Is there too much emphasis on ‘diversity’?

The headline exploded on the page. “Lack of diversity leads to cancellation of Minneapolis writing conference.” What??? I read it again, then quickly scanned the accompanying article. It wasn’t just ‘click bait’; apparently twenty-one of the twenty-two speakers booked to discuss writing for children at the Children’s and Young Adult Literature (CYA) Conference  in Minneapolis were white, so it was cancelled.

The lineup of speakers for the Loft Literary Center’s conference on writing for children and young adults was stellar. William Alexander, winner of a National Book Award. Kelly Barnhill, winner of the Newbery Medal. Phyllis Root, author of more than 40 books for children. And 19 others.

Other than Alexander, who is Cuban-American, every writer who agreed to speak was white. And so, just days after announcing it, the Loft in Minneapolis canceled the Oct. 20-21 conference.

“We have set a goal for ourselves to be inclusive and to work toward equity, and we didn’t think the conference would live up to that mission,” Britt Udesen, executive director of the Loft, said Wednesday. “We made a mistake.”

I’m going to get whacked for my reaction — I just know it — but this is the kind of situation that sets my teeth on edge. Being politically correct just for the sake of being politically correct. Making the colour of people’s skin more important than their qualifications for the job. Am I the only one who thinks this is crazy ridiculous?

It stirs the same reaction I had back in 2015 when Prime Minister Trudeau was being petitioned by a group of eighty prominent women (“former politicians, academics, businesswomen and other professionals”) to fill vacancies in Canada’s Senate, not just with women, but…

“To achieve gender equality as soon as possible, the twenty-two current vacancies should be filled by women from diverse backgrounds, including Indigenous women, women from minority linguistic, racial and ethnic communities, and others, consistent with the Senate’s role in minority representation.”

According to the 2016 census, Canadian women slightly outnumber men — there are one hundred women for every ninety-seven men, “a figure that has held relatively steady over fifteen years, based on data from Statistics Canada.” Women want to be equally represented in more than population statistics. I get that. Women have seen outrageous discrimination in our world and it’s important to address that kind of injustice.

Stats Can also says, “One out of five people in Canada’s population is foreign-born.” *

“Canada is a multicultural society whose ethnocultural make-up has been shaped over time by immigrants and their descendents…By 2031, if current demographic trends continue, 47% of the second generation (the Canadian-born children of immigrants) will belong to a visible minority group, nearly double the proportion of 24% in 2006.”

So yes, that’s something else to be considered, here and elsewhere, as we strive to be an inclusive society. But must we resort to reverse discrimination to achieve it?

When it comes to the CYA Conference, I think there’s more behind the cancellation than the lack of diversity on the panel.  Apparently there had been “dwindling interest in the event, which has been held at least every other year since 2003. Only thirteen people had registered for this year’s conference.” We’re told…

The Loft had invited more than ten writers of color to speak and expected a few “to come through at the last minute, “and then they didn’t,” Udesen said. “It’s MEA [teachers’ conference] weekend, so a lot of local writers were unavailable, or a lot of them had just recently taught with us and they thought it would be repetitive.”

Knowing how far in advance the planning happens for my favourite Canadian writers’ conference (the Surrey International Writers’ Conference), I’d say poor planning might have had as much or maybe even more to do with the cancellation of the CYA Conference than the lack of diversity on its panel. But that does nothing to alleviate my frustration at the reasons given.

When the colour of people’s skin, their racial origins and gender are considered first, before their qualifications for a task, we’ve lost our rationality. We’ve become extremists. IMO that can’t end well.

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*Immigration and Ethnocultural Diversity in Canada

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Yes, it’s our Federal Election Day. So what?

First off, let me confirm that, despite the title of this post, I believe a lot is at stake in today’s election, and I WILL be casting my vote today.

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But I’m not big on politics. I hate the in-house temper tantrums and game-playing, the campaign rhetoric, the shouting and endless television commercials. History proves most election platforms shoved at voters are full of empty promises. To garner votes, they present what candidates think the people want to hear, not what realistically should or will happen. Then there is all the bad-mouthing of other candidates … innuendo, mud-slinging, twisted truths and bald-faced lies. If we were to believe the campaign speeches, none of the candidates should be elected.

I don’t want to be reminded of what someone thinks are an opponent’s shortcomings. I want to hear what each believes in and will fight to achieve if elected, but discerning the truth is like trying to untangle a web. Spiders may be good at that; most people aren’t.

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Each of the five party leaders and their platforms have strengths and weaknesses. Who you and I vote for will depend on our priorities. There are anti-Harper, ‘Anything But Conservative’ campaigns, with calls to ‘Vote Strategically’  — not for who you feel is the best candidate in a riding, or for your preferred party, but for who can best take seats away from the Conservatives. This is not the way to cast an intelligent, democratic vote, but there is a ground swell of emotion behind it.

I don’t know who will be our nation’s leader at the end of this day, but I have grave concerns about the direction our government may take us regardless of who is at the helm. Locally, I want an MP who has the integrity to represent my priorities and express my concerns in parliament, no matter which party is in power. The only way I can help make that happen is to vote responsibly. I hope you will, too.

Remember, “Elections in some ridings will be decided by not who votes, but who decides not to vote.” Please vote. As a Canadian it is our right, privilege and responsibility.

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“So you will walk in the way of the good and keep to the paths of the righteous. For the upright will inhabit the land, and those with integrity will remain in it.”  [Proverbs 2:20-21]

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Palin Book Look-a-likes

Yesterday Publishers Lunch reported on two books with fascinating similarities that will be released on the same day.

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“OR Books is issuing GOING ROUGE: Sarah Palin, An American Nightmare on November 17, the same day when HarperCollins publishes GOING ROGUE: An American Life by Sarah Palin.” Check out their explanation as to how this can happen without legal ramifications.

Inauguration Tuesday

I stand here today humbled by the task before us,” he said. Not the task before me, but before us. This attitude of inclusion may be the key to longed-for change in the United States.

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There is so much optimism in the chant, “Yes, we can”; so much joy in the faces of those who listened mesmerized by words of hope and challenge. I didn’t expect to feel emotional but here I am. It’s hard not to get caught up in the whirlwind of anticipation that is so much a part of this Inauguration Day.

This is Canadian Democracy?

I don’t do political rants. I don’t. But today’s antics by our Canadian government have me so frustrated and angry I want to scream and beat my head against a wall!

 

I can’t believe the man who was rejected by voters just six weeks ago, the man defeated so profoundly that he has to step down as leader of his party, is attempting to use a coalition deal to slip through the back door and become Prime Minister. What an affront to our democratic process. And how ironic is it that the coalition requires the participation of a separatist to make it work?

 

Today’s turmoil was reflected on the stock market, with the TSX taking the biggest one day drop ever. With the current financial uncertainty this isn’t the time to spend $300M on another election and yet it appears an election will be the only alternative to the coalition.

 

The situation almost leaves me speechless. Almost. There may be fodder here for fiction!