Subscribe Us

EMPTY DIVERSITY: There’s A Lot Of Hot Air From Canadian Culture Elites On Diversity But When It Comes To Showcasing Our Stories They Shut The Door

RACISM IN CANADIAN CULTURAL SCENE: We made an award-winning documentary Gone Are The Days on the absolute worst kind of systemic racism in BC-Canada against a group of South Asian veterinarians. The film received no government funding and was also turned down by broadcasters for funding due to the nature of the subject matter. The film showcases what harsh racism really looks like in Canada. We spent our own money to bring the decade long racism battle story to film. While our limited funds did not allow us to polish the film like the FAT-CAT funding-agency and broadcaster approved Canadian filmmakers receive to polish theirs. Still for a landmark racism case that went over 300 days at the BC Tribunal hearings, which ultimately found the Veterinarian College guilty of the worst kind of institutional racism and abuse of power, we couldn't believe that no broadcaster wanted to tell this story. We ultimately finished the film and even got a cut rate from an Emmy-winning editor to do whatever she could to polish and received much great feedback on the film. But no major Canadian film festival including Vancouver and Toronto would play it even though it won awards in India and US festivals. Racism exists at all levels! Justin Trudeau needs to do better everywhere and force these Govt funded festivals to showcase all Canadian stories and not just white ones!!!

By R. Paul Dhilllon

Recently, a well-known Indo-Canadian arts organizer Mo Dhaliwal was invited to speak about racism on a Global BC Television show and he was absolutely outraged that despite the seriousness of the racism issue, one of the staff at Global BC actually made a blackface joke prior to the show going on air which Dhaliwal heard on his headset.

When Dhaliwal pointed out the double standard – a television show discussing Justin Trudeau’s blackface was actually making blackface jokes - the station bigwigs decided that the show would never be broadcast, forcing Dhaliwal to pen a heartfelt, frank and seething editorial in the Straight newspaper on what racism looks like in Canada despite the lip service on diversity and racism from government, media, corporate and cultural elites.

But this kind of overt racism is very common in Canadian corporate and cultural organizations where it is much more tolerated than public-government organizations. It also exists in arts organizations like Film Festivals, where they shout a lot about empty promises on diversity but actually do very little in terms of showcasing diverse stories all the while getting big taxpayer dollars in grants and funding.
Take the case of our recent film GONE ARE THE DAYS, which tells a harrowing stories of systemic racism in the BC Veterinary organization (now called College of Veterinarian of BC [CVBC], which dished out the worst kind of racism against a group of Indo-Canadian veterinarians, all because they provided quality animal care at reasonable prices and because they happened to be not white.
Our film was entered by the producers to the Toronto and Vancouver International film festivals, both of which claim to want to showcase diverse stories. And you would think a Canadian story of such extreme abuse of power and racism would be right down their alley.

Already a landmark legal case with the most days of hearings in any human rights tribunal-court in world history, our feature documentary Gone Are The Days tells a heart-wrenching story of how these ethnic Indo-Canadian veterinarians were abused, suffered depression, an absolute abuse of power and were forced to use their own money to fight for their human rights and for their rights to practice veterinary medicine in BC.

But both Toronto and Vancouver film festival seemed to have not cared one bit, just another film from an ethnic filmmaker – oh we have to worry about our big WHITE filmmakers and their films and if we don’t play them – well they won’t get more government funding and this incestuous relationship between Canadian film festivals and the largely white Canadian filmmakers continues with both enjoying their gravy-train of making more films, may of which no one sees or hears about beyond festival play. Why can’t we see more ethnic stories – at least they have dedicated Canadian audience in their own communities and beyond.

Canadian culture and film funding is the same way: Currently, 95 percent of the film and TV funding (I’ve been told it’s even higher than this) goes to white producers-filmmakers and the remaining scrap is left for all ethnic producers-filmmakers. Last year, I presented the current Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez with a proposal called DIVERSITY FEATURE FILM FUND, a film and television fund set up in the same vein as the government has done for French and Indigenous communities, and Rodriguez was quite open to it and said it should be set up as the time had come. But I guess the bureaucrats have not been on the same page as the minister.

But the government can’t keep putting off such proposals while spewing hot air on diversity. It’s time for real action on the Ethnic Film Fund issue and post-election whoever wins should move ahead with it immediately.

Coming back to our film Gone Are The Days, it seems either politics, or not wanting to raise a stink which may affect their government funding (probably both), as our film exposed the extreme form of racism in a Canadian professional organization with government funding and backing, both Toronto and Vancouver film festivals passed on the film, exposing their own racism. Festivals have a right to choose what they want to show but they also have to answer when they censor and stop stories that really expose the ugly reality of racism and empty talk on diversity in Canada.

It’s truly ironic that a film on extreme form of Canadian racism practised by a supposedly neutral body that governs all BC veterinarians with backing from a provincial Canadian government, was refused to be shown by two of the biggest Canadian film festivals who keep claiming empty diversity and keep accepting millions of dollars from “black-face” wearing Justin Trudeau government. The Vancouver film Festival got $2 million plus in government money recently just before their current festival run which is currently underway.

This is the real Canada where blackface wearing prime minister is hand in glove with the cultural and business elites to do nothing for diversity but give empty talk about inclusion. This is not diversity!

We wanted to bring the issue of our film not being given a platform by Toronto and Vancouver film festivals at another time but what happened to Mo Dhaliwal made this an urgent story to tell.

Racism keeps happening and government and these cultural, business and mainstream media elites keep looking the other way, all feeding from the same trough of racism. It’s time for Canada to get real on racism and stop patronizing us with your bullshit on diversity!    
R. Paul Dhillon is an award winning journalist and the editor of the South Asian LINK newspaper and founder-editor of the online DESIBUZZCanada and DESIBUZZbc publications. He is also a filmmaker with over 40 production credits on documentaries and feature films. His recent feature THE FUSION GENERATION was released in Canadian theatres in August 2019.                              

Post a Comment