- Introduction:Home and Away
Like all issues of CTR, this one examines theatre and performance in Canada, but it does so in a sideways fashion, approaching these topics by asking Canadians who live abroad (and, in one case, a non-Canadian long involved with Canadian theatre and performance) to think and write about the current state of theatre and performance in the country. The issue also asks them to consider what it means to be Canadian artists who live outside of Canada, and how they have brought aspects of Canadian culture—in the broadest sense—to their artistic practices in their new homes.
It's not surprising that a theme that runs through the issue is the idea that when we leave home, we see it, and potentially ourselves, differently. As Sarah Ahmed suggests, "Migration could be described as a process of disorientation and reorientation: as bodies 'move away' as well as 'arrive,' as they reinhabit spaces" (9). Moving to a new context often prompts a self-consciousness about both your new and your old home, learning about your former home as you learn about your new one. But home also changes while you're away. And since my departure in 2014, when I left Toronto to take a post at University College Dublin, Ireland, one of the most significant changes that has occurred in the places where I spend most of my time, Canadian universities and theatres, is the now almost ubiquitous practice of Indigenous land acknowledgement and, to a lesser but still significant extent, Indigenous forms of introduction (stating who your ancestors are when formally introducing oneself). While I worry that these practices when performed by non-Indigenous people can sometimes be perfunctory, and that they don't express real commitments to Indigenous sovereignty or reconciliation, I'm hopeful that they are a step in the right direction as both consciousness-raising and decolonizing practices.
Living in Ireland has caused me to reflect on these ideas and practices as I find myself in a strange position: a white-settler Canadian returning to the postcolonial land of my ancestors. This is the case because I was born to Irish immigrants who moved to Toronto from Derry/Londonderry, Northern Ireland, in 1966. At the time, my parents were in their mid-30s and had five children (my elder sister and I, numbers six and seven respectively, were born in Canada). Like many Irish people, especially Irish Catholics, my parents had connections with family and friends in the United States, but they decided to come to Canada because its system of immigration at the time was race-based, giving preferential treatment to immigrants from the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. That is, the Canadian government loaned my parents the money needed to fly them and their children to Canada. Despite this preferential treatment, my parents didn't intend to make Canada their permanent home: they planned to stay for two years and return to Northern Ire-land. After the two years had passed, both their circumstances and those of their homeland had changed, and they decided to stay in Canada for the following reasons: (1) Although my mother hated living in Canada (she was lonely and isolated, far from the embrace of a large and loving extended family), my dad really, really loved it (the ways in which patriarchy functions in this narrative are another story). (2) My now-deceased brother Cathal was diagnosed with kidney disease shortly after his arrival in Toronto. His condition had gone undiagnosed in Northern Ireland, and my parents knew that the health care he would receive in Toronto would be superior to that on offer in Northern Ireland at the time. (3) What came to be known as the Troubles in Northern Ireland, thirty years of sectarian violence, began at about the time my parents were meant to return: fifty-one years ago this year, 5 October 1968, with the Duke Street Riots in Derry/Londonderry, when a Catholic civil rights march that was deemed illegal by Northern Ireland's Protestant Unionist government was met with quite brutal violence at the hands and batons of the Royal Ulster Constabulary...