Monthly Archives: December 2007

Vancouver Irish-Indo fusion music: Delhi2Dublin releases cd

Delhi2Dublin is having a cd release party!

Thursday December 13th, doors 9pm
The Red Room (398 Richards)

If you have ever seen spritely violinist Kytami perform with Delhi2Dublin's tabla drums and hip hop turntables – then you already now how much fun this Vancouver secret is!

I can say that I loved this group at their very first event for Vancouver's Celtic Fest.
Here's my review of that first event St. Paddy's Eve in Vancouver – What is a man in a kilt to do?

Organizer Tarun Nayar has set up a wonderful cd release party tonight.  He writes:

It should be a ridiculously good time. Come
check out this global fusion band, with a host of special guests, DJs
and dancers (
If you absolutely can't make the party tomorrow, CDs are now available
at Highlife, and will soon be available on line. A perfect x-mas gift
for those bhangra loving leprechauns in your life…


Beats Without Borders + A-Town
in association with Turner Music present:

The Delhi 2 Dublin CD Release Party

Thursday December 13th, doors 9pm
The Red Room (398 Richards)
tix 10$ advance @ Highlife, Zulu, Kamal; 15$ @ the door

Canada's new immigrants have now made Chinese languages #3 in Canada: CBC Radio's “The Current” asks me about the possibility of a 3rd official language for Canada

I had a very interesting phone call from Toronto on Monday… a producer from CBC Radio's “The Current” phoned me to ask my views on the latest Canadian census results on language and immigration released December 4th.

The questions considered the issues of should Canada adopt a 3rd official language. 

The CBC Radio producer also asked me if I was aware that Singapore now had four official languages.

I told her that New Brunswick is the only province in Canada with two official languages, and that Singapore is a city-state.

Hmmm…..  food for thought….

Chinese languages are now the third-most common mother-tongue group, behind English and French. The largest group of immigrants to Canada now come from the Republic of China.  Richmond BC, is the leading city for Chinese language speakers.

But where does this leave me?  I am a 5th generational Chinese-Canadian who speaks better French than Chinese?

Am I the product of a colonial Canada whose racist history purposely and methodically legislated and conspired to prohibit and block Chinese and other Asian immigrants from coming to Canada?  As well as creating a cultural genocide to its First Nations aboriginal people by taking children from their families and placing them in Residential Schools and prohibiting them from speaking their mother-tongues, as well as outlawing their cultural practices, traditions and social structure with the “Potlatch Law?”

Of course.

When I grew up in the 1960's and 1970's, my parents decided not to send me to Chinese school because they wanted to emphasize assimilation with Canadian culture.  They wanted me to get ahead in Canadian society by furthering my participation in English language activities.  So instead of going to Chinese School after “English School” I took accordion lessons, judo lessons, swimming lessons etc. 

My parents grew up during the time of the “Chinese Exclusion Act” – when no Chinese were permitted to immigrate to Canada, so what good would learning Chinese be for me?  I had to learn French in high school, and even took the Summer Language Bursary program to study French at a Canadian University.  When I went to China in 1993, I ended up speaking more French as I bumped into people from Quebec, France and Holland.  I even had Thanksgiving dinner with the Canadian Ambassador to China, who was from Montreal.

It's great that Canada can be more tolerant to new immigrants, than it was when my great-great-grandfather Rev. Chan Yu Tan arrived in 1896.  It's great that Canadians can be happy with a multiculturalism that embraces every culture from along the ancient Silk Road, as well as almost every country on earth.

But… we must also pay attention to our history.  Canada was founded as a nation including English and French cultures and languages.  The Chinese pioneers who built the railway and paid the head tax spoke Cantonese from Southern China.  Mandarin is only a more recent language as immigrants from Taiwan and Mainland China began arriving in significant numbers during the 1980's. 

If we are going to recognize the impact of Chinese immigrants in Canada, then we must also recognize the impact of Chinese-Canadian history – not just the easily identifiable Chinese-language voting block because the current political party in power wants to remain in power.

Before we can consider the luxury of a third official language, we must first consider that Canada has unfinished business.  First Nations issues must be recognized.  Treaties and land claim issues should take precedence.  Should First Nations language be considered an official language?  Which one?  I remember listening to Peter Gzowski on CBC Radio as he asked 3 different First Nations people to say the word that they used to refer to themselves instead of the words “First Nations”, “Aboriginal”or “Indian.”  They answered with three different words. 

Before we consider Chinese as even an unofficial language, we must fully consider the unresolved issues of the Chinese Head Tax redress.  The Harper government used Mandarin Chinese – not the Cantonese language of the head tax payers, when they gave the apology for the Chinese Head Tax last year on June 22nd 2006.  Less than one percent of head tax certificates have been honoured with ex-gratia payments because the government refuses to include families where the surviving head tax payers and spouses have died prior to Harper's election in 2006, even though the head tax redress was first requested in Parliament by Margaret Mitchell in 1984, even though Chinese-Canadians asked for the end to the “Exclusion Act” in 1947.

It's great that new immigrants are adding to Canada's cultural diversity, and giving Canadians a sense of global identity and culture.  But Canada's ethnic history should also be recognized, not just the latest 20 years.

The CBC radio producer liked what I had to say.  She recognized that I was neither a Chinese mother-tongue speaker nor a multi-generational White Canadian – but a little of both.  So… I might be on the panel discussion for The Current on Friday morning for Dec 14th.  Cross your fingers.  I might shake things up and challenge both the status quo and the new immigration patterns.

Check out CBC Radio's The Current's story on “Ethnoburbs” – how ethnic populations are increasingly settling in the suburbs or Canada's major city centres of Vancouver and Toronto.

The Current: Part 3

Census – Ethnoburbs

Statistics Canada has released the data on immigration from the 2006 Census,
and there are some interesting findings. More than a million people
came to Canada between 2001 and 2006. And while they're still
gravitating to major urban centres like Toronto, Vancouver and
Montreal, they're heading increasingly to big, suburban centres like Markham, Ontario and Richmond, British Columbia. In fact, both of those cities are now home to more people born outside Canada than in Canada.

Rosemary Bender joined us for a look at the hard numbers. She is the
Director General for Social and Demographic Statistics with Statistics
Canada and she was in Vancouver.

Ethnoburbs – Voices

Well, as you heard, immigrants to Canada make up the fastest
growing demographic in the country. And along with that growth, suburbs
on the outskirts of Canada's biggest cities are growing along with them.

The city of Markham sits roughly 30 kilometres northeast of downtown
Toronto. Of the 260 000 or so people who live there, 56% are
immigrants. The community is peppered with huge asian malls and
restaurants catering to its primarily Chinese community. The Current
producer Dominic Girard stopped in earlier this week to see how the
cultures are mingling — or clashing. He took in some line dancing and
snooker at the Markham Seniors Activity Centre, met with a city
councillor, and chatted up a young man working a cell phone shop in one
of the asian malls.

Ethnoburbs – Panel

Today's numbers raise questions about whether ethnic enclaves are a
place to start out in and move out of, or are they becoming a place to
stay permanently — and what is the impact of that on Canadian society.

Sudha Krishna
is a former CBC journalist and now a partner in a Vancouver new media
company called The Nimble Company, and he was in our Vancouver studio. Dr. Myer Siemiatycki
is the director of the graduate program in Immigration and Settlement
Studies at Ryerson University. And Howard Chen is the president of the Chinese Professional Association of Canada and a resident of Markham, Ontario. Both were in our Toronto studio.

Chinese singing, Greek-Canadian George Sapounidis hosts CBC TV Special about the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Todd Wong anbd George Sapoundis – with dancers from the Vancouver Academy of Dance – all featured in the 2004 CBC TV performance special Gung Haggis Fat Choy – photo Todd Wong collection.

George Sapounidis, that Montreal-born, Greek-Canadian, who sings in Chinese-Mandarin… will be hosting a CBC TV Special about the Beijing Summer Olympic Games.

George was featured in the CBC Vancouver television performance special titled “Gung Haggis Fat Choy.”

George is a very funny, warm human being – who loves meeting people, especially women.
I was fortunate to meet him in 2005.

Hi friends of Chairman George
You are welcome to watch this Sunday at 4pm . 
I am hosting a national show on
CBC Television .
Let me know how you like it .
Sapounidis  'Chairman George'
TV Special :
  China-Canada Hand in
Hand –
Celebration of the Olympics

Host :  
George Sapounidis  'Chairman George' 

In August of 2008 China will host
more than 200 countries and their finest athletes to compete at the Beijing
Summer Olympic Games. 
This CBC Television Special features some
of the finest performers from China and Canada coming together to countdown
to the Beijing Olympic Games. 

Air dates :

1) CBC TV main network : Sunday, December 9,
2007 at 4PM (ET)

2) CBC Country Canada : Saturday,
December 15, 2007 at 1PM (ET) and 7PM (ET)  

Firehall's Ecstasy of Rita Joe enthralls and bites with both performance and social commentary

Ecstasy of Rita Joe

George Ryga

until 8
December 2007

The Firehall
Arts Centre
, Vancouver

Donna Spencer

This Canadian classic theatre work is still strong and disturbing.  Remounted on its 40th Anniversary for the Firehall Arts Centre’s 25th Anniversary, this production of The Ecstasy of Rita Joe stuns audiences with not only the power of its story and acting – but now with the resonance of history’s truths and tragedy.   Playwright George Ryga’s words are still haunting and critical 20 years after his death in 1987.

Firehall Arts Centre artistic director Donna Spencer has assembled a stellar cast, and directed the production herself, as well as playing the role of school teacher.  And forty years later, the deterioration of Vancouver’s downtown eastside, the continued plight of urban aboriginal peoples, the issues of the Residential School system, the memories of both Oka and Gustaphson Lake First Nations stand-offs with the RCMP, play as much a sociological backdrop as the appointment of Steven Point to Lieutenant Governor of BC, international recognition of Haida and Musqueam artists, and recent Land Claim settlements.

The 1967 premiere of Ecstasy of Rita Joe was both a triumph and tragedy.  It was the first play about Aboriginal issues on a major theatre stage to be taken seriously, shocking audiences with the plight of a First Nations woman from the countryside, who is caught in a downward spiral, trapped by the unforgiving forces of the city. 

The original Vancouver Playhouse production is legendary in Canadian arts, produced by artistic director Joy Coghill, and directed by George Bloomfield, as was the remount which became the first English language play production at the National Arts Centre in 1969.   George Ryga expanded the role of Rita Joe’s father, when
Chief Dan George
stepped into the role.  Ann Mortifee was the young ingénue when she wrote the music for the play, performing it in her role as musician/singer.  George was appointed an officer of the Order of Canada in 1971, while Coghill and Mortifee became members of the Order of Canada in 1990 and 1991.

But the Firehall Arts Centre's production is a worthy contender. 

Lisa Ravensberg is mesmerizing as Rita Joe, alternately capturing both the innocence and bewilderment of the young native woman, lost in the city’s bureaucratic judicial system.   Standing before the magistrate, played sensitively by William B. Davis, more famously known as “cancer man” in the X-Files, Rita Joe tells him she is confused and just wants to go home. 

But she can’t go home.  She is now a victim, stuck in a system of constantly being discriminately charged from vagrancy to prostitution. And she doesn’t know how to get out.

Rita Joe’s boyfriend Jamie Paul is trying to make something of himself in the city.  Kevin Loring steps energetically into the role of Jamie Paul, playing both the sweet and caring boyfriend, as well as the proud angry and indignant young First Nations man, that refuses to be patronized.  He rejects the old ways of Rita’s father (Byron Chief Moon) who is also Chief of the Reserve, the kindly social worker Mr. Homer (Alvin Sanders) who gives Jamie Paul, Rita and his friends “hand-outs”, and he criticizes the Indian agent and the government’s policies.

Duncan Fraser is powerfully subtle the Priest, We see him genuinely concerned at Rita’s plight when he visits her from the reserve in the city jail.  He naively talks to her about God’s love and gently touches her, but Rita repulsively rejects his hand in a move that hints at the sexual abuse of the Church’s role in the Residential School system.

Byron Chief Moon plays the Father, the role originated by Chief Dan George.  He is tall with a gentle loving and thoughtful presence.  His scenes with a young Rita are joyful, but turn sad when he risks his health to visit her in the city in an effort to bring her back to the reserve.

Tricia Collins as Rita Joe’s sister is a wonderful counterpoint to Ravensberg’s Rita Joe.  Although a minor character, Collin’s beauty and portrayal of her character’s return to the Reserve contrasts with the ugliness of Rita’s continued entrapment in the city, and the plight of urban natives with alcohol, drugs and cultural misunderstanding.

William B. Davis has the most challenging job as The Magistrate.  He must work with dialogue that seems patronizing, didactic and dated, yet still find a way to be understanding and caring.  He carries this through with a balance that is infused with the 40 year bittersweet knowledge of what the Aboriginal communities have suffered and triumphed over.  It is up to the audience to be the real judge of how society relates to Canada's Native population.

In the final scene, Rita Joe's sister and father walk out with First Nations drummer and singers.  Rita's father sings a lament.  Another song is followed by Collins and a singer.  It as much a tribute to the passing of Rita Joe, as it is to the new understandings of First Nations culture in our society.  I spoke to cast members after the opening night performance, and they told me this was an addition to the script, which they felt was a fitting and very appropriate

The Ecstasy of Rita Joe is still a powerful work, that despite its long acknowledged structural flaws, continues to work in its abilities as social commentary and wonderful vehicle for actors and production team.  One of the biggest compliments must go to actor Lisa Ravensburg, who immerses herself so convincingly in the role of  a realistically desperate First Nations woman that is all too commonly seen along the Hastings & Main vicinity, that my companion did not recognize her at the opening night reception – where I introduced him to several of the actors.

This play carries a message all Canada should hear,wrote Chief Dan George in the preface of the first publication.  These are words that are relevant and compelling in 1967 as they are forty years later in 2007 to go see this play.

Personal note:

I wanted to see “The Ecstasy of Rita Joe” for many reasons:

Check out these recent reviews:

Vancouver Province: Here's the definitive Rita Joe

reviewvancouver: The Ecstasy of Rita Joe