issue of inclusion. 'The house' is perfect for some. In fact, it was built to meet their needs and specifications and they're intensely proud of it. For others, ranging from Canada's Aboriginal peoples to its most recent immigrants, it is an, at times, painful fit."

Healing as a Seven Generations Forward and Seven Generations in the Past (Present-Moment) Creative Process

Inspired by Victoria King's approach in addressing "the significance of historical and psychological denial and erasure, as well as transgenerational legacies" in her 2005 Ph.D. thesis titled 1191298462, The Art of Place and Displacement: Embodied Perception and the Haptic Ground, I see more than just evidence of the impact from the destruction of the ontological and physical homes of the indigenous and immigrant artists who have created the works listed above: The artwork is already part of an affirmation project that is both personally healing and socio-politically meaningful. Victoria King suggests that "Art can express belonging and relationship with far-reaching cultural, political, psychological and environmental implications, but only if denial and loss of place are acknowledged." With this in mind, I propose that the art projects I've referred to, however briefly, not only permit us to see through the problematics of diversity within Canada's multicultural policy, they are also part of an important effort to imagine and bring about the conditions for healthy coexistence in the aftermath of genocide and domicide.

During the ten days I was in Israel/Palestine, the Israeli Defence Forces (as the Israeli military forces are called) killed over one hundred and twenty Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank. During that same period, a Qassam rocket fired from Gaza into Sderot killed one Israeli Jewish citizen. While it is dangerous to translate deaths into statistics – as we can so easily ignore the specificity of individuals' lives as numbers are being tallied – I think it is significant to point out the imbalance of power and what has been called by B'Tselem (the Israeli Information Centre for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories) an excessive use of force on the part of the IDF. Routinely in places like Bethlehem, Jericho, Ramallah, and even East Jerusalem, IDF members permit Jewish settlers to establish outposts while bulldozing Palestinian houses, uprooting their aged olive trees, and making check points impassible even for children on their way to school.

As I write this, Robert Lovelace, one of the Ardoch Algonquin negotiators, is behind bars serving a six-month sentence at the Central East Correctional Centre in Lindsay, Ontario for his role in protesting the uranium exploration. Other First Nations community members and settlers have been charged and fined for their participation in the protest as well. The Frontenac Ventures Corporation has stated that drilling could begin any day.

The systematic efforts of government officials and legal proceedings in Canada to annihilate the indigenous inhabitants through policies of forced assimilation, economic policy, and the destruction of homeland and territory cannot be abstracted from the colonial and imperial oppressions in the Middle East and elsewhere. The victim-to-hero-to-perpetrator cycle is as vividly being played out in the Israeli/Palestinian struggle as it is in play across the Canadian landscape where the once persecuted Europeans fleeing to find safe haven in foreign lands impose the very oppressions they fought to overcome themselves upon the people they found living here.

Some years ago I came across a Judaic maxim about how in healing oneself, one heals the seven generations to come and the seven generations that have come before. While I could appreciate how my own personal healing process could affect the lives of my children and therefore by extension the lives of future generations, it took me some time to recognize how my healing from the severe and prolonged abuse I suffered as a child could affect the seven generations that came before me. What I have come to understand in this process is that as I heal, I can begin to shift the narratives that have served to help my family and me to survive. This shift implicates changing my relationship to the past and as such involves a letting go of such huge proportion that the experience feels like death. So afraid of relinquishing old thought patterns and belief systems that seemed so central to my core identity, I tried to circumvent this process for as long as I could.

Physical and emotional dysfunction forced me to reassess my avoidance techniques: I realized that the survival narratives no longer were viable and I needed to let go and evolve new tellings if I were to be able to live a healthy life. While the 1995 experience triggered a healing process that reached far back into past generations of cultural and political oppression within my own family, it was through actively engaging the creative process that I could risk becoming present. Art, through its symbolic/real life creative force, provided me with the means to deal with the anxiety that arose when I confronted the mess of emotional, physical, spiritual and political implications related to home and the stories told about it – and even today art continues to serve me in this way.

Despite the assertions presented in the Creative City Network of Canada papers which are certainly powerful and generative, I think that art's full force in relation to the diversity issue may be most effectively experienced when it reaches this level of individual awakening while simultaneously being deliberate in its attempts at integrating a critical and complex socio-economic-political analysis, as I have tried to be. The art projects noted in this essay all aim at addressing systemic social change rather than offering a means to develop tolerance of individual differences. Heeding the example of 1191298471 Uts'am/Witness – a community art project that has managed to set new protocol and challenge corporate logging practices (and the most protracted of the artworks written about in this text) – we can appreciate how the issue of home in the aftermath of genocide and domicide within the framework of art can not only influence individual lives, but also change government and business policies. As much as home is a cultural framework and a subject for compelling art projects, it is also physically rooted in place and therefore intricately linked to social, economic, and political systems whose very existence for the most part currently rely on continuing the colonial and imperial agendas.

We have a lot of work still ahead of us.

The author wishes to acknowledge the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Quebec, the Hadassah-Brandeis Institute, and the Faculty Development Fund of Goddard College for their financial contributions to the research related to this text.

The scent of 1191298484 home beautiful (SKOL's publication Faire comme si tout allait bien /As if All Were Well), the chronology of contemporary art projects dealing with the question of home includes Gordon Matta-Clark's various architectural cutting projects from the 1970s and Krzysztof Wodiczko's The Homeless Vehicle project in NYC (1987 - 1989), Rachel Whiteread's commissioned House (1993), Andrea Zittel's long-standing interrogation of the domestic and social spheres, and Korean-born artist Do-Ho Suh's replication of his childhood home in silk fabric down to the detail of the roof tiles and ornamentation on the walls are all also part of this recent cultural exploration. Additionally, Kyong Park's 24620 is often referred to as "an abandoned house from Detroit in search of a new home." According to SlowLab's Projects website, the house is a "fugitive house, running from the city of Detroit, which has destroyed or burned more than two hundred thousand homes in the last fifty years." And along a similar theme, though quite different in approach, Emily Jacir's 2003 project, (im)mobility, addresses the issues of access, and lack thereof, to Palestinian homeland while Ju-Pong Lin's Neighbour to Neighbour story performances highlight how families are displaced from their homes as urban development shifts neighborhood and cultural boundaries.

Even when the issue of home is critically examined (as in the 1985 publication Home Environments edited by Irwin Altman & Carol M. Werner and Domicide: The Global Destruction of Home, written in 2001 by J. Douglas Porteous and Sandra E. Smith), there is a telling omission of any mention of related art projects.

I want to acknowledge the many conversations with Louise Lachapelle, whose own work about culture, ethics, and habitation has been a source of inspiration in the writing of this essay. Credit also is due to Laiwan, my friend and colleague in the Goddard College MFA/Interdisciplinary Studies Program, for the work she has done over the years related to equality and justice. I am grateful for her example and what she has shared with me. Additionally, I have been fortunate to compare notes and share stories with Erin Manning, author of Ephemeral Territories: Representing Nation, Home, and Identity in Canada, a book that has motivated me to think more holistically about the conjuncture between art, home and nationhood. Finally, I am honoured to have met all the artists whose work is referenced in this essay.

The CPT delegation was scheduled to coincide with the time of great uncertainty related to the process of negotiations between the Algonquin First Nations, the federal and provincial governments, and the prospecting company Frontenac Ventures. Ritva Mitchell at the time of this conference was the President of the Cultural Information and Research Centres Liaison in Europe (CIRCLE), an independent think-tank dedicated to developing cultural policy models for Europe.

On November 2, 2001 (just two months after the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon) the 31st session of the General Conference of UNESCO, meeting in Paris, adopted the Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity. According to Koichiro Matsuura, the Director General of UNESCO, this declaration "was an opportunity for States to reaffirm their conviction that intercultural dialogue is the best guarantee of peace and to reject outright the theory of the inevitable clash of cultures and civilizations." Furthermore, Matsuura affirms that "such a wide-ranging instrument is a first for the international community. It raises cultural diversity to the level of the 'common heritage of humanity,' as necessary for humankind as biodiversity is for nature and makes its defence an ethical imperative indissociable from respect for the dignity of the individual."
Amirali Bahadurali Alibhai's: 1191298487 Cross Cultural Collaboration and Community Art Practice: An Autobiographical Examination. MA Thesis (UBC).

See also the analysis that Monica Kin Gagnon presents in her collection of essays published under the title of 1191298488, Other Conundrums: Race, Culture and Canadian Art. In the 2002 Canadian Journal of Communication we find a review of this book that includes the following summary: "A central argument emerging from Other Conundrums highlights the political and epistemological distinctions between a cultural race politics that acknowledges and seeks to intervene in the structural racism of Canada's cultural organizations, and what Gagnon refers to as the ‘taming’ of racism by shifting the terms of reference to questions of diversity, multiculturalism, and ‘ethnic or minority art.’ "

Further along in this critical assessment of the Canada's multicultural ideal is summary of impediments that Gagnon and McFarlane identify as "obstacles to empowerment." These include the language of equity and bureaucratic language, discourses of artistic excellence, "pluralism's prioritizing of the 'human individual’ asserted at the expense of fundamental change," and historical amnesia.

Officially considered a city only since 1996, Sderot's most recent inhabitants arrived as émigrés from the former Soviet Union in the 1990s. The first arrivals into what was known initially as the Gevim-Dorot transit camp in the early 1950s were Persian, Moroccan, and Kurdish refugees. Located in the Western Negev desert, Sderot is one kilometre from the Gaza Strip and the Palestinian administered town of Beit Hanoun.