The Sunday Magazine

The Sunday Magazine for June 27, 2021

Guest host David Common speaks with psychiatrist Dr. Nel Wieman about how to grieve the lives lost at residential schools, Hassan Yussuf and Deena Ladd on why essential workers need better protections and astrophysicist Hakeem Oluseyi on his journey from drug addiction to academia. We also revisit our conversation with writer Bonnie Tsui about why humans are drawn to swimming.

This week on The Sunday Magazine with guest host David Common:

The mounting mental health toll of colonial reckoning 

A burial ground with 751 unmarked graves was uncovered this week near the former Marieval Indian Residential School in Saskatchewan. Many details are still unknown, but it's believed both children and adults were buried there. What is clear is that a collective grief is mounting — with this news coming just weeks after the remains of 215 children were found on the grounds near a residential school in Kamloops, B.C. These events will take a toll on the mental health of Indigenous people and communities already grappling with intergenerational trauma and the pandemic. Dr. Nel Wieman is psychiatrist and the acting Deputy Chief Medical Officer at the First Nations Health Authority in B.C. She's also President of the Indigenous Physicians Association of Canada. She speaks to David about the toll on survivors of the schools and Indigenous communities, and what support is needed to help people deal with looming mental health crises — as well as how people can manage their grief in this moment. 

Why Canada's precariously employed essential workers need a new deal

The pandemic has forced an awareness of just how much work is essential to our way of life — from grocery store workers to people working in warehouses. It's also become clear that a great deal of this work is poorly paid and comes without basic protections such as job security, guaranteed hours and paid sick days, and that it's largely done by women and racialized people. Hassan Yussuff, the just-retired President of the Canadian Labour Congress who was appointed to the Senate on Tuesday, and Deena Ladd, the executive director of the Workers Action Centre, argue that we owe these workers an enormous debt for the work they've done, the risks they've taken and the sickness and stress they've endured. They say it's up to Canadian governments, business and the public to ensure essential workers see better wages and job protections as we come out of the pandemic.

How physicist Hakeem Oluseyi went from the streets to the stars

By his own account, Hakeem Oluseyi should never have finished high school. As a kid, he bounced between some of the toughest urban neighbours in the U.S., and his family's bootlegging and marijuana operation in rural Mississippi. In college, he faced homelessness and an addiction to crack cocaine. But through a combination of what he calls hustle, hope, and help, Hakeem Oluseyi did finish high school — the first in his family to do so — and went on to become one of just a handful of Black Americans to reach the upper ranks of research physics. The renowned astrophysicist and cosmologist tells David his remarkable story, on the release of his remarkable memoir, A Quantum Life: My Unlikely Journey From the Street to the Stars

Surfacing the meaning of swimming

We revisit Piya Chattopadhyay's conversation with author Bonnie Tsui about why humans are drawn to swimming, especially during the pandemic. Her memoir-cum-social history Why We Swim explores the many ways we interact with water across history and cultures. With summer now in full swing, Tsui's love letter to swimming reminds us of the transformative power of plunging into water.