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Field Reports of Toronto 2018: Group Saku Karzu

Students of the Respect program have many chances to go abroad for study trips. From April 25th to May 7th of 2018, students went to Toronto to study multiculturalism of Canada. In the field, students were assigned three research groups: KISS Group; Group Mosaic; Group Saku Karzu. The following is a report of Group Saku Karzu.

Searching for the Value of Nature at the Humber River

[Pic. 1]A sheet explaining Creation.

The RESPECT Summer School in Multicultural Studies at the University of Toronto had three clusters: the history and critiques of multiculturalism, home-making, and an ethnographic study of Kensington Market. Our group, Saku Karzu (which means ‘blooming cherry blossoms’) was given the task to focus on the first cluster. After an introduction to the history of multiculturalism in Canada, we investigated opinions that criticize the celebration of multiculturalism from the perspective of “anti-racism” and “decolonizing diversity”. In addition to taking lectures by Professor Bonnie McElhinny at the University of Toronto, we visited the Humber River, which is located in the South West of Toronto, and listened to Alan Colley, a middle-aged man with indigenous ancestry. Based on observations there, Saku Karzu made a presentation “On The Potential of Kyōsei: Searching for the value of nature at the Humber River.”

From what we had learned in the first cluster, we set our question as follows: how is nature recognized in multiculturalism?
In the field trip at the Humber River, we met Alan Colley. We took a subway train to get there and got off at Old Mill station. It was about 20 minutes away from downtown Toronto. Alan was born in Toronto; his ancestors hail from France, Scotland, Russia, Ireland and the indigenous peoples of Canada. He lives by a mixture of traditional knowledge and modern technology. Around the river, there are a lot of trees, grass, water, rocks, plants, and animals. Alan guided us along the Humber river intending to make us feel the power of nature there. First, we walked along the river up to a dam, which is small but prevents trout from swimming up the river anymore. After that, we went down and walked through some woods. The trees had no leaves because it was still the end of winter and not quite spring. For the same reason, the river was muddy. In fact, all of the scenery had turned to brown.

[Pic. 2]Alan, having caught a trout with his hand.

From Alan, we mainly learned two things. The first was Alan’s view of nature: everything in nature has a relation to each other and nature has the power to recover itself and keep itself clean. A cloth of four colors (picture #1) represents that. What he sees problematic is human beings disconnecting from nature. Human beings should be grateful to nature. The second thing we have learned was how Alan views the policy of multiculturalism in Canada. He does not regard it as a good policy. The policy of multiculturalism was constructed by settler colonizers, he told us, and is based on control, rather than sharing. According to Alan, “sharing culture is the ‘healthy way’,” while to control people is “not a healthy relation.”

Based on these findings at the Humber River and inspired by Alan we compared the relationship between the emphasis on nature and modern technology in Japan. Through this comparison, we found two types of dichotomy: one is culture versus nature, the other is the majority versus the minority. And these two are abstracted into one dichotomy: dominants and the other. Culture and the majority are dominants in that they have agency over the other and they are the majority in number.

To answer the question posed in the beginning, we concluded that nature is not considered sufficiently in multiculturalism, which has been promoted by the dominant (settler colonizers) to control the Other (i.e., the indigenous population who care more about nature). There exists an imbalance of power. The concept of Kyōsei can, we believe, contribute to improving this situation. It can complement the insufficiency noticeable within multiculturalism: consideration towards the value of others. For example, residential schools were abolished, where indigenous people can learn their original cultures. Specifically, according to Alan’s story, the policy of multiculturalism does not respect indigenous cultures, which put an emphasis on nature. In other words, multiculturalism does not embrace humans’ relationship with nature. On the other hand, the concept of Kyōsei may be more attentive to this kind of relationship. For example, in Japan, a lot of people including sociologists work on how to “live co-exist” with earthquakes and other natural disasters. They accept that they cannot prevent earthquakes and subsequent tsunami. Consequently, they aim to decrease the damage caused by such natural disasters. As yet, however, the concept of Kyōsei remains an ideal, an idea that we have not yet introduced into any social system. Here lies the potential of Kyōsei.

(September 20, 2018, Group Saku Karzu)

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