by Amanda Connolly in Ottawa

The level of trust Canadians have in the federal government is at its highest point since EKOS Research began measuring the key indicator 17 years ago, a new survey shows.

According to the poll, which surveyed 1,176 Canadian adults over the age of 18 on April 14th and 15th, 44 per cent said they “almost always” or “most of the time” trust the new Trudeau government in Ottawa to do what is right, compared to roughly 30 per cent who said the same before the October election, when Stephen Harper’s Conservatives were in power, and a low of 22 per cent in fall 2014.

That 44 per cent is the highest number tracked since EKOS began asking “the trust question” in 1990 and is the highest level measured previous to that by Gallup since the mid-1970s.

The poll was conducted more than three weeks after the Liberal government’s first budget, which was tabled on March 22 and reflected Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s major, controversial, election promise of deficit spending to stimulate economic growth.

The current numbers also reflect that 53 per cent of respondents say they trust the government only some of the time or almost never, down from a six-year high of 76 per cent in August 2014 and just over 60 per cent in October 2015.

The poll has a margin of error of +/- 2.9 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

“It’s really quite surprising to see the amount of bouyancy in that number with the current government,” said EKOS pollster Frank Graves. “I would have guessed it would go up but I would not have guessed it would go up that much or that it would have persisted for several months.”

According to EKOS Research numbers, the number of Canadians who said they trust the government to do what is right dropped consistently during the 1970s and 1980s, reaching a low of roughly 20 per cent in 1990.

That time period encompassed the terms of former prime ministers Pierre Trudeau, Joe Clark, John Turner and Brian Mulroney, with trust levels beginning a slow climb again during the end years of Mulroney and the governments of Kim Campbell and Jean Chretien.

However, starting in 2000 that number became sharply more volatile than in years of the past, rising and dropping during the tumultuous end of Jean Chretien’s tenure and the entirety of Paul Martin’s government, before rising sharply and falling equally sharply between the time Stephen Harper came into and left office.

At the same time, the number of Canadians who say they believe the country is heading in the right direction may be levelling out to post-election norms.

Between April 2015 and October 2015, the number of respondents who said the country was heading in the right direction ranged from between 39 and 50 per cent, while those who said the country was heading in the wrong direction were between 49 and 62 per cent.

In January 2016, just three months after the election, those both reached their respective peaks: roughly 69 per cent said the country is heading in the right direction while roughly 32 per cent said the opposite.

Those post-election reactions appear to be moderating, with 55.2 per cent of respondents saying the country is heading in the right direction compared to 37.5 per cent who say the opposite.

The number of respondents who said the Government of Canada is heading in the right direction — and those who say the opposite — down slightly from where they were in January, with 60 per cent saying the government is heading in the right direction and 33 per cent saying it is heading in the wrong direction.

Given the recent post-oil crash economic turmoil in the country, that’s unusual, says Graves.

“That’s paradoxical because often a very poor economy has a corrosive impact on the public’s sense of whether the government’s moving in the right direction,” he said. “In this case, we don’t see that. We see the opposite. But that patience will not be infinite.” 

Republished in partnership with iPolitics.ca

by BJ Siekierski in Ottawa

Patrick Brown has already taken the Ontario Progressive Conservative party in a new direction since becoming its leader — now he’s encouraging his former federal colleagues to do the same as they try to reinvent themselves in the post-Harper era.

On Saturday afternoon, over 300 people filled a warehouse in Barrie, Ontario to hear from Brown and six current Conservative MPs, all of whom are at least exploring the possibility of running for the Conservative party leadership.

The event was called “Conservative Futures” and the majority of them were confident about the party’s prospects in 2019, convinced the Liberal government will defeat itself through a combination of bigger-than-promised deficits, unmet promises, and arrogance.

Fewer, however, were willing to really look critically at the past — and specifically the last election.

Patrick Brown was an exception.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]"[I]f we do not defend minority communities of every religion, of every race, then every other cultural group will say: are we next?”[/quote]

“(It’s) important to have this pause and understand where mistakes have been made so we can go into the future with a sense of conviction that we’re on the right path. My sense, showing up to probably about 1,000 cultural events in the last year in the GTA, is that if we do not defend minority communities of every religion, of every race, then every other cultural group will say: are we next?” he told the crowd.

“I think we lost our way when we did not say that unequivocally. I think there were mistakes made, and I think we have to learn from that.”

Reconnecting with ethnocultural communities

As both his and Jason Kenney’s persistent outreach to different ethnic communities have proved, Brown added, many ethnic minorities share Conservative values. But the party went “too far” with its niqab rhetoric during the federal election campaign.

They alienated voters they’d spent years bringing into the Conservative tent.

It was a blunt assessment that only Conservative MP Michael Chong would come close to matching on Saturday.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“I think it’s clear in the last election we lost the ethnocultural communities in this country, and we need to regain their trust.”[/quote]

“I think it’s clear in the last election we lost the ethnocultural communities in this country, and we need to regain their trust,” Chong said.

He then recounted the struggles his father faced as a Chinese immigrant to the country in the 1950s, only four years after the repeal of the Chinese exclusion act. And the struggles he faced as a “mixed-race kid” growing up in rural Ontario in the 1970s.

“I tell you these stories because we need to reconnect with ethnocultural communities. We need to tell them that we understand the challenges of coming to a new country, often with a foreign language. We need to tell them that we understand the barriers that they face; that we understand their fears, hopes, and aspirations; that we understand the plight of Syrian refugees coming to this country, scared, facing an environment unknown,” he said.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]"We need to tell them that we understand the challenges of coming to a new country, often with a foreign language."[/quote]

Closer to turning the page

Though Chong acknowledged the mistakes, he didn’t mention the niqab specifically. Nor did he mention the barbaric cultural practices tip line Conservative candidates Kellie Leitch and Chris Alexander introduced in the final weeks of the last campaign, and which was met with widespread scorn and derision.

Leitch, who spoke of the need for tolerance on Saturday, didn’t touch on it either.

“We know as Conservatives that we have to make sure that every Canadian is treated fairly and equally,” she said.

“We are the party where families of all religious backgrounds, of all ethnic backgrounds, have a home. As Patrick was mentioning, Jason Kenney has done outstanding work in reaching out to so many different groups across this country. He did a remarkable job. And he had many of us join him in doing that.”

A few weeks ago at the Manning Centre Conference in Ottawa, it was clear Conservatives were still bothered by the divisive identity politics that featured so prominently in the last campaign.

On Saturday in Barrie, five months to the day Canadians replaced a Conservative majority with a Liberal one, they came a bit closer to turning the page.

But they didn’t get all the way there.

“The reality is, in four years there will be people looking for change,” Brown said. “And if the Conservative Party has the courage to talk in a positive fashion…I believe there’s going to be a lot more Conservative MPs, and one of the people running for this Conservative leadership will be the prime minister of Canada.”

Republished in partnership with iPolitics.ca

by Ted Alcuitas in Vancouver

The man who put Filipinos on the political map of this country has died in Winnipeg, his home for more than five decades.

Conrad Santos, the first Filipino-Canadian to be elected to a provincial legislative assembly died at Winnipeg’s Victoria General Hospital on Feb. 29. He was 81. The cause of death was not known.

In a statement, Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger offered his condolences to Santos’ family on behalf of Manitobans.

“It was with deep sadness that we learned of the passing of Dr. Santos,” Selinger said.

“Dr. Santos served his adopted province and his constituency with dedication and self-sacrifice. Our thoughts are with his family at this difficult time.”

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“Dr. Santos served his adopted province and his constituency with dedication and self-sacrifice."[/quote]

A distinguished career

Conrad Santos was first elected to the Manitoba Legislative Assembly under the New Democratic Party (NDP) in 1981, serving for five terms (1981-1988 and 1990-2007) before stepping down in 2007.

Born in the Philippines and a native Bulakeno, he was educated at Harvard University and the University of Michigan, where he earned a PhD in Political Science.

He moved to Winnipeg in 1965 after obtaining a teaching position at the University of Manitoba. He remained a tenured professor at the U of M until his election to the legislature. Santos also worked as a consultant for the Instituto Centro-Americano de Administracion Publica in Costa Rica, and was a board member of the Citizenship Council of Manitoba from 1977 to 1980.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]The soft-spoken and eccentric Santos led a colourful and sometimes controversial political life.[/quote]

Santos was active in the Winnipeg Filipino community for many years serving as an adviser to many organizations notably the Philippine Association of Manitoba (PAM). He was a member of the Knights of Rizal, the organization that first broke the story of his death.

Controversy in his political life

The soft-spoken and eccentric Santos led a colourful and sometimes controversial political life. Long before riding a bike became popular, he was already riding one to the legislature from his home in Fort Garry with his iconic Che Guevarra hat and a sling leather bag at his side.

Santos was first elected to the Manitoba legislature in the 1981 provincial election as a New Democrat in the northwest Winnipeg riding of Burrows, defeating NDP-turned-Progressive Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) Ben Hanuschak. He was re-elected in the 1986 election.

In June 1984, there were unconfirmed rumours that he was considering a move to the Progressive Conservative Party.

In 1987, he was accused of trying to use his political position to prevent Winnipeg School Division No. 1 from expropriating a house he owned. 

Santos lost the Burrows NDP nomination to Doug Martindale in 1988, and subsequently entered the party’s leadership election. He was not regarded as a serious candidate, and received only five votes on the first ballot. Santos ran for mayor of Winnipeg in 1989, but was again not considered a serious candidate and finished a distant fourth.

In 1990, Santos won the NDP nomination for Broadway, another northwest riding, by a single vote over favoured candidate Marianne Cerilli. He subsequently defeated Liberal incumbent Avis Gray in the 1990 general election, and was re-elected in the 1995 election.

In 1995, he endorsed Lorne Nystrom’s bid to lead the federal NDP. 

When the Broadway riding was eliminated by redistribution in 1999, Santos won the NDP nomination in Wellington (also in Winnipeg’s northwest), and was returned by a wide margin in the 1999 provincial election.

He was again re-elected in the 2003 election. 

Santos was named Deputy Speaker after the elections of 1986 and 1999, but has never been appointed to a cabinet position.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]There is no doubt that Conrad Santos paved the way for the current crop of Filipino politicians in Manitoba.[/quote]

Santos left the New Democratic Party caucus shortly before the 2007 provincial election after being accused of improperly selling party membership cards (he denied the charge). He campaigned as an independent, and finished last in a field of five candidates. His successor, Flor Marcelino, was a last minute replacement candidate for the NDP.

The Winnipeg Sun reported in 2013 that on Mar. 16, 2005 “Santos was scolded for bringing a paring knife into chamber. …The speaker confiscated the three-inch blade from Santos, who apologized for bringing it into the house.”

Paving the way for Filipino politicians

There is no doubt that Conrad Santos paved the way for the current crop of Filipino politicians in Manitoba including Dr. Rey Pagtakhan who followed him as the first Filipino to be elected member of Parliament in 1988.

Pagtakhan’s nephew Mike, is a long-serving member of the Winnipeg city council and there are currently two sitting members of the Manitoba legislature – Flor Marcelino and Ted Marcelino, both of the NDP.

Other Filipino politicians served in various positions in school boards putting Manitoba firmly in the leading position in the country as having the most number of Filipino politicians in office.

Santos is survived by one daughter, two sons and two daughters-in-law, Evelyn Santos, Conrad and Leslie Santos, Rob and Kim Santos, and their families; four grandchildren, Kristen and Matt, Ginny and Josie.

Affectionately known as ka Rading to his family, he is also survived by his three siblings and three sisters-in-law, Leticia Santos, Rebecca Santos, Ruel and Dina Santos, Narcisa Santos, Luz Santos, and all their families (including his nephew, Paul Santos).

Santos was predeceased by his parents, Federico and Marcelina Santos of Malolos, Bulacan, Philippines; his sister Melita Santos Beltran, his brothers Virgilio Santos and Benjamin Santos, and his wife Emerita Santos, and is survived by their families.

This article first appeared on PhilippineCanadianNews.com. Republished with permission.

by Amanda Connolly in Ottawa

On International Women’s Day, equal rights experts say that cabinet gender equality, a prime minister who calls himself a feminist and social media campaigns such as #HeForShe help in the fight for women’s rights in Canada and internationally, but that there is still a long way to go toward policy parity that translates into real progress.

In interviews with iPolitics, the heads of the United Nations Population Fund and Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights say that while there’s greater awareness around issues of gender inequality than in the past, that still needs to translate into concrete action to improve the lives of women in Canada and abroad on issues like access to education, career opportunities and sexual and reproductive rights.

“It’s not just about wearing a badge and saying ‘He For She,'” said Babatunde Osotimehin, executive director of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) in reference to the viral social media movement spearheaded by UN Women and actress Emma Watson over the past two years.”We have to do things — what are we doing at home and in the workplace environment to make sure that women are treated equally? We need to keep pushing.”

Time to stop 'skirting around' the issue

Since the election of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his gender-balanced federal cabinet, there’s been renewed attention domestically on the issues of gender equality and women’s representation in politics.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“We can talk about gender equality, but until we actually start doing things and confronting things, we aren’t going to get there.”[/quote]

Cabinet ministers including Environment Minister Catherine McKenna have sparked discussions over work-life balance and the challenges faced, particularly by women, by, for instance, late votes in the House. Former NDP MP Sania Hassainia, prompted debate on how to make public and work spaces more family-friendly when she brought her baby into the House of Commons during a vote in 2014.

It’s these kinds of discussions that are vital to putting the issue of gender equality on the public radar, Osotimehin says, so that leaders prioritize “creating child-friendly spaces around the world and making sure that women don’t lose their career growth.”

“We have skirted around it for too long,” he said. “We can talk about gender equality, but until we actually start doing things and confronting things, we aren’t going to get there.”

With a prime minister who calls himself a feminist, Canada is better placed than it’s been in years to lead initiatives on gender equality not just at home but abroad, says the executive director of Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights.

Sandeep Prasad says Monday’s announcement for greater funding for sexual health education and family planning is an indication that the government isn’t going to shy away from supporting gender equality globally, and the language used in the announcement of $81.6 million in funding for the UNFPA is a welcome change from how the past government approached women’s sexual and reproductive health.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“This is the first time I can recall of the government referring to sexual and reproductive rights in full."[/quote]

“This is the first time I can recall of the government referring to sexual and reproductive rights in full and indicating its support for those issues,” Prasad said. “We’re waiting for more steps forward, but we’re taking note of this one and we’re going to enjoy it.”

While the former Conservative government’s Muskoka Initiative on Maternal and Newborn Health was a strong step in helping save the lives of mothers and children, Prasad says it didn’t pay equal attention to women who are not or do not want to become mothers.

“We saw a lot of [focusing on] women as childbearers and the initiative also prioritized the lives of mothers over other women,” he said. “Agency and autonomy as central principles of sexual and reproductive rights are critical.”

Canada poised to be leader around sexual rights

While International Development Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau said Monday the government is having discussions around other initiatives specifically involving abortion, there was no timeline set for when or how the government plans to act on its support for the topic abroad.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Improving access to RU-486 — otherwise known as the abortion pill — would be a significant step towards showing their commitment to women’s reproductive rights.[/quote]

Prasad said his organization is hopeful the government will commit to advancing abortion rights as part of its support for sexual and reproductive rights over the long term, but also pointed to things they can do at home in the short term.

In particular, improving access to RU-486 — otherwise known as the abortion pill — would be a significant step towards showing their commitment to women’s reproductive rights, he said.

Health Canada approved the combination of drugs known commercially as Mifegymiso — which is really two pills of Mifepristone and Misoprostol — in June 2015 but imposed several restrictions on how it can be used.

Although the World Health Organization approves the drug combination for pregnancies up to nine weeks, Health Canada set the limit for use in Canada at seven weeks.

As well, doctors seeking to prescribe the drug must undergo specialized training to do so and there must be a registry kept of the doctors prescribing and pharmacists dispensing it.

Prasad says allowing Mifegymiso to be used up to ninth week of pregnancy would bring Canada in line with other allies and mark an important step in the government’s willingness to ensure access to abortion services in Canada over the coming year as it continues to brand itself as a government bringing Canada back as a leader in the international community.

“I’m hoping that we will be moving towards a Canada that reasserts its place on the global stage and in Canada on the issues of women’s rights and sexual and reproductive rights as well, and we can see more evidence-based discussion on these movements and what Canada does at home and abroad,” he said. 

“There’s ample scope for greater political leadership for Canada in advancing sexual and reproductive rights.”

Republished in partnership with iPolitics.ca.

by Shan Qiao in Toronto 

Governments and bureaucrats need to focus less on numbers and more on starting real conversations that tackle critical problems, like race, in ways that engage immigrants rather than shaming them. 

“A lot of time when it’s about race, we are afraid to talk about it,” said Yolande James, one of four speakers from the government and legal system who presented at the “Identities, Rights and Migration: A Session on the Intersection of Gender, Race, Class and Sexuality” session at the 18th National Metropolis Conference held in Toronto last week. 

“There is a way to have a conversation involving everybody, to be respectful and constructive. Everybody has something to give and we should have an equal life.” 

James, a former provincial politician, was the first Black female cabinet minister in Quebec history, serving as Minister of Immigration and Cultural Communities & Minister of Family between 2007 and 2014. 

As a former provincial government minister, and child of immigrant parents herself, James knows about how inefficient all levels of government are in engaging newcomers into their host country. 

“Do we engage immigrant populations? Do we have engaged dialogue?” she asked. “We haven’t done enough.” 

She said the lack of society-wide conversations that engage with immigrants sends the message that they do not matter. 

“I feel the whole nation, in terms of why the issues touching immigration and diversity [are] important, is not engaged,” she said. “It’s all about being able to engage people to connect with other people’s experience.” 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“There is so much emphasis on the numbers, but it’s not important. It’s about their journey.”[/quote]

As an example, James pointed to the current challenge of accepting Syrian refugees to Canada. She said that the government needs to pay attention to more than just the number of refugees being accepted. 

“Should it be 55,000 or 50,000?” she asked. “There is so much emphasis on the numbers, but it’s not important. It’s about their journey,” she said. 

Case in point: Iran sanctions 

Another contemporary example is the government’s inefficiency in communicating with immigrants about the sanctions against Iran in 2010 by the former Conservative government. 

Theoretically, sanctions against Iran were not meant to target Iranian citizens or Iranians who immigrated to Canada, but instead to put pressure on the Iranian government. 

However, a large number of Iranian Canadians were caught in the crossfire and penalized by Canada, said Iranian Canadian lawyer Negar Achtari who practises in Ottawa. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“The impact of the sanctions on Iranian Canadians is everywhere in the ordinary Iranian immigrant’s daily life.”[/quote]

“The impact of the sanctions on Iranian Canadians is everywhere in the ordinary Iranian immigrant’s daily life,” she explained. 

“The federal government restricted money wiring from Iran to Canada. Manitoba and Quebec announced they were not accepting Iranian immigrants under [the] investment category. CIBC and TD banks proceeded to close Iranian Canadians' bank accounts, sweeping their assets from chequing accounts to credit cards and mortgages, frozen without notice.” 

She also mentioned another resulting impact – the Canadian Border Services Agency seizing Iranians’ belongings upon their arrival to Canada for a time-consuming scrutinization. 

“We believe governments are our guardians. What they’ve done is simply wrong,” said Achtari. “When and to whom do these [sanctions] apply? There is only silence from the government. What they tried to say is, ‘figure it out on your own!’” 

Despite laws in place, discrimination persists   

Avvy Go, human rights lawyer and clinic director at the Metro Toronto Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic, shared her experience of asking for redress and compensation from the Canadian government for the Chinese Head Tax victims and their descendants almost 10 years ago. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"][R]acialized women earn 55.6 per cent of the income of non-racialized men.[/quote]

She was one of a dozen activists who mobilized many community activities asking the Liberal government at the time, led by Prime Minister Paul Martin, for redress and monetary compensation. 

Along with an official apology, the Harper Conservative government gave $20,000 to direct victims who paid a $500 head tax in the early 20th century in order to come to Canada. 

According to Canada’s Colour Coded Labour Market report, racialized men are 24 per cent more likely to be unemployed than non-racialized men. 

Racialized women have it worse: They’re 48 per cent more likely to be unemployed than non-racialized men. 

This many contribute to the fact that racialized women earn 55.6 per cent of the income of non-racialized men. 

Go used these figures to highlight that although anti-racism and anti-homophobia laws are in place, discrimination continues to exist.

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Thursday, 25 February 2016 03:20

Winnipeg's Racism Problem: Immigrants Can Help

Written by

by Kayla Isomura in Vancouver

A year after being called “Canada’s most racist city,” Winnipeg is on its way to becoming more inclusive, and immigrants can be part of the solution.

“It is wonderful that very recently we are seeing more people speaking out against racism, but it hasn't gone away just yet,” said Sheila North Wilson, grand chief of Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO), an organization that represents northern First Nations in Manitoba.

A 2015 Maclean’s article, titled “Welcome to Winnipeg: Where Canada’s racism problem is at its worst,” highlighted examples of violence and racism the Indigenous community in Winnipeg has faced.

According to the article, Manitoba and Saskatchewan “report the highest levels of racism in the country, often by a wide margin.”

Nancy Macdonald, the article’s author and a former Winnipeg resident, says Winnipeg’s “racism problem” has improved.

Over the past year, conversations have sparked among politicians, Indigenous leaders and other community groups around racism in the Prairie city.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“New Canadians need to be taught as soon as they arrive about who Indigenous people are and how they've arrived to where we are now.”[/quote]

“Everything that’s happened has happened not because of that article, but because of [Mayor] Brian Bowman who did something very brave,” said Macdonald. “Rather than say this article was wrong, he chose to acknowledge the problems.”

Moving towards solutions – and immigrants can play a role

Last month, Bowman declared 2016 as the Year of Reconciliation for Winnipeg, promising to work towards diversity and greater inclusion with the Indigenous community. Winnipeg has the largest Indigenous population in Canada, making up 11 per cent of the city’s population, according to the City.

Bowman has committed to developing an Urban Aboriginal Accord to recognize Indigenous peoples’ role in Canadian history and making diversity training for all civic employees mandatory.

“Over the last year, I believe we were able to reignite the public conversation and dialogue on racism and inclusion, and I believe we have been able to shift the tone,” he said in a news release.

North Wilson said the city’s efforts and ongoing dialogues are positive, but hopes they lead to long-term change.

She would like to see recommendations from the discussions be implemented into “real systemic changes” that deal with the realities of racism.

The key is education, and new immigrants can be part of the solution, she said.

“New Canadians need to be taught as soon as they arrive about who Indigenous people are and how they've arrived to where we are now,” said North Wilson. “This includes leaning about the treaties, Indian Act, residential schools, the child welfare industry and the plight of missing and murdered Indigenous [people].”

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“We were taught a very bad image of First Nations people.”[/quote]

She recommends immigrants visit the Treaty Relations Commission of Manitoba, Aboriginal Languages of Manitoba, and Neechi Commons as resources to learn more about Indigenous history. Another suggested resource is IRCOM (Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization of Manitoba).

Racism: a common bond

While she’s experienced the most amount of racism in Winnipeg, North Wilson said the worst type of racism she’s faced was in Brandon, the second largest city in Manitoba after Winnipeg.

Some immigrants said they also experience more extreme forms of racism in other parts of the country, and that in Winnipeg, racism towards immigrants is no different than in any other Canadian city.

“We were taught a very bad image of First Nations people,” said Amanda Luong, a first-generation Chinese Canadian who was born in Winnipeg.

“For me, I faced more stereotypes, but I didn’t feel discrimination as much as First Nations people.”

In 2012, Luong moved to Vancouver, B.C. She would argue that immigrants face worse discrimination in the west-coast city.

“Racism is worse in Vancouver towards every minority group, especially with foreign ownership and Asian cultures,” she said.

In Vancouver, Chinese immigrants have been blamed for high house prices over the past few years.

A study published by urban planner Andy Yan last year caused controversy over the demographics of who was buying houses in some of the city’s affluent neighbourhoods. He suggested the majority of the homes in his study may have been bought by people newly arrived from China.

Brian Tang, another resident of Vancouver and former resident of Winnipeg, had the same sentiment about the target of racism in different cities.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“Conversely, it is important that we learn about the history and backgrounds of the new inhabitants to our lands.”[/quote]

“Here, it’s Chinese people, Asian people. In Winnipeg, it’s Aboriginal people, so it exists in both cities,” he said.

A two-way street

North Wilson said that Indigenous people in Winnipeg not only face stereotyping but discrimination in daily tasks.

“Our people have a harder time at banks, rental agencies, stores, governments, police agencies, for example. Many in these and other sectors of society seem to disregard our people at first and treat them poorly,” she said.

“You hardly see any of our Indigenous people working in these common places.”

She adds that support from immigrant communities in the city’s inclusion efforts should go two ways.

“Conversely, it is important that we learn about the history and backgrounds of the new inhabitants to our lands,” she added.

As part of the City’s efforts to reduce racism, Bowman has also promised to continue the support of private sponsorship for refugees in the event of a sponsorship breakdown, to work with other cities to address racism challenges, to visit every high school in Winnipeg to emphasize the importance of reconciliation and diversity, and to continue to welcome refugees.

The City of Winnipeg was not available for comment by deadline.

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On December 3, 2015 Geoff Regan was elected as the 36th Speaker of the House of Commons — reportedly the first from Atlantic Canada in almost 100 years.

The veteran politician, who was first elected to parliament in 1993 to represent Halifax West, was re-elected to his seventh term in October 2015 during which time he has held 126 town hall meetings.

His focus over the years on issues such as education, environmental protection, health promotion and retirement security, has led him to the new position he holds as Speaker of the House.

More respect in the House of Commons

In a conversation with Touch BASE editor Robin Arthur, Regan said he plans to change the tone of the house to make it less confrontational.

“Of course, I cannot do it alone. I need the cooperation of Members of Parliament (MPs) to do this. Canadians would like to see MPs show more respect for each other and think about the people they serve rather than the parties they belong to.”

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“Sixty nine per cent of MPs think there is too much of heckling – especially interruption of speakers."[/quote]

Regan was pointing to heckling on the floor of the House of Commons which he says is a form of intimidation. “It especially discourages women from entering politics. I want to see less of that type of heckling,” he says.

“Sixty nine per cent of MPs think there is too much of heckling – especially interruption of speakers — and so that’s the challenge ahead.”

The Speaker of the House votes only in the event of a tie. He votes not as he wishes to, but based on precedent.

Speaking on matters of immigration

The position of Speaker of the House of Commons requires him to be non partisan and impartial at all times – therefore he can no longer comment publicly on issues that might come before him on the floor of the House. Nevertheless he can communicate with MPs separately. That being said, although the House Speaker cannot introduce bills, he can take up issues that matter to his constituency and represent his constituents.

“I can do that in direct communication with MPs, cabinet ministers or parliament secretaries,” Regan said. He told this newspaper there are issues that matter to his constituency (Halifax West).

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]"[P]oliticians at all levels should put the pressure on professional bodies responsible for credentials recognition to make sure they are welcoming in their approach."[/quote]

“These include community infrastructure, the immigration system — there will be an immigration plan this year — initiatives that would allow families to make ends meet, health and seniors care,” he said.

The Liberal government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has met its promises to open Canada’s gates to 10,000 refugees by December 31. But is the government looking to iron out other issues of interest to newcomers?

“These are matters of government,” Regan observed. “However, the Liberal party has promised to speed up family reunification and double the number of parents and grandparents coming in every year.”

He says that in town hall meetings, he has heard from immigrants with advanced degrees. These are matters that can be taken up to speed up credentials recognition.

“The minister cannot be an expert on specifics of job sectors. So politicians at all levels should put the pressure on professional bodies responsible for credentials recognition to make sure they are welcoming in their approach and are not looking to lower the number of professionals coming into the country,” he observed.

Regan also touched on Bill C-24, introduced by the Harper government, which allows the minister of immigration to strip a dual citizen of his citizenship if he is convicted abroad without the right to defend.

“The Liberal party opposed the Bill when it was introduced,” he said. “We will have to wait and see if the government will introduce a Bill to review it.”

This article first appeared on Touch BASE. Re-published with permission. 

Thursday, 11 February 2016 13:28

Newcomers – Reconciliation Needs You Too

Written by

by Maria Assaf in Toronto

Canada’s Indigenous people are asking immigrants to join the nationwide process of reconciliation by learning about and celebrating Indigenous culture.

One of the many recommendations that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) published in their final report calls on the government to incorporate more information on the history of Canada’s diverse Indigenous communities in information kits for newcomers and in citizenship tests.

This includes information on residential schools and the Treaties through which settlers dispossessed the Indigenous peoples of their land.

The recommendation is just one of 94 outlined in the report from the TRC, whose work on restoring the relationship between the Canadian government and Indigenous communities culminated with the report’s delivery on Dec. 15, 2015.

[youtube height="315" width="560"]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mZoLgdzrw7c[/youtube]

Learning the true history of Canada

“I really think it’s important to realize that this was not an empty land when people came here. There were thriving nations in this land,” says Jane Hubbard, acting director of operations of the Legacy of Hope Foundation.

Her organization works to raise awareness about the history of residential schools in Canada and to promote reconciliation among Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people in Canada. 

“I think it’s very important that the true history be told, so that people understand that Canada did not start in 1867. There was a long history before contact as well,” she says.  

Hubbard says Aboriginal peoples’ present-day contributions to society should also be included and celebrated.

“Often in a lot of government materials, Aboriginal peoples are referred to in such a way as to make someone think that perhaps they are a historical entity,” she says.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]It is vital that newcomers do independent research to learn about Indigenous culture, instead of absorbing the misinterpretations of the general narrative.[/quote]

“We would like to see more of the current-day representation. Thriving cultures, restoration of language. That people are here and walking amongst us and that they are lively contributors to society.”

Andrew Tataj is a second-generation Canadian whose parents came to Canada in the 1970s from Ireland and former Yugoslavia. “Learning about our history is important, because it can help newcomers assimilate into our culture, especially knowing about the country’s past – good and bad things,” says the computer engineer.

However, he is skeptical about the positive effect of providing more information. “I don't think much can be changed when it comes to awareness. … It won't get their land back,” he says.

Participating in reconciliation

Heather Igloliorte, an Inuit professor and chair in Indigenous art history and community engagement at Concordia University, outlines some ways in which newcomers can participate actively in the process of reconciliation.

“I think that one of the things that new Canadians could do is attend festivals and celebrations and Aboriginal peoples’ day and other events, so that they have an opportunity to meet and converse with Indigenous people. So that their understanding does not come only from literature, but also from first-person experience,” she says. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]One of the primary focuses of the TRC was to expose the truths of the residential-school system.[/quote]

Igloliorte says that it is vital that newcomers do independent research to learn about Indigenous culture, instead of absorbing the misinterpretations of the general narrative about them.

“It’s incredibly important for newcomers to Canada to understand the history of how we got to where we are today, so that they do not simply absorb the stereotypes and the racist perspectives towards Indigenous people that we still have in Canada right now,” says Igloliorte.

“I think Aboriginal people did not receive enough respect from the very beginning,” says Khaled Elrodesly, a biomedical engineer from Egypt who recently took his citizenship test. “They are supposed to be the first settlers of the Americas and everyone else that comes after them should respect their thoughts and ideas and try to connect with them.”

“A turning point”

One of the primary focuses of the TRC was to expose the truths of the residential-school system, which existed for over 100 years.

This system took First Nations, Inuit and Métis youth from their parents, often forcibly, to eradicate their culture and instill a Christian-European one through a process of assimilation that many have described as “cultural genocide.”

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]"I remain hopeful that this country right now is at a turning point..."[/quote]

Garnet Angeconeb is one of the survivors of this system.

Now in his 60s, he recalls the six formative years of his youth from age seven to 12, which he spent in a residential school in Sioux Lookout in northwestern Ontario. He says that despite the state’s efforts to erase his culture, he never lost it completely.

“Even though I went to residential school, there was always something there that I knew that was put on the shelf for a while. So it was through my own curiosity, through my own pride as an Aboriginal person that I wanted to take that knowledge, that experience, my culture, off the shelf and live it again,” he says.

Throughout his life, Angeconeb began reclaiming his cultural heritage and his identity became clearer as he grew older.

“I never lost it, but I never used it,” he says. “But now it’s my chance, and I am going to share it with my children and with my grandchildren.”

Angeconeb is hopeful about the future of reconciliation. “I really have a strong heart and I am a very strong believer in resilience – that our people have the ability to bounce back, no matter how dark this chapter of our history is.”

He says Indigenous pride and culture in Canada are very much alive.

“People are reclaiming their languages, their cultures … There is healing in that, and I think we need to celebrate our survival in many ways. I remain hopeful that this country right now is at a turning point in terms of improving and acknowledging a positive relation with the Indigenous community.”

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Thursday, 28 January 2016 17:19

Dion: Canada Will Lift Sanctions on Iran

Written by

by Amanda Connolly in Ottawa

Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion told the House of Commons Tuesday that Canada will follow calls from the United Nations to reverse its unilateral sanctions on Iran in the wake of the Iran nuclear deal.

“We will do it in a speedy fashion but we will do it effectively,” Dion told reporters in a scrum after referencing the move during question period. “I would say that the approach of the previous government was ideological and irrational.”

Conservatives still not on board

Over its nine years in power, the former Conservative government levelled sanctions on Iran, broke off diplomatic ties and listed the country as a state sponsor of terrorism.

Iran’s former president, Mahmoud Ahmadinehjad called for Israel to be wiped off the map during his tenure and the country has been accused of using its support for groups like Hamas and Hezbollah to wage a proxy conflict against Israeli interests and stability.

Former Prime Minister Stephen Harper branded himself as a staunch ally of Israel and his party’s now-opposition members continued that fight on Monday, criticizing the government for not condemning strongly enough tit-for-tat violence between Israelis and Palestinians.

Iran’s current president, Hassan Rouhani, has been billed as a relative moderate in terms of his approach to normalizing relations with the West.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“Iran continues to be a state sponsor of terrorism, it continues to deny the very existence of Israel.”[/quote]

Last year he and international partners led by U.S. negotiators reached agreement on a nuclear accord aimed at limiting Iran’s nuclear capabilities in exchange for the gradual lifting of economic sanctions.

Independent investigators announced last week that they had verified Iranian compliance with the initial stage of the accord and as a result, the United States and other countries announced they would begin lifting sanctions on the Islamic Republic.

Despite that, Conservative foreign affairs critic Tony Clement criticized the government for its decision to lift sanctions.

“Iran continues to be a state sponsor of terrorism, it continues to deny the very existence of Israel,” he said. “Canada should act in concert with allies to go slow on this approach and to those who say, ‘well, we might miss a business opportunity or two,’ I have every confidence in Canadian business that they can find other places in the world to do business.”

Engaging Iran makes economic sense

Iran’s population of 80 million, many of whom are educated and seeking opportunities in business and high-tech industries, has many billing it as a veritable gold mine for businesses able to get an early toe in the door as its economy opens.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]"[W]e’d be crazy not to move with the international community to reengage with [Iran] economically.”[/quote]

Rouhani is currently in Europe, the first Iranian president to visit in more than 15 years, and the speculation is that he will sign or kickstart business deals while there.

“Since the Iranians appear to be complying with the terms of the nuclear agreement, we’d be crazy not to move with the international community to reengage with them economically,” said Dave Perry, senior analyst with the Canadian Global Affairs Institute.

The projected growth in Iran’s economy also has the potential to shift the dynamics in the Middle East as the Shiite country becomes more prominent and asserts itself as a counterweight to its rival, Sunni Saudi Arabia.

Iran’s elite Quds force is already operating in Iraq as part of the fight against ISIS militants and Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan said it’s crucial that Canada be able to engage with all parties as part of its fight to eliminate the group.

“We need to take a much broader view of the world,” Sajjan said. “We need all countries to take part in making sure that we start looking at conflict and trying to stabilize certain areas. If we do not have a voice with other nations, we're not going to be able to have those difficult discussions and resolutions in the places where we keep sending our men and women into harms way for.”

No clear timelines in place yet

Dion says the Conservative party’s suggestions that Canada maintain the former government’s policies on freezing out Iran even as allies drop sanctions and engage with the country would put Canada out of sync with the rest of the world, saying that Canada needs to be “back at the table where Iran is.”

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]It’s not clear when the sanctions will be lifted or specifically which ones could remain in place.[/quote]

It’s not clear when the sanctions will be lifted or specifically which ones could remain in place.

The nuclear accord outlines a gradual lifting of sanctions and each stage of progression will see more and more of the sanctions lifted — while non-compliance with the accord will see them slapped back in place.

The Liberal government has touted a renewed focus on diplomacy as a cornerstone of its foreign policy, with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and ministers trying to shape the idea that “Canada is back.”

“We think that when you have a disagreement with the regime, you don’t pull out – you work harder to see that there will be improvement,” Dion said.

In that vein, Trudeau promised during the 2015 campaign to restore diplomatic relations with Iran and re-open Canada’s embassy in Tehran if elected.

Dion did not comment on when Canada will re-open its embassy.

Re-published in partnership with iPolitics.ca.

by Amanda Connolly in Ottawa

The federal government’s 2015 report on human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia is in its final stages of preparation, but no date has been set yet for its release to the public, says an official at Global Affairs Canada.

Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion said over the weekend he would release a redacted version of the report upon request when it is completed.

The report, which is separate from the human rights assessment conducted as part of the export approval process for the government’s $15-billion arms deal with the kingdom, is expected to run between 60 to 70 pages and to be similar in style to those posted publicly by the U.S. State Department and the U.K. Foreign Ministry.

Meanwhile, the human rights assessment completed to meet federal arms export control requirements for the light armoured vehicles deal is not expected to be made public.

It’s been four years since the government last completed a country report on Saudi Arabia’s human rights record. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Country reports under the previous Conservative government were not released publicly; Dion said the current government wants to move away from that approach.[/quote]

Country reports under the previous Conservative government were not released publicly; Dion said the current government wants to move away from that approach — and is open to suggestions on how best to balance security concerns with the public’s right to know what the government knows about how human rights are handled in allied countries.

“I have asked my officials to review current practices regarding these reports and to provide me with recommendations,” Dion said in an e-mailed statement. “I want to ensure that we respect the safety and security of identified sources.”

Canada-Saudi relations point of controversy in the past

Canada’s relationship with Saudi Arabia has been a source of controversy in recent years. The country has been widely condemned internationally for its treatment of women, religious minorities and political activists; it’s also a powerful Western partner in Middle Eastern affairs.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]The country has been widely condemned internationally for its treatment of women, religious minorities and political activists.[/quote]

The State Department’s 2014 assessment of human rights in Saudi Arabia flagged multiple issues ranging from denial of due process and arbitrary arrest to human trafficking, discrimination, citizens’ lack of ability to change their government and “pervasive restrictions on universal rights such as freedom of expression, including on the Internet, and freedom of assembly, association, movement and religion; and a lack of equal rights for women, children and noncitizen workers.”

The issue of relations with Saudi Arabia popped up briefly during the election campaign, when party leaders were asked whether Canada ought to cancel the deal to provide light armoured vehicles to the Saudi Arabian National Guard — essentially the royal family’s private army.

Former prime minister Stephen Harper defended the deal, saying it didn’t make sense to deprive Canadian workers of the jobs it would bring.

“Look, we express our outrage, our disagreement from time to time with the government of Saudi Arabia for their treatment of human rights,” he said in September. “I don’t think it makes any sense to pull a contract in a way that would only punish Canadian workers instead of actually expressing our outrage against some of these things in Saudi Arabia.”

Speculation of little change to come for Canada-Saudi relations

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, then debating Harper as leader of the Liberal party, declined to give a clear answer on whether he would scrap the deal — leading to speculation that he would do little to change the relationship if elected.

That’s proved to be the case so far, despite increasing tensions between Saudi Arabia and its regional rival Iran over the execution of a prominent Shiite cleric.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“Canada’s relationship with Saudi Arabia is strategically important, for our security and for the security of the region.”[/quote]

Saudi Arabia announced two weeks ago it had killed Nimr al-Nimr, who was charged with terrorism offences over allegations he incited anti-government sentiment during the 2011 ‘Arab Spring’.

Protestors firebombed Saudi Arabia’s embassy in Tehran in response, prompting the kingdom to cut off diplomatic relations with Tehran and urge its allies to do the same.

Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and several other countries in the region announced over subsequent days that they were severing or downgrading relations with Tehran — but reaction from Canadian political leaders was tepid.

“Canada’s relationship with Saudi Arabia is strategically important, for our security and for the security of the region,” said interim Conservative Party Leader Rona Ambrose in a press release.

Dion also issued a press release in which he stressed that Canada regularly chats with Saudi Arabia about what it should do better to protect human rights.

“The Government of Canada raises concerns about human rights and due process with senior Saudi Arabian officials on a regular basis and will continue to do so,” the release said.

“In the wake of these executions, we reiterate our call to the Government of Saudi Arabia to protect human rights, respect peaceful expressions of dissent and ensure fairness in judicial proceedings.”

Republished in partnership with iPolitics.ca.

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