On: Calgary

As I drove to the University from the group-home I sleep at, I was confronted with a city at its very worst. The big snow dump has brought this city to its knees. What is normally a half hour / fourty five minute commute took me almost two hours. I saw accidents, stranded motorists, and an overall unwillingness to help due to everyone (and I do not exclude myself from this, and am partially making this critique on myself) being too fucking busy and caught up in getting from one corner of this city to another.I see in Calgary a city at its worst right now. Perhaps it is going to get better, but I think that if it does, it is only getting better for the upper and middle segment of this city. When you have a situation where, as the paper said this morning, rent is going up (link), that is going to effect a very real segment of this city. People who work in oil and gas and in big business downtown, who own their own homes (and perhaps a few rental properties on the side) are not being effected by this increase.

In the group home I work in, I work entirely with immigrants – largely from Africa, who moved to Calgary with the hope that life would be better here in Calgary. There were jobs here! Life is great! Stampede! Guess what they find? They find that they can only get work in places like group-homes, Tim Hortons or other kinds of service jobs (that everyone says pay really great money – “hey did you know that you can make $14 an hour working at Tim Horton’s?” is something you hear often. Have you ever tried to raise four kids on $14 an hour?).

Guess what else they find? That they have to work (at least) 2 jobs in order to pay what it costs to live in this City. One man I work with, from Sri Lanka – works, on average, 20 hours a day. Some of those hours, like the ones I work, are sleep shift at another group-home.

Guess what else they find? They find that this “cowboy” culture isn’t very receptive to Black people. They often tell stories of the shit they deal with on a DAY to DAY basis, because some people are concerned about losing the “Calgary way of life” and visible minorities are the obvious culprits in that.

So, yeah, I guess we still have Ranchman’s, maybe Stampede is a lot of fun, and don’t the Flames kick ass?

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6 thoughts on “On: Calgary

  1. the calgary way of life. hmmm.
    i think this “too busy with one’s self” attitude is prevalent in all major cities now. the pursuit of the almighty dollar is far more involving than making sure everyone is getting their share.

    it makes me sad to say i’m a calgarian when people treat minorities, the homeless and the poor in this way. poverty in the midst of plenty.

    as much as we stress the canadian mult-cultural ethic just below the surface still lurks that ugly spectre of racism, ethnocentrism and domination through capitalism.

  2. In a city like Calgary you are a slave and money is the master. It’s not a livable city. You have to move there with wealth to become more wealthy. The days of moving to Alberta with nothing and building an empire are over.

  3. Sadly, I don’t think Canadian culture GENERALLY is receptive to Black period. Period. There was a great documentary on CBC Newsworld the other day on this exact topic, and the general consensus from Black Canadians is that as a nation, we are not welcoming to or accepting of them.

    The more I read about this (in the US literature, admittedly), and the more I hear and see and find out, I conclude Canada is no better than the US. We don’t have the slavery history, so what’s our excuse?

  4. Two things that I would like to add to this thread: Notion of success and altruism.

    As a person that grew up never really knowing what it was like to “go without”, and I suspect I am not the minority here, I have entitlement/notion of success issues. I think success is having a job I love, respect, a house, a car, and happiness all of the time. Immigrants that come to this country, whether they are visible minorities or not, usually come because their mother country is in the throws of civil war, famine, severe unemployment etc. This said, what is wrong with a notion of success that means you are able to house, clothe, feed your family, albeit barely, but none the less you are DOING IT. Just because we feel that the workday should only be 9-5, doesn’t make it so. When my grandfather came to this country, he had nothing. He worked as a janitor for all of his life, and they had trouble making ends meet. However, he had something, pride. Unfortunately, these days we tell immigrants that succes amounts to a Hummer vehicle, a trampoline, and a big house.

    Second point, altruism. If it us not the proverbial “us” that is not discriminating against the blacks/asians/poles/irish/indians, than WHO is? So, my dear reader, if you see that there is a problem, don’t just complain about it, do something. The Immigrant Aid society is always looking for volunteers, so is the United Way. That nasty word assimilation is always looming, so change it to make it integration. It is not easy living in Calgary, so why not try and make it bearable?

  5. I guess the point I am trying to make is:

    What is more detrimental? Our pity at ‘their situation’ or a rich man’s ambivalence?

  6. I guess the thing that I failed to mention (re: Kerri’s first point) is that these individuals NEVER complain about working (cleaning up the puke, piss and shit on a daily basis – never a complaint about that). What they do complain about is that it is hard to find places that will give them a chance, let them rent apartments and let them into places like Ranchman’s. Which, I think, is a different matter all together.

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