by Eddie Ameh in Ottawa 

While Canada’s recent federal election resulted in more visible minorities being elected to Parliament than ever before, many also lost and are in the process of moving forward with the lessons they learned.

Rev. KM Shanthikumar, Scarborough-Rouge Park, New Democratic Party 

Rev. KM Shanthikumar is a priest who ran as the New Democratic Party (NDP) candidate in the riding of Scarborough-Rouge Park. Born in Sri Lanka, Shanthikumar moved to Canada 30 years ago. He says he was very confident about winning and was actually leading in the polls prior to Election Day. 

“Until the last two weeks to the election, I was the front-runner,” he recalls. 

Shanthikumar says he was not complacent, but still can’t come to terms with his loss. 

“I worked very hard till the last day and I’m very surprised,” explains Shanthikumar, who lost to Liberal candidate Gary Anandasangaree. “I don’t know what happened.” 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“I will come back with better plans and better ideas to win the next election.”[/quote]

He says although it was a major blow, he has moved on and returned to work. A manager at a telecommunications company in Toronto, Shanthikumar says he will continue to serve the people of Scarborough-Rouge Park like he has always done.  

“I’ll continue where I left off and do whatever I can to help my community,” he says. “I know there is an MP (member of Parliament) in the riding, and I will approach him and offer any help he wants.” 

Shanthikumar plans to re-strategize and return to politics in four years. 

“I will come back with better plans and better ideas to win the next election,” he says. 

One thing Shanthikumar learned about the people in Scarborough-Rouge Park – a riding where more than 70 per cent of the population identifies as a visible minority – is that they see themselves first as Canadians before anything else. 

“The people of this riding do not see anybody as a minority or immigrant,” he explains. “This is the feeling I got when I went canvassing for votes from different people from different cultures.” 

Steven Kou, Vancouver Kingsway, Liberal party 

Steven Kou arrived in Canada from China 15 years ago. 

Having majored in economics at University of British Columbia, Kou planned to use his economics knowledge to benefit the many low and middle-income families in B.C.'s Vancouver Kingsway riding. 

Kou, who contested on behalf of the Liberal party, says that people in the ethnically diverse riding accepted his campaign message. 

“As a visible minority, I wanted to be the bridge between the different ethnic groups in the riding and integrate the cultures into the Canadian culture,” Kou says. 

Although the NDP, which has traditionally held the Vancouver Kingsway seat, won on Oct. 19, Kou says he is happy with the results. 

“The most important thing for me is to continue to work in the community and be a voice for them even though I’m not the MP,” he explains. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“As a visible minority I have come to appreciate the opportunity to run for politics. It’s a privilege.”[/quote]

Kou adds that he believes this election will be a source of inspiration for young visible minorities to get into politics. He hopes to get the nod from the Liberals to try to unseat the NDP MP again in four years. 

“As a visible minority I have come to appreciate the opportunity to run for politics,” Kou states. “It’s a privilege.” 

Jimmy Yu, Saint-Laurent-Cartierville, Conservative party 

Contesting Liberal veteran Stéphane Dion in the Saint-Laurent-Cartierville riding in Montreal was a tall order for Jimmy Yu. He ran for the Conservatives in a riding that has voted Liberal since 1988. 

Yu, who migrated to Canada from China in 1981, says the area has a sizeable number of visible minorities, including a large Chinese Canadian population. 

“We have very rich experiences [that] the locals here don’t have, it is therefore important to add our diversity to [government],” he says. “We are now part of Canada. It is therefore important for the minorities to get involved.” 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“We are now part of Canada. It is therefore important for the minorities to get involved.”[/quote]

Yu took a year off work and has been volunteering full-time for the Conservative party since the beginning of the year. 

“For next year, I need to go back to work to make money to feed my kids,” he says.

Yu has not made up his mind about contesting in the next election yet. 

For Shanthikumar, Kou and Yu, it will take at least four years before they may see their names on the ballot again. Though they may have lost their bids to become MPs, all three say they are winners in their own way.

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by Florence Hwang in Regina, Saskatchewan

While the Liberal government announced this week that there would be 10,000 Syrians admitted to Canada by the end of 2015 and 15,000 by the end of February 2016, Minister of Citizenship and Immigration John McCallum failed to offer many specifics regarding housing the refugees.

The ad-hoc committee did mention that 36 cities were slated to receive refugees and that the military was prepared to house up to 6,000 refugees on a temporary basis if necessary.

“We don’t know what our provincial numbers will be either. We don’t know which of our cities is of that 36. Those are all fairly critical pieces,” says Brett Loney, Communications Director for the Nova Scotia Immigration Department.

In the coming weeks, Loney hopes to have more specifics regarding plans for accommodating the Syrians in Nova Scotia.

"Our partners are going out there, beating bushes like they routinely do,” he says. “Now that we have a clear sense of more [of] the details of the federal approach, it will help them in their work.”

Preparations underway across the country

Jean McRae is the Executive Director of the Inter-Cultural Association of Greater Victoria (ICA) and works with the Greater Victoria Housing Society, BC Housing Authority and other organizations that are offering places for the refugees to stay. She says the response from the community has been tremendous. 

Despite them not knowing too many of the details, many have offered to help with the Syrian refugees by donating, volunteering and offering places in their homes.

“We’ve had people say we’ve got a suite in my house or we had someone come say they have a house they have on the market that they’re willing to pull off the market for a year to help,” she says. “We’ve had people who may not have had suites, but have rooms in their houses.”

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Many have offered to help with the Syrian refugees by donating and volunteering.[/quote]

Until further information is available, McRae says that it’s a bit of a waiting game. “At this point, we’re just gathering all this information because until we actually know what’s going on, it’s very difficult to say what we’re going to need.”

Getachew Woldyesus is similarly focused on preparing for the arrival of the Syrians in Regina, Saskatchewan. He has served with the Regina Open Door Society (RODS) for 30 years.

“We are working with the community to support the newcomers regarding housing, school registration, whatever they need for their settlement.” says Woldyesus who is currently the Settlement & Family & Community Services Manager for RODS. “We have volunteers who would be willing to support newcomers.”

Scale is different from previous undertakings

According to Debbie Douglas, the executive director of the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI), the Syrian refugee influx is different from other waves of immigrants that have come to Canada because of the sheer number of applicants and the tight timeline.

“What is different is that we’re looking at 25,000 in a very short period of time. Compared with the Kosovars in 1999, we brought in 5,000 over 60 or 90 days, but certainly it was the same process for bringing in large amounts of people all at the same time,” says Douglas.

However, she feels that public institutions like schools and hospitals are much more prepared to handle the newcomers than in the past. 

“I think what’s different [from past immigration waves] is that we have a very robust, sophisticated immigrant/refugee–serving infrastructure in place and so we’re able to hit the ground running when they get here,” she says.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Public institutions like schools and hospitals are much more prepared to handle the newcomers than in the past.[/quote]

She is still concerned about long-term housing, especially in a large urban centre such as Toronto. Housing prices have increased substantially in major centres such as Toronto and Vancouver and those who have homes are not looking to move anytime soon.

“We don’t have a significant vacancy rate, but I do believe our system will be responsive,” says Douglas. “That’s certainly going to be a challenge, but it’s a challenge anyways for most folks who live in Toronto, to be able to find adequate housing.”

She says they are also working on finding temporary and permanent housing for the refugees, whether they are government-sponsored or privately sponsored. 

Proceeding carefully when it comes to housing

While welcoming the newcomers is important, Loren Balisky, executive director with Kinbrace, says the housing situation, particularly the temporary side, should be handled with care. 

“I think we have to be careful we don’t warehouse. By necessity we’ll have to. They’re going to [be placed in] army barracks and those kinds of things. But as quickly as possible, they need to be connected to people,” he says. 

Kinbrace houses refugee claimants seeking asylum in Vancouver, aiming to foster dignity and respect by showing how refugees are contributing members of society. 

“Rather than doing things for people, either do them with and accompany [them]. They’re not objects of our pity. They shouldn’t be objects of our charity either.” says Balisky, who has lived with refugee claimants at Kinbrace for the past 17 years. “There’s something we’ve learned here that can be of value to the wider Canadian population, [which] is to help and welcome.”

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by Susan Korah in Ottawa

Swiss-born Muslim academic and author Tariq Ramadan told an Ottawa audience that governments and the public should recognize the equal dignity of all human beings, regardless of whether they are citizens of Paris, Beirut, or any other place.

At a public lecture on November 22, Ramadan said the principle behind “Je suis Paris” should be applied with equal consistency to all victims of terror attacks. The recent attacks in Beirut, Mali and other places outside the Western world got nowhere near the same level of attention and expressions of sympathy that the November 13 shootings and bombings in Paris generated, he added.

Ramadan was the featured speaker at an event organized by the Montreal-based Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME), a non-governmental organization that advocates for justice and human rights in the storm centre of many of the world’s conflicts.

Not religion, but perception

Invited to speak about refugees, wars and the fears and fanaticism of our age, Ramadan spent much of his hour-long address deconstructing the roots of the problem, which he firmly denied was a “clash of civilizations” or religions.

“It is a matter of the geo-strategic and economic interests of the governments and transnational corporations involved in this,” he said, adding that it was a “clash of perceptions” rather than of religions.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“Where there is no justice, there is no peace.[/quote]

He commented that religion is used by Middle Eastern leaders as an instrument to manipulate Muslims, while their Western counterparts use “values” such as “democracy,” “human rights” and the “liberation of women” for the same purpose to secure the support of a secular public.

Ramadan said this has resulted in the current destabilization of the Middle East, with  lethal consequences for the entire world – such as terror attacks, the curtailment of civil liberties in the name of security and the deaths of thousands of refugees as they try to flee across borders.  

Ramadan emphasized that the blame for the “mess,” as he described it, must be shared equally by Western governments for their aggressive, militaristic foreign policies, and by their allies, the corrupt regimes of many Middle Eastern countries whose economic interests are aligned with those of the West.

“Where there is no justice, there is no peace,” he said, pointing out that the American government’s unconditional support of Israel has ignored the rights of Palestinians, and this has incensed Muslims everywhere, causing some of them to become radicalized.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“We (Muslims) too have a responsibility in this clash of perceptions and need to be self-critical.” [/quote]

Violating the dignity of Palestinans is not often covered in the media, he said, adding that the protection of Israel has resulted in so much conflict that it has had consequences for ordinary American and French citizens.

For example, the Patriot Act in the U.S. has diminished the civil liberties of Americans, and the French government is doing the same thing in the name of security.

“Thanks, Canada, for not choosing the worst of these measures,” he said, and complimented Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for accepting 25,000 Syrian refugees. “About 2,800 migrants died in the Mediterranean within three years, but we didn’t react until we saw a photo of Aylan Kurdi,” he said, referring to the image of the three-year-old Kurdish refugee boy, who drowned last September.

Cautioning people against “indulging in emotional politics,” he advised Muslims living in the Western world to speak up against violations of human dignity everywhere. “Don’t indulge in victimhood,” he warned.

“We (Muslims) too have a responsibility in this clash of perceptions and need to be self-critical,” he stated, adding there is no unity within the Muslim diaspora, and no space for intellectual discussion.

He noted that Muslims from various countries tend to isolate themselves from one another, even if they live in the Western world.

“We need unity, not uniformity, so don’t import your divisions from your home countries,” he said.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]"Because of recent events in Paris, I feel that people are not so welcoming of refugees as in the past.”[/quote]

Canadians’ fears and concerns

Asked for her reaction to Ramadan’s speech and if she had any of her own fears and concerns about the fallout from the Middle Eastern conflict, Patricia Jean, office manager of CJPME and a relatively recent convert to Islam, said: “As a veiled Canadian, I am concerned about the reactions of other Canadians to Muslims. Because of recent events in Paris, I feel that people are not so welcoming of refugees as in the past.”

Kamiliya Akkouche, a student of International Development and Globalization at the University of Ottawa, said: “I agree that people should not react in an emotional way, and should address their fears by holding to account all the governments in the West and in the Middle East that are responsible.”

Kenya-born Sarah Onyango, a resident of Gatineau and host of the radio program Afrika Revisited, commented: “Kenya has received the world’s refugees, and my concern is not that refugees are coming to Canada but that we don’t have the resources to support their integration, and their communities will become breeding grounds of frustration and alienation. This will result in some of them becoming radicalized.”

Vicky Smallman, a community activist, stated that she would not want to see political parties and campaigns exploit the racism that lies under the surface. “I don’t want to see any group targeted,” she said. 

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Tuesday, 24 November 2015 15:14

Politics a Natural Fit for Many Indo-Canadians

Written by

by Simran Singh in Vancouver 

Indo-Canadian representation in Canada’s new government goes beyond the cabinet ministers Prime Minister Justin Trudeau introduced to the country at his swearing-in ceremony earlier this month. 

In what he called “a cabinet that looks like Canada,” 15 of Trudeau’s 30 ministers are women, two are aboriginal, two have disabilities and four are Indo-Canadian Sikhs. 

The Indo-Canadian representation of Trudeau’s cabinet was noted around the nation and internationally. From India’s Hindustan Times to New Zealand’s Indian Weekender, global news media showcased Canada’s newly appointed Indian cabinet ministers. 

A total of 23 Indo-Canadian representatives were elected into parliament in the recent election, an astounding increase compared to the nine Indo-Canadians elected in 2011. 

Moreover, 20 of the Indo-Canadian MPs speak Punjabi, making it the third most-spoken language in Canada’s House of Commons after English and French. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Most Indo-Canadian politicians originate from the northern Indian state of Punjab, which has a rich, politically, fuelled history.[/quote]

Punjab: A political hotbed 

Although this year’s Canadian cabinet announcement appeared to draw a lot of attention to Indo-Canadians’ representation in politics, their involvement has remained steadfast in all levels of government across the nation. 

Most Indo-Canadian politicians originate from the northern Indian state of Punjab, which has a rich, politically, fuelled history. Their political inclination is embedded in their cultural background and heritage. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]"[Y]ou are dealing with a group of people that never led any kind of comfortable lifestyle. They were constantly invaded."[/quote]

“The first thing you have to look at is that Indo-Canadian politicians are mostly Sikhs and [they are] a small, yet highly motivated, religious sect that developed a kind of reformation movement,” explains Shinder Purewal, a professor of political science at Kwantlen Polytechnic University in Surrey, B.C. 

Purewal adds that the geographical positioning of Punjab in India has made it a political hotbed for centuries. 

“Every invader from Alexander the Great down to the Ahmad Shah Abdali came through the Punjab,” explains Purewal. “So you are dealing with a group of people that never led any kind of comfortable lifestyle. They were constantly invaded. It moulded that spirit of trying to resist oppression and exploitation and that kind of unity created is highlighted [in the] Sikh diaspora.” 

Gradual political participation in Canada 

That sense of unity remained for Punjabis when they first settled in British Columbia in 1903. 

In 1907, the province of B.C. disenfranchised not only Punjabis, but all of the South Asian diaspora. They were not allowed to vote in federal elections or participate in politics. 

After 40 years, the voting restrictions against South Asians were lifted in 1947, but their political involvement developed slowly. 

“The numbers didn’t warrant for [Indo-Canadians] to actually be successful at either provincial levels or federal levels,” says Purewal. “But they did work for the parties mostly as volunteers and also raising funds. They were doing this from the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s onward.” 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“My activism started almost right away when I came to Canada."[/quote]

Although political participation was gradual, Indo-Canadians were motivated and outspoken on many issues impacting their communities. 

Ujjal Dosanjh, the first Indo-Canadian provincial premier and a former Liberal federal cabinet minister, began his community activism by advocating for the wellbeing of B.C. farmworkers. 

Many of these workers were South Asian and Chinese immigrants, who were being underpaid and mistreated. 

Like Dosanjh, Raj Chouhan, a long-time member of legislature in B.C., explains how he was driven by advocacy for farmworkers during his early days in Canada. 

“My activism started almost right away. When I came to Canada, I saw people working in the farms – they were treated so badly,” says Chouhan. In 1980, after speaking out on the issue, he became the founding president of the Canadian Farmworkers Union. 

Inspiring the next generation 

Both Chouhan and Dosanjh point to the political culture of India as a nation playing a large role in motivating early Indo-Canadian politicians. 

“I had this sense of pride in our history and our civilization, and in the morals and values of the independence movement,” Dosanjh recalls. “There was politics all around as I was growing up.” 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“[Politics in India] is part of life, it’s like a second nature.”[/quote]

India’s democratic system is the largest in the world. It fosters a feeling of responsibility to get politically involved amongst Canada’s South Asian diaspora. 

“[Politics in India] is part of life, it’s like a second nature,” Dosanjh says. “It is a very comfortable position for [Indians] to be in when they come to Canada – to be part of the political system.” 

That political voice has grown stronger as the South Asian representation in Canada’s highest level of government serves as inspiration for the next generation of young Indo-Canadians. 

But Dosanjh highlights that no matter who you are, politics is about believing in yourself and your values. 

“You don’t do it for glory. I did it because I believed in it […] Winning or losing isn’t the issue. In the end you have to look at yourself in the mirror and see if you have been true to yourself,” he says. 

“I would say to young people, if you believe Canada can be a better place, and you want to make it better, go into politics.”

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by Janice Dickson in Ottawa

Helping Syrian refugees fleeing their war torn homes migrate to Canada is not a partisan issue, says new Conservative Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Critic Michelle Rempel, but the Liberal government has provided few details on their plan and there are many questions left unanswered.

“To me this is about compassion, but we also need to have a plan and the government has not shown Canadians [the plan] to date and we’ll keep asking those questions,” Rempel told iPolitics.

CTV News reported that the government is planning to source the majority of the 25,000 Syrian refugees from refugee camps in Lebanon, Jordan, and likely Turkey. Citing leaked government documents, CTV News said 900 refugees are expected to arrive daily, starting as early as Dec. 1.

Taking questions from reporters today, however, Health Minister Jane Philpott said that report was old. Philpott was accompanied by Immigration Minister John McCallum, who said the government’s plan for resettling refugees will be announced next Tuesday.

Putting off the announcement of the plan time and time again is not likely what Canadians want to hear, said Rempel.

“My understanding is that they’re going to have a press conference today to talk about when they’re announcing their plan, so we’re not even close to having that happen yet and their deadline to show a plan has been bumped over and over again,” she said.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“First of all, we don’t know what they’re being screened for and we don’t know what will happen if they fail the screening process.”[/quote]

Many unanswered questions 

According to CTV’s report, the refugees will be identified by the United Nations and screened on the ground by Canadian officials from the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) and Canadian Security and Intelligence Service (CSIS), which will examine documents and biometric data, like fingerprints.

This prompted Rempel to wonder, “what will that biometric data be screened against, what databases, what screening criteria are being used?”

“First of all, we don’t know what they’re being screened for and we don’t know what will happen if they fail the screening process,” she said.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]"I wouldn’t think that it’s appropriate to have people stay in very tight temporary quarters for an extended period of time.”[/quote]

According to CBC, the refugees will be housed in temporary military sites in Quebec and Ontario.

“What is the transition plan for 25,000 refugees in such a short period of time? I wouldn’t think that it’s appropriate to have people stay in very tight temporary quarters for an extended period of time,” said Rempel.

“What are the language services programs that are going to be provided? How are we ensuring that all elements of social inclusion are being thought of with regard to transition of refugees into Canadian society?” she asked, adding that things like language training, helping those who may suffer from post traumatic stress disorder from coming out of a region of war, are all questions that Canadians want answered.

“Frankly I think it’s very disappointing the government has not provided details to the Canadian public to date,” she said.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]"There’s a reason why many of these people are fleeing this region, ISIS has a big part to do with that.”[/quote]

Need to consider magnitude of task

Rempel reiterated throughout the interview that Canadians want to help the Syrian refugees, but they have to know how to help. She also said it’s important to always be respectful when asking the government questions about its plan given the gravity of the humanitarian crisis that’s happening in the region.

“I think that we have to be compassionate … but we also have to ensure we’re understanding the magnitude of the task that’s in front of us. Twenty-five thousand in a very short period of time, I think roughly 40 days at this point, is something we need to consider very carefully,” she said.

“But also asking ourselves some pretty frank questions about our role in containing ISIS with our coalition partners. There’s a reason why many of these people are fleeing this region, ISIS has a big part to do with that,” she said.

Rempel said the additional question is whether it’s “prudent and is there reason for us to withdraw our CF-18s and some of our other military equipment from the region, why are we doing that, and will we have a full debate in Parliament to discuss that?”

Re-published in partnership with iPolitics.ca.

by Janice Dickson in Ottawa

Fulfilling a promise made during the election campaign, the Trudeau government said today it plans to drop the federal government’s appeal in the case of the Canadian woman, Zunera Ishaq, who fought to wear a niqab during her citizenship ceremony.

In a joint statement, Immigration Minister John McCallum and Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould said: “On November 16, 2015, the Attorney General of Canada notified the Supreme Court of Canada that it has discontinued its application for leave to appeal in the case of Minister of Citizenship and Immigration v. Ishaq.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“Canadians have their main concerns beings reflected in the last federal elections results, certainly the niqab issue is not the one.”[/quote]

“The Federal Court of Canada found that the policy requiring women who wear the niqab to unveil themselves to take the Oath of Citizenship is unlawful on administrative law grounds, and the Federal Court of Appeal upheld this ruling. The government respects the decision of both courts and will not seek further appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada.

“Canada’s diversity is among its greatest strengths, and today we have ensured that successful citizenship candidates continue to be included in the Canadian family. We are a strong and united country because of, not in spite of, our differences.”

Samer Majzoub, the president of the Canadian Muslim Forum, said he believes the Liberal government’s decision is the “right direction.”

“Canadians have their main concerns beings reflected in the last federal elections results, certainly the niqab issue is not the one,” he said.

The controversial debate about whether a woman should be permitted to wear a niqab during citizenship ceremonies was a failed attempt to sway voters, he said.

“We believe and hope that any divisive debate that leads to friction amongst Canadians will be set aside for [a] long period and never used for political or special interests,” he said.

Re-published in partnership with iPolitics.ca.


by Tazeen Inam in Mississauga

In the weeks leading up to the Oct. 19 federal election, Rabia Khedr started to feel like she didn’t belong in Canada.

The executive director of the Canadian Association of Muslims with Disabilities says she, along with many other Muslim Canadians, felt targeted as extremist and socially backward.

“I have no other home,” says Khedr, who was born in Pakistan and came to Canada when she was four. “I cannot function anywhere else, with my kids half Pakistani and half Egyptian.”

Her family feared the Islamophobia they felt was brewing during the recent federal election. “It was a nightmare for us.”

This sentiment may have contributed to what Dr. Salha Jeizan, a professor who teaches online in the education department at Capella University in Minnesota, U.S. and mentors PhD students, calls a strategic vote on behalf of Muslims.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]The Conservatives’ divide-and-rule approach of singling out Muslims to gain support from other religious communities backfired.[/quote]

“People have voted strategically [knowing that] if I vote for NDP, I vote for Conservatives,” Jeizan explains. If enough votes had been split between the New Democratic Party (NDP) and Liberals, the election outcome could have been in favour of the Conservatives.

Malaz Sebai, who works for Lifeline Syria, an organization working to resettle 1,000 Syrians in the GTA, says he was happy to see true leadership in the form of Liberals has resumed.

“Strategically, yes – Muslims from different communities came out and voted,” he explains. “There were more than three different groups encouraging Muslims to vote; I guess that was the strategy.”

One of these groups was The Canadian-Muslim Vote, a non-partisan organization with the goal of encouraging civic engagement amongst the Muslim community.

Muneeza Sheikh, communications director for the organization, says that while the anti-Harper sentiment may have fuelled many Muslims to vote, it may not have been their sole motivation for heading to the polls.

“One can’t assume all of these issues are important to Muslim Canadians for the same reasons,” says Sheikh.

“On the niqab issue you may see increased voter turnout because Muslims are concerned about many of the same issues in relation to the niqab as non-Muslims – i.e. Charter rights, freedom of religion, minority rights, women’s rights, et cetera.”

Jeizan says fear of the Islamophobia created during the Harper era may have been a great motivator as well.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“It is our religious and civic duty to vote, because Islam demands us to stand up for what is right.”[/quote]

“Actually, [Muslims] have realized that if we don’t come out and vote, something worse can happen, and where would that lead us?” says Jeizan, adding that the Conservatives’ divide-and-rule approach of singling out Muslims to gain support from other religious communities backfired.

“Harper’s calculations proved to be wrong.”

Political engagement increasing

Although the exact percentage of eligible Muslim Canadians who cast a ballot on Oct. 19 is not available yet, anecdotal evidence speaks to a higher level of engagement.

“My younger daughter voted, as she turned 18 last month, and my elder daughter has volunteered at a riding and told me that lots of hijabis came out to vote,” says Jeizan, who is originally from Yemen.

Highlighting the efforts of The Canadian-Muslim Vote, Sheikh says she is thankful to the hundreds of volunteers who helped to increase civic engagement in Muslim community.

“We engaged them in a great deal of door-to-door canvassing – it is important to connect on an individual level with Muslims in the community and to build relationships.”

Khedr says she believes things were changing even prior to the federal election. Earlier this year she ran in her Mississauga ward’s byelection and, though she lost, she doesn’t believe it was a failure.

“I stood at number five out of 26 candidates. It’s a step in the right direction and a proof that the stereotype is breaking,” she says, highlighting that Muslims’ involvement in politics is on the rise. “It is our religious and civic duty to vote, because Islam demands us to stand up for what is right.”

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]The community will be calling on the NDP to ensure accountability within the new government.[/quote]

It is Jeizan’s hope that political engagement in the Muslim Canadian community only increases.

“The momentum should not stop even after election; it needs to continue for municipal, [for] provincial and, later again, for federal elections.”

Build in-roads with new government

As the new government gets settled into office, Muslim Canadians will be watching particularly for how it handles legislation like the Anti-Terrorism Act (Bill C-51) and Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act (Bill C-24), both of which many community members opposed.

“Stripping of Canadian citizenship is unfair,” explains Jeizan. “Returning to their countries is impossible in many cases, as those countries don’t exist anymore, like Syria, Afghanistan and Palestine.”

“What is needed, rather, is to rehabilitate misguided young people,” she says, and a reframing of terrorism as not a Muslim faction.

During the campaign run, both the Liberals and the NDP promised to repeal C-24. The NDP said it would repeal C-51, while Trudeau and the Liberals only said it would be amended.

Jeizan says the community will be calling on the NDP to ensure accountability within the new government.

“NDP members will hold [them to] what they promised,” she says with optimism. “Laws can be reviewed, repealed or amended. It’s not written in stone.”

Khedr agrees. She says just because the Conservatives are not in leadership anymore doesn’t mean the work is done for the Muslim-Canadian community.

“We need to continue lobbying – clear and loud – against this fear [of Muslims],” she says. “Send messages to our leaders by building relationships with them.”

Journalist Priya Ramanujam mentored the writer of this article, through the New Canadian Media mentorship program.

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by Amanda Connolly in Ottawa

Among the Liberal campaign promises that are facing closer scrutiny now that the party is forming a government, the party’s vow to “prioritize community outreach and counter-radicalization, by creating the Office of the Community Outreach and Counter-Radicalization Coordinator,” is raising questions among experts who want to know how the position would work on the ground. 

The challenges, say security and radicalization experts, will lie in defining exactly how the office would work with regional actors: namely, whether it will act as a bridge or a driver.

“Is this going to be driven top-down by government or will it be government supporting more grassroots initiatives?” asked Michael Zekulin, a terrorism researcher at the University of Calgary. “I think most people would agree that it cannot be government-driven because part of the narrative is that government is part of the problem.”

[quote align="center" color="#999999"][T]he critique given most often by terrorism researchers was that [the anti-terrorism bill] ignored the need to nip radicalization in the bud, before individuals become inspired to commit violence.[/quote]

During committee hearings on C-51, the Conservatives’ controversial anti-terrorism legislation, the critique given most often by terrorism researchers was that the bill ignored the need to nip radicalization in the bud, before individuals become inspired to commit violence.

Yet nothing in the legislation provided any kind of a plan for doing that.

The RCMP also promised to launch their own $3.1.-million program — initially called the Countering Violent Extremism Program but later changed to the Terrorism Prevention Program — which then-Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney admitted had no designated timeline and relies on “leveraging existing resources the RCMP already has in place, including frontline police officers, Integrated National Security Enforcement Team members and outreach coordinators.”

Coordinating various nationwide initiatives 

At this point, there are few details available about what the Liberals would plan to do differently or how a national coordinator would work with existing programs already being implemented by regional bodies.

There are various initiatives being launched by police agencies and local governments across Canada, said Lorne Dawson, co-director of the Canadian Network for Research on Terrorism, Security and Society.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"][A]ny coordinator will face the added challenge of having to earn the trust of organizations who may be skeptical of working with the government.[/quote]

In September, the City of Montreal was the only Canadian city out of 23 from across the globe that signed on to the Strong Cities Network, a forum for leaders to share best practices and community-based approaches for tackling violent extremism, while the Edmonton and Ottawa police departments are rumoured to be planning their own counter-extremism initiatives.

The York Regional Police are also in the process of hiring a “Counter Violent Extremism Subject Matter Expert” and just two months ago the Calgary Police Service launched ReDirect, which aims to prevent youth from becoming radicalized after several high-profile instances of local youth leaving the country to join ISIS.

One of those young men was Damian Clairmont, who died in January 2014 after going to Syria to fight with ISIS.

His mother, Christianne Boudreau, became an active proponent for stronger initiatives to prevent youth from becoming radicalized and in addition to launching her own family counselling network, Hayat Canada, also helped launch the Extreme Dialogue video campaign earlier this year.

[youtube height="315" width="560"]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_3zTtkummxk[/youtube]

Boudreau says it’s essential to have someone who can coordinate efforts nationally and help integrate global best practices into domestic, community-based approaches. But she cautions that any coordinator will face the added challenge of having to earn the trust of organizations who may be skeptical of working with the government.

“I think the biggest difficulty is the diversity of the various organizations and helping them connect — there’s inter-faith, there’s the authorities and everybody else involved, and right now [there’s] the trust factor with the authorities, with the government,” she said, noting that any national coordinator should also be prepared to work with international partners as well as domestic ones to learn and adapt best practices.

“It’s integral to help bring the groups together to help cross those barriers, to help foster the diversity that’s there and help everybody get along.”

Deciding focus of the office

One of the other challenges will be defining exactly what the program would focus on: would it dedicate the bulk of its resources towards the hot topic of Islamist-inspired extremism or spread resources more evenly across the spectrum to include domestic right-wing and left-wing extremism as well.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“A counter-radicalization person would have to go through the numbers and point out what is the real issue the government must give priority to.”[/quote]

“The radicalization of different groups all have different answers and solutions — they’re not the same,” said Kyle Matthews, senior deputy director of the Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies at Concordia University, who also runs the #No2DigitalExtremism project. “A counter-radicalization person would have to go through the numbers and point out what is the real issue the government must give priority to.”

Zekulin agreed, saying each community will have specific challenges and approaches for dealing with violent extremism that will need to be taken into account by any national coordinator. 

Above all, he stressed the role won’t be a solution for the problem but rather could act as an amplifier and bridge for the initiatives communities are already launching on their own.

“Dealing with this challenge is going to require the efforts of multiple stakeholders at multiple levels,” he said. “This probably has to be more grassroots than government driven.”

Published in partnership with iPolitics.ca.

by Leah Bjornson in Vancouver

With the final ballots long since counted and the prime minister-designate Justin Trudeau preparing to name his cabinet, members and guests of the Canadian Journalism Foundation (CFJ) gathered in downtown Vancouver to reflect on the longest election campaign in Canadian history.

The discussion, titled “Election 2015: How the Votes Were Won”, was held in an auditorium in the Simon Fraser University Segal Building on Oct. 27. 

Panellists included Susan Delacourt, a columnist with the Toronto Star, Adam Radwanski, a political columnist with The Globe and Mail, Hannah Thibedeau, a veteran political reporter and Paul Wells, the political editor for Maclean’s magazine. Tom Clark, chief political correspondent for Global National, served as the moderator for the evening. 

Beyond the rise of the Liberal party and the potential this administration has for greater cooperation with the media, the night’s discussion focused on the important role ethnic and immigrant communities played in this hotly contested race. 

Miscalculations about #CdnImm voters 

The panel discussed how all parties spent a significant amount of time targeting ethnic and immigrant demographics during this election period. 

For Clark, who has covered every federal election campaign since 1974, digging into how parties were marketing themselves to these communities was “fascinating.” 

“They were conflating concerns that certain communities would have, say with Kathleen Wynne [Ontario’s premier] and sex education,” he said. “I heard one ad that said, ‘if you don’t like Kathleen Wynne and sex education, vote for Stephen Harper.’” 

Despite spending a significant amount of time, money and effort trying to court these demographics though, “those communities basically turned against the Conservatives,” Clark added. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]"[T]here seemed to be a view that a lot of other immigrant communities take a certain 'close-the-door-behind-you' approach.”[/quote]

Radwanski, who previously served on the Globe’s editorial team, referred to the Muslim vote in particular, saying that while the Conservatives mainly wrote off Muslim voters when taking a stance on the niqab issue, the unintended consequences of this decision were unforeseen.

“Where I think they made a miscalculation was … there seemed to be a view that a lot of other immigrant communities take a certain 'close-the-door-behind-you' approach,” he stated, speaking of an assumption that once immigrants arrive in Canada they are less likely to care about others wanting to reach Canada. 

The reverse happened though. Rather than seeing the problem as one that only applied to Muslim Canadians, members of other communities identified with the fact that minorities were being targeted, Radwanski said.

Long campaign a benefit to Liberals

Making a light-hearted reference to the Jon Oliver sketch video that described Canada’s “gruelling” 78-day election period as “cute,” Clark asked the panellists how this year’s lengthy election differed from those of the past.

“I think everybody got into the long election campaign. I think democracy was sort of served by it,” Delacourt responded. “I think the turnout in this election is a really good argument for the longer election campaign.”

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]"I just don’t think we would have seen anything resembling the same results in a five-week campaign.”[/quote]

Radwanski agreed. “I actually think the long campaign really made a difference, not just in that we all had more time to watch … [but] in that I just don’t think we would have seen anything resembling the same results in a five-week campaign,” he said.

The panel seemed to agree that Trudeau and the Liberal party “read” the long campaign better than the New Democratic Party (NDP), which ultimately allowed them to push past the former official opposition party in the last few weeks.

The NDP had the highest approval rating at the beginning of the campaign, polling nationally at around 33.2 per cent. The party even reached 37.4 per cent by late August.

However, this number shifted dramatically in late September as the Liberals overtook both the NDP and the Conservatives.

“They underestimated Trudeau,” explained Thibedeau, who was on the election trail with the Conservative party for the first four weeks of the circuit and joined the NDP later on.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“[Both the Conservatives and NDP] underestimated Trudeau.”[/quote]

She pointed to specific moments that highlighted this, such as when Harper’s spokesperson was quoted as saying “I think that if [Trudeau] comes on stage with his pants on, he will probably exceed expectations.”

Thibedeau continued, “Even more than that, the NDP … underestimated Justin Trudeau as well, and I think that was the biggest fault with those two parties.”

Media coverage in the new Trudeau era

On the day after he was elected, Trudeau travelled to Ottawa to take questions from journalists at the National Press Theatre. This was the first time since 2009 that a prime minister (or in this case, a prime minister-designate) was available to take questions at this official site.

For the panellists, this signalled a potentially more amiable relationship between journalists and the federal government in the future.

“It’ll be interesting to see if they maintain a lot of the restrictions that we’ve seen since ’06 or if they’ll loosen those moving forward,” said Thibedeau.

Wells, who moderated the Maclean’s debate in early August, echoed these thoughts.

“I believe that access and a general sort of relaxed attitude around journalists is going to be substantially greater under Justin Trudeau than under Stephen Harper,” he commented. “But I note that Justin Trudeau met with the premier of Ontario today and it was photo-op only, no questions.”

{module NCM Blurb}

by Anonymous 

So then, let me now reveal that I was working for a candidate for the Conservative Party of Canada. In our riding, we received a thorough butt-kicking from the electorate. Deservedly so.

When we saw record numbers of voters showing up for the advance polls, the writing was on the wall.  All of us knew that when people stand in line that long, they are driven, passionate – and we knew there was no passion for our campaign.

It was an anti-incumbency wave.

Anatomy of a Defeat

Back in May, I had a telephone conversation with our senior party organizers in Ottawa.  At the end of what was essentially a one-way conversation in which they gave orders, and I was dutifully taking notes, I asked if they wanted to hear what I was learning.

There was a very pregnant pause. Then one of the operatives reluctantly said “yes”.   I told them that I was finding that the party’s policies were receiving good marks, but that the voters and party insiders in our riding were upset with Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s reported management style.  He was less popular than the party.  That was greeted with another long silence.

That’s why the mandatory candidate school was somewhat mystifying.  National campaign spokesman Kory Teneycke, hired fresh from his disastrous turn at attempting to run the national broadcast service SUN TV, where his marketing strategy was to repeatedly and pointlessly attack the CBC, was up to his old tricks.

He told us that the entire campaign would be based on three principles: attack Justin Trudeau as not being ready; promote Stephen Harper as our sole defender against terrorism; promote Stephen Harper as the only leader capable of managing the economy.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"][Teneycke] told us that the entire campaign would be based on three principles: attack Justin Trudeau as not being ready; promote Stephen Harper as our sole defender against terrorism; promote Stephen Harper as the only leader capable of managing the economy.[/quote]

Then, Teneycke said the strangest most ill-informed thing, which was echoed throughout the campaign by other Conservative operatives. “We’re not in a popularity contest.”  What was he thinking?  An election IS the biggest popularity contest.

Command and control

Local issues didn’t matter. We were told to forget about producing local brochures and materials – only use the customized versions of the materials that were on the party website.  Most of the materials featured the unpopular Harper, and a bad photo of Trudeau equally prominent. We were told our job was largely to knock on doors and identify voters. 

We felt like mere order takers, programmed to follow whatever headquarters demanded of us.

Oh, and among insiders the word is that no one knocked on more doors than defeated former Toronto-area Finance Minister Joe Oliver. A lot of good that did for him.

No amount of local canvassing and database manipulation could save us from a disastrous national campaign bent on leading with an increasingly unpopular leader, while conducting relentless personal attacks on one of his opponents. 

We were handed this limiting formula and told that if we strayed from it, we could anticipate a stern rebuke from party “policeman” Jenni Byrne.

Trouble from the get-go

There was no vigor evident.  We had trouble raising volunteers or getting people to attend our events – even when party luminaries visited.  I spoke with other campaign managers; they were having the same problem. 

To me, it felt like that moment when the ocean gets calm and withdraws from the shore … just before a tsunami.  Indeed.   

The 11-week campaign was ridiculously long.  However, the messaging of the campaign wasn’t built for an 11-week steeplechase. 

Negative campaigning has a limited lifespan.  At a certain point, people no longer pay attention to it. The negative beat down on Trudeau tended to help the New Democrats at first, as progressives ran to them.  Meanwhile, as Thomas Mulcair moved the NDP to the centre, the voters began to take a second look at Trudeau, perhaps wondering why he was worthy of constant attacks, and engaged by his debate performances. 

One thing is certain: we never caught an updraft from all the attacks on Justin Trudeau.  Quite the contrary, I believe they delivered the majority status to him.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]One thing is certain: we never caught an updraft from all the attacks on Justin Trudeau.[/quote]

New Canadians desert party

Mired in the low 30s in the polls, the Conservative Party began to thrash about.  Teneycke and Byrne were quietly relegated to the second rank.  In came Australian Lynton Crosby with his ultimately destructive niqab strategy. The strategy involved pointing out that Mulcair was not opposed to the wearing of a niqab in public spaces – a position very unpopular in Quebec where the NDP had been dominant in 2011. 

It was intended to loosen the NDP grip on Quebec and garner support for the Conservatives; it did. The unforeseen consequence was that the strategy also eroded and decimated the carefully constructed Conservative values alliance with many new Canadians in areas like the 905 belt around Toronto.  Along with the perceived insensitivity on the Syrian refugee front, new Canadians lost trust in the Conservatives and deserted the party in droves.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"][The niqab strategy] eroded and decimated the carefully constructed Conservative values alliance with many new Canadians in areas like the 905 belt around Toronto[/quote]

This gave way to a number of subsequent desperate campaign strategies.

There was the emphasis on the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership), which may be a good deal, but reinforced a perception that the Conservatives were secretive and cold and moving ahead without public buy-in.  We were selling an intricate deal that no one was buying.

Then there was the penultimate effort to sell Harper as that warm guy telling us at the end of his radio addresses: “I’ll talk to you tomorrow.”  No one was buying the softer, gentler Harper from a party and a leader who had spent the previous nine weeks bashing Trudeau.

I really knew we were cooked when the federal campaign adopted the Jim Prentice Alberta scorched earth desperation strategy.  For the last week, the message became: if you vote for Justin Trudeau, the world will come to an end and (in Ontario) Kathleen Wynne will be your Vice Regent. 

It was too late. What we had all quietly feared and never said, turned out to be true.  We were doomed by a leader who overstayed his welcome and who surrounded himself with incompetent advisors. 

The author, who has chosen to remain anonymous, was a campaign manager for an unidentified candidate who ran in the Oct. 19, 2015, federal election. Read Part 1 here and Part 2 here

Publisher’s Note - New Canadian Media makes every effort to be transparent in its editorial operations and offers this anonymous writing only as a way for our readers to better understand the electoral process that underpins Canadian democracy. This piece is intended to be non-partisan and consistent with our journalistic criteria of fairness and balance. NCM welcomes comment or reply to this column. 

New Canadian Media provides nonpartisan news and views representing all Canadian immigrant communities. As part of this endeavour, we re-publish aggregated content from various ethnic media publishers in Canada in an effort to raise the profile of news and commentary from an immigrant perspective. New Canadian Media, however, does not guarantee the accuracy of or endorse the views and opinions contained in content from such other sites. The views expressed on this site are those of the individual writers and commentators, and not necessarily those of New Canadian Media. Copyright © 2019 All rights reserved