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  • Kim Senklip Harvey

Acts of Violence


I work in both Indigenous and Canadian theatre - the latter deliberately less and less - and both have their challenges.

For Indigenous theatre one of the biggest challenges I face is systemic patriarchy, I believe it is rooted in colonialism and us working with western models and methodologies. I also think that we're challenged by understanding who and how we tell stories. A lot of us have been systematically displaced from our territories and with that some lost their entire connection to land- it's complicated.

For Canadian theatre, the biggest challenge I engage with is the level of violence I experience. Straight up harm, conscious and subconscious acts of violence against who I am. I pay money to sit in a theatre to have violence oppressed upon me, I enter institutions that have no clue how to receive me and my body in their space and I endure harmful practices.

"Violence is defined by the World Health Organization as "the intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against oneself, another person, or against a group or community, which either results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, psychological harm, maldevelopment, or deprivation," although the group acknowledges that the inclusion of "the use of power" in its definition expands on the conventional understanding of the word. This definition involves intentionality with the committing of the act itself, irrespective of the outcome it produces. However, generally, anything that is excited in an injurious or damaging way may be described as violent even if not meant to be violence (by a person and against a person)."

Violence comes in many forms physical, emotional, cultural, systemic, historical and spiritual and I'm sure so many more forms for many other people. In Canadian theatre I experience the emotional, cultural and spiritual violence the most.

Is it a lack of consciousness? Is it privilege? Ignorance? Honestly, please contact me and ask the question why are we engaging with violent acts in Canadian Theatre with me.

From racist season announcements; to oppressive procedures like casting, rehearsals and opening nights; to sitting in a theatre and enduring harm against me and my people. Where's the conscious mind in understanding that our decision making has violent impacts beyond the proscenium. Where is the rigour?

And this truly angers me - if you are a publicly funded organization - you have an ethical obligation to ensure that your work is not harming the public. - we are using their money. It is beyond irresponsible, egotistical and flat out unacceptable to be harming them with no accountability and systems in place to ensure we're holding our community members safely. It makes me sick honestly, because I imagine the young people we are hurting and we are hurting them - we are all complicit in it.

If you hold power in Canadian theatre - take an inventory regarding your procedures and practices by using an impact model with the public to assess where your decision making is harming the public with violent acts. Demand your board fund you for this endeavour, demand this of yourself, find it in the budget, create the space for it (friendly offer - it is not going to come in the form of emails and surveys) it's engaging with people with inclusive practices to tell you the truth.

There is no more excusing ourselves - there are very smart people out there who could take one look at your decision making and quite quickly illuminate the violence and harmful practices.

To continue to be ignorant and unconscious of impact is deplorable artistic leadership. It's ignorant, oppressive, violent and shameful injustice.

The time is not now - it was before you probably took power but here is the thing, "justice too long delayed is justice denied." MLK


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