Jasmine Chorley Foster is currently working towards a BA in History and Celtic Studies at the University of Toronto with a focus on the History of the Scottish Diaspora in Canada. She is currently working as a research assistant to Professor David Wilson whose focus is on the Irish nationalism in Canada and the United States. She has written for multiple Toronto-based publications and in April finished an editorship at University of Toronto student newspaper, The Gargoyle. She is a trained theatre actor with experience in drama and musical theatre, and is also a singer with experience is various styles such as rock, jazz, and traditional celtic.
She was a model for five years and this February created a website called Models By Models. In the highly under-regulated industry, there is a lot of room for improvement. The object of the website is the give models a platform to voice their opinions and share their experiences through video interviews on subjects such as health, workers rights, and sexual exploitation.
When she isn’t working, she bakes, practices Okichitaw (Cree martial arts), and is learning to play the Irish tin whistle.
A linguistic anthropology book about the Celtic nations inspired her academic choices. Studying the History of Scotland, learning Gaelic, and exploring the world of traditional music has opened her eyes to the challenges facing Scottish culture in the 21st century. In studying the History of Canada as well she has found endless connections between the indigenous peoples of North America and the indigenous peoples of the Celtic world. The opportunities facing these two groups lay in stark contrast and she believes that it would be foolhardy for Scotland not to seize the chance for further autonomy that the 2014 Referendum offers.
“Living in Canada, I am well aware of how unusual Scotland’s opportunity is. There will probably never be a successful referendum in Canada for the independence of the Quebecois nation, let alone for the Mi’kmaq, Anishnaabe, or Haida nations. The opportunity for an indigenous nation to attain the levels of autonomy that Scotland may be afforded in the future is rare, and well overdue.
“Unfortunately, a question that is raised far too often is whether or not Scotland is “capable” of the new responsibilities of independence. Scotland is not a child asking mother Britain to move out. Framing the relationship in parent-child rhetoric highlights just how culturally unequal the Union is in the global consciousness. Furthermore, it is downright insulting. Even before a distinctly Scottish nation emerged, the North of the island produced incredible ancient and medieval societies. From the reformation though to the present day, some of the most influential ideas, works of art, and scientific discoveries in the Northern hemisphere have emerged from Scottish minds. Burns, Smith, and Hume are regularly and rightly celebrated, but the list also includes Gaelic poet Somhairle MacGill-Eain, discoverer of anaesthesia Sir James Young Simpson, and inventor of the telephone Alexander Graham Bell. The Union in 1707 afforded Scotland global influence through the British Empire, which it’s people took advantage of in ways that were sometimes abominable (the slave trade), and sometimes beautiful (the country’s educational legacy).
“Aside from vast intellectual contributions, everyday Scottish culture is something to be proud of. A dear friend of mine (coincidentally of Scottish descent) once told me, “The greatest expression of humanity is art, aside from love of course.” The Gaelic language and its literature, the wonderful musicians coming out of Scotland today, the beautiful handmade items on sale in Scottish shops are demonstrative of the creativity and love that one can feel in the air. On a recent trip home from Scotland I had a layover in the United States and I felt an immense culture shock. Don’t be fooled, your country’s hospitality and genuine generosity of spirit is very special.
“While in Edinburgh, I met a very hospitable bar-owner. In my conversations with him he told me that when it comes to the Referendum, he has seen little more than apathy. Our discussions remind me of a passage in Tom Devine’s discussion of highland loyalties during the 1745 Rebellion in ‘To The Ends of The Earth,’ “Highland society was divided during the ’45. Some clans fought for Bonnie Prince Charlie, others for the Hanoverians, and most were neutral.” It seems that Scots who are not politically inclined believe that ‘Yes’ or ‘No,’ their lives will go on relatively unaffected.
“But it is a rarity that a country can gain independence through a vote and not a post-war peace treaty or years of civil war. How many lives would have been spared in Ireland (and Great Britain and North America for that matter) if their independence had been decided at the ballot box? In that light, there is no reason for Scottish apathy in 2014. In 1745 a ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ meant the likelihood of a violent death. Walking ten minutes and answering a multiple choice question pales in comparison.
“National Collective is a fabulous tool for discouraging apathy and encouraging creative engagement and education. I have already made it plain that Scotland has a long and marvellous tradition of producing great creative works, and a ‘Yes’ vote in 2014 will encourage that tradition, particularly in the promotion of the Gaelic arts.
“As I spoke to that lovely bar-owner last week, I asked him how he and other apathetic Scots would ultimately vote. Would a fear of the unknown choose ‘No?’ Would national pride choose ‘Yes?’ He told me that it was a difficult question. While he didn’t want to speak for every disinterested person, he told me that when the day finally came, he would be casting a ‘Yes’ vote. I made him swear to it.
“I recently read a book by John Kenneth Galbraith called ‘The Scotch’ about the Scottish-Canadian town he grew up in, which is not far from where I live. In a chapter about technological progress and introducing changes into the community, he wrote,
[…] Practicing cultivators always suspect advice from those who do not farm themselves. […] It is because the farmers rightly sense that there is danger in the counsel of any man who does not himself have to live by the results.
“Like many Canadians, my place of birth is owed to unfavourable circumstances: my Scottish ancestors immigrated during the Clearances, my Irish ancestors fled the Famine, and my English grandfather left Liverpool during the Depression. My counsel is not dangerous. I intend to move to Scotland for my post-graduate studies and settle there permanently.
“Here’s to hoping that I will not be applying for a British citizenship, but Scottish one, in the years to come.”
Models By Models: Why I Stopped Modelling
Models By Models: Industry Reform
Models By Models: Emotionally Unfit Models
Special thanks to Cory Vanderploeg who captured the photographs of Jasmin for National Collective.