Thanks for posting the information about MCS. The organisation seems to be a very useful one for the Toronto community. As I know nothing about MCS, please accept my questions rhetorically.
I’d like to focus on this sentence from the About page:
“MCS was established in July 1993 as a family reunification project, and incorporated in August 1995 as a non profit organization committed to identifying and responding to the needs of the community.”
This sentence contains many statements where values can be located, and because of this, it offers a good chance to investigate the meaning behind the language. For this activity, I’m using some of the techniques of critical discourse analysis described in Wodak (2006) and Fairclough (1989).
Fairclough asks us to consider the role that common sense plays in the continuation of conventional narrative (p. 77 and onwards). Common sense can be instrumental in “background[ing assumptions and explanations that are], taken for granted, not things people are consciously aware of, rarely explicitly formulated or examined or questioned” (p. 77 my italics). Let me examine and question the sentence in light of hidden values. The term ‘family’ is culturally loaded with multiple possible definitional boundaries. Whose meaning of ‘family’ is the one that MCS supports? What kind of latitude does MCS allow for different types of family? For example, does MCS reunify LGBTQIA families? Would MCS support gay adoption? Please allow me to ask a politically pointed question in the spirit of inquiry only. Given that some African countries currently have severe laws against homosexuality, how much of that background influences Midaynta’s sense of family values, even in Toronto?
Moving on to the phrase ‘identifying and responding to the needs of the community’, what strikes me most is the lack of agent. The grammatical subject is ‘MCS’, but this is an organisation, which is not capable of identifying and responding nor of understanding needs. Does the Board speak in one voice? Are there competing value frameworks within the human agents that comprise the staff and board of MCS? Thompson (1999) asks who has the authority in an organisation to make ethical and moral judgements. A study of the competing interests within a single ‘body’ can reveal the complexities involved in arriving at what may appear common sense solutions to common problems faced by a target community. But as Thompson elucidates, the various stakeholder interests complicate any analysis.
What is common sense to ‘all’ may turn out to be shared values that occlude the rights and needs of others. Furthermore, some potential target populations may be being ignored because of those common values. I had a look at the MCS 2011 Annual Report and was surprised at a short section on the Problem Gambling Project. The funds available to MCS seem to be substantial and some of them are being used towards this project. It may be common sense to someone within the community, but to me, a rank outsider, I wonder if other projects were suppressed to fund the gambling one, for example, drink problems, or drug abuse problems.
Fairclough, N. (1989). Language and power. Harlow: Longman.
Thompson, D. T. (1999). The institutional turn in professional ethics. Ethics and Behavior, 9(2), 109-118.
Wodak, R. (2006). Critical discourse analysis. In C. Seale, G. Gobo, J. F. Gubrium, & D. Silverman (Eds.), Qualitative Research Practice (pp. 185–201). London: Sage.