The Toronto Reference Library: Heaven on Earth

Okay, I was able to go to the Toronto Reference Library a little while ago, and I was amazed.

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You can tell by my face.

But in all seriousness, the place is like heaven on earth. There are five massive floors, all of which are at least twice the size of my hometown library, the Hastings public library.

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So ten libraries for the price of one. Not bad.

But reference libraries are supposed to be huge. There also mainly academia focused, as 4 out of five floors were filled with books you could not take out. But honestly, I was surprised that there was even a floor for the masses and that it was well supported. I’ll give an example. It’s not too uncommon to have a library that has a tv room or something similar. But I’ve never seen it done like this.

So, what’s happening is that each of those weird circular things hanging from the ceiling is audio players. Meaning, that if you stand under one of them, you hear one channel, and if you stand under another, you hear another channel. I was mainly surprised at how effective it was, and I’m guessing that the maker space had something to do with it.

That’s right. The library is home to a maker space, and it’s badass. Lots of well-supported computers (A huge relief from the average library, which is a couple hilariously slow Linux computers, and if you’re lucky, maybe a computer running vista) and a supplies cabinet that takes up the entire 10-foot high wall. I sadly didn’t take a picture, despite it being the easy highlight of my trip there. So you’ll just have to trust me when I say it’s incredible.

I suppose this all leads me back to a weird detail that I saved for last. My favourite author, Cory Doctorow, is actually the reason I decided to come to the TRL. If you don’t know about Cory, He’s an fiction author and has written books such as Little Brother, FTW, and Pirate Cinema and the co-creator of Boing Boing, which is my launch page and will always be my launch page. He’s also the first person I ever followed on twitter.

What I didn’t know is that around my age, like me, he got bored of school. But instead of doing what most people do (stick with it and remain bored) he stopped going to school and started taking the subway to the TRL. When I heard that tidbit, I just had to see what it was like. And I, as you can tell was not disappointed.

So if you are ever in Toronto, or if you live in Toronto, I suggest you pay the TRL a visit. It’s worth it.

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“Stephen, You’re Wrong”

Hey Everyone, Harry here. This is a part two of sorts of my blog post on The Inconvenient Indian. This one is more focused on colonialism. 

Canada has a long history of colonialism. That’s the blunt truth. But nor according to former prime minister Stephen Harper.

 

 

Simply put, Stephen, you’re wrong.

I suppose before I get too far into it, I should give the definition of colonialism, as there always seems to be a sense of confusion. A quick google search brings back

co·lo·ni·al·ism

kəˈlōnēəˌlizəm

noun

the policy or practice of acquiring full or partial political control over another country, occupying it with settlers and exploiting it economically.

And colonisation comes from “to colonise”. With that piece of information, let’s get into this.

I really didn’t want to talk about Columbus. His one claim to fame that everyone knows (even though it wasn’t taught in my school at least) is that he “discovered North America.” It’s questionable if you can even “discover” a continent that has millions of people already living on it, and if you still want to play for “discovery,” a Viking fellow by the name of Leif Erikson came over sometime in the eleventh century. There’s even evidence China visited even farther back. However, Columbus is the face of colonisation, and I suppose the beginning of this mess.

After Columbus came back and Europeans came over, America was formed, and Canada a bit later. The only problem was the aforementioned millions of people already living here, who already had their own relationship with the land which seemed to work pretty well. But, between the diseases that settlers brought over that Indigenous peoples  had no immunity to, and the many wars, treaties which reduced the amount of land that Indigenous peoples held, and wars again, the population dwindled enough that you could almost ignore them. Also, sometimes settlers would  just claim land, with no struggle, war, or even communication. British Columbia, where I have lived for almost all of my life, is unceded land. No agreement was ever made with the people who lived here  to give the Canadian government the land. They just… took it.

And that’s how native land went from being all of Canada and America to becoming reserves. And because reserves aren’t big enough to maintain a population of this size, coupled with the government’s crazy bureaucracy and neglect, poverty is often the result.

So, when someone like Stephen Harper says that colonisation does not exist in Canada, they are lying. Reserves are evidence that colonialism exists. Residential schools are evidence that colonialism exists. Hell, the existence of Canada is evidence that colonialism exists.

And I understand why you may want to try and hide from the past. Colonialism is not pretty, but it’s part of being Canadian. I’m a Canadian citizen, which means I live in a land that was taken by force from the people who were here first. And as long as I continue living here, I need to acknowledge that fact within me.

I’m going to end this off with a question: What can Canada do better? This is a difficult question because I don’t think there’s a perfect answer that would fix this mess. But we can always improve. For me, this means education. I only really found and understood this important part of Canada because I did learning outside of school. And while we always did have some kind of First Nation education, it never dealt with a topic like this. Sure, colonialism was alluded to, was fumbled around, but never taught. And that is tragic in my eyes.

I’ll keep reading The Inconvenient Indian. Expect a couple more blog posts like this.