“…..Undesirables is not only a definitive historic glimpse of Canada’s racist past, but a more hopeful version of history. Each person encountered in Kazimi’s work is an agent of their community’s destiny – and an author of its freedom.”

David P. Ball, The Vancouver Observer, May 20, 2012

“It has been said that great books are ones you can enter anywhere and inhabit comfortably. But whichever page of Kazimi’s book you land on, you contend with a great discomfort. The discomfort of being unable to evade, obscure, or deny the existence of racism in Canada. I found myself staring at a photo of a disheveled Indigenous man surrounded by a group of white settler men. There are no details about this image from 1905 and we can only assume the kind of violence inflicted on this man’s body. Towards the end of the book, the juxtaposition of the state funeral of William Hopkinson with the hanging of his assassin Mewa Singh forces a contestation of who will be known as a martyr and who as a criminal. Or perhaps more importantly, how racialized this contestation is.In the rapidly shifting terrain of urban cosmopolitanism and multiculturalism in Canada today, Kazimi’s book is stunning in unraveling all the myths of ‘accidental’ racism through a rigorous examination of the historical record. It lays bare the simultaneous trajectories of colonization, empire, immigrant exclusion and labour exploitation that has informed the creation of Canada. Most exceptional about this book is its accessibility. For popular and institutional educators alike, Kazimi’s carefully crafted collection is a treasure.”

Harsha Walia is an author, co-founder of No One Is Illegal, and anti-racist popular educator trained in the law

“Ali Kazimi’s book is the kind of treasure I’m anxious to share with other educators whose work I admire. It moves significant events in Canadian history from being a mere line within forgettable timelines. Instead they become the centre of a story rich in complex experiences that cause readers to sit up. 

Those of us, who have spent precious hours listening to students across Canada or on the hunt for new ways to support their learning, will probably immediately appreciate this book’s visual strengths. Its ample white spaces frame powerful images and the print is easy on the eye. When I first picked up Undesirables I also liked its reassuring weight. Instinctively I felt that its size matched the serious content I encountered inside.

On hearing this story, successful high school or university students in advanced programs have said it belongs in the mainstream of their curriculum, rather than on the margins of popular history. In addition, they have often spoken of feeling cheated and misinformed by teachers who had withheld such critical evidence. Some claimed that it had prevented them from forming an accurate picture of race in the evolution of Human Rights in Canada.

 I am enthusiastic about Undesirables, the kind of book that grips student attention in class and encourages discussion within their families and communities. Hopefully, as it spreads knowledge of Canadian Indian history across all ethnic or racial groups we will continue to grow more skilled and comfortable having conversations around the meaning of Canadian identity.”

Dr. Clem Marshall, educator and president of MangaCom Inc.


Reviewed by Mohammed Ayub Khan, click here to view The Weekly Voice article online:

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