When the white man first seen us, when they first said, “Well, there’s something wrong with these people here. They don’t have no religion. They have no judicial system. We have to do something for these people.” I guess that must have been what they thought because they totally screwed up what we already had.

They introduced new religion and there was nothing wrong with our old religion. They just didn’t understand it. We had our own ways of teaching our children, like the Elders and everything. There was nothing wrong with that way of teaching children. They just didn’t understand it.

The same thing with our judicial system. We had that judicial system and the white people, when they came here, they didn’t see that. They said, “These guys have nothing. We have to introduce all these different things to them so they can be one of us.” That’s exactly the problem that we have.

Chief Philip Michel, Brochet.

I was appalled to learn that a man had been hired [as an interpreter] who does not speak any native Aboriginal language at all and it still exists. And again, I ask these questions; how has this man been able to interpret for an Aboriginal person who cannot speak or understand English? How many Aboriginal people have been denied the right to defend themselves because this man is not capable of understanding and interpreting their testimony? How many Aboriginal people have been convicted because this man was unable to translate a Crown attorney’s questions accurately so that they understand what they were being asked; therefore, unknowingly, and perhaps falsely, incriminating themselves? And how many Aboriginal people have pleaded guilty out the sheer futility of what seems to be a hopeless situation?

Aboriginal community member, Barbara Whitford, of Portage la Prairie, tells The Aboriginal Justice Implementation Commission that Aboriginal People “have a right to understand what is happening to them” in the justice system. Read the Commission’s website to learn more about the differences and functions of the Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal justice systems in Canada and North America.

As two men were arrested this week for allegedly conspiring to carry out a terrorist attack, the Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper was not interested in talking about the causes of terrorism. He said: “I think, though, this is not a time to commit sociology, if I can use an expression… The root causes of terrorism is terrorists." 

He inspired me to make this for Sociology at Work. Go forth and commit sociology, friends!

‘Mundane Knowledge: Toronto Street People’

Here’s a nice little post about rethinking homelessness in Toronto Canada by Daniel Little. Given my interest in the sociology of the mundane, the title obviously caught my eye. Little’s photograph above depicts a lone homeless person asleep on the street. This may be a sight so routine to some people living in large cities that they do not stop to think about how their experience shapes their understanding of homelessness. Little muses over how a social worker, a street activist, or a policeman might interpret the scene. It’s especially interesting to consider how social activists from different causes accommodate homeless people in Toronto. Little spoke to two young homeless men in their 20s (given the pseudonyms G1 and G2):

G1 said that he sleeps there too sometimes. I asked why not in the park. He says because Mayor Ford has ordered that people be ticketed for sleeping in the park. He himself has been banned from City Hall grounds because of panhandling. And if you go near the Marriott entrance just down the block, Marriott security make you move. I asked why they don’t choose more secluded spots. G2 says you need to sleep near a vent for the warmth. The good secluded spots are taken. Sometimes these two guys find a spot under a structure down the street.

I ask about Occupy Toronto. G1 is enthusiastic. He says he was welcomed into the biggest tent, the Communist tent, and slept there while Occupy was going on. It was a 12-person tent. But the guys say the demonstration that I heard yesterday wasn’t Occupy, it was a demo about Syria. G1 says, why demonstrate against Syria when people here are suffering?

I ask if it is safe sleeping on the street. G1 says he’d been robbed recently. The thief ripped his inside pocket out and took a bag with 35 cents, a tooth brush and toothpaste. G1 says indignantly, “You’re going to rob a man for his toothpaste?” They say people have been killed down the street a ways.

I ask about the city shelters. Neither of them wanted to go there: they refer to bedbugs, diseases, and seriously crazy people who might hurt you.

Read the rest via the link.

‘Mundane Knowledge: Toronto Street People’

Samoa Loses a Day: Sociology of Time

Samoa (Credit: sarah|rose, Flickr. CC)

The island nation of Samoa wants to improve its trade relations with Australia, New Zealand and China. As such, it is getting set to lose a day in order to align its time zone with its trade partners. Tomorrow, on what should have been Friday the 30th of December in Samoa, time on this island will jump ahead to Saturday the 31st of December.

I want to explore this shift in time in Samoa through the broader lens of the sociology of time. The theory of social construction states that the things that we take for granted as ordinary, mundane or commonsense are actually social ideas shaped by culture. The idea of temporal time is measured through our watches, calendars and other scientific instruments and technologies. As such, the passing of time is perceived as an unremarkable fact of life. The social meaning of time in different cultures varies. The idea of time as a fixed entity is actually a social illusion. I will show how history, social forces and life situations shape our ideas about time. I include a case study of ‘island time’ to show the variability of how time is understood and valued in island nations such as Samoa and Gabriola Island in British Columbia, Canada. I use the impending time change in Samoa to introduce the idea of ‘social time’, which is a useful way to understand how people in different cultures organise and think about time.

Continue reading Samoa Loses a Day: Sociology of Time