Politics

Sunday, 18 October 2015 19:06

Chinese-Canadians Not Swayed by Tory Site

Written by

by Samantha Lui in Toronto 

As Canada gears up for the 2015 federal election on October 19, the Conservative Party of Canada has launched a Chinese-language website as a strategic move to win the Chinese vote. 

But although the site attempts to speak to issues that will affect Chinese-Canadians, members of the community say that they’re not swayed by the party’s tactics. 

Melissa Fong, a Ph.D. candidate in geography at the University of Toronto, says that while she agrees that different languages should be represented in political parties’ platforms, she sees the website as being “really more about pandering to votes than content.”

The website, which includes a statement by multiculturalism minister Jason Kenney translated in Chinese, mentions the Conservatives' history of serving Chinese communities.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]She sees the website as being “really more about pandering to votes than content.”[/quote]

Such examples include the Conservatives having the first Chinese-Canadian Member of Parliament in 1950 (Douglas Jung) and when Prime Minister Stephen Harper apologized for the head tax imposed on Chinese immigrants in 1885.

“The overall tone feels like the Conservative government is attempting to "guilt trip" Chinese voters to vote for their party based on those past deeds which were intended to strengthen relations between the government and the Chinese community,” says Calvin Tsang, a 23-year-old social work student from Toronto.

The effectiveness of the site 

While she says having a website dedicated to the Chinese may be enough to get votes, Avvy Go, the clinic director of the Metro Toronto Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic, hopes that voters will choose a government that will take leadership on issues that will affect their day to day lives. 

“[The website’s] not about speaking to a particular issue the community is concerned about. Like for instance, how are we going to address unemployment rate amongst the Chinese? How do you ensure newcomers have their international training accredited in Canada?” she says.  

“I think right now, the parties either ignore us or they use tactics such as reflected in the Conservative website and try to play up superficial kinds of things as opposed to trying to address issues that really impact our community.” 

For Fong, the recent government’s policies say more than the creation of a website ever could.

“The Conservatives are not good for racialized Canadians, not good for newcomers and not good for people of colour,” Fong says, giving mention to the Conservatives’ focus on the niqab, Anti-terrorism Act, second-tier citizenship and Harper’s recent reference to “old stock Canadians.”

She continues, “If they really cared about people of colour, Chinese voters, it would be demonstrated in the policy.” 

But strategies like the Conservatives’ website are not new in the world of politics. According to Nelson Wiseman, the director of the Canadian Studies program at the University of Toronto, ethnic communities have always been targeted with specific messages for them. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“If they really cared about people of colour, Chinese voters, it would be demonstrated in the policy."[/quote]

Having a Chinese-language website doesn’t mean it will have an impact on how the Chinese will vote, he explains.

“Let’s say you’re Chinese and on the Internet. Why should you go to that site? There are an infinite number of sites that you can go to. Just because anybody can put anything they want on the Internet, it doesn’t mean it captures any eyeballs,” he says.

The Conservatives have targeted the Liberals and the New Democrats on their website, but members of the latter parties agree that it detracts from discussing issues important to immigrants such as the economy and the well-being of their families.  

Arnold Chan, who’s defending his seat as a Liberal MP in the Scarborough-Agincourt area, says he feels the Conservatives’ Chinese-language website is just another example of the party's divisive campaigning.

“At the end of the day, it looks like this is a desperate measure by a desperate team,” he says. “This is part of a continuing narrative of negative campaigning.”

Olivia Chow, who’s running for a seat in the Spadina-Fort York area as an NDP, wouldn’t speak much on the subject.

In an e-mail statement, a member of her campaign wrote, “Like many Conservative tactics, it distracts from important discussions like affordable childcare, protecting the environment, and investing in transit.”

The Conservatives, who have 10 Chinese people running for office, could not be reached for comment after multiple requests to speak with several of their candidates.*

Real engagement with Chinese-Canadian communities

But while the accessibility of language is important in a diverse country such as Canada, having a website isn’t enough to educate the Chinese to be politically involved, according to Fong.

She stresses the importance of parties hiring people that can communicate in different languages.

“I think it’s really important for representatives to hire people that speak multiple languages, and not expect it of people that they should know English or French. Canada was founded on many more languages than English and French.” 

Organizations such as the Chinese Canadian National Council (CCNC) also offer programs such as the civic literacy project, which educate participants about the election process, how governments work and how to engage the community through civic engagement activities.

Chase Lo, the executive director at the CCNC’s Toronto chapter, says the group even holds field trips to local MPs' offices within the Scarborough-Agincourt area so people can ask questions directly about specific election issues.   

In doing so, he says he hopes he can help ethnic communities such as the Chinese go out and vote.

“People have the choice to be involved and [...] their voice matters,” he says. “If they want to see change, if they want to see that there’s injustice in terms of how things are operating, they have the power to be able to come together with other people and influence some change.”   

*Requests for comment were made to Conservative candidates Bin Chang, Alice Wong and Andy Wang.  

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Sunday, 18 October 2015 01:09

Crime Top Issue in Surrey Centre

Written by

by Aurora Tejeida in Surrey

Deanna has lived in North Surrey for 21 years. She lives with her family in the Guildford area, but she doesn’t send her kids to the local public school and tries to do most of her personal business in other communities.

“I chose private school mainly for safety reasons,” explains Deanna, a psychiatric nurse, who did not want her last name to be used. “I wanted to minimize the exposure to gangs and drugs, etc. Admittedly, I don’t see this on the streets, but heard that Guildford Park [school] does not have a great reputation.”

Deanna is not the only area resident with these concerns; every resident interviewed for this article mentioned safety, gangs and reputation.

Still, everybody also agreed with Deanna on the fact that Surrey has a bad reputation despite being full of wonderful, caring families.

Surrey is the second largest city in British Columbia, with a population that exceeds 468,000. It is set to become the most populated city in Metro Vancouver by 2020.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“Surrey seems very divided by culture and neighbourhood.”[/quote]

The riding where Deanna lives, Surrey Centre, comprises the “downtown” riding of Surrey’s five electoral districts. It includes all of Surrey north of 88th Avenue and west of 148th Street.

In mid September, the Surrey Centre riding and nearby areas experienced three shootings in four days, one of them outside an elementary school.

Even though by mid 2015 the murder rate in Surrey had actually gone down by 14 per cent compared to the previous year, violent crime is up 36 per cent compared to last year. The RCMP attributes most of the violence to a gang turf war.

“The recent gang related crime is very public. Surrey seems very divided by culture and neighbourhood,” explains Deanna. “Most of [the] gang violence we hear about is noted to be related to the South Asian population, and fuelled by the drug trade. This creates a misperception about the culture and leads to further division.”

Fighting crime

As would be expected, New Democratic Party (NDP) candidate and incumbent member of Parliament (MP) for Surrey Centre, Jasbir Sandhu, considers crime his number one concern.

In an interview with local publication, The Leader, Sandhu said he’s asked the government to fund youth gang prevention programs as well as deliver 100 additional police officers to city streets.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“They say they’ve hired more police, but I don’t see it.”[/quote]

Sandhu said the Conservative government cut funding for police officers in 2014, only to reinstate it in 2015.

Conservative candidate Sucha Thind has said his focus is on tougher jail sentences for offenders, from drug dealers to sexual offenders.

But not everyone thinks harsher punishment is the way to go. “I think the increased RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) presence will help with the perception of safety, but not the increased jail time,” says Deanna.

For Belynda Cooper, a 42-year-old resident of the area, the lack of policemen makes her feel unsafe and less likely to take transit to work.

“I haven’t seen any changes on the ground level,” she explains while discussing policemen in heavily transited areas like the Surrey Central station. “They say they’ve hired more police, but I don’t see it.”

Diverse, young demographic

Surrey Centre is the second most diverse riding in the province. In 2011, 32.8 per cent of residents identified as South Asian, the same year Sandhu, who moved to Canada from India to study, was elected with 40 per cent of the vote. Back then the riding was known as Surrey North.

Like Sandhu, Thind also came here from India. The well-known businessman arrived in Canada in his 20s, “with only a few dollars to my name, determined to start a new life,” according to his campaign site.

But there is one more defining factor for this riding besides ethnic diversity. This riding is one of the youngest in the province; over 27 per cent of Surrey’s population is under 19 years old.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“I think some people realize there is more money in illegal jobs like selling drugs than working minimum wage.”[/quote]

Katherine Detlor is one of the riding’s many young residents. The 24 year old moved to Surrey in search of more affordable housing.

“I avoided living here from all of the things I heard,” explains Detlor, “but I moved here with my girlfriend in August and the rent is much cheaper here than Vancouver.”

Detlor agrees that the biggest issue in Surrey is violence, but says the best solution is to help the struggling middle class.

“The problem that I see is the middle class working 40 plus hours a week to make ends’ meet,” says Detlor. “I think some people realize there is more money in illegal jobs like selling drugs than working minimum wage.”

‘Money is the problem’

The riding’s Liberal candidate, Randeep Sarai, seems to be addressing crime from this perspective.

Sarai is a lawyer whose campaign page says he’s “committed to helping those that are less fortunate.” According to his site, Sarai often provides pro bono services. He also helped start the South Asian Community Coalition Against Youth Violence.

“My aim is to bring prosperity to the region,” Sarai commented in an interview with the Asian Journal. “If [the] economy is stable and prosperous, then crime goes down, gang involvement goes down.”

Detlor would like to think that having a candidate who can actually help the middle class might reduce the number of young people being tempted by gangs. “Money is the problem,” she explains.

For Detlor the Liberals seem to be the strongest candidates for making positive changes for the middle class. “However, I don’t know for sure if it will really impact the gang violence,” she adds. “I just hope.”

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Saturday, 17 October 2015 14:37

Visible Minority Candidates Step Up

Written by

by Andrew Griffith in Ottawa

Is the increased number of "visible minorities" being reflected in party candidates? Which ridings are these candidates running in? And do these candidates reflect the largest groups in their ridings?

Now that we know the names of all candidates, we can answer these and related questions.

But first, as a basis for comparison, how has women’s representation increased in 2015 candidates? The analysis by Equal Voice shows that overall representation from the 2011 election has slightly increased from 31 to 33 per cent (still far below equality), with the relative ranking of parties below.

To assess visible minority representation I have used candidate names, photos and biographies to identify visible minority candidates. Although not as exact as identifying women candidates (e.g., subjectivity in analyzing photos), it nevertheless provides a reasonably accurate indication of how well Canadian political party candidates represent the population of visible minorities who are also Canadian citizens (15 percent).

Building on an earlier study by Jerome Black showing the diversity in earlier elections, I went through the candidate lists using the criteria above, concentrating on the more diverse ridings. Out of a total of 1,014 candidates for the three major parties, 142 or 13.9 percent were visible minorities. The party-wise comparison chart shows a growth in visible minority candidates for the three major parties plus the Bloc.

For the 2015 election, the Liberal party has the most visible minority candidates, slightly greater at 16 per cent than the number of visible minority voters (those who are citizens). The Conservative party and the NDP have slight under-representation (13 per cent), while the Green party only has about half as many visible minority candidates (eight percent) as voters. The Bloc Québécois only appears to have a two visible minority candidates (under three per cent of Quebec’s 78 seats).

The chart below provides the comparative numbers for each party in the 33 ridings that are more than 50 per cent visible minority, broken down by gender.

Additional characteristics of these 33 ridings, in terms of the candidates, include:

•     Out of the 99 candidates from the three major parties, 68 are visible minorities (over two-thirds). These account for just under half of the 142 visible minority candidates in all ridings.

•     19 candidates are women (19.2 percent)

•     In 15 of these ridings, all major party candidates are visible minorities;

•     Only one riding, Scarborough Guildwood, has no visible minority candidates;

•     The Conservative Party has the most visible minority candidates (25), followed by the Liberal Party (24) and the NDP (19); and,

•     In general, but by no means universally, many candidates come from the larger communities in these ridings, particularly South Asian ridings as the attached table shows.

 
Saturday, 17 October 2015 14:27

Vancouver South Residents Seek Change

Written by

by Sableen Minhas in Vancouver

Canada’s weakening economy, the implication of Anti-terrorism Act, Bill C-51 and rapid growth in the riding are some of the main concerns of constituents in Vancouver South. These issues might decide the fate of this diverse riding in the upcoming federal election. 

As per the latest projections by ThreeHundredEight.com, Liberal candidate Harjit Sajjan is emerging a winner with support from over 55 per cent of voters in the riding. 

Wai Young, the Conservative incumbent, is trailing at about 24 per cent. The number of her supporters seems to have almost halved from the 2011 federal election, which she won by beating the three-time Liberal member of Parliament (MP) Ujjal Dosanjh in a tight race. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“When I came into Canada 40 years ago, when politicians [said] something I trusted that yes, [they’re] going to do it. These days, they say something, but they are not really serious.”[/quote]

Naresh Shukla, owner of Mother India Naresh Food Inc., an East Indian convenience store located on Main Street, says that he intends on voting, but has not fixed his mind on a particular candidate yet. 

“When I came into Canada 40 years ago, when politicians [said] something I trusted that yes, [they’re] going to do it. These days, they say something, but they are not really serious.” 

Shukla’s opinion on Young is in line with the drop in her popularity. 

“I am disappointed,” he says. “Wai Young came to my house and I asked her two questions and I said to her that if you give my two questions’ answers, I will support you.”

He explains that his two questions were regarding Senator Mike Duffy and the present government’s stand on economy. According to Shukla, Young’s responses were not satisfactory for him. 

Growth issues 

Shukla is not alone in his disappointment of the riding’s current MP. 

Reeha Korpal, a recent political science graduate from Simon Fraser University, echoes a similar sentiment. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“We also have our issues in terms of can we keep up with the growth and the issue of population coming in versus the cost of living here.”[/quote]

Sitting in the Liberal party’s local campaign office on Victoria Drive, where she volunteers occasionally, Korpal says that Vancouver South needs someone who can address the riding’s major issues. 

“We are a part of city that’s growing and is one of the up and coming cities in Canada, whether that’s economically or socially,” she explains. “We also have our issues in terms of can we keep up with the growth and the issue of population coming in versus the cost of living here.” 

According to the Elections Canada website, Vancouver South had a population of 100,965 in 2011, packed in an area of 21 km2. This number is steadily increasing. As per data available on BC Stats, the projected population for Vancouver South in 2020 is 145,790.

Cultural issues 

In a riding that has diverse cultural demographics, the present government’s controversial bills like Bill C-51 and the Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act, Bill C-24, are not helping the Conservative candidate. 

“Van South is a very diverse riding, so we need to respect the fact that Bill C-24 that creates division between the type of citizens that we have – as Harper says ‘old stock versus the new stock,’ – [is] not acceptable,” says Korpal. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]"[I]t doesn’t matter if you have a Sajjan [or a Young] running. You need to have the [party] values aligned with that cultural identity as well.”[/quote]

She adds that having ethnic minority candidates run just for the sake of garnering more votes doesn’t help either. “If the party’s values don’t align with that, it doesn’t matter if you have a Sajjan [or a Young] running. You need to have the values aligned with that cultural identity as well.” 

Howie Chong, campaign communications officer for the area’s New Democratic candidate Amandeep Nijjar says for the diverse people who walk into their office Bill C-51 and health care are of primary concern. 

“From what we are hearing, a lot of people are very concerned about Bill C-51, which gives the federal government the ability to listen in on Canadians,” Chong says. 

Bill C-51 has been a hot topic of debate in the all-party candidates’ debates in Vancouver South. Wai Young faced discontent from the public on her defence of the bill during the meeting at Killarney Community Centre. She did not attend a later debate held at Langara College. 

Young and her campaign team declined an interview for this article. They asked New Canadian Media to get in touch with party headquarters.

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Friday, 16 October 2015 19:01

6 No-No’s on the Campaign Trail

Written by

by Maryann D’Souza in Mississauga, Ontario

Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s ‘old stock versus new stock Canadians’ comment during a political debate could very well cost him the election. His political opponents and the media would not let him live it down and seized the moment to brand it as divisive politics and racist. 

Was he intentionally creating the ‘them versus us’ scenario or was it a slip? Come Oct. 19 Canadians will have their say. 

From the peegate to homophobia, radicalization to the niqab, this federal election campaign has put ethnic candidates and immigrant communities in the spotlight. 

Today’s voter, however, is more politically aware and active no matter the length of time they have lived in Canada, which means candidates must pay careful attention to their election speak. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“There is no such thing as old stock and new stock Canadians. Everyone has the same concerns about health care, jobs and the economy.”[/quote]

New Canadian Media spoke with three experienced campaign advisers about what candidates should never say to immigrant voters both now and in future elections. 

Neethan Shan is one of the two first Tamil Canadians to be elected to any public office in Canada. He was a public school trustee with the York Region District School Board and former president of the Ontario New Democratic Party. 

Abbas Baig has worked with a cabinet minister, a member of Parliament (MP) and a member of provincial parliament (MPP) and as a campaign adviser. He is now a licensed immigration consultant and works on citizenship and immigration issues.

Sarbjit Kaur is a long-time political strategist who has worked in journalism and at Queen’s Park. She is currently working with several Liberal candidates in Brampton and Mississauga.

You’re different from the other Canadians: 

“Doublespeak is disrespectful,” says Kaur. “Never say something different to the community and the general public or mainstream media with respect to your policies. Their concerns are the same as the other Canadians.” 

“There is no such thing as old stock and new stock Canadians. Everyone has the same concerns about health care, jobs and the economy,” adds Baig, who says that it is comments like those that “drive a wedge between Canadians.”  

“When issues arise, be honest,” advises Kaur. Voters are more politically informed thanks to plethora of ethnic press and media channels. “A lot of the news is available in their own language so they know what’s going on,” she adds.

Thank you for coming to Canada: 

“While this might not be intentional, it is a condescending type of comment where the host and guest type of dynamics gets reinforced. It implies that this is your space while we are supposed to believe that everyone is here to build the country together,” says Shan. 

“It would be preferable to acknowledge contributions in a manner that would not limit social engagement.” 

I can help solve your community’s problems:

Both Baig and Kaur agree that it is not a good idea to try and appease a niche group. They warn candidates not to compromise on the party’s principles, or their own, just to get votes.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]"[K]eep the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in mind.”[/quote]

“In trying to appease one group you could lose another,” says Kaur. “So keep the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in mind.”

Baig acknowledges that there might be some issues that are specific to certain groups like spousal sponsorship and family reunification. “At this time it is important to use the party policies and platform as your guide,” he advises.

“Diversifying outreach efforts and using different types of media, for example, might be a better approach,” Shan says. “After all people within a particular community can also have different needs on account of generational differences.”

Vote for me because I have the same background as you:

“There is nothing wrong in organizing communities to have people who are reflective of their interests so long as the individuals are not seen as working against the interests of those communities,” says Shan.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]"[D]on’t take votes for granted just because you are from the community.”[/quote]

“But don’t take votes for granted just because you are from the community,” cautions Kaur.

“There are no short cuts. While people would like to know that a candidate understands their issues, you still have to make your case, earn the credentials and show that you are involved in the community.”

Shan agrees.“People understand that candidates might look like them, but their interests may not be same,” he says.

I don’t like you:

This is a rule for life not just politics – never indulge in a personal attack.

“It will affect your reputation for the rest of your life,” says Kaur.  

“It’s not worth getting carried away and ruining relationships on account of the elections. Take the higher road whether it is a voter or your opponents.”

I promise to get this done for you:

Both Baig and Kaur advise candidates against overpromising and overstepping lines of jurisdiction.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“Any results earned by overpromising can only be short-lived.”[/quote]

For instance, the new sex-ed curriculum is a burning issue in many ethnic communities in the Greater Toronto Area and a few candidates have used this as leverage, though not openly.

This is both misleading and dishonest. “Any results earned by overpromising can only be short-lived,” explains Kaur. 

Shan has a different point of view though.

He says that candidates are clear about their limitations in the three levels of government and there is nothing wrong in saying they can advocate for a particular issue.

However, Shan does agree that, “it is wrong to make promises and leverage a particular issue for political advantage.”

As political leaders and their candidates pull out all the stops over the final weekend of campaigning, voters are reminded to evaluate their platforms in terms of what will benefit the country as a whole. More importantly, Canadians – new and old – are encouraged to exercise their democratic rights and vote in what could be one of the closest elections to date.  

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by Kyle Duggan in Ottawa

The Conservatives have taken out ads in ethnic media suggesting Justin Trudeau would legalize brothels and make marijuana more accessible to children, and have been fundraising on the claims as well.

Oakville Conservative candidate Terence Young’s campaign sent out a lengthy e-mail on Oct. 6 titled “How might your neighbourhood change under the Liberals” which also contains a “donate now” link. It reads as follows:

“The Liberals want to legalize prostitution, voting against our progressive bill to help vulnerable women get out of prostitution, Bill C-36. That would mean brothels and madams in Oakville communities, protected by law.”

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]The logic behind the assertion seems to be that because Trudeau voted against Bill C-36 without proposing new legislation, the Liberals are in favour of legalizing prostitution.[/quote]

“For most of us in Oakville, our home is our major asset for financial security in retirement. Having a marijuana store, a brothel or a drug injection site nearby could easily make our homes difficult to sell, and devalued.”

Young had also suggested the claims at a local all-candidates debate.

Bill C-36 was an anti-prostitution bill that had to be amended because of a Supreme Court ruling which struck down Canada’s existing prostitution laws last December. The logic behind the assertion seems to be that because Trudeau voted against Bill C-36 without proposing new legislation, the Liberals are in favour of legalizing prostitution.

Various B.C. media have reported that the Conservatives have taken out ads in Chinese and Punjabi-language newspapers in Richmond and Vancouver suggesting the same, including the pictured ad from Ming Pao.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Liberal candidate in Vancouver South, Harjit Sajjan, said he reacted with shock and disappointment at the ads.[/quote]

Twitter posts also suggest similar ads have been airing on Punjabi television.

Shock, disappointment in ads

The Liberal candidate in Vancouver South, Harjit Sajjan, said he reacted with shock and disappointment at the ads, and that they smack of desperation “for a party to use graphic images like this in politics for the sake of votes.”

He also said the Conservative’s logic on the Liberal’s stance on Bill C-36 is misleading. “Just because you voted against legislation that was, by our assessment, not going to have the desired impact – to extrapolate to that extent, that’s a complete lack of leadership.”

Former Conservative MP Stockwell Day – campaigning with Conservative candidates in Vancouver Wednesday – defended the ads, and said there could be “all kinds of other business developments that will flow” from legal prostitution.

“When you articulate a policy, you should think through what could be the ramifications of that policy. Whether it’s Justin Trudeau saying he’s going to run deficits and we say that’s going to hurt the economy, or whether it’s Justin Trudeau saying [he] supports so-called safe injection sites around the country and [he] wants marijuana products to be more available, then you should realize people will draw conclusions on some of the results of that.”

Capitalizing on ethnic audiences

April Lindgren, a Ryerson University Journalism professor who led a study on ethnic media ads in the 2011 campaign, says the Conservatives have ramped up ethnic media advertising since the 2011 election, when their advertising tended to be more about the candidates rather than social values.

“Certainly, in terms of the newspapers it’s ramped up from the last elections. We didn’t see any specific topic-related ads,” she said.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“I think [the Conservatives] have a sense that there’s a social conservative element in some of the ethnic communities and that’s what they’re capitalizing on.”[/quote]

“I think they have a sense that there’s a social conservative element in some of the ethnic communities and that’s what they’re capitalizing on,” she said, adding that it raises the question of whether they’re losing the battle on the economic messaging front.

When asked by reporters at a campaign stop earlier Wednesday about the ads, Conservative leader Stephen Harper said the “other guys” will claim it’s about fear but “all we’re trying to do is try attention to facts – facts they are actually not willing to talk about.”

The brothels assertion was floated by Conservative candidate Jason Kenney late in September at a news conference where he said Trudeau wants to force communities to accept brothels.

The Conservatives have taken on a tough-on-drugs stance in their messaging and as well have repeatedly tried to shut down Insite, a Vancouver-based safe injection site.


Published in partnership with iPolitics.ca.

Wednesday, 14 October 2015 18:08

#Elxn42 Sparks Hope for Somali Canadians

Written by

by Aziza Hirsi in Toronto

The 2015 federal elections is a milestone for Somali Canadians as it marks a significant increase in their level of political engagement.

Canada’s Somali community began to grow in size after civil war broke out in Somalia in the 1990s. Today, Somali Canadians represent the largest African diaspora community in Canada and one of the largest Somali populations in the western world.

It is estimated that around 140,000 Somalis live in Toronto, followed by 20,000 in Ottawa, and 18,000 in Edmonton. Other Somali communities can be found in Montreal, Vancouver, Calgary, Winnipeg and Windsor.

A watershed moment

In this election all three candidates of Somali heritage – spread equally among the three leading parties – are from Ontario, the province with the largest concentration of Somali Canadians.

Faisal Hassan, running in the Toronto riding of Etobicoke North for the New Democratic Party (NDP), sees this election as a watershed moment for the community.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“It allows the community’s diverse views and perspectives to emerge along with encouraging civic participation and making sure that they get involved and vote.”[/quote]

“It allows the community’s diverse views and perspectives to emerge along with encouraging civic participation and making sure that they get involved and vote,” says Hassan. “I think it's good democracy.”

But he says there is still more to be done. “All three candidates are male. I think we should also have female candidates to effectively represent our community.”

While his Somali heritage is important to him, Hassan says he is also running to promote economic and social reforms for all Canadians.

“There are many issues that obligate me to get involved. My community in Etobicoke North has been ignored for over 35 years. We have the highest unemployment. And when adults get work, they are working part time.”

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“The Somali community is the first Black diaspora community that is not English speaking and who also happen to be Muslim – the majority of them.”[/quote]

Ahmed Hussen, contesting in the Toronto riding of York South-Weston for the Liberal party, says a concern for similar issues made him jump into the fray.

“I have a desire to improve the community of York South-Weston,” states Hussen. “To make sure folks get the same opportunities I had growing up, that people enjoy a better standard of living.”

Hussen, a lawyer by profession, is associated with the Canadian Somali Congress and an advocate for affordable housing. He says he was attracted to the Liberal party’s platform of investing in communities and not cutting services.

“People need jobs now,” says Hussen. “There’s a higher level of unemployment in York South-Weston [and] it’s slightly higher than the national average. In the case of young people, it’s even higher than the normal average for adults. The Conservatives have really destroyed the economy over the last nine years.”

Employment crisis

The rising costs of living, coupled with limited employment, have had an adverse impact on the Somali community. It experiences significant levels of poverty because of barriers faced in obtaining employment.

“If you look within the community, it is difficult for Somali women to find work as personal support workers or even as hotel cleaners because of the sheer fact of being Muslim and Black,” says Hodan Ahmed, a master’s student at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education. “The Somali community is the first Black diaspora community that is not English speaking and who also happen to be Muslim – the majority of them.”

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“There is a multilayered intersectionality that comes into play … and employment has been and is to this day, a crisis within the Somali community.”[/quote]

Ahmed contends that these barriers have significantly limited the Somali community. “There is a multilayered intersectionality that comes into play … and employment has been and is to this day, a crisis within the Somali community.”

But Hussen is optimistic that things will change for all Canadian families and the economy will improve.

“The main thing the Liberal Party is going to do is invest in infrastructure,” he explains. “It will create a lot of jobs and stimulate the economy as a lot of money will be pumped into it.”

Harmful government policy

Recent policy reforms such as Bill C-24, the Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act, which allows the government to strip dual nationals of their Canadian citizenship, have also been a cause for concern for members of the Somali community.

Hussen condemns the harmful effects of Bill C-24.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Recent policy reforms such as Bill C-24, the Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act, have also been a cause for concern for members of the Somali community.[/quote]

“[The Liberal party] has been very clear that if we are elected we will repeal Bill C-24 because we don’t agree with creating different classes of citizenship. We believe a Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian!”

Hassan is particularly critical of changes to the Citizenship Act that put dual citizens at greater risk of losing their Canadian citizenship.

“I … believe that a minister or an elected official revoking citizenship is wrong. It should not be [a] minister who does that.”

Hassan also criticizes the Anti-Terrorism Act.

“Bill C-51 is a bill that violates our privacy and individual rights and freedoms. We, the NDP voted against it … and we are the only party that is committed to appealing it.”

Hussen notes that while the Liberal party agrees with some aspects of C-51, such as allowing for information sharing between security agencies, it definitely does not support it entirely.

“[T]he larger parts of the bill that are problematic for civil liberties will be repealed by a Liberal government,” he says.

Conservative platform

Attempts to get the views of Conservative party candidate Abdul Abdi for this article proved unsuccessful.

A city of Ottawa police officer, Abdi is contesting from Ottawa West-Nepean, a riding once held by former Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird.

Abdi’s website says his priorities for the riding are to “stand up in Parliament for seniors, support the families who call this riding home, and ensure that our community remains a safe and secure place to live.”


Journalist Ranjit Bhaskar mentored the writer of this article, through the New Canadian Media mentorship program.

{module NCM Blurb}

by  in Ottawa

The Liberals now enjoy a 36-31 lead nationally over the Conservatives and, perhaps more importantly are now ahead in Ontario, Quebec, and B.C., according to EKOS’ latest poll numbers.

Overall, the national margin of error is 2.9 per cent, with small samples in some provinces the local MOEs range between 5.0 and 8.1 per cent, meaning they should be treated with some caution.

After swapping the lead several times nationally with the Conservatives in the last week, EKOS’ latest three-day rolling sample (October 10 to 12) — based on decided and leaning voters only — has the Liberals in front with 35.6 per cent, the Conservatives right behind at 31.1, and the NDP a distant third at 20.6. The national margin of error is 2.9 per cent.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]In large part, the Liberal surge is being driven by a groundswell in Ontario, where Justin Trudeau’s party now has close to a 12-point lead over the Conservatives.[/quote]

In large part, the Liberal surge is being driven by a groundswell in Ontario, where Justin Trudeau’s party now has close to a 12-point lead over the Conservatives.

When the campaign began, Liberal support in Ontario — where the most seats are up for grabs — was 29 per cent. It’s now at 43, compared to the Conservatives’ 31.1 and the NDP’s 17.0. There is a 5.0 per cent margin of error.

That might explain Trudeau’s decision to campaign in several opposition-held ridings on Tuesday, the NDP’s Beaches–East York, Davenport, and Parkdale–High Park in Toronto, then the Conservatives’ Kitchener Centre and Kitchener–Conestoga.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]In Quebec, where the numbers have been particularly volatile, the Conservatives are now in third after leading last week ... It’s a four-way race in B.C.[/quote]

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper spent Tuesday campaigning with incumbents: Ted Opitz and Bernard Trottier in the GTA ridings of Etobicoke Centre and Etobicoke-Lakeshore. NDP Leader Tom Mulcair was in Oshawa, downtown Toronto, and Brampton.

In Quebec, where the numbers have been particularly volatile, the Conservatives are now in third after leading last week.

The Liberals are narrowly in front (30.9); the NDP are in second (30.1); the Conservatives are in third (17.0); and the Bloc are behind them at (13.8). Given that there’s a 6.5 per cent margin or error, however, the NDP could very well still be in the lead.

It’s a four-way race in B.C.

While the Liberals are in front (27.5), both the NDP (25.1) and the Conservatives are in striking distance (24.6). With a high margin or error of 8.1 per cent, the Green Party arguably is as well (18.6).


A note on the methodology from EKOS

This study involved a blended sample collected using two separate methodologies: Computer Assisted Live Interviews (CATI) and EKOS’ proprietary High Definition Interactive Voice Response (HD-IVR™) technology, which allows respondents to enter their preferences by punching the keypad on their phone, rather than telling them to an operator. In an effort to reduce the coverage bias of landline only RDD, we created a dual landline/cell phone RDD sampling frame for this research. As a result, we are able to reach those with a landline and cell phone, as well as cell phone only households and landline only households.

The figures in this report are based on a three-day rolling sample. Each day, a new day’s worth of interviewing is added and the oldest day is dropped. The field dates for this survey are October 10-12, 2015. In total, a random sample of 1,115 Canadian adults aged 18 and over responded to the survey (939 by HD-IVR, 176 by live interviewer). The margin of error associated with the total sample is +/- 2.9 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

Please note that the margin of error increases when the results are sub-divided (i.e., error margins for sub-groups such as region, sex, age, education). All the data have been statistically weighted by age, gender, region, and educational attainment to ensure the sample’s composition reflects that of the actual population of Canada according to Census data.

Published in partnership with iPolitics.ca

by Amanda Connolly in Ottawa

Freed Canadian journalist Mohamed Fahmy touched down in Canada in time for Thanksgiving on Saturday and federal parties wasted no time in setting up meetings with him for their leaders, with one notable exception — Stephen Harper.

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau shared a beer with Fahmy in Toronto Monday night and NDP Leader Tom Mulcair was scheduled to meet with him at 2:40 p.m. today.

Conservative party spokesman Kory Teneycke said Harper will not be meeting with the former Al-Jazeera English Cairo bureau chief, who spent a year in an Egyptian prison on what were widely considered to be trumped-up charges of airing material undermining Egyptian security and aiding the now-banned Muslim Brotherhood.

Teneycke did not provide a reason for the decision.

Speaking at a press conference hosted by Canadian Journalists for Free Expression on Tuesday, Fahmy said he felt “abandoned” and “betrayed” by Harper during his time in prison.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“Our prime minister delegated his responsibility to people who lacked the clout to really get me out of there.”[/quote]

“Your only hope is that your prime minister would do everything in his power to get you out of there,” Fahmy told the audience assembled for the event at Ryerson University. “Our prime minister delegated his responsibility to people who lacked the clout to really get me out of there.”

Fahmy spent a year in an Egyptian prison with two Al-Jazeera colleagues after being detained in December 2013 on widely denounced charges of broadcasting material harmful to Egypt during their coverage of Egypt’s political unrest.

They were first convicted in June 2014 but were granted bail in February 2015 after the original verdict was overturned.

A retrial wrapped up this summer; Fahmy and his two colleagues were convicted a second time before Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi granted them an official pardon as part of the release of 100 prisoners on the eve of the Muslim Eid holiday.

Fahmy accepted a teaching position from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, but it’s not clear when he will begin that new job.


Published in partnership with iPolitics.ca

by Anonymous

What do you do when every other high school and new Canadian community organization decides it might be nice to host an all-candidates’ meeting?  Must we attend every last debate we get invited to by every obscure community organization looking for the legitimacy and power of getting all the political parties to attend?

There simply isn’t enough time for any candidate to attend every debate, so we often recommend a lunch meeting.

Here’s a secret from inside a campaign: new Canadian communities can get a better hearing from a candidate over a businesslike lunch or breakfast than at a boisterous event.   

Once, I would have advised a candidate to spend time with the leader of an organization or cultural group. That was when leaders of new Canadian communities could deliver their communities’ votes en masse. As new Canadian communities become woven into the fabric of the nation, they are less and less monolithic and loyal to one party. 

Our research showed us there were four linguistic/cultural minorities in our community. We spoke with people in the four communities and three of them said to not bother translating any materials into their mother tongues. For the fourth we did translate a piece, and my candidate took it to their community dinner; none of them appeared to be very impressed. 

Unlike my experience in major cities like Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver, in our riding’s major centre of population, minority linguistic and cultural communities are not easy to engage or to find. This may be due to smaller numbers. 

I was at one event and was introduced to a man and I recognized the origin of his name, so I asked him if he was indeed of Punjabi extraction. He excitedly told me that in his many years in the community, no one had previously recognized that fact. That’s life in a smaller city.

Head counting

Maybe you remember the days when enumerators came to the door and the home-typed list of electors was posted on a telephone poll at the end of your street. Technology has changed all that.

As a Campaign Manager, I have been instructed to emphasize knocking on doors over everything else – canvassing. On the surface, it appears to be a fairly low-tech activity. But getting the candidate to the doors isn’t solely about the face-to-face meeting; no, indeed – it’s all about identifying our base supporters. 

You’ll notice that when a candidate or canvasser greets you at the door, there is always a pad or a tablet handy. We are recording whether you are a supporter, leaning to us, voting for another candidate or undecided.

Back in our office, that data from our returning canvassers is scanned with a barcode reader and entered into a database. In my office there is the near-constant beeping of scanners reading voter info. 

We store other information, too – who has a lawn sign; who wants one; who will volunteer; who donated funds, etc. Like most urban Canadian ridings, we have about 100,000 eligible voters. Our primary concern is to find our supporters and to get them to go out and vote, which all of us political types refer to as GOTV (get out the vote). 

Once we know where our supporters reside, we will phone them on election day (what we in the political business call “E Day”). Every hour or so, my authorized scrutineers will visit the polling stations and retrieve from Elections Canada the sheets that provide the names of those who have voted. We call these bingo sheets.  

Getting out the vote

We check the bingo sheets against our list of known supporters, and we will contact our supporters who haven’t yet voted to make sure that they, too, get out to vote.

Party headquarters insists that we use canvassing as a tool, load up the database with identified voters and then get out the vote. But there is also telephoning. An entire industry has grown up around it. First, I can use one of these services to “clean the list”. 

That is to telephone everyone on the list from the previous federal election and eliminate those whose phones are no longer in service. Second, they can call and identify those who are my supporters, a lot faster than going door to door.  

Finally, there is the dreaded “robo-calling”. I had my candidate record her voice on a one-minute recorded message that will be sent to every home phone in the riding.

Not everyone is comfortable with the scanning and database aspects of the campaign. In my campaign, many of the volunteers are seniors and they don’t want to fill in the tiny boxes on the canvassing sheets. So along with the tech, we do it old school. 

Leading up to voting, Elections Canada provides each campaign with three progressively more accurate updated electors lists on thumb drive (preferred) or the voluminous “dead tree” edition. I have to say that the Elections Canada people are hard-working, efficient and conscientious.  Their work is thankless.

Mad stress

My greatest stresses come from inside our camp, like when my candidate gets cornered in a debate and starts to freelance off party policy (I’ll be getting a call from party HQ demanding to know what was that about?). Also, we have the nervous nellies and the cranky people on our team – but they are volunteers, so they require special handling. 

Worst problem is the shortage of volunteers. Volunteers are the lifeblood of the campaign … and we are having trouble finding enough of them to get the job done. I’m told that is a widespread problem. Without volunteers, there is no line between me and all manner of people who wander in off the street and demand service and your time. They think we are a retail business, when, we are a business office more than anything else.

Thus, some days while I am sitting in my office trying to write strategy and speeches or buy radio or print ads, I am also dealing with troubled people, people who are upset that we didn’t get lawn signs to them fast enough, and here comes the office cleaning service to request direction on what to do about the kitchen area. 

Indeed, the so-called glamorous life of a campaign manager.


The author, who has chosen to remain anonymous, is a campaign manager for an unidentified candidate running in the forthcoming federal election. Read Part 1 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